Travel Guide: Lesser Known Northern Italian Lakes

There are hundreds of lakes in Italy, most of which are popular with locals but largely overlooked by tourists who rush to the internationally recognized Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Como. If you want to escape the crowds, visit one of Italy’s most loved and romantic lakes lying at the foothills of the Alps.

Visit Lake Orta

Lake Orta is filled with cobblestone streets, gardens, and the central Piazza Motta with cafes directly on the lake.  The casual atmosphere is a way of life, very different from Lake Como and its celebrity-filled streets. Google will say otherwise but there are only 400 residents. Weekends are busiest with locals taking a quick lake weekend trip from Milan so plan your visit mid-week for ultimate seclusion.

Sacro Monte of San Francesco

The public garden on the water’s edge is where you can relax after a stroll around town and gaze out at the distant Island of San Giulio. For a birds-eye view, explore Sacro Monte of San Francesco, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I can arrange walking tours to visit the 20 small chapels decorated with frescoes and terracotta statues. Revolutionary at the time (1598-1690), with the 3D design instead of painting. The views of the lake from here are the best on the island.

Visit the Island of San Giulio

We took a motorboat transfer to the little island of San Giulio, home to the Benedictine Abbey. A silent island as a way of life. The nuns on the island are mostly Italian but come from all over. A beautiful, spiritual visit to a 13th-century island full of history with a pathway of signs leading your meditation around the island is found here. The church and bell tower, dominate the island, dating back 900 years with a pulpit inside that is assumed to be from the Roman Barbarian age.

I can certainly see why the nuns have chosen to live out their days in the convent on the island, the only permanent inhabitants. You can’t help but feel moved by the history, spirituality, and beauty of this island.

Where to Stay

Book early, typically all accommodations are sold out 3 months in advance and if you plan to visit in the fall and festive season, a year out is recommended.

Villa Crespi

This 14 room Villa with a two-starred Michelin restaurant took 30 years to create. The Italian Crespi family owned this as a private home in 1879. The rooms were pristine, as was the attention to detail shown throughout the craftsmanship of the structure and service upon arrival. Book with Melted&Moved, I’ll ensure you’re well taken care of, including the following perks.

  • Upgrade upon availability, based on availability
  • Villa Crespi Prosecco in room, upon arrival
  • Tickets to San Giulio
  • Visit through the Michelin star kitchens
  • 30 min relaxing back therapy massage

LAQUA by the Lake

The modern, minimalist, partner property to Villa Crespi. 16 apartments inclusive of full kitchens, spacious patios, and a focus on peace, lightness, and romance. There is an on-demand transfer service between the two hotels so you can enjoy the Beach Club and pool at L’aqua and Michelin dining experience at Crespi. The ambiance sitting next to the firepit for an aperitivo overlooking the infinity pool towards the lake and mountains was an experience in itself. E-bikes can be requested to ride to the nearby town, I did so, at my own risk. I’m not much of a bike rider so navigating the main road required some focus on my end but was worth the gelato stop and views along the way.

Casa Fantini, Lake Time

This minimalist hotel exudes calm and the luxurious bathrooms are designed to feel like your very own spa, complete with a steam shower.

The Fantini family has made their home on the shores of Orta for three generations and the ‘casa’, meaning home, feels like the perfect home away. 11 rooms, all focused on the incredible lake view with floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to the balconies. It’s all very chic.

This boutique casa gives an authentic Italian experience with all the modern amenities. Only 5% of their clientele are American’s. Is it just me, or does this make the resort even more enticing?

Click HERE for a quick room tour.

Visit Lake Maggiore

After an incredible stay in Orta, we took an easy day trip to Lake Maggiore. The Borromean Islands are unquestionably the main attraction here. These three rocky islands were purchased by the Borromean’s, an Italian aristocracy, and developed into a botanical masterpiece.

Isola Bella

The Italian-style garden, which rises in ten terraces to a height of 32 meters and is covered in lush southern vegetation, is the most impressive element of Isola Bella for most travelers. Beautiful lake and mountain vistas are framed by rows of lemon and orange trees, cherry laurels, tall cedars, magnolias, cork oaks, sago palms, camellias, and oleanders, while white peacocks roam the grounds supported by stone terraces.

Isola Madre & Isola dei Pescatori

Isola Madre, like Isola Bella, is part of the Borromeo family. The island’s stunning English-style gardens outshine even Isola Bella in terms of plant variety and luxuriance, however, they are less dramatic and more designed for wandering and enjoying the lake views at leisure due to the nature of a landscape garden. Want an exclusive experience? When booking with Melted&Moved, I will utilize my relationships to arrange a picnic or private party in the gardens just for you.

Unlike the other two Borromean Islands, Isola dei Pescatori has no grand palace, villa, or gardens. Instead, it is a simple fishing village of homes built along with its highest point, their doorways facing inward along a narrow street so spring and autumn high lake waters won’t flood them. Not set up for travelers, but a beautiful sight from the lake.


The Borromean Islands are located off the coast of Stresa, and boats depart on a regular basis for all three islands, stopping first at Isola Bella. This chic little town is the largest and most famous on the lake with a promenade of shops, upscale restaurants, and posh hotels.

Where to Stay

Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees

After continuous expansions and renovations, this opulent Art Nouveau luxury property has spectacular lake views and is extremely grand. The spa and indoor pool have recently undergone extensive renovations, and it shows. The decor is ornate, and the grounds are lovely and spacious. After WWI, Hemmingway returned to the hotel, and his suite, which has a magnificent balcony, is named after him.

Exclusive Appartments

On the Isola Bella, Melted&Moved offers exclusive access to newly remodeled apartments. With many bedrooms, levels, a full kitchen, and breathtaking views of the lake, this is ideal for families or extended stay travelers. This trip will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture and embrace leisurely travel. For additional information or to schedule your stay on an Italian island, please contact me.

Luxury Maserati Transfer

My bags were transferred from the Grand Hotel into my Maserati by my driver, who drove us to Milan in style while I explored The Borromean Islands.

While I explored The Borromean Islands, my bags were transferred from the Grand Hotel into my Maserati by my driver. This Italian partner of mine is the only Italian company specializing in organizing unique escorted tours of Italy in vintage or supercars such as Ferrari and Lamborghini. Allow me to assist you in making a necessary part of your trip, the transfer, into an unforgettable experience.

Allow me to assist you in planning your trip to the Northern Lakes. I have plenty of unique experiences that you won’t find on Google. Schedule your Discover Call today!