British readers who haven’t been there may conjure up images of a sunnier version of the English Lake District, but a few measurements reveal the huge difference in scale between lakes in the two regions:
|Lake Windermere||Lake Como|
|Length in kilometres||16||50|
|Depth in metres||66||410|
|Height of mountains in the area, in metres||270||2,609|
|Distance to farthest other lake, in kilometres||40 – 50||100+|
|Population of largest lakeside town||7,000||83,000|
For American readers, the only visual comparison I can think of is that the walls of the Grand Canyon, at its deepest point (6,000 feet), are about three quarters of the height of the mountains around Lake Como. And the distance between lakes Como and Garda is about a quarter of the 277 mile length of the Canyon. I don’t know if that’s any help. No? Oh well…
The size of the area means that many tourists won’t even think of trying to visit all of the major lakes. We stayed at Lake Como and made a day trip to Lake Lugano. We only saw Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore from the air, as we flew in. So this website is not about the Italian lakes. It’s about Lake Como, though some or many (but obviously not all) of the comments might be applicable to the other lakes.
You might want to bear this point in mind before buying a guide book on the Italian Lakes. Check how much of the content is relevant and how much is about places you’re not actually going to. For us, buying a guidebook on the lakes was like buying a car manual that summarises the workings of half a dozen different vehicles but doesn’t go into enough detail about yours.
We found we didn’t need such a book anyway. When we got to Lake Como, we realised that for detailed sightseeing we could pick up plenty of information at local tourist offices, where you also have a good chance of receiving answers to your questions in fluent English. There are offices in most, if not all, of the towns popular with tourists.
There is one other introductory point. This site is based on visiting Lake Como in September, which I believe is high season for tourists. Things may be different at other times. Well, they obviously will be, won’t they…