The Romans were the first to see the potential of the Italian lakes, says Kiki Deere in The Daily Telegraph. They built their sumptuous villas in some of the prime positions around Lakes Como and Garda, which form some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. Modern tourism has transformed the towns, but the lakes, mountains and views are as beautiful as they were 2,000 years ago and are still a perfect holiday destination.
Lake Maggiore is the lake of choice for nature lovers in search of a quiet break. The Golfo Borromeo, on the western side, takes its name from the prominent Borromeo family of bankers and is home to the grand resorts of Pallanza and Stresa, including the nearby Grand Hotel Majestic (pictured above), a Belle poque villa with wonderful views of the lake's islands.
Isola Superiore, known as Isola dei Pescatori, is an attractive larger island "with alleys and old buildings that once housed fishermen", while Isola Bella's Baroque palazzo is worth a visit. If it's solitude you seek, the northern part of Lake Maggiore is less explored and home to the charming village of Cannero.
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The Grand Hotel Majestic has rooms from £121 GrandHotelMajestic.it/en.
Legend has it that the lemons around Lake Garda were once so prized that the Russian tsars had them imported. These days the winters in northern Italy are too harsh for most citrus trees to thrive, says Diana Hubbell in The Guardian. But Fabio Gandossi carries on the tradition of making limoncello at Limonaia la Malora, a centuries-old citrus grove in Gargnano, bycovering his groves with glass panels at the first sign of frost.
Just four ingredients go into making the liqueur: water, sugar, grain alcohol infused with slivered lemon zest, and, of course, lemons and only "the very best", says Gandossi. The result is a "subtly sweet sipper perfumed with sunshiny citrus, a far cry from the cloying, lurid yellow shots doled out in touristy trattorias", says Hubbell. Only a few of the "lemon houses" that once dotted the lake shore still exist the ones that remain are an important part of the area's heritage and well worth a visit.
For private tours, see Facebook.com/LimonaiaLaMalora.
The Dolomites are the most spectacular mountain range in Italy, says Steve Richards in The Independent, thanks to the "striking, pale-coloured dolomitic limestone, eroded into towers and steep-sided valleys". Hiking is the best way to see them. In this region of South Tyrol, with Austria just over the mountainous border, the main language is German. But the food leaves you in no doubt as to where you are, combining "Italian flair" with "the Teutonic emphasis on freshness and wholesomeness".
The top of Kuhwiesenkopf offers a "panorama reminiscent of the Canadian Rockies, in which limestone mountains shelter the iridescent turquoise waters of Lake Braies", the largest in the Dolomites. Hotel Pragser Wildsee, on its shores, is a "historical gem", once a favourite of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy.
Inntravel (01653-617001; InnTravel.co.uk) organises one-week hiking trails, stopping off at four hotels, for around £835 per person.
Lake Como's most stylish hotel
Design is at the heart of Lake Como's newest swish hotel, Il Sereno, in the small village of Torno. Built using natural materials, the hotel on the lake's southern shore has a contemporary look that sets it apart, says Deere. That's down to Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola, whose works hang in New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Fonds National d'Art Contemporain in Paris. "Even the staff's silk foulards bear her name."
The suites, each with their own waterfront terrace, are decorated in shades of blues and greens to echo the colours of the lake, similar to the freshwater infinity pool with its green stone lining. Three-star Michelin chef Andrea Berton runs the hotel's restaurant, Ristorante Berton Al Lago, sourcing freshwater fish and herbs from around the lake. "The hotel will no doubt appeal to lovers of fashion", says Deere. But at €750 a night, "guests will need deep pockets".
Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.
Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.
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