Many villas are owned by the region’s “impoverished nobility

Many villas are owned by the region’s “impoverished nobility

Nature and romance permeate in Italy’s lakes district

Northern Italy’s seductively beautiful lakes district in the shadow of the Alps seems heaven sent for communing with nature. Though just an hour north of Milan, this area feels a world away from the business and bustle of Italy’s second city.

In this romantic region, wistful 19th century villas are overgrown with old vines that seem to ache with stories to tell. Stunted palm trees appear to be held against their will in this northern location. And vistas are uk canada goose store reviews made to order for poets. In fact, it was early nature lovers who wrote and painted here and put this area on the tourist map in the 1800s.

Tourists have several lakes to choose from Lake Garda, Lake canada goose outlet store montreal Maggiore and others and all have their charms. But my favorite is Lake Como, offering the best mix of accessibility, scenery, sightseeing and relaxation, with a heady whiff of aristocratic old days.

Lake Como is lined with luxurious villas, crowned by snowcapped mountains, and busy with fleets of little ferries darting from one cute town to another. The most famous town is Bellagio, the self proclaimed “Pearl of the Lake” a combination canada goose outlet london of old world classiness and new world luxury. Steep steps rise from the harborfront canada goose jacket uk sale up to a smattering of sun splashed squares. With canada goose outlet in montreal spendy five star hotels and high end shopping, Bellagio pleases canada goose on black friday well heeled travelers.

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While a part of me enjoys the cheap canada goose jacket womens “tramp in a palace” feeling I get in Bellagio, my ideal Lake Como home is Varenna. Easily accessible by train from Milan, Varenna packs its 800 residents into a compact townscape on the less developed side of the lake. Individual homes are defined only by their pastel colors, and the old town has no streets just characteristic stepped lanes. The passerella a lakeside promenade connecting the ferry dock with canada goose outlet online uk the old town center is a fine place to stroll.

On Lake Como, villa Canada Goose Jackets front doors face the lake to welcome visitors arriving by boat (and ferries arriving from Bellagio and Varenna). Many villas are owned by the region’s “impoverished nobility.” Bred and raised not to work, they eventually were unable to pay for the upkeep of their sprawling houses. While some villas have been bought by the newly rich in the region, others have been transformed into hotels or sightseeing attractions.

For garden lovers, canada goose lorette uk Villa Carlotta is the best especially in spring, canada goose shop prague when many of its flowers are in peak bloom. The dreamiest estate is Villa del Balbianello, which perches on a promontory near the village of Lenno and was featured in the movies “Casino Royale” and “Star Wars: Episode II.” Built at the end of the 18th century on the remains of an old Franciscan church, the villa reflects the exotic vision of its last owner, explorer Guido Monzino. The real masterpiece here is the terraced garden and splendid loggia, where the land fits the architecture and landscaping in a particularly lovely way.

Though it lacks the cozy charm of Lake Como, Lake Maggiore is a suitable backup destination. The best part of any visit here is a wander through the exotic gardens and elaborate villas built by the wealthy Borromeo family, which lovingly turned several of the lake’s islands into retreats.

Your handy transportation hub for these islands is the resort town canada goose victoria uk of Stresa. While I find it generally lacking in character, it does have a fine waterfront promenade and stately 19th century lakeside hotels dating back to when this town was on the Grand Tour circuit. Stresa is famous for its Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees, which served as an infirmary during World War I, hosting a recovering Ernest Hemingway.

But Stresa is mainly worthwhile as a jumping off point for Lake Maggiore’s garden islands. The best one is Isola Bella, dominated by a palatial villa boasting a grand hall with an 80 foot high dome, paintings from the Borromeo family’s private collection and an 18th century grotto, decorated from ceiling to floor with shell motifs and black and white stones. The terraced Baroque gardens, with the Borromeo family unicorn sitting on top, give the island the look of a stepped pyramid from the water.

The other main Borromean islands are Isola Madre, featuring the first Borromeo palace dark and somber with a huge collection of dolls, marionettes and exquisite 17th century marionette theater sets and Isola Pescatori, the smallest and most residential of the three, with a couple of seafood restaurants, picnic benches, views, and, blissfully, nothing to canada goose outlet do.

While you can visit Italy’s lakes as a day trip from Milan, I recommend spending the night. You’ll really feel the romance of Europe. Make it a point cheap canada goose to stroll a waterfront promenade. As you pass under wisteria drenched villas and caryatid lovers pressed silently against each other, you’ll canada goose expedition parka uk understand the importance of packing the right travel partner.

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