Formed at the end of the last ice age, and a popular holiday spot since Roman times, the Italian Lakes have an enduring, beguiling beauty.
Travellers traversing the Alps wind down from snow-capped mountains to be greeted by a Mediterranean burst of colour: gardens filled with rose-red camellias, hot-pink oleanders, lemon trees and luxurious palms surrounding cerulean blue lakes. It’s impossible not to be seduced. Fishing boats bob in tiny harbours, palaces float in the Borromean Gulf, rustic churches cling to cliff faces and grand belle époque spas and hotels line the waterfronts in bijou towns such as Stresa, Como, Bellagio and Salò. No wonder European aristocrats, Arab princes and Hollywood celebrities choose to call this home.
A Modern Legacy
Since Leonardo da Vinci broke all the rules in his stunning Last Supper, the indefatigably inventive Lombards seem to have skipped straight from the Renaissance to the 21st century. Not only is Milan a treasure trove of modern and contemporary art, but art-deco and rationalist architecture abound. Around the lakes, Michelin-starred restaurants push the boundaries of traditionalism, and vintners, oil producers and textile houses experiment with sustainable technologies and techniques. Even now, jackhammers are hard at work on Milan’s futuristic new skyline modelled by star architects Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Arata Isozaki and César Pelli.
Living By Design
Though Italian design is distributed globally, seeing it in its home context offers fresh appreciation. From Como’s silk weavers to the Brianza's furniture makers and the violin artisans of Cremona, this region has an outstanding craft heritage. Today Milan is home to all the major design showrooms and an endless round of trade fairs. But it’s not just a coterie of insiders who get to have all the fun. Northern Italian design houses have branched out into spas, bars, hotels, galleries and restaurants. So why not join them for a touch of la vita moda (the stylish life).
The Lake Lifestyle
Home to many of Italy’s foremost musical talents, writers and artists, Milan and Verona are on the tour circuit of the best European and North American music acts, dance troupes, opera and theatre. In summer, film, music and art festivals abound in city theatres and palazzi, lakeside gardens and historic villas. While at weekends, urbanites escape to the mountains and lakes for morning markets, sailing, cycling and walking, and long afternoon lunches. The key to it all is an unswerving dedication to life’s fine print.