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The lakes of northern Italy have been a go-to holiday spot for the world’s elite for centuries. For an authentic Italian escape dripping in glamour, it doesn’t get much better than a trip to the country’s enchanting lake region. Garda, Italy’s largest lake, blessed with a benign climate and diverse landscape, still remains curiously uncelebrated compared to its smaller sister Como. Like Como, Garda is hugged by densely wooded mountains and pastel-coloured villages, perpetually draped in a cool, heavy mist that only adds to its already dramatic beauty. It is located close to Verona, with Venice to the east and Milan to the west, and Garda’s beauty is arguably more arresting than Como.

Where to stay

Who would turn down an Italian Villa? Whenever you see pictures of villas in Italy they appear to be relaxing, tasteful escapes from the real world. Why not try it while being on holiday? Located on a hillside amid olive groves and fruit orchards overlooking the lake, Le Selve Lake View Villas sets the scene for five-star experiences. It includes 2 villas – Le Selve Hilltop Villa and Storica Luxury Mansion and can host up to 18 people combined.

Le Selve Hilltop Villa has a large infinity pool with a solarium and is equipped with a wellness area overlooking the garden and Lake. Here guests can even enjoy a Finnish sauna, large shower, Jacuzzi and a table for outdoor dining. On request the main infinity pool can be heated to enjoy the outside environment in all seasons. The spacious living room, dining room and kitchen are in a spectacular veranda. Facing the lake, this iron and glass conservatory is very bright and airy with curtains made from a fine linen gauze that gives a touch of refinement that completes the work.

Storica Luxury Mansion was designed in the twenties by Giancarlo Maroni, famous architect of the “Vittoriale Degli Italiani” home of the Italian Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. Guests will enjoy an elegant residence which has maintained and respected its historical roots, but also offer all the comforts and services of a modern structure.

The living area consists of a bright panoramic living room with a grand piano, billiard room and dining room with elegant, original Venetian floors and historical fireplaces. Setting the scene for year-round lake stays, this luxury estate provides a breathtaking way to feel at home on the timeless Lake Garda.

Visit some nice towns

Visitors have a range of pretty towns to choose from nestled in the hills of Lake Garda. Each of them has their own individual characteristics and offer a number of perfect ways to while away the day. The picturesque town of Limone, or Limone Sul Garda, is a lake resort around a little port. It’s best known for its historical association with the lemon and citrus industry so don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the top of the city where La Limonaia Del Caste is located. You’ll learn about the history and process of lemon farming in the area, try zesty Limoncello and get fantastic photos overlooking the town and lake. Also check out Salò, a lovely and lively town on the shores of Lake Garda. It has the longest ‘lungolago’ (promenade) of all the lakeside towns. Get a great cappuccino at Bar Italia with a view on the lake.

Stop by Vittoriale degli Italiani

The Vittoriale, an impressive monument located in the hills of Gardone Riviera, deserves to be described as a citadel. It was constructed following the wishes of the eccentric poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. His name in Italy is as much a household name as “Hemingway” is to America, or “Dickens” to England. However, Gabriele D’Annunzio isn’t just famous for his books, he’s famous for his life of decadence, depravity and controversy. Some have called D’Annunzio “The First Mussolini”. His ideas had a great influence on the dictator of Italy, who partially modeled his own fascist state on D’Annunzio’s charter. After his rise to power, Mussolini asked D’Annunzio to be his personal advisor. His house is one of the most fascinating examples of ‘Artist’s Home’ alternating between amusing, creepy and joyously bizarre rooms.

It’s hard to describe it, especially since visitors aren’t allowed to take photos inside the building. We can say it seems claustrophobic – dark and overloaded with religious artefacts but very interesting and unusual. It gave us an insight into the mind of a man who was clearly a narcissist, superstitious and charismatic with a dark sense of humour. Alongside the museum, you can visit the war museum, where the legendary aircraft SVA10 can be admired, in which D’Annunzio undertook his famous and daring flight above Vienna. Here you can find many unusual items, like a full scale ship set into the garden.

Seek spa treatments in Sirmione

Sirmione is blessed with a series of offshore thermal springs. They were discovered in the late 1800s and the town’s been tapping into their healing properties ever since. At the Aquaria spa you can enjoy a soothing wallow in two thermal pools – the outdoor one is set right beside the lake. Both pools have temperatures of 34-36°c, allowing them to be used even in winter. Other treatments include a hydromassage, effervescent beds, saunas, steam baths, Jacuzzis, water jets and sensory showers. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and flip-flops, but with a day ticket you’ll be provided with a cap, bathrobe, towel and face cream. The natural water is rich in mineral salts and micronutrients which is good for your skin but there is a mild smell of Sulphur to be aware of.

Take a boat trip across the lake

Boat rides help you to explore Garda from another angle and see more of its hidden gems. One of them is Isola del Garda, also known as Isola Borghese. It is the biggest island on the lake and although privately owned by the Cavazza family, Isola del Garda has been open to visitors since 2001.

Play some golf

The 18-hole golf course at Bogliaco is located in a picturesque valley elevated 100 meters above Lake Garda. Developed in 1912, it’s owning the title of third oldest golf course in Italy. Alternatively, there’s a 27-hole course at Arzaga Golf Club, founded in 1998 but already has plenty to be proud of. Made up of three 9-hole golf courses, designed by the golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Both clubs suit those who value golf with wonderful nature and stunning landscapes. If you’re an amateur or have never tried golf before, both of these are perfect places to start. English, German and Italian speaking instructors will be happy to help you get that hole in one.