The ethereal scenery and calm indigo water of Italy's Alpine lakes — Maggiore, Como and Garda — have had an irresistible appeal since Roman times, when aristocrats and artists began summering on their shores. Author and lawmaker Pliny the Younger wrote ecstatically of his view of Como, while the poet Catullus lived in his family’s villa at Sirmione on Lake Garda. Eighteen hundred years later, the British Romantic poets, chiefly Byron and Shelley, put the lakes on the map as a mandatory part of the Grand Tour. (Shelley wrote of Como, “This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty ... and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests.”) Each generation falls in love all over again: Ernest Hemingway was besotted with Lake Maggiore; today, George Clooney has a villa in Laglio on Lake Como, keeping the region’s glamour current.
The lakes provide a perfect time-out during a tour of Italy, being less than an hour from Milan and about three hours from Venice, but they should also be considered a destination in their own right.
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