The Italian Lakes is a very popular tourist destination in winter and summer. At times roads can become quite congested and movement is slow. Below, you will find how to travel around the lakes by car as well as other transport systems.
Travelling by Boat:
One of the best and most relaxing ways of seeing the Italian Lakes is from the deck of a steamer. All major towns on the Italian Lakes have ferry connections for passengers, and a number of towns are linked by car ferry as well: Verbania-Laveno on Lake Maggiore; Menaggio-Bellagio-Varenna and Cadenabbia – Bellagio- Varenna on Lake Como; and Maderno – Torri del Benaco on Lake Garda. The Maggiore and Lugano steamers cross the border between Italy and Switzerland, so the usual border procedures apply. The larger vessels have on-board restaurants. A trip along the full length of Lake Garda, from Desenzano to Riva, takes around four and a half hours.
Cruises are a regular feature during the summer months, and disco ships are aloso common. Genuine old fashioned paddle steamers are still used by some operators.
For general information on Navigation services across the lakes take a look at this website: http://www.navigazionelaghi.
Travelling by Car:
Renting a car is probably cheaper than bringing your own, and there is no shortage of fly-drive packages, where cars can be collected on arrival. Alternatively, both international and local car hire firms are represented in the major centres. Driving along the narrow, winding mountain roads requires care and attention. Remember that the car nearest the mountain has priority. It is customary to use the horn to warn that you are about to overtake, and to warn of your presence on a blind bend. Many of the roads in the area, particularly the one along the western shore of Lake Garda, disappear into tunnels. Throughout Italy, dipped headlights must be used at all times.
If you do decide to take your own vehicle then Northern Italy is well connected to the rest of Europe by motorway. If you travel through Switzerland remember to purchase a vignette ( a motorway tax disc, valid for one year, approximate price £20). Drivers must always carry a driving licence, the car registration documents and insurance certificate. Breakdown services are usually free for members of automobile clubs. Seat belts are compulsory. Fines for traffic offences such as illegal parking and speeding are high. The following speed limits generally apply to the Italian Lakes; 50 kmph in built-up areas, 90 kmph on country roads, and 130 kmph on the autostrada (motorway). Speed limits are often lowered at weekends or on public holidays. Police checks are frequent and very strict, and excessive speed as well as alcohol consumption (legal limit 0.08 percent) can cost motorists their licence – regardless of nationality.
Near the lakes themselves the following train connections are possible: Locarno-Luino -Laverno – Sesto Calende; Simplon – Stresa – Sesto Calende; Laverno – Varese Milan; Como – Milan; Como – Lecco; and Milan – Lecco – Colico. Keep an eye out for various special offers available from the Swiss (www.sbb.ch/en) and the Italian railways (www.trenitalia.com/en). For connections from Milan to Lake Garda, remember that the fast express trains don’t stop at Peschiera, Simione or Desenzano. Milan is also connected by rail to Lake Maggiore, Varese, Como and Bergamo, as well as Brescia, the southern tip of Lake Garda and Verona, which are all on the main line to Venice.
There are very good bus networks in Switzerland and Italy, and getting around the region poses few problems.Tthe local tourist offices can provide timetables and general information.
Learn more about this author, Janet Sandford.