Our Bitesize Guide to Lake Garda & Lombardy, Italy

The Italian Lakes

Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes, and probably the most popular. It's set against the flat lands of Lombardy and the Veneto to the south, and in the north it becomes fjord-like, its deep waters contrast the mountains.

The lake is said to be the cleanest and welcomes visitors who come to swim, and windsurf, in fact Riva del Garda is Europe's windsurfing capital.

The picturesque landscape has attracted the likes of Benito Mussolini, whose Republic of Salo has its head quarters here. Long before him the Romans found the hot springs that gush at Sirmione.

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Visit The Italian Lakes - The Gardens

Spring to early Summer is a great time to visit Lakes Como and Maggiore, as these two lakes are famous for their gardens and their colour is a feast for your eyes. The gardens are said to date back to the 1st century and created because of the ideal climate and more than average rainfall.

A tour of the gardens around these two Italian lakes, should include the spectacular Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, where steep terraces rise from the water like tiers of a wedding cake. Again on Lake Maggiore, visit Isola Madre, this wonderful garden has a great variety. Its 18acres are home to palms and exotic plants from Africa, as well as flowers from a quintessentially English garden.

Keeping with the English-theme, across at Bellagio on the shore of Lake Como is Villa Melzi The gardens were designed by the architect Luigi Canonica and by the botanist Luigi Villoresi, who incidently, were both responsible for the famous gardens at Villa Reale park in Monza. The Melzi gardens take on a particularly English theme, with beautiful lawns, shrubs and trees that line that lake-shore.

Whilst your holiday time is precious, if you can spare the time to also visit Villa della Porta Bozzolo in Casalzuigno, Villa del Balbianello on the shores of Lake Como and Villa Cicogna Mozzoni in Bisuschio you will not be disappointed.

Visit Brescia - Lombardy

Brescia is an ancient city with a strong cultural heritage. The most appealing of its three squares is the Venetian-style Piazza Loggia, where you will find the richly decorated Palazzo della Loggia (the town hall), with its arcade and cupola.

An archway on the south side leads to the controversial Victory Square, built in a Fascist style during Mussolini's rule. The archway brings you to Piazza Paolo VI, the religious heart of the city, overlooked by the great green cupola of the Duomo Nuovo. This towering, modern baroque cathedral dwarfs its older and more interesting neighbour, the Duomo Vecchio, a rare example of a Romanesque cathedral with a circular plan, hence its nickname, La Rotonda.

The remains of the Capitoline Temple around Piazza del Foro are a legacy of the Roman colony of Brixia, established here in AD 73 by Emperor Vespasian. Archaeological remains from the site are housed in the Museo della Città, in the nearby 16th-century Monastery of Santa Giulia, the highlight is a bronze Winged Victory.