Italy counts over 4,000 lakes, of which 569 are natural lakes of over 20 hectares. Italy is, in fact, the European country with the highest number of lakes in relation to its size (after Finland, Sweden and Norway), covering 2,4% of its territory.
Lakes at high altitude are typically smaller, whereas those in valleys are larger.
The five largest lakes of Italy are Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Lake Trasimeno, and Lake Bolsena. The first three are the most famous outside Italy and usually referred to as the ‘Italian Lakes’.
However, the country counts many other beautiful, smaller, lakes, both in the valleys and in the mountains, such as Lago di Carezza with its surreal turquoise waters, Lago di Braies with its eerie atmosphere and Lago di Alleghe with its lovely flowered houses, just to name a few.
Note: the lakes located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region are listed both with their Italian and German name. When available, the English name is put first.
1. Lake Alleghe (Lago di Alleghe), Veneto
Lago di Alleghe is a beautiful small lake located in the province of Belluno in the Cordevole Valley. It was formed in 1771 due to a landslide which blocked the course of the Cordevole torrent.
The two main little towns overlooking the lake are the eponymous Alleghe and Masaré (the latter on both banks of the lake).
2. Lake Karer (Lago di Carezza), Trentino-Alto Adige
Known as il Lec de Ergobando in the local Ladin language (literally: the Rainbow Lake), Lago di Carezza’s pristine waters are of such an intense turquoise color that they seem almost unreal. It is said that the lake’s water takes on a different shade of turquoise blue according to the time of the day. The surrounding firs, mountains Dolomites, the Latemar and Catinaccio (Rosengarten), and even the clouds are reflected on the surface of the lake.
The area of the area from Nova Levante to the Karerpass (Costalungo Pass) is also renowned as the skiing hub of the Ega Valley and Fassa Valley.
If you like spotting games, you may want to try and locate the bronze statue of the nymph Ondina in the lake. Legend has it that a beautiful water-nymph, called Ondina, lived in the lake. She would often sit on the shore, but dive into the waters as soon as someone tried to approach her. A wicked sorcerer had fallen in love with her and tried to kidnap her on several occasions. One day, advised by the Stria (witch) del Masarè, the sorcerer made a beautiful rainbow appear above Lake Carezza in order to attract the nymph. When the latter came out of the water she saw the sorcerer and fled in fear. The wizard was so furious that he destroyed the rainbow, which fell in thousand pieces into the lake. From that day, the waters of Lake Carezza reflect all the colors of the rainbow. The bronze nymph statue was place in the lake as a tribute to the legend.
3. Lake Prags (Lago di Braies, Pragser Wildsee), Trentino/Alto Adige
Located at 1,496 MAMSL just off the Dolomite road going from Bressanone (Brixen) to Tre Cime, Lago di Braies is a small alpine lake offering a photogenic setting with an eerie atmosphere.
4. Lake Tovel (Lago di Tovel), Trentino/Alto Adige
Lake Tovel or the “red lake”, as the lake is also known, is the largest natural lake in Trentino and one of the perls of the Adamello Brenta Nature Park. The lake was dubbed the red lake because of a red type of algae that used to tinge the surface of the water during the summer months. Unfortunately, this unique natural phenomenon disappeared in the late 1960s, but the nickname remained.
5. Lake Massaciuccoli (Lago di Massaciuccoli), Tuscany
One of Italy’s beautiful natural lakes with marshlands on the one side, which create a wonderful migratory stop for common and rare birds, and the lovely town of Torre del Lago on the other side, where Puccini lived and wrote many of his operas.
In Summer an opera festival is held in the outdoor theater overlooking the lake.
6. Turano Lake (Lago di Turano), Lazio
Located at the foot of Mount Navegna, a natural reserve of Lazio, Lake Turano offers a wide array of possibilities for outdoor activities, fishing and walking along the shores of the lake.
7. Avigliana Lakes (Laghi di Avigliana), Piedmont
The Avigliana Lakes are two maar lakes, Lago Grande and Lago Piccolo in the Natural Park of the Lakes of Avigliana in the province of Turin.
8. Lake Vico (Lago di Vico), Lazio
Legend has it that Lake Vico was created by Hercules, but in reality it is a caldera lake that was formed in the crater of Vico Volcano. It is part of Lake Vico Natural Reserve. The area is renowned for its important beech forest, which is one of the most southerly in Europe that can survive only due to the elevation of the terrain, which create cooler than normal conditions.
Some of the wildlife that can be spotted in the Lake Vico Natural Reserve include: the Great Crested Grebe (symbol of the Preserve), Eurasian badger, European Scops Owl, Great Egret, Herman’s Tortoise, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Squacco Heron, Tree frog, Wild Cat and many more.
9. Lake Scanno (Lago di Scanno), Abruzzo
The splendid Lake Scanno is located at an altitude of 930m above sea level in the Sagittario Valley between Montagna Grande and Monte Genzana, in the middle of Abruzzo National Park. Due to its elevation the temperature remains very pleasant in the summer and there is a lovely promenade and cycle track going around the lake.
10. Lake Kaltern (Lago di Caldaro, Kalterer See), Trentino-Alto Adige
Lago di Caldaro, the warmest bathing lake in the Alps, lies at the heart of an eponymous wine region at about 20km from Bolzano. The local grape variety, Vernatsch, is South Tyrol’s oldest indigenous red grape variety.
You may also like:
Expanded and updated version of the article http://slowitaly.yourguidetoitaly.com/2014/04/8-of-italy-most-beautiful-smaller-lakes/ published on April 2, 2014
Photo credits (top to bottom): all photos © Slow Italy, except, Lago di Alleghe by Guido Andolfato; Lago di Alleghe with boats by Roberto Ferrari; Lago di Carezza © Andreas Edelmann; Lago di Braies © gatsi and xbrchx; Lake Tovel by Luca Biada, Stefano Parmesan and Lorenzo Osti; Torre del Lago by ilsognodigelsominoa; Marshland footbridge by Giuseppe Moscato; Lago di Massaciuccoli by Giovanni; Turano lake by Nicola; Avigliana Lakes by Gian Giacomo Ermacora and Lucio De Benedictis; Lago di Vico by Paolo Margari; Lago di Scanno by Cristian Palmieri and Lucia Marianina Crivelli; Lago di Caldaro © Frank.