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Lake Como

Why go? The most picturesque of the lakes, Lake Como is dotted with majestic old hotels with waterfront swimming pools and museum gardens. Ferries criss-cross the water visiting charming villages like Bellagio, often referred to as the most beautiful town in Italy.

Activities: Ride bikes along the waterside promenade in the town of Como, or go to Domaso, where the windsurfing centre offers lessons for kids and has catamarans and canoes for hire.

Attractions: You’ll be spoilt for choice with so many attractions within easy driving distance of Lake Como. Spend a day at Jungle Raider Park: part theme park, part adventure playground, part woodland forest. The park is filled with obstacle courses among the trees, so it’s a great way to combine fun with physical exercise and fresh air.

In the sun: In Bellano and neighbouring Dervio there are several beaches and lidos with public pools where you can hire sunloungers and take a dip.

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is the second-largest Italian lake. The water transport service Navigazione Lago Maggiore runs regular daily trips from Carciano and Stresa to one of the lakes islands: Isola Madre, Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella. It also organises cruises and a trip to Locarno on the northern tip of the lake.

The cable-car ride to Monte Mottarone is popularand bikes can be rented on arrival. Rocca di Angera, a medieval castle, has a fairytale tower, fantastic lake views, and a doll museum. The largest of the islands, Isola Bella is entirely occupied by the Borromean Palace and its stunning tropical gardens, perfect for a family day trip with a picnic.

Don't miss: For active teens, Lago Maggiore Adventure Park, near Stresa, has bungee trampolining, climbing walls, and a high-rope obstacle course.

Lake Orta

Why go? By contrast, Lake Maggiore’s unassuming neighbour is tiny but totally enchanting – surrounded by forests and rolling hills.

Activities: Youngsters will enjoy the short, fun boat ride from Piazza Motta pier in the delightful village of San Giulio to Isola San Giulio. The village itself has a shady piazza in which to sit while you and the kids enjoy the plentiful supply of gelato. The Giro Lago consists of over 500km of trails you can do on foot or by bike, including two scenic circuits of the lake, which have stunning vistas of Orta.

Don't miss: Alpyland and the bobsled rollercoaster on the Mottarone is a fantastic attraction for older kids and teens. Mums and dads shouldn't pass up the opportunity either, while the kids get their adrenaline pumping on the 750m ride, you can control your speed for a sedate descent taking in the spectacular views of Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore.

Lake Garda

Why go? Lake Garda boasts Roman ruins, medieval castles, as well as lovely pebble beaches and a few sandy coves. At the northern end of the lake, Riva del Garda is where families go for watersports.

Activities: Sailing Dulac has dinghies and catamarans for hire and offers a kids' sailing school. At the southern end, Sirmione has Rocca Scaligero, a 13th-century citadel with wooden drawbridges and oversized ice cream cones. Kids will also love the Gardaland and Medieval Times theme parks near Peschiera.

For more ideas on where to visit in Italy, check out our favorite Italian destinations for toddlers.