The glamorous homes and lakeside lifestyles that are stealing the show in northern Italy

The lakes spanning northern Italy are holiday classics, inspiring poetic excess since Roman times with their sparkling beauty.
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There’s classy Como, where dramatic mountains plunge into deep, dark water; Maggiore on the Swiss-Italian border, with its beautiful islands, and lesser-known, tranquil lakes Iseo and Orta.

Then there is Lake Garda, the Big Daddy of them all at 31 miles long, the biggest, the busiest and the most Mediterranean in character and temperature. Lemon groves, slender cypress trees and gorgeous gardens opposite the winter ski slopes on Monte Baldo show off Garda’s remarkable microclimate. The refreshing, reliable winds fill parts of the lake with kite surfers, skimming the glacial waters and dodging elegant Riva boats.

The typically Italian architecture surrounding the lake features flat-fronted Art Nouveau villas, coloured pale yellow or dusty pink with red-tiled roofs, but Villa Eden Gardone knocks tradition out of the water. This is an inspiring project of 11 villas and apartments on the lake’s south-west coast, two minutes from the centre of Gardone Riviera, north of Salò. Nineteen acres of landscaped gardens emphasise the lake views and there is a clubhouse and small hotel with a restaurant, gym, pool and full concierge services.
From £1,464,000: apartments and glamorous villas, all new and designed by leading architects, in Gardone Riviera, with views over Lake Garda

The luxurious homes themselves steal the show. Briton David Chipperfield and American Richard Meier are among the signature architects involved with the project. The open-plan show house of Austrian architects Sphere is a particular beauty, with walls of glass and crushed Travertine. 

“The houses around Lake Garda are ancient,” says Marc Mark, lead architect at Sphere. “Our design approach was different. Our buyers will come from around the world, many from cities, so we wanted to mix metropolitan style with classic Riviera.”

Mark believes the area between Salò and Gargnano is the most beautiful part of the lake and likes it so much that he has a small long-term rental there. “It’s a former limonaia, where lemons were ripened,” he adds. “My home in Innsbruck is only two hours away, Verona airport is one hour and so are the ski resorts of South Tyrol. For many Europeans, Lake Garda feels like the closest ‘sea’ if you drive south.”

Villa Eden Gardone sets a new price point for Lake Garda. Prices start from £1,464,000, with the most expensive home over £12 million, yet already half are sold, says Robert Leingruber of developers Signa. “Security and privacy are most important to our buyers,” he says. “The unifying rules that all architects kept to — no private  gardens and no fences — keeps the site natural, so that from the water, the  villas are hidden in the hills.”
£578,000: a three-bedroom apartment in Gardone Riviera, in a historic building close to the lake, with communal gardens, pool and a caretaker

Property in Gardone Riviera is among the most expensive on the whole lake, says Daniel Boesch of Engel & Völkers. “The elegant town has always attracted poets, artists and nobility,” he adds. This area is home to magnificent Villa Feltrinelli, one of Europe’s most expensive hotels, where fascist leader Benito Mussolini holed up for two years. Some local villas are dated, and new or restructured homes sell best, Boesch says.

Apartments start from £274,600 and elegant villas from £1 million. A 1,076sq ft three-bedroom apartment in a restored 19th-century villa with communal gardens and pool is £578,000. A newly built two-bedroom flat, 10 minutes’ walk from Desenzano in the south, is £366,000 through Casa Travella. The proximity to Gardaland, Italy’s largest theme park, makes parts of the south the most commercialised area on the lake.
  • Villa Eden Gardone: (+43 512 585 119 8800)
  • Engel & Völkers: (+39 030 990 7376)
  • Casa Travella: (01322 660988)

Trio of towns put a smile on your face
Three different locations on Lake Garda have made the top 10 in a list of the happiest villages and towns in Italy, according to a survey. By comparing the balance of economic, social and environmental wellbeing, the survey put Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione and Manerba delGarda in fourth, seventh and 10th place respectively.

All three towns are in the south or south-western areas of the lake. The top three villages in the survey carried out for Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore — Brunico, Vipiteno and Egna — are all in the South Tyrol area of northern Italy, close to the Austrian border. 

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