Let us take you to eight must-see lakes in the Italian Alps, eight precious pearls that sparkle in the country’s northern mountains. Finding the most beautiful eight was a challenge, considering Italy has a myriad of lakes, more than any other country in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Neapolitan author Maria-Savi Lopez (1846-1940) acknowledge the challenge in dedicating a chapter of her book, “Leggende delle Alpi”, to these wonders of nature:
“No writer could ever describe the beauty of so many Alpine lakes. Many are located between the cliffs, ridges, inaccessible peaks and imposing sadness of certain sublime landscapes. Others are among flowers and in the snow, in a gaiety of colors that yet is not enough to lift the awe one feels at such heights. One has the feeling that their waters – of such varied shades: black, white, gray or green – are jealously concealing the mountains’ secrets to our vibrant imagination.”
“Alpine lakes are often fed by invisible springs, and it can seem strange to see them form with no apparent cause; before this mystery, mountaineers’ imagination has worked and continues to work fervently, inventing a number of bizarre legends…”
We went in search of the beauty and mystery of the quiet waters of eight lakes between Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont.
Let’s start our journey in the East and move west.
First stop: the small Lake Braies (German: “Pragser Wildsee”), pictured above, at 1,500 meters of altitude in the Eastern Dolomites. It is in the Braies Valley, near the municipality of the same name, about 100 kilometers from Bolzano.
While small – you can go around it on foot – it is quite deep (up to 36 meters). It is right below the Croda del Becco (or Seekofel) and surrounded by the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park.
Legend has it that in ancient times a wild population inhabited the Braies Valley, guarding a large treasure of gold. Creating the lake was their way to prevent farmers from reaching their mines. Legends aside, this corner of Trentino-Alto Adige is truly a mine of beauty.
Some fifty kilometers south towards Cortina d’Ampezzo, in Veneto, there’s another beautiful basin of silent blue waters: Lake Sorapiss (in the photo below), which gives its name to the mountain range of the Cortina Dolomites surrounding it.
The Sorapiss massif, also known as “Finger of God”, is reflected in the waters of the lake, not far from the Vandelli Mountain Hut, almost 2,000 meters up, from which you can set out to reach the summit of the mountain and other beautiful destinations, such as Croda Banco, Torre dei Sabbioni, the Forcella Grande and San Vito di Cadore.
About twenty kilometers west of Sorapiss, going towards the Falzarego Pass, still in the province of Belluno, Veneto, there is an even smaller lake: the glacial Lake Limides (or Limedes), at an altitude of 2,171 meters.
The tiny body of water is so small it disappears in the summer, but large enough to reflect the profiles of Mount Averau (Nuvolau group) and of the Tofana di Rozes.
Lake San Pellegrino is about fifty kilometers in the South-West from the Falzarego Pass. Located in Moena, Trentino-Alto Adige, the lake – which has the same name as the nearby mountain pass in the Dolomites, about 2,000 meters high – is surrounded by Swiss pines and larches: you can walk around it, in the shade of the trees, in half an hour. So little time, so much wonder.
Going further east, towards Bolzano, another stop in Trentino-Alto Adige is in order: the spectacular Lake Carezza (“Karersee” in German), in the municipality of Nova Levante.
Fed by underground springs, this lake on the foothills of the Latemar massif offers extraordinary hue variations, turning from blue to green. Due to this chromatic changeability, it is called in the local language – Ladino – “Lec de ergobando”, meaning “Rainbow Lake”. According to legend, an upset wizard indeed threw the rainbow into it.
This time we have a longer way to travel. The next extraordinary Alpine lake we would like you to see is 130 kilometers away: Lake Resia (in German “Reschensee”) is in the municipality of Curon Venosta, South Tyrol. We have mentioned it in a previous article.
The two and a half hours of travel are worth this incredible image that you will never forget: the bell tower of Curon’s old town sticks out from the middle of the lake, which was created in 1950 with the 120 million cubic meters of fresh water required to operate a large dam, built for power generation. A dramatic historical event, and formidable and surreal sight.
It’s time to go to Lombardy and visit Lake Colombo, in the municipality of Branzi, in the upper Val Brembana (a little less than 300 kilometers from Curon).
Like Lake Resia, Lake Colombo is a beautiful artificial lake at some 2,000 meters of altitude. It was created in the 1920s to power the Sardegnana hydroelectric plant.
Last region in our tour and last stop: Lake Serrù in the Graian Alps, Piedmont, is about 250 kilometers from Lake Colombo.
This is another artificial lake, and belongs to a complex of reservoirs that supply various local power plants.
At about 2,500 meters above sea level, Lake Serrù is located inside the Gran Paradiso National Park, close to the peaks bordering the French Venoise park.
It is at the center of a series of stunning hiking trails and offers a “panoptic” view of the beautiful alpine environment all around.