Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is surrounded by many medieval villages, small towns and picturesque ports. Many of them can be reached by boat from various parts of the lake and it’s definitely worth exploring as many of them as you can to get a truly authentic feel for the stunning area.
Peschiera is on the southern end of the lake. Here, you can see the 16th century island fortress and walls, a reminder of a time when Austria controlled the region. Guided tours of the fortress are available by boat or on foot. The old town is colourful and inviting with narrow alleyways lined with shops and cafes. After soaking up the history try a glass of Lugana, a local white wine.
Also on the southern shore, located on a peninsula with a stunning mountain backdrop, is the picturesque medieval fortress town of Sirmione. The Scaligeri Castle dominates the entrance, leading onto a maze of narrow medieval streets, attractive café’s, shops and elegant villas. Sirmione’s most famous site is the Grotte de Catullo, a vast ruined Roman villa named after the poet Catullus.
The Romans flocked to Sirmione for its thermal springs. These sulphur-rich waters are thought to have curative powers. A relaxing afternoon in a spa is the perfect antidote to a hard morning of sightseeing!
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is dramatically situated on the mountainous northern tip of the lake and boasts superb scenery, elegant parks and a long lakeside promenade. Riva has many fine buildings, especially around the colourful Piazza, and the fantastic 12th century La Rocca Castle, which dominates the waterfront.
Gardone Riviera is a popular resort on the western edge of the lake. The town’s botanical gardens are home to an enormous range of exotic plants and flowers. High above the town is the exotic Villa il Vittoriale, once the home of Italy’s controversial writer Gabriele d’Annunzio. This Art Deco villa is full of curiosities, including a coffin shaped bed and a battleship in the garden.
Also on the Western shore is the pretty city of Salo, the most populated of areas around the lake. With a stunning mountain backdrop, Salo is set in a scenic bay with a lakeside piazza and scores of beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. The promenade is the longest on Lake Garda and leads to the lovely shingle beaches in the south of the bay. For keen hikers, there are numerous walks through the pine forests that can be enjoyed from here.
The small town of Malcesine has an impressive castle that houses a natural history museum and offers wonderful views from the top of its imposing square tower. It’s also the starting point for the cable car ride to the top of Monte Baldo, prime position for taking in the stunning scenery of Lake Garda and is surroundings. Be prepared for the cabin to turn through 360 degrees as it reaches the upper sections of the route.
Limone is a picture postcard resort, nestling alongside lemon groves beneath the cliffs of the north western shore of Lake Garda. If you’re a James Bond fan, you may recognise it from Quantum of Solace – a few of the car chase scenes were filmed around here. You can wander the old cobbled streets of interesting shops or stroll along the lake side promenade in the evening. Visit the famous wall-lemon houses and buy a bottle of the local cold-pressed olive oil to take home. During peak season, a local group – Gruppo Alpino di Limone – offer free-guided walking tours of the area, ranging from exhilarating hikes to gentle wanders through the olive groves. The tourist information centre in Limone will be able to provide more information or maps if you fancy venturing out on your own.
Canvas Holidays has 10 campsites around Lake Garda, see which one would be a good fit for your holiday here.