Just 2 hours from Milan, Lake Garda attracts millions of visitors every year thanks to its mild climate, its old-fashioned atmosphere and its breathtaking scenery, including scenic roads along the coast, Renaissance villas, Romanesque hamlets and small villages. Surrounded by three regions – Lombardy, Trentino Alto-Adige and the Veneto – Italy’s largest lake is one of the most important tourist destinations in the country.
Characterized by a mild climate all year round, Mediterranean vegetation, colours and scents reminiscent of the sea, Lake Garda is surrounded by picturesque villages, seaside resorts, historical remains, harbours, parks and nature reserves. A destination capable of satisfying nature lovers, those who want to discover places rich in history and culture, as well as the more sporty who can enjoy trekking, excursions and above all, thanks to the constant winds, water sports.
Twenty-five picturesque villages, all connected by the “Gardesana” state road and reachable by motorway, are worth a visit, especially the most famous ones: Sirmione, the favourite destination of the poet Catullus and Maria Callas, with its splendid Rocca Scaligera; Gardone Riviera, with the Vittoriale degli Italiani, the house-museum of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio; Peschiera del Garda, with its fortress and 16th-century ramparts. Among others, it is also worth mentioning Limone del Garda, Tremosine, Riva del Garda, Malcesine, Lazise. A daily ferry service connects all these places, making them easily accessible by water.
The area is also characterised by the production of excellent wine and olive oil. Custodian of extraordinary culinary and enogastronomic excellence, Garda is the production area of red radicchio, rice of the vialone nano variety, Lessinia cheeses, fish and Garda oil, and even pandoro and Amarone della Valpolicella, all typical products capable of satisfying even the most demanding traveller.
Trips by Train >> To enhance sustainable tourism by train towards Lake Garda, on the Milan-Brescia-Verona line Trenord offers a special “Lake Garda Tour” ticket, which combines a train ticket to Desenzano or Peschiera with free navigation on the lower lake, between Gargnano and Torri del Benaco. www.trenord.it
The west side of the lake:
top destinations along the shore of Brescia
Desenzano del Garda, very easy to reach by motorway (A4 Turin-Venice, Desenzano exit), can also be easily reached by train, being the most important railway junction on Lake Garda. Tourists can benefit from well-organised beaches with views of the Sirmione peninsula and Monte Baldo.
Gardone Riviera is famous for the Vittoriale degli Italiani, the house-museum dedicated to renowned poet and patriot Gabriele D’Annunzio, where you can admire memorabilia, airplanes and the vast library that belonged to the writer. The complex of buildings, streets, squares, an open-air theatre, gardens and waterways erected between 1921 and 1938 in Gardone Riviera was designed by architect Giancarlo Maroni as a memorial to the “inimitable life” of the poet and the exploits of Italian soldiers during the First World War (www.vittoriale.it).
Limone del Garda, the pearl and oasis of peace of the Gardesana Occidentale, boasts a mild climate that favours typically Mediterranean vegetation with agaves, oleanders, palms and cypresses alongside terraced cultivations of centuries-old olive trees and greenhouse gardens of lemons, oranges and mandarins.
The east side of the lake:
top destinations along the shore of Verona
The Sirmione peninsula lies exactly between the two shores and extends into Lake Garda for about 4 kilometres. It is a splendid town with a tourist vocation, both for the presence of Roman and medieval remains and for the thermal waters.
Not far from Verona, we also find Bardolino, a very lively centre with its typical maze of alleyways, shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and Garda, where it is worth visiting the Pieve di Santa Maria in Garda, one of the oldest religious buildings in the area, which has a beautiful 15th-century cloister and some 15th-century frescoes.
Lovers of architecture should not miss the famous Garda villas, including the 16th-century Villa Guarienti, which stands at the centre of the Punta San Vigilio, with its Italian-style garden and lemon house built in Venetian Gothic style, and Villa Albertini surrounded by an immense park stretching across the hill behind it, in a riot of Mediterranean fauna.
History and archaeology enthusiasts should not miss the rock engravings in the Torri del Benaco area. Engraved on a rock that has become a sort of natural blackboard due to glaciation, you will find graffiti from various eras, mostly dating back to prehistoric times.
Between sport, wellness and fun
Lake Garda offers countless sporting attractions, from trekking to mountain biking, from golf to horse riding, from sailing to wind surfing, thanks to the winds that blow constantly. But it is also the ideal place to organise a holiday dedicated to wellness and relaxation, thanks to the famous Terme di Sirmione (where the sulphurous thermal waters have high therapeutic properties), the magnificent Parco Termale del Garda and over 60 wellness centres scattered throughout the area.
The nearby Gardaland, one of Italy’s largest amusement parks, boasts several of the country’s most famous attractions, including roller coasters, simulators and theme parks designed to appeal to visitors of all ages (www.gardaland.it).