Lake Garda, the largest of the Italian lakes, is a perfect destination for a trip from Milano.

Well served by motorways and fast trains, it is the ideal combination of art, nature, food and sport.

 

The lake, with its many picturesque locations, is rich in ancient and modern history, monuments, archaeological sites, museums, castles, fortresses, nature trails, bathing beaches, spas facilities, golf courses and events related to entertainment, sports, food and wine. 

 

The most renowned local products are olive oil, lemons and citrus fruits, truffles and wines, some of which are famous all over the world, such as Bardolino, Chiaretto, Groppello, Bianco di Custoza, Amarone and Valpollicella, Recioto di Soave, Lugana and Marzemino (the wine cited by Mozart in his opera Don Giovanni), which go well with dishes prepared with lake fish, local cheeses and desserts (San Martino della Battaglia and Vin Santo Trentino).

Daily boat services connect many of the villages overlooking the lake, making it easier to move around for short visits.

The Easter shore

Characterized by gentle hills, the Veronese coast, also known as the Riviera degli Olivi, is easily accessible by train (Peschiera del Garda and Verona stops) and offers many opportunities within everyone's reach, also thanks to the numerous equipped campsites on the lake shore.

 

Starting from Peschiera train station you will be very close to several amusement and nature parks (to reach them you can take advantage of convenient shuttle services) and you will also be a short distance from the village of Lazise, whose lakeside promenade is considered one of the most enchanting on Lake Garda.

 

Also worth a visit are the small villages on the eastern shores, gradually rising to the north: Bardolino, Garda, Torri del Benaco, Val di Sogno, which all offer beautiful landscapes.  In particular, exploring the hinterland of Garda you can discover Punta San Vigilio, a magical place surrounded by the silent coolness of cypress trees. A stone's throw away, the Baia delle Sirene Park has an equipped beach, overlooking a crystal clear water.

Among the most fascinating destinations is Malcesine, with the beautiful Scaliger Castle from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view and discover the link between Goethe and this pleasant place. You can also set off on a high-altitude adventure by taking the Monte Baldo cable car, which is accessible from the centre of the village, and thus reach an altitude of 1,760 metres. From here you will admire the spectacular panorama offered by Baldo, also known as the "Garden of Europe" for the variety of plants and flowers that grow there, and then face the descent on foot... or by paragliding.

In the surroundings of Malcesine there are also three of the five islands inside the lake: the northernmost is the Isola dell'Ulivo, further south is the Isola del Sogno, which can be reached on foot from the coast during dry periods, while the southernmost is the Isola del Trimelone (or Tremellone), used as a military base since the end of the 19th century and during the First World War.

A curiosity: in the Municipality of Malcesine is located the Aril or Ri, a river only 175 meters long and therefore considered the shortest in Italy and one of the shortest in the world: at Christmastime between its shores is usually set up a "floating" nativity scene.

The Southern shore

You can start from train station in Desenzano, a city full of cultural initiatives, clubs and shops, to take a tour of the beaches in this area, many of which are public or affordable at very low prices. Going up the coast of the lake in a westerly direction, you will meet Lonato, Padenghe sul Garda, Moniga del Garda, Polpenazze del Garda, Manerba del Garda, from which you can reach the Island of San Biagio (also called Isola dei Conigli - Rabbits' Island because in the 16th century it was populated by rabbits and hares that offered abundant hunts) by boat, or on foot during dry periods, San Felice del Benaco and Portese. Between the last two locations mentioned is the Island of Garda, the largest of the 5 inside the lake. On this island St. Francis of Assisi founded a monastery in 1220 (then removed in the 18th century) while today you can clearly see a large nineteenth-century palace in Venetian neo-Gothic style surrounded by Italian gardens.

 

But the town that perhaps most deserves a visit is Sirmione, located on a narrow peninsula almost on the border with the province of Verona, right in the middle of the lake. Entering the old town through the walls you will notice the incredible Rocca Scaligera of the thirteenth century, built literally by the water's edge and therefore unique in the world.

The Roman presence is testified by the archaeological park and the "Grotte di Catullo", an ancient domus (erroneously) attributed to the Latin poet's residence. Not far from the site, the Jamaica beach, famous for being surrounded by unusual tropical vegetation.

Sirmione's sodium sulphide water is known for its beneficial properties: here you can find spa facilities where you can rest a few hours for therapeutic purposes or just relax!

The Western shore

The Riviera dei Limoni (Lemon Riviera) extends along the north-western coast of Lake Garda, from the town of Salò to the border with the Autonomous Province of Trento and takes its name from this his fruit plant's cultivation, spread throughout the territory. Lemon plants were introduced to Garda from the Ligurian Riviera, presumably around the 12th century, by the friars of San Francesco's convent in Gargnano.

The combination of Mediterranean vegetation, close to the lake, and the mountain landscape in the hilly hinterland makes this area multifaceted and pleasant, suitable for mountain farming (mainly citrus and olive trees, grown on ancient terraces, some dating back to the sixteenth century), but at the same time characterized by a strong tourist vocation. The area between the Municipalities of Salò, Gardone Riviera, Toscolano Maderno, Gargnano, Tignale, Tremosine, Limone, Valvestino and Magasa is also home to the Alto Garda Bresciano Park, which covers over 38,000 hectares, many of which are covered by forest. The Park rises up to a height of 2,000 metres and is therefore suitable for hiking or mountain biking.

 

To explore this stretch of coast, you can start from the elegant town of Salò (reachable by bus from the train stations of Brescia or Desenzano) with its wonderful lakeside promenade, the Art Nouveau buildings overlooking the water and the late-Gothic-style Duomo, and then head towards Gardone Riviera. Here you can visit the Vittoriale degli Italiani - residence of the famous Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio - now a national museum whose open-air theatre becomes the exclusive location for festivals dedicated to music, art and dance. The Heller-Hruska Botanical Garden is also within walking distance. Here you can admire over 2,000 plants of different species (Alpine, Mediterranean and tropical) that coexist in this place thanks to its favourable microclimate.

 

Continuing north you will find the beaches of Toscolano Maderno, where you can also stroll through the Valley of the Paper Mills; then Gargnano, whose hamlet Bogliaco hosts the "CentoMiglia" sailing race and is famous for the splendid gardens of Villa Bettoni.

 

Going up from Gargnano towards the mountain area, in Tignale's territory you can find the Sanctuary of Montecastello, a sacred place that stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, which offers a spectacular panorama.

 

If you feel daredevil, there is the Strada della Forra, which rises from the lake level to Tremosine sul Garda (the opening sequence of the movie "007: Quantum of Solace" was shot here). This municipality is made up of 17 small hamlets, of which only Campione del Garda - a paradise for sports boating - is located at the level of the state highway. The village of Pieve is famous for the "Terrace of the Thrill" overlooking the lake, from which you can admire the town of Malcesine and the Baldo on the opposite bank.

 

Continuing towards Trentino, Limone sul Garda is a town worth a visit, not only to see the ancient lemon houses built in vertical cobblestone steps, or the characteristic onion-shaped bell tower of the San Benedetto's Church, or to get lost in its narrow streets full of shops and restaurants, but also to try out the new cycle/pedestrian path that connects this town to the Province of Trento and to be halfway between two worlds.

The Northern tip

Riva del Garda occupies the northernmost tip of the lake. Favoured by a mild climate, it offers a rare combination of mountain and Mediterranean landscapes. Thanks to the lake currents and exposure to the winds, it is one of the most popular locations for windsurfing and sailing.

Here you will also find well-equipped and very clean beaches to take a dip in the water, elegant gardens with a vintage atmosphere and large green areas to walk in, as well as numerous characteristic shops and restaurants. At the end of August you can't miss "Notte di Fiaba" ("Fairy Tale Night"), a magical w.e. dedicated to children and adults, inspired every year by a different story.

 

From Riva you can go trekking in the mountain areas between Lake Garda and Lake Ledro, for example along the Ponale nature trail, discover the Varone Falls, or reach Arco di Trento and its panoramic castle. Finally, you can rejoin the Veronese coast through Torbole del Lago, with its picture-postcard landscapes and the wonderful Busatte-Tempesta scenic route.

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