Desenzano del Garda: what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening

Among the most populous and picturesque municipalities among those located on Lake Garda, Desenzano del Garda undoubtedly ranks in the first position: not for nothing is it one of the favorite destinations for Italian and foreign tourists visiting the renowned lake area. Known mainly for the beautiful Roman villa , the castle and the very rich archaeological museum , the town is only a few kilometers from Brescia and Verona, making it ideal for a half-day trip as well.
Here’s what to see in Desenzano del Garda , but also what are the restaurants to try and the main entertainment for an unforgettable evening.

What to see in Desenzano del Garda

1 – Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena

The main place of worship of the city, the cathedral is a Baroque construction built according to the project of the Italian architect Giulio Todeschini and consecrated in the early 1600s. In addition to the beautiful and imposing external façade, it is worth visiting this building even if you are not believers for what is contained within it: we are referring to the famous canvas depicting The Last Supper depicted by the Venetian painter Gian Battista Tiepolo. Also, do not miss some canvases in the presbytery on which salient episodes from the life of Mary Magdalene are represented.

  • How to get: it is located a few steps from the lakefront and from Piazza Malvezzi, the main square of the city. From here, walk towards Piazza Duomo, it will take you less than 2 minutes 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: for free

2 – Castle

Considered by many to be the most important attraction in the city, the castle is a wonderful fortress dating back to the early Middle Ages. Used in the past as a defense against barbarian invasions due to its strategic position, the castle underwent various changes over the centuries which extended its original nucleus. Today, the structure has become a tourist reference point for the whole of Lake Garda thanks to the wonderful panoramic view it is able to offer: not for nothing, many consider the castle a sort of ” privileged terrace on the Benaco “. Furthermore, on summer evenings, the gardens and halls become an extraordinary location suitable for hosting exhibitions and cultural events.

  • How to get: easily reachable on foot starting from Piazza Malvezzi: following Via Castello you can reach your destination in just 3 minutes –
  • Timetables: 9: 30-18: 30 in the winter months and 9: 30-19: 30 in the summer
  • Ticket cost: € 3.00 at full price and € 1.00 at reduced price for minors, groups and residents

3 – Piazza Malvezzi

It is the main town square, just a few steps from the lakefront. Dating back to the sixteenth century and built according to the project of Giulio Todeschini (the same architect who built the cathedral), it is the heart of the historic center and it is here that there are some important monuments , including the statue dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Santa Angela Merici. The square is the favorite meeting place for locals and tourists , who can choose whether to take a nice walk under the arcades or rest in one of the many clubs in the center. Also here, there are also numerous events organized by the Municipality.

  • How to get: it is in a central position with respect to the urban fabric. Having as a reference the lakefront and the city port, you can reach the square in a couple of minutes on foot following via Porto Vecchio – 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

4 – Old port

The port is one of the most suggestive areas. Also dating back to the medieval period , built in particular during the rule of the Republic of Venice in the 13th century, it was once used for the transport of foodstuffs and goods, so much so that the town acquired the nickname of ” Lombardy warehouse ” . In addition to being a very beautiful area for the lake scenery that can be admired there, it is now quite popular for the numerous boats that accompany tourists on excursions along the shores of Lake Garda.

Attention : if you leave the port for a boat trip, do not miss the unique Venetian-style bridge that was built there after the war!

  • How to get: piazza Malvezzi is practically overlooking the Porto Vecchio, so much so that in less than a minute on foot you will be at your destination –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

5 – Roman villa

Immediately after the panoramic castle, the Roman Villa is probably the second major attraction that archeology enthusiasts cannot help but love! The villa, located in the historic center, was built at the end of the 1st century BC and is today considered one of the most significant late antique villas in all of northern Italy .

In addition to an immense garden and a beautiful Antiquarium , the main treasure of this site is represented by the more than 240sqm of polychrome mosaics, which show hunting scenes and wild animals, but also running chariots, harvesting cupids and satyrs. According to some studies, it seems that the owner of the Roman Villa was Flavius ​​Magnus Decentius (brother of the then Emperor): in all probability, the name of the city of Desenzano would derive from this singular historical figure.

  • How to get: it is located near the historic center. Starting from Piazza Malvezzi you will have to walk about 3 minutes, crossing Piazza Duomo and then following via Crocefisso – 
  • Timetables: 8: 30-19: 30. Monday is closing day
  • Ticket cost: € 4.00; the reduced one € 2.00

6 – Archaeological Museum

The museum is named after Giovanni Rambotti. Here there are preserved numerous artifacts found along the banks south of the Benaco and belonging to the prehistoric era (it is estimated that the finds kept in this museum go from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age). It is also in this museum that nothing less than one of the oldest plows in the world , more than 2,000 years old , is preserved .
Take advantage of this opportunity to also visit the cloister of the former Carmelite convent which houses the rooms of the museum: it is in fact one of the most relaxing corners of the whole city.

  • How to get: starting from Piazza Malvezzi and passing the port area, you can reach the archaeological museum on foot in about 6 minutes, along via Anelli – 
  • Timetables: Tue and Thu 9: 30-13: 00, from Fri to Sun 9: 30-12: 30/14: 00-19: 00. Closed on Mondays and Wednesdays
  • Ticket cost: € 4.00 at full price; € 2.00 at a reduced price

7 – Desenzano Lighthouse

Passing the old port and going into the area of ​​the more recent pier, it is possible to come across a typically seafaring structure : the lighthouse was built at the end of the 1800s. its first years of life, the lighthouse worked thanks to a large oil lamp and the supervision of an employee who lived a few steps from the port (contrary to what one might think, the lighthouse cannot be inhabited inside). Today, the lighthouse has almost completely lost its central role, yet it remains an incredible testimony of the past for the most nostalgic, as well as making the port location even more suggestive at sunset.

  • How to get: from Piazza Malvezzi, walk towards the lake along via Porto Vecchio. Passing the small port, you will arrive in the most modern port where the lighthouse is located – 
  • Timetables: can only be visited externally
  • Ticket cost: free

8 – Park of the Pond

The park is another attraction that we advise you not to miss, especially if you are traveling with children. This small green area , in fact, is ideal for taking a break strolling along the perimeter of an adorable artificial lake, but also for having fun : there are in fact basketball courts, tracks for skateboarding, a playground to entertain the most little ones and even a bar for the parents. On weekends it is not uncommon for sportsmen and families to enjoy a picnic on the lawn .

  • How to get: always having the historic center as a reference, the Parco del Laghetto is about 25 minutes on foot along via Michelangelo. If you want to travel by public transport, take bus 1 or 2 from Piazza Malvezzi (15 minutes) –
  • Timetables: 8:00 – 22:00
  • Ticket cost: for free

9 – Desenzanino beach

A trip to Desenzano del Garda also includes a taste of the surrounding natural beauty and a little relaxation on the beach . Yes, along the shores of the lake near the town, you will find four beaches where you can bask in the sun and have fun in the company of friends: the Desenzanino beach, the Feltrinelli beach, the Rivoltella beach and the Golden beach. Given the proximity and convenience of services , we recommend that you opt for the Desenzanino Beach, the favorite of the locals themselves. Overlooking the beach, you will find many bars and restaurants, while a large paid parking lot nearby will allow you to leave your car near the beach.

  • How to get: starting from the historic center, walk along the Lungolago Cesare Battisti (10 minutes). Alternatively, take bus 3 which, starting from Piazza Malvezzi, will allow you to reach the beach in just 5 minutes – 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

10 – Oasis of San Francesco

Still on the subject of the natural wonders present, do not miss this oasis extended for over 10 hectares. For those who love walking and being in close contact with nature, it is a perfect place, equipped with information panels, marked paths and an observation hut, reachable via a comfortable wooden walkway.

Be careful though: being a territory of great value from a naturalistic-environmental point of view, it is not possible to visit it in its entirety but only in specific areas indicated, in order to limit as much as possible the damage related to human presence and thus preserve its integrity. of the natural habitat.

  • How to get: you can take the LN026 bus departing from Piazza Malvezzi. In just 12 minutes you will arrive at the entrance of the area. Alternatively, use your car following viale F. Agello –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: for free

Desenzano del Garda itinerary in one day

The itinerary can only start with a good breakfast consumed at the Riva Pastry Shop (excellent sweets at reasonable prices). After breakfast, walk towards the nearby Castle of Desenzano , from which you can admire the most beautiful panoramic view of the area. From the castle, move towards the heart of the historic center, Piazza Malvezzi . Here, you will be able to savor the relaxed atmosphere and stroll under the arcades and get lost in the alleys. A few steps from the square, there is the cathedral with a marvelous Baroque facade and Renaissance interiors. Pay attention to the aisles and discover the painting of Tiepolo’s Last Supper . Finally, walk towards the very closeRoman Villa .

For lunch, stop at the Taverna del Garda , tasting exquisite dishes from the lake. After refreshing yourself, take a coffee in Piazza Malvezzi, to admire the picturesque Porto Vecchio and the beautiful Lighthouse of Desenzano up close in the more modern port area.
Finally, head towards the Desenzanino Beach , where you can relax for the rest of the afternoon (alternatively you can visit the Parco del Laghetto).

One day itinerary at a glance

  1. Breakfast at Pasticceria Riva – 
  2. Castle (9: 30-18: 30 in the winter months and 9: 30- 19:30 in the summer, € 3.00 reduced € 1.00)
  3. Malvezzi square
  4. Duomo
  5. Villa Romana (8: 30-19: 30, closed on Mondays, € 4.00 reduced € 2.00)
  6. Lunch at Taverna del Garda – 
  7. Old Port
  8. Faro (open only externally)
  9. Desenzanino beach
  10. Dinner at Gattolardo restaurant – 

Where to eat in Desenzano del Garda

  1. Esplanade Restaurant : starred restaurant. Dream location with phenomenal lake view and rich fish menu
    Average price per person: from € 60.00
    Address and contacts: via Lario, 3 
  2. La Goccia Trattoria : trattoria specializing in traditional Lombard dishes with a well-stocked wine list
    Average price per person: € 35.00 / 40.00
    Address and contacts: locality Montonale Basso, 
  3. Bruschetteria Nose : it is an excellent bruschetteria full of delicious proposals, in the city center
    Average price per person: € 20.00
    Address and contacts: via Parrocchiale, 44/46 

What to do in the evening: nightlife areas and the best clubs

Unlike what many think, in Desenzano there are not only historical monuments and nature: the city is in fact very lively all year round and offers various alternatives for young people and anyone who wants to spend a fun evening in the company of their friends. The best areas are obviously those in the center, dotted with trendy clubs where you can sip an aperitif or listen to live music performances. Alternatively, head to the Desenzanino area for a cocktail overlooking the lake.

  • Bianca Caffè : excellent place for lovers of live music, with a wide choice of cocktails and the possibility of having aperitifs / Address: via Nazario Sauro, 10 
  • Mariky Terrace : exceptional location with lake view and access to the Desenzanino beach. Offers live music performances. / Address: Lungolago Cesare Battisti 
  • Art Club Disco : cult disco of the place, very popular with local young people and those who love to go wild until late at night / Address: via Mella, 4 

Plan your stay in Desenzano del Garda: info and useful tips

  • How to get: by car, along the A4 Turin-Venice motorway and then take the Desenzano exit. From here, follow the signs for the center which is just 3km from the toll booth
  • How to get around : without a doubt on foot in order to better appreciate the city fabric and the alleys that make up the historic center. Alternatively, rent a bicycle to better explore the lakefront
  • Where to park : the main car parks are near the lakefront and the more central areas such as Maratona, Bagatta or Feltrinelli (around € 2.00 per hour).
  • Where to sleep
  • What to see in the surrounding area : Sirmione (10km), Rivoltella (3.6km), Peschiera del Garda (15km), Castelnuovo del Garda (23km), Castellaro Lagusello (21km), Brescia (33km), Verona (44km), Cremona (68km)), Mantua (47km), Lake Iseo (53km), Lessinia Regional Natural Park (90km), Bergamo (78km)

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