Visit to the Grottoes of Catullus in Sirmione: How to get there, prices and advice

Are you passionate about ancient history and are you looking for a new archaeological site to visit? Or are you simply visitors to Sirmione who want to explore the village far and wide? Whatever the answer, we have the solution for both. The Grottoes of Catullus are an ancient archaeological site , not to be missed in Sirmione!
Here is all the useful information to visit them.

Where they are and how to get there

The Grottoes of Catullus are located in Sirmione and can only be reached on foot via Via Caio Valerio Catullo. From the town center they are only 1 km away, so it takes about 15 minutes. 
Sirmione is well connected with the main cities of Lombardy and is:

  • 41 km from Brescia (about 48 minutes)
  • 65 km from Mantua (about 1 hour)
  • 120 km from Milan (about 1 hour and 40)
  • 124 km from Bergamo (about 1 hour and 13)
  • 190 km from Como (about 2 hours)

Timetables and prices

The Grotte di Catullo are always open except on Mondays which are closed. There is therefore no need to worry about Sundays and public holidays during which, albeit with reduced hours, they remain open to the public. The daily hours can vary between summer and winter, so you should always take a look at the official website before planning a visit. What is certain is that every first Sunday of the month everyone enters for free , even if the normal ticket price is not high at all!

  • Timetables: from 8:30 to 19:30 both the museum and the archaeological area, with variable hours according to the seasons. Sundays and holidays are open with reduced hours from 8:30 to 14:00. Mondays are always closed
  • Best time to avoid queues : before 11am and after 5pm are the least crowded times
  • Ticket cost: €6,00
  • Reductions : young people aged 18 to 25 pay € 3.00
  • Free admission: free admission for everyone every first Sunday of the month. Children up to 18 years and holders of the Lombardy Museums Subscription enter for free

What to see and how to visit the Grotte di Catullo

The Grottoes of Catullus are a vast archaeological area , whose main point and major attraction of tourist visits is the Roman Villa with its remains . All around there is a large ancient olive grove and of course there is also the Archaeological Museum which houses the historical artifacts found over the years. Between the villa, the olive grove and the museum, here are the best things to see during a visit to the Grotte di Catullo !

1 – The Roman Villa

They are the remains of one of the major Roman villas in Italy, built during the last years of the 1st century BC and subsequently abandoned. After several excavations and searches, a building prior to the villa was even ascended and intentionally demolished to make room for its construction.

2 – The Noble Floor

It is the floor of the villa where the owner lived at the time. Today it appears to be the most damaged as the villa, after its abandonment, was used for centuries as a quarry for materials.

3 – The Lower Planes

These floors are better preserved than the previous one and formed the service areas. It is accessed by going down a flight of stairs which also allowed access to the beach located at the tip of the peninsula. However, access to the beach is no longer allowed.

4 – The Cryptoporticus

Along the west side of the villa extends the cryptoporticus, a long covered path carved into the rock whose main function was to allow the owners to walk even in bad weather.

5 – The Belvedere Terrace

To the north of the villa there is a large panoramic terrace which offers a suggestive view of Lake Garda. The terrace is also equipped with a velarium , a typically Roman fabric cover made of hemp sheets that is used in case of bad weather.

6 – The historic olive grove

This is the large olive grove that surrounds the archaeological remains. It is made up of about 1,500 plants, some centuries old, which thanks to the care received in recent years have begun to produce olives and extra virgin olive oil of excellent quality.

7 – The Archaeological Museum

In 1999 the Archaeological Museum of the Grotte di Catullo was born, a space to share with visitors all the objects and historical finds identified in the archaeological area during the excavations. At the entrance, the genesis and morphology of Lake Garda are first explained, then it continues with three thematic areas that illustrate the different eras, and finally ends with a model of the Roman Villa and a monitor that plays videos on the Grottoes of Catullus.

8 – Prehistory and Protohistory

It is obviously the first thematic area encountered in the Archaeological Museum. In this space there are finds of stilts found on the shores of Lake Garda.

9 – The Roman Age

We then move on to the thematic area of ​​the Roman Age, that is the one during which the archaeological site came to life. Inside, various artifacts found in the Grottoes of Catullus are exhibited.

10 – The Medieval Age

Finally, the thematic area of ​​the Medieval Age, in which various funerary objects are exhibited, mainly those of the Church of Sirmione, but there are also those of the surrounding churches.

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Get up early : the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 10:00
  2. Buy the city card : if you are interested in visiting other attractions throughout the Lombardy region, buy the Lombardy Museums Subscription and you will have free access to the Grotte di Catullo and beyond
  3. Beware of restrictions : it is forbidden to climb and walk on the remains, to go beyond gates, hedges and barriers, to use photographic equipment and supports of various kinds, to introduce bicycles and scooters, to enter in costume, to eat and drink, to touch objects and shop windows
  4. Animals : dogs can enter but only in the archaeological area and if kept on a leash
  5. Minimum time : we advise you to consider at least 1 hour for the visit


Historical notes, curiosities and practical info: what to know in brief

Although the Roman Villa was built in the last years of the 1st century BC, the first studies were carried out only starting from 1801 by General Lacombe-Saint-Michel belonging to Napoleon’s army. Later the count Giovanni Girolamo Orti Manara, from which the homonymous square which is currently the entrance to the site takes its name, carried out fundamental excavations and surveys for the entire archaeological area.
Here is some practical information to organize your visit to the Grottoes of Catullus :

  • It is not possible to buy the ticket online, only at the cash desk and exclusively in cash
  • Reservations are recommended for groups, but not mandatory
  • Admission is allowed up to 30 minutes before closing time
  • In the archaeological area there are 4 information totems in Italian, English and German
  • The bar located at the entrance is open only in summer
  • In summer there is a paid train that goes from the Baths of Catullus to the entrance to the archaeological area
  • The entrance to the archaeological site is only one and is located on Piazzale Orti Manara

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