Nestled between the Alps and the Po Valley, Lake Garda is characterized by a mild climate and a surprising nature made of olive trees, vines, oleanders and palm trees. Its waters lap three regions and it is the perfect place for short weekends and holidays among picturesque villages, beaches, marinas, nature reserves, parks and places that are full of life in summer. Not only that, because on Lake Garda, lovers of sports and outdoor activities can find here the ideal place for climbing, trekking, sailing or windsurfing.
The most beautiful locations and villages
1 – Sirmione
Famous for having been chosen by Catullus who composed his odes here and by Maria Callas who spent her free time in this locality, Sirmione is a true pearl of Lake Garda, also known for its thermal springs .
Lying on a thin strip of land stretching out between the waters of the lower Garda, every year it is a destination for vacationers, tourists and people who come to discover the small historic center characterized by a beautiful castle, numerous alleys and the famous Grottoes of Catullus .
2 – Desenzano del Garda
Municipality with the highest number of inhabitants, Desenzano del Garda is a real town overlooking Lake Garda, full of attractions, shops, clubs and commercial activities. In addition to the beautiful castle, there is an interesting Archaeological museum and the Last Supper by Giambattista Tiepolo is kept inside the Cathedral.
Nearby offers the opportunity to do many activities , such as playing golf, horse riding and cycling on the hills surrounding the center.
3 – Riva del Garda
On the northern side, in the province of Trento, Riva del Garda is one of the most evocative villages of the lake, characterized by pastel-colored houses, a beautiful promenade, a beach where you can relax and various panoramic points such as the Bastione, the Mastio della Rocca and the Apponale Tower.
History buffs cannot miss the ancient medieval castle that houses the Alto Garda Museum , while the more sporty here can try their hand at activities such as sailing, windsuf, mountain biking and paragliding .
4 – Limone sul Garda
On the western shore, in the province of Brescia, Limone sul Garda is a pretty town that since ancient times has dedicated itself to the cultivation of citrus fruits , as evidenced by the numerous lemon groves climbing along the hills.
The small center is made up of alleys, a beautiful lakefront and various panoramic points; very beautiful and unmissable is the Ciclovia del Garda to do by bike or on foot, the walkway overlooking the lake that in the future will connect 19 locations on the lake.
5 – Bardolino
A Venetian municipality on the eastern shore, just 30 km from Verona, it is a village of Venetian origins with several historic buildings, numerous fishermen’s houses built in fishbone, and a long lakeside promenade.
Do not miss the Oil Museum, the Church of San Severo and at the end of September the famous festival of chiaretto wine , an oenological specialty of this area. In August, instead, the Aperitif Under the Stars event is held, to taste the specialties and excellent wines of the area!
6 – Salò
On the Brescia side of the Benaco, in a panoramic gulf at the foot of Monte San Bartolomeo, is Salò, a village which during the Second World War was the protagonist of various historical events . Right here Mussolini, in 1943, gave rise to the Republic of Salò.
But in addition to its history, the town enjoys a magnificent lakeside promenade that leads to Piazza Vittoria, the Palazzo della Magnifica Patria and that of the Podestà and the Duomo.
7 – Lazise
With an important historical past , Lazise is a village that has seen various populations and civilizations pass from the original ones of the Bronze Age to the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, to the Visconti and the Gonzagas until it was dominated by the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
Because of its history in Lazise you can visit several museums , historic buildings and places of historical importance such as the Piazza del Comune, the Scaligero Castle and the small port surrounded by colorful houses.
8 – Peschiera del Garda
More than a village, Peschiera is a fortress city surrounded by the lake that has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its strategic role meant that the historic center became a fortress between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and today you can breathe the past in the pedestrian bridge area, near Porta Brescia, along the patrol walkway and in the ramparts.
The small harbor and the historic center with alleys, bridges and views that range from the lake to the Mincio river are very beautiful. It is also perfect for reaching Gardaland amusement park, just 6.5 km away.
9 – Gardone Riviera
A very elite resort , Gardone Riviera is full of spectacular period villas , lots of greenery, a few beaches and characteristic alleys.
But this town is known above all because it hosts the Vittoriale degli Italiani , the monumental complex with mausoleum and garden-museum built by Gabriele d’Annunzio. Also in Gardone there is the Andrè Heller botanical garden built by Arthur Hruska which, inspired by a real Eden , is characterized by streams, small lakes, waterfalls, ponds and numerous species of plants and flowers.
10 – Malcesine
Municipality on the eastern shore in the province of Verona, Malcesine is famous for its medieval Scaligero castle , which dominates the village and is visible several kilometers away.
Characterized by narrow streets with numerous suggestive corners, beautiful views of the lake and a small port where boats dock, it is also the location from where the panoramic cable car for Monte Baldo leaves, leading up to 1,760 m.
What to see: hidden places and attractions
In addition to the villages mentioned, Lake Garda and its surroundings hide pearls of extraordinary beauty and attractions such as amusement parks or nature. Here are some things not to miss.
- Punta San Vigilio : named the ” Portofino del Garda “, is located near the town of Garda. Here is Villa Guarienti, a 16th century residence with a postcard port and the Baia delle Sirene from where you can admire one of the most romantic sunsets
- Isola del Garda : not far from the shores of Salò is this islet that houses Villa De Ferrari, a refined villa, and a garden with terraces that slope down towards the lake. The island can be visited by reservation only
- Varone waterfall : 5 min from Riva del Garda. It is located in the Parco Grotta Cascata del Varone, a path on walkways and ladders that is divided between caves up to the 98 m high waterfall
- Villa Bettoni in Gargnano : an elegant 18th century Lombard villa that can be visited by appointment, it is characterized by monumental Italian gardens and interiors with period furnishings and various family collections
- Tremosine : village perched on a promontory overlooking the lake that offers panoramic views especially from the Terrace of the thrill , suspended at 350 m high. From the village there are trails suitable for Nordic walking, trekking and mountain biking
- Parco delle Busatte : in Torbole, a 4 km walk above the lake among the vegetation of the Mediterranean scrub and rocks shaped by the ice following a staircase consisting of 400 steps
- Gardaland : one of the most famous amusement parks in Italy and in Europe suitable for children, teens and adults located near Peschiera del Garda, on Lake Garda –
- Rocca di Manerba : on a rocky spur, in a spectacular position, it can be reached via a path that crosses the park
- Canale di Tenno : a small village with medieval streets rich in history and traditions a few kilometers from Riva del Garda, to be visited in the late afternoon to admire a splendid sunset over the lake
- Castello di Torri del Benaco : on the eastern shore of the lake it houses a museum dedicated to the territory that houses ancient prehistoric finds and testimonies of the peasant life of these places
- Colà Thermal Park – Villa dei Cedri : a few km from Lazise, there is this park with ponds and thermal pools where you can relax for a few hours
What to see in a weekend: recommended itinerary
if you want to visit the lower part, we suggest you keep Sirmione as a base , in the southern part of the lake.
The first day by car Vittoriale degli Italiani (10: 00-18: 00, € 17.00) to Gardone Riviera (34 km, 1 h; or Sirmione-Gardone ferry, 1 h, from € 6.50). For lunch, reach Salò (4 km, 10 min by car, S202 bus, € 2.00) and take a nice panoramic walk along the lakefront. Along the scenic road back, you reach Rocca di Manerba (20 minutes by car, to reach the fortress 10 minutes on foot). Finally by car you reach Desenzano del Garda for dinner (13 km, 20 min; or ferry Salò-Desenzano, 1 h). Return to Sirmione (10 min by car).
On the second day we suggest, in the morning, to reach Bardolino (35 km, 40 min by car; or ferry, 1 h, from € 6.50). Take a nice walk along the lake, enter the historic center through the alleys and enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants. Then reach the nearby Punta San Vigilio (6 km, 10 min by car; bus € 1.20). Indulge yourself, if the season is suitable, for a swim on the Sirene beach. In the late afternoon stop in Peschiera del Garda (21 km, 30 min by car; or ferry, 1 h, from € 6.50). Take a tour of the historic walls and ramparts and eat something for dinner in one of the restaurants overlooking the lake. Return to Sirmione (12 km, 25 min by car).
For your last day we advise you to discover the beautiful Sirmione ; in the morning visit the castle from where you can admire the view (8: 30-18: 45, € 6.00) and reach the Grotte di Catullo. Take the tour of the Roman villa, where there are beautiful views and views of the lake (8: 30-19: 30, € 6.00). In the afternoon say goodbye to Sirmione and reach the nearby Tower of San Martino della Battaglia (10 km, 21 min by car), climb to the top and visit the museum inside (9: 00-19: 00, € 2.50). To conclude your weekend, pay a visit to one of the many wineries in these parts that produce the famous lugana wine (to be booked in advance).
How much does a weekend on Lake Garda cost
Lake Garda is not a cheap destination , but since there are many accommodation facilities, you can choose between luxury hotels (average cost per night € 450.00 per person), pensions and mid-range hotels (average cost per night for person € 100.00) and B&B or holiday apartments (cost per night per person € 55.00).
The same goes for restaurants ; you go from very chic and starred places, to taverns-trattorias up to find sandwich bars and bars that serve fast dishes.
If you decide to travel by ferries between the various locations, ask for a day or multi-leg ticket that will allow you to save money.
- Costs for eating : about € 65.00 per day per person (including breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Costs for museums and attractions : around € 35.00 per person following the itinerary suggested by us
- Transport : car rental € 30.00 / day; transfer by private taxi from Verona airport to Sirmione on average € 100.00 per person; alternatively there are buses from the main towns which cost from € 1.50 to € 2.50 each way. Indicatively, for the tour that we propose the total price is about € 60.00, excluding any transfers to and from stations or airports
- Hotels, accommodation and b & b : from € 70.00 per room – see the offers
- Leisure : from € 20.00 per person per day (including snacks, coffee, aperitifs, drinks, …)
- Total cost of a weekend : from € 400.00 per person (flights and / or transfers excluded)