Small towns on Lake Garda: 12 picturesque and very beautiful places
For centuries, Lake Garda has fascinated with its beauty. On the shores of this long narrow lake in northern Italy, there are many interesting towns and villages, many of which have a history dating back to Roman times. Here are perfectly preserved ancient fortifications. But they – not all attractions of Lake Garda. Hardly anyone can remain indifferent to the small towns on Lake Garda and their narrow streets, soaked in the aroma of strong Italian coffee…
The mountains shape the landscape and create magnificent scenery, and the fertile farmlands produce fresh produce, which is served in numerous restaurants. You can visit all the lakeside towns by ferry.
Wealthy tourists can rent a luxurious villa on the shores of the lake. However, those who have a limited budget are not forgotten here. To get a better idea of where to stay, we have compiled a list of the best places to stay in this stunning region.
Small towns on Lake Garda: Sirmione
Sirmione is located on a peninsula jutting out into the lake. It is a popular vacation spot. There are interesting sights such as the ruins of Roman villa, called “Cave of Catullus” and the castle of XIII century. A ferry departs from the city center, which can take you to other resorts located on the lake.
One of the main local attractions is the Scaliger Castle, whose fortress walls have protected the harbor for centuries. Built in the mid 13th century, the outpost is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Italy.
Where is Sirmione
Sirmione. Photo: Yilmaz Oevuenc/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) Sirmione. Photo: Mariamichelle/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Sirmione. Photo: By David Blaikie, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Peschiera del Garda
On the south side of the lake is the beautiful village of Peschiera del Garda, surrounded by old city walls and a massive fortress. You can get here in a few minutes from Verona by train. Through the whole town there is a network of canals.
Where is Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda. Photo: EdiHoch/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Peschiera del Garda. Photo: By Vvlasenko, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Peschiera del Garda. Photo: Ben Bender, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Riva del Garda
This lively Italian town in northern Lake Garda sits at the foot of soaring mountains, surrounded by green valleys. Beautiful and vibrant, Riva del Garda gently overhangs the blue lake and creates a cozy base for relaxation. Here you can see the ruins of an old fortress and wander the winding streets.
Where is Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda. Photo: Marc Wellekötter/flickr (CC BY 2.0) Riva del Garda. Photo: Tommy_Rau/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Riva del Garda. Photo: By Ceko.73, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda has excellent public transportation. And this suits those who come here by train. From the city you can take a ferry to any place on the shoreline of the lake. The city comes alive on weekends. Italians dress up in their national costumes. They drink, dance and mingle with tourists.
Where is Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda. Photo: Michal Gorski, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Desenzano del Garda. Photo: By RicciSpeziari.~commonswiki, via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0) Desenzano del Garda. Photo: cusarina/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Lazise
At the foot of the hills is the medieval town of Lazise. Tourists visit it to see the six towers and the wall of Castello Scaligero. Like any ancient city, there are narrow streets and picturesque squares.
Where is Lacisa
Lacisa. Photo: By Alessandro Vecchi, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Lacisa. Photo: Tony Hisgett/flickr (CC BY 2.0) Lacisa. Photo: By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Lazise 1), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Bardolino
The chic and sophisticated town of Bardolino is surrounded by hills covered in olive groves and vineyards. The old town center is a maze of alleyways with stores and restaurants. The surrounding scenery can be admired while hiking through the hills.
Where is Bardolino
Bardolino. Photo: 3dman_eu/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Bardolino. Photo: Gabryele/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Bardolino. Photo: Thomas Kohler/flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Malcesine
Small but gorgeous Malcesine attracts tourists with its cobblestone streets. Here you can not only relax on the beach. You can take the cable car that leads to Monte Baldo and admire the surrounding scenery. Biking and hiking trails are also accessible.
Where is Malcesine
Malcesine. Photo: By Ezeew, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Malcesine. Photo: Eugen Kalloch, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Malcesine. Photo: Michael Bertulat/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Garda
Surrounded by green slopes and picturesque views, Garda is tucked away in a stunning bay on the shores of the lake. The town is home to Gardaland, Italy’s largest amusement park. Garda is located in the center of the eastern shore of the lake, and from here you can get by boat to the other cities of the coast.
Where is the town of Garda
Garda. Photo: By Adert, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) Garda. Photo: By CTHOE, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Garda. Photo: Michael Paraskevas, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Salò
Salò is a stunning and chic town, fit for a holiday. It lies in a small bay on the shores of the lake, sheltered by a mountainous landscape. Monte San Bartolomeo tower peaks dominate the city.
Where is the city of Salò?
Salò. Photo: EdiHoch/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Salou. Photo: LoggaWiggler/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Salou. Photo: By StefenettiE, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Small towns on Lake Garda: Nago-Torbole
Nago-Torbole is divided into three lakeside villages – Nago, Torbole and Tempesta. These villages have a spectacular view of the lake and the mountains. This area is known for its water sports, hiking through olive groves and beaches.
Where is Nago-Torbole
Nago-Torbole. Photo: Pixabay/pexels (CC0) Nago-Torbole. Photo: By Zairon, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) Nago Torbole. Photo: By Zairon, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Gardone Riviera
The tiny town of Gardone Riviera is a great place to travel around the lake. It is located in the middle of the west shore, and the quickest way to get to the old settlements is by boat from here. The boats leave from the central pier.
Where is Gardone Riviera
Gardone Riviera. Photo: By Marcox-s1, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Gardone Riviera. Photo: By Daderot (I took this photograph.), via Wikimedia Commons (Public domain) Gardone Riviera. Photo: By Janericloebe, from Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
Small towns on Lake Garda: Limone sul Garda
Limone sul Garda, steeped in Italian decadence, is located in the north of the lake. It is surrounded by mountains. The lush and incredibly beautiful name of the town means “lemon” because the area was known for its lemon groves. Narrow streets with stores and restaurants overlook the lake shore. Scenes from the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace were filmed in the town. Limone sul Garda is a city that should have been included in the list: attractions of Lake Garda.
Where is Limone sul Garda
Limone sul Garda. Photo: Pixelteufel/flickr (CC BY 2.0) Limone sul Garda. Photo: Nadja_Golitschek/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons) Limone sul Garda. Photo: PascalVorx/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)
10 places to see on Lake Garda
The usual notion of lake as applied to Garda is somewhat limited, as it is the largest lake in Italy with a surface area of 370 square kilometers . It would rather be called a sea hidden in the mountains. This is the first impression when you see it: wherever you look, the eye cannot fully grasp the lake. The lake surrounds three regions: Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige, with a magnificent variety of landscapes. Snow-capped mountains, softly shaped hills, small villages on the shores, a number of islands in the center, Lake Garda is able to satisfy every need all year round.
Why to visit Lake Garda
… for its 158.4 kilometers of shoreline, which are full of beautiful beaches;
… for its most famous places such as Sirmione , Desenzano, Gardine;
… for the rich history of the lake, with its islands, castles, churches and palaces;
… for the tradition of Italian cuisine and local products: wine, olive oil, cheese;
… for the infinite number of parks;
… for the entertainment and recreation in the best tourist structures.
Below we will tell you more about the “top ten” places to see if you are going to spend some time on Lake Garda.
Il Castello di Sirmione on Lake Garda
The Castle of Sirmione dates back to 1250 and is one of the best preserved castles in Italy. Today it is in splendid condition: we can see the two crenellated towers dominating the lake, which is guarded by a jewel of the Roman era.
The castle of Sirmione is a majestic rock facing the lake, to which it is connected by an elevating bridge. Its 146 steps lead up to a bypass where you can admire the surrounding countryside. The entrance to the castle is also the only way to reach the center of Sirmione, to touch its history and to observe the defensive system of the lake.
Built during the time of Mastino I della Scala, the castle of Sirmione is surrounded by many legends. Among them is one about Ebengardo and his beloved Arice. According to the legend, a traveler arrived at the castle one night and asked for lodging. He was struck by Ariche’s beauty and forcefully broke into her chambers. When Arice rejected him, he stabbed her with a dagger. Ebengardo in turn killed the villain and now, on stormy nights, his ghost roams the castle in search of his beloved.
The Caves of Catullo in Sirmione (Le Grotte di Catullo)
The “caves” are the well preserved ruins of a villa from the Roman Empire, dating back to the 1st century A.D. . They are today considered one of the best examples of a Roman villa in northern Italy. A thousand years ago this complex was second to none and spread over 2 hectares: the original building had 3 floors and long terraces with a wonderful view of the lake.
The villa’s dungeons hid a pool with thermal waters, known as far back as the times of the Empire. Today, the villa and its museum and olive grove are open to the public. Thanks to the restoration work, today 1500 olive trees produce oil of the highest quality and the museum displays archaeological finds from this and several other Roman villas on Lake Garda, not to mention the various documents preserving the detailed history of the lake, from ancient times to the Middle Ages.
Isola del Garda, or Bourgeois Island is the biggest on the lake and is located 200m from the shore in the area of San Felice del Benaco. Today it is reachable by boat owned by Cavazza who since 2002 have been organizing excursions to the beautiful park and Villa Ferrari, an admirable example of an early 20-century villa and the only example of Venetian Neo-Gothic style on the lake.
In addition to the villa and gardens, the island is famous for its history. The place was inhabited already in the era of the Roman Empire, as evidenced by burials and ruins of temples, for a time served as a refuge for pirates and then became an important religious center thanks to St. Francesco of Assisi, who built a hermitage on the island. Over the centuries, succeeding rulers, the island has been home to such famous characters as Dante Alighieri, Sant’Antonio of Padua and Adelaide Malanotte, the main translator of Rossini’s works.
Riva del Garda
The Riva del Garda in Trentino is located to the north of the lake and deserves special attention. Here the lake narrows and wedges between the steep cliffs of Mount Rocchetta: here the water is cooler and clearer, in which the Dolomites are reflected, and the silence is more sparse, because motorboats are forbidden.
Riva del Garda, as the name suggests, is connected to the lake and carries its waters far into the mountains. The area is well guarded so that tourists can look at the many evidences of Roman times and the Middle Ages.
At the center there is the Piazza 3 Novembre and the Apponale Tower dating back to 1220, the Comune Palace, reconstructed in the 15th century and the Municipal Palace built in 1375 by order of the Della Scala family. A walk around the square will help you feel the Austro-Hungarian spirit of the river. Also worth a visit are the Baroque Church of the Virgin Mary in 1603, the medieval quarter of Morocco (from the “Morocco”, the shapeless landslide banks on which the palaces stand) and the lakefront with its balustrades overlooking the water.
Italian Vittoriale on Lake Garda
The Italian Vittoriale is the burial place of Gabriele D’Annunzio and a real citadel, built by him together with the architect Giancarlo Maroni between 1921 and 1938.
Here the poet wrote his literary works about the war, imbued with patriotism. The Vittoriale houses a museum with objects and reconstructions of that era, a park with statues, ponds and a garden, an auditorium for 200 people where exhibitions, meetings and other events are held and an amphitheater.
Among the most fascinating places is D’Annunzio’s personal museum, where Vate’s everyday belongings are kept: clothes, shoes and the collars of his dogs. One of the attractions of the museum is the ship given to D’Annunzio in 1923 and now located in the park, with its bow towards the Adriatic Sea. The Vittoriale is not only a place of history, but also a beautiful point with a perfect view of the local landscape.
Limone is one of the most ancient and well preserved sites on the shores of Lake Garda. The origin of the name is not precisely known: it probably comes from the Latin “limones”, but most likely it comes from lemons. Limone is known precisely because of the citrus trees grown here, which, due to the warm wind from the lake and the unique microclimate, have always yielded excellent crops. On the sheltered terraces there are picturesque citrus groves, the most famous is the Castel lemonarium, which dates back to 1700 and is now open to the public.
In addition to the lemons mentioned above, you will find citrons, mandarins, pomegranates and kumquats. In the historic center of Limone you can walk through the narrow alleys and look at the old squares and fishermen’s houses.
These houses have now been reconstructed and are open to visitors during the vacations. Do not miss also the church of St. Pietro in Oliveto. It was built in the ninth century and is one of the oldest Romanesque churches in the region. Thanks to the restoration of 1989, today you can see the original frescoes.
It is worth visiting also the Piazza 20 Cent., the antique Market Square with the Visconti Tower (XVI century), the Basilica of St. Nicolò, today the Cathedral of the City, the Municipality of the 19th century (Palazzo Bovar) and the Azzone Visconti Bridge with its arched spans. Built during the Renaissance period, the bridge connected Lecco to the Duchy of Milan. Today it can be used to reach the city from Milan or Garda .
Gardaland and other parks on Lake Garda
In addition to unforgettable landscapes, unspoiled nature and cities frozen in time, the lake has several modern theme parks for the whole family. Most of them are situated a few kilometers from the shores of the lake in the province of Verona. The parks are usually open from April until the end of October, and sometimes on weekends and Christmas.
We will start with the famous Gardaland Park, the largest in Italy, with over 35 themed rides (and the number increases every year) for adults and children. It is located in Castelnuovo del Garda, in the province of Verona.
For the more adventurous, the theme parks of Caneva World are a must. The Moviland is dedicated to the film world and the Aquapark of Caneva, a paradise of big and small pools, water slides, rides and games. Both parks are located in Lacise, in the province of Verona.
The Wildlife Park in Pastrengo, all in the same province of Verona, is a zoo with 1,500 animals of 200 species from all the continents of the earth. It is a good opportunity for children to observe and learn about animals from all over the world. However, it is not just a zoo, but a center for animal protection and research. It includes a Safari Park with African mammals and birds, an aquaterrarium and an area dedicated to dinosaurs.
Salo Cathedral (Duomo di Salò) on Lake Garda
Salò Cathedral in the province of Brescia is an example of late Gothic style and brings the visitor back to 1453 when the foundation stone was laid.
Its facade, simple with a hint of incompleteness, is made of ordinary brick and it was only in 1509 that a Renaissance marble portal was added. Inside the cathedral you will find works by Paolo Veneziano, Romanino and Moretto. Salò Cathedral is the most important place of worship in the city, dedicated to Saint Maria Annunzio. This is evidenced by the gold-plated wooden icon found on the nave behind the main altar. The icon dates from the fifteenth century, with openwork carvings and is a fine example of Brescia’s art of the area. In the center of the church is a large wooden crucifix of 1493 by Giovanni of Teutonic. To the left of that is a large, rich organ made in 1489 and placed under the protection of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage in 1957.
Giant Cauldrons on Lake Garda
The Giants’ cauldrons are a true natural wonder; they are unique because they are perfectly preserved. Imagine huge potholes 5 meters in diameter and up to 12 meters deep, rounded in the shape of a canyon in a landscape similar to that of the Moon.
This is the name generated by human imagination, unable to explain the origin of these giant wells. In fact, they were formed by a glacier that passed through here 130,000 years ago. In summer, the glaciers melted at great speed, forming streams. As they accelerated, they burst into the valleys in a violent torrent of water, along with rocks. Which broke up the rock and created the pools that we still see today.
An interesting fact: the pottery and arrowheads found near the Giant’s Cauldron in Torbole indicate that the valley was inhabited in prehistoric times.
Where to stay overnight at Lake Garda
Lake Garda is a major international resort loved by people from all walks of life from all over the world.
Celebrities prefer to buy houses in the area and spend some part of their vacation there. The flow of tourists is very intense, even with more than 2,100 recreational structures. In spring and summer there are a lot of people who want to stay near the lake, so it is advisable to book hotels in advance. In the fall, it is not so warm, and therefore not as crowded. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the beauty of Lake Garda calmly and leisurely – you should visit it at this time.
After visiting Lake Garda you can also continue your holiday through the region of Lombardy. Of course, you can hear or read 100 times, but it is better to see these beautiful cities once with our positive team of local guides from Gidtut.
Founder of the Italiatut consulting center with multifaceted professional skills that will make your vacation, study, life or business in Italy easier, but no less effective. I’m sure that a foreign country can be beautiful even if you don’t know it well, it all depends only on the angle of view! You can find more information about the founder and the project at www.italiatut.com/o-sajte.
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