Places of interest on Lake Garda
The ideal destination for those seeking a mix of natural beauty, culture, and outdoor activities
Lake Garda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, known for its natural beauty, picturesque towns, and outdoor activities. Located between the regions of Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino-Alto Adige, the lake is the largest in Italy and is surrounded by green mountains and hills.
There are many towns on the shores of Lake Garda that are worth visiting. Sirmione, located on the southern tip of the lake, is famous for its thermal baths and the Rocca Scaligera, a medieval fortress that dominates the town. Peschiera del Garda, located on the eastern end of the lake, is a fortified town with walls and moats that wind through the historic center.
Other towns to visit are Desenzano del Garda, the largest town on the lake with a charming historic center and numerous beaches, and Riva del Garda, located on the northern end of the lake, where water sports such as windsurfing and sailing can be practiced.
Lake Garda is also a popular destination for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts, with scenic trails and paths through the regional natural parks of the lake. Local cuisine is another reason to visit Lake Garda, with dishes such as smoked salmon trout and eel pasta.
In short, Lake Garda is an ideal destination for those seeking a mix of natural beauty, culture, and outdoor activities.
The Scaligero Castle - a bit of history and legend
The Scaligero Castle in Sirmione is one of the most complete and best-preserved castles in Italy. Built on the shore of Lake Garda, this 13th-century Scaliger castle was a gateway to the historic center of Sirmione and served as a defense against attacks. Its construction was ordered by the Verona podestà Leonardino della Scala, and the fortress underwent modifications during Venetian rule in the 15th century. The castle’s dock, built shortly after its construction, was once the refuge of the Scaliger fleet. The walls and three massive main towers of the castle are characterized by swallow-tail battlements typical of Scaliger constructions. Today, the castle is a rare example of a lacustrine fortification and can be visited.
It is said that long ago in the castle lived a boy named Ebengardo with his beloved Arice: the two young people spent a peaceful life, until their love was interrupted by a tragic event. During a stormy night, Elalberto, a Venetian knight from the Feltrino territory, sought refuge in the castle. The couple hosted the knight, but he, stunned by the beauty of the girl, reached her in her room during the night. Arice began to scream in fright, and Elalberto stabbed her. Meanwhile, Ebengardo rushed into the room where he found Arice lifeless, and blinded by rage, he seized the dagger and killed Elalberto.
Legend has it that even today, on stormy nights, one can see the soul of Ebengardo wandering through the castle in search of Arice.
The Grotte di Catullo
The Grotte di Catullo (Catullus’ Grottoes) are the remains of a Roman villa built between the end of the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD in Sirmione, on the southern shore of Lake Garda. The archaeological complex, studied since the beginning of the 19th century and unearthed in several phases, is now the most important testimony of the Roman period in the Sirmione area and is the most grandiose example of a Roman villa in northern Italy.
The exact period and reason for the decline of the villa is not known, but the discovery of tombs, both inside and outside the building, dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries, indicates that the structure had already been abandoned by that time.
Over the centuries, several chroniclers and travelers visited the ruins, but the first concrete studies on them were carried out only in 1801 by a general of Napoleon Bonaparte. Subsequently, the Veronese Girolamo Orti Manara began excavations, conducting further and more in-depth research. The material was published in 1856 along with a plan: Manara’s text is still fundamental today. In 1939, the Superintendent for Archaeological Heritage launched a large-scale program of excavations and restorations, finally acquiring the entire area in 1948 to ensure adequate protection of the complex, immersed in its natural environment.
Isola del Garda
Isola del Garda is a true treasure, rich in history and natural beauty. Its location in the middle of the lake makes this place unique and evocative. The history of the island is long and full of events: ancient peoples inhabited it, while saints and poets took refuge here to meditate and find inspiration. The neo-Gothic Venetian palace that stands on the tip of the island is an imposing and surprising construction that fascinates and enchants anyone who looks at it. The terraces and gardens that slope down to the lake are a true spectacle for the eyes. The vegetation that surrounds the island is lush and intact, a mix of local and exotic plants that create a harmonious forest of pine, cypress, acacia, lemon, magnolia and agave trees. The island is a place of mystery and magic, where the singing of birds seems to be the joyful voice of the souls of those who have loved it over the centuries.
Today, Isola del Garda belongs to the Chetwynd Talbot family. The wife, Charlotte, and their children, Sigmar, Livia, Eric, Ilona, Alberta, Christian and Lars Patrick, are the current owners. This family is committed to preserving the beauty and history of the island, caring for it and loving it as if it were a member of their family. Thanks to them, Isola del Garda continues to be a magical and fascinating place that deserves to be visited and admired by all.
The Vittoriale degli Italiani
The Vittoriale degli Italiani is the monumental citadel built in Gardone Riviera on the shores of Lake Garda by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio together with the architect Giancarlo Maroni from 1921 to 1938.
It is a complex of buildings, streets, squares, theaters, gardens, and waterways. It was erected in memory of his “inimitable life” and the deeds of the Italians during the First World War. The entrance inscription defines it as a “book of living stones”. The Foundation of the Vittoriale degli Italiani is open to the public year-round and is visited by approximately 180,000 people annually. The gardens of the Vittoriale are extensive, covering about half of the complex area. From the monumental entrance, a dual path unfolds. The first “esoteric” path leads through various squares to D’Annunzio’s house and the Heroes’ Mausoleum with the poet’s tomb, while the second “profane” path leads towards the lake, lemon groves, and the valleys of “Acqua Pazza” and “Acqua Savia.”
In the lower part of the garden is the “Garden of Dances,” shaped like a violin, into which two artificially created streams by the architect Maroni flow: the “Acqua Pazza,” rugged, and the “Acqua Savia,” calmer. D’Annunzio’s villa, the former Villa Thode, renamed “Prioria,” consists of about twenty rooms adorned with engraved mottos and various objects placed in a way that creates suggestions, thanks also to a vague monastic setting. It contains a rich library of 33,000 volumes of Italian and French literature, history books, art books, and rare ancient editions, including cinquecentine and incunabula.
In the lake there are five islands, all of which are rather small. The largest is the Island of Garda, where in 1220 St. Francis of Assisi founded a monastery in which the friars of his own order settled, a monastery that was only suppressed in the 18th century, and on which today stands a 19th-century neo-Gothic Venetian palace. The second largest island by size is the island of San Biagio, also known as “Isola dei Conigli” because in the 16th century there were numerous hares and rabbits that offered abundant hunting. The island, located at the southeastern end of the Gulf of San Felice, is a short distance from the coast and during periods of low tide it can be reached on foot.
Along the eastern shore there are three other small islands, located near Malcesine: the northernmost is the Island of Olives, then there is the Island of Dreams, which can also be reached on foot from the coast during low tide, and finally the southernmost, the Island of Trimelone (or Tremellone).
Malcesine is 60 kilometers from Verona. Compared to the provincial capital it is northwest and is the northernmost municipality on the Veronese coast of Lake Garda. The municipality has a strong difference in altitude, starting from the height of the lake and reaching the crest of Mount Baldo. On its territory, in the hamlet of Cassone, flows one of the rivers that can be considered one of the shortest in the world: the Aril river, about 175 meters long.
During the summer there is a lively cultural activity with numerous concerts at the Lacaor Theater, a suggestive natural arena at the foot of the Scaliger Castle, and painting and sculpture exhibitions.
- Feast of St. Anna, on the day of St. Anna the patron saints of the village, Saints Benigno and Caro, are celebrated with fireworks on the water;
- Triduum, in February, the traditional Triduum is held in the parish church: three days of prayer for the souls in purgatory. On this occasion, an imposing stage with hundreds of candles is set up;
- International Competition for White Voice Choirs, it is worth noting the presence in the city of the important competition for white voice choirs organized every two years on a national and international basis by the association “Garda in coro”, in which the best Italian and foreign groups participate, as well as the related competition for choral music composition.