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Gardsko Jezero - Lago di Garda

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Gardsko Jezero - Lago di Garda

The ultimate guide to Lake Garda
Chock-full of colourful towns, culture and food, served up with a side-order of lake views and belting mountain backdrops – there’s no shortage of reasons why Lake Garda deserves to be on your holiday shortlist.

The best time to visit weather-wise is between May and September – and if you’re after that Mediterranean microclimate, July and August are your months. Choosing when to go is just the start though, so here’s everything else you need to know when planning a trip to Italy’s ‘Lago di Garda’.

Where is Lake Garda?
Lake Garda is in the heart of northern Italy, between Venice and Milan – and it’s the country’s biggest lake at 52km long. To get there, you’ll fly into Verona airport and then it takes between 45 minutes and 3 hours 45 minutes to drive to the lake, depending on which resort you’re staying in.

What's it like
Garda has that typical Italian feel, full of pavement cafés, villas and cypress trees. And you can’t forget the promenade, where you can listen to buskers and join the locals in the evening for a passeggiata – the traditional, pre-dinner walk.

Top things to do
• Punta San Viglio: This little village is an easy amble away, and with its harbour, pebble beach and renaissance villa, it’s ready-made for your Insta feed.
• La Rocca di Garda: It’s a 30-minute walk to the top of the rock outcrop, and though there are some steep sections on the path, the wraparound views of the lake and town make it worth every step.
• Weekly Market: Friday is market day in Garda. Head to Lungo le vie del Paese to sample farm-fresh produce and pick up a souvenir or two.

Spend your days here exploring the cafés, craft shops and medieval churches. And make sure you try some of the local wines, which are made in vineyards around the town. The local rosé is world-class – there’s even a festival dedicated to it every June.

Top things to do
• Lakeside promenade: Stretching 3km between Bardolino and Garda, the longest prom on the lake is just right for your morning stroll – or you could simply find a spot to sit and watch the world go by with a gelato in hand instead.
• Vineyard tours: Bardolino makes some of the best wine on Lake Garda, and on a vineyard tour you’ll get to see the whole process from grape to glass, as well as taste the finished product of course.
• Concerts at San Nicolo church: Swing by the church on Piazza Giacomo Matteotti to hear the choir fill the square with the sound of music each evening.

Below the Monte Baldo mountain at the northern end of the lake is the Medieval town of Malcesine. Follow in the footsteps of artists and writers and visit this postcard-pretty spot, with its pastel-coloured shops, churches and clifftop castle

Top things to do
• Scaliger castle: Four Scaliger castles dot the lake, though this one takes the prize looks-wise. And the views from the tower are top-notch too – peek over the battlements to see terracotta rooftops and the mountains beyond.
• Monte Baldo peak: Watch the scenery slip by as the cable car slowly rotates on the way up. Then step out on some of the best walks near Lake Garda to follow paths through flower-filled meadows, with glimpses of the Dolomites in the distance.

Thermal springs, Roman ruins and an Old Town brimming with bars and restaurants – Sirmione’s got the lot. The town itself sits on a slim peninsula, so lake views are never far away. And at the tip, you can walk through olive groves to the turquoise water of Jamaica beach.

Top things to do
• Aquaria Thermal Spa: Whether you’re finding holiday zen in the lakeside infinity pool, or soaking up the scenery in a glass-fronted sauna, this is the spot to make the most of Sirmione’s hot springs.
• Grotte di Catullo: The Romans were the first people to leave their mark here and you can still explore the grand villa they built on the peninsula. Keep an eye out for the mosaic floors as you stroll through ancient archways, down to lawns overlooking the lake.

Limone could only be reached by boat until the road was built in 1932, and it still has that authentic feel with its cobbled lanes and shuttered houses. Potter along the promenade then follow the scent of citrus fruit to the terraced lemon gardens that overlook the town.

Top things to do
• La Limonaia del Castèl: Get the lowdown on Limone’s most famous export at this centuries-old lemon grove turned museum. And as it’s tucked on the hillside above town, it’s a great viewpoint too.
• Church of San Rocco: Flower-lined steps lead up to Limone’s 16th-century church. Cool, quiet and covered in frescoes, you’ll feel a million miles away from the bustle of daily life in here.

From the castle to the Roman walls that surround it, Riva’s got heaps of history on show. Head out on the lake and it’s watersports that take centre stage. Have a go at windsurfing or paddle-boarding, or just lie back shoreside and watch the action with a cool drink instead.

Top things to do
• Museo Civico: Built in 1124, the castle is one of the oldest buildings in Riva – and it’s also where you’ll find the town museum. Head inside to learn all about the place, from Roman times to now, with plenty of art and artifacts to bring the story to life.
• Cascata del Verone waterfalls: Follow a walking trail that winds through tunnels and ends at a pair of waterfalls, which tumble over a 90m drop into an underground cavern.
• Torre Apponale clock tower: This 13th-century tower has been a lookout post and prison over the years. Nowadays you can head to the top for a 360-degree photo opp of the town and lake.

Built on the banks of the Toscolana river, Maderno’s one of oldest places on the lake, dating way back to 900BC. Stroll around the town to explore Roman ruins and its 12th-century church, then head to the wooded valley nearby to see Italy’s first ever paper mill.
Lakeside promenade in Maderno.
Top things to do
• Paper Museum: The first paper mill was built by the Toscolana river in the 14th century. There’s still one working today and inside the museum you can see how things have changed over the years, and even have a go at making your own sheets.
• Ghirardi Botanical gardens: Bloom-filled borders, lawns and tree-shaded paths – these gardens will leave you bursting with inspo for your patch back home. And as well as taking in all that natural beauty, you can also learn about how they grow medicinal plants here too.

History and Italian culture sit side by side in colourful Salò. Go from the Medieval cathedral and Baroque palace to the museum, where you can find out how the town became Mussolini’s capital in WW2. Then when it’s time to eat, bars and restaurants keep the tasty treats coming, from seafood pasta to sweet limoncello.

Top things to do
• Santa Maria Cathedral: Salò’s cathedral may have low-key looks on the outside, but step through the arched entrance and it’s a different story. We’re talking carved columns, splashes of gold and a brightly painted dome you just can’t take your eyes off.
• Head to the beach: With five pebble beaches to choose from, there’s no shortage of lakeshore to relax on. Rive beach is the quietest of the bunch and it’s got great views of the Monte Baldo peak on the opposite shore.

Direct trains to Milan make Desenzano a holiday fave for Italians, so it feels less touristy than other parts of the lake. In the centre, trendy bars and fashionable boutiques bring a dash of big-city style, and there are plenty of traditional cafés and trattorias for something more laid-back too.
Aerial photo of Desenzano waterfront and harbour.

Top things to do
• Stroll around the shops: Shiny shopfronts on the main street tick off all the big names in Italian fashion, while at the weekly market you can browse things at the other end of the price scale, from local produce to leather crafts.
• Desenzano Castle: The castle’s protected the town since the Middle Ages and nowadays the battlements are your go-to to get a panoramic pic of the place.
• Roman Villa Desenzano: Sticking with the history theme, you’ll also find one of the best-preserved Roman Villas on the lake here, with its colourful mosaic floors that look as if they could’ve been laid yesterday.


Peschiera’s one of the nicest spots on Lake Garda if you’re after that peaceful vibe. It’s also got some pretty unique looks – originally an island fortress, the centre is surrounded by canals that are criss-crossed by bridges. Add in great transport links, and it’s a good base to explore from too.
Moored boats on a canal lined with colourful buildings.

Top things to do
• Step out for a stroll: Take in the easy-going atmosphere and amble along the canal-side paths and potter around the piazza.
• Take to the water: Make the most of the regular ferry services and cast off from the harbour to boat hop around the lake, from Sirmione in the South to Malcesine in the North.
• Spend a day at Gardaland: It’s Italy’s biggest theme park and you can reach it easily from Peschiera using the free shuttle. Just hop aboard for a day filled with wild rides and action-packed live shows.


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