The upper Italian Lago di Garda is located between the Alps in the north and the Po Valley in the south. It extends over the provinces of Trento, Verona and Brescia. On the north side of the lake it becomes very narrow; here it is bordered by the mountain range around Monte Baldo. Especially active vacationers will find their happiness there; the more southern area attracts with culinary specialties, noble restaurants and powdery-white beaches.
Geographically, Lake Garda has everything your heart desires: first the water – for swimming, boating, sailing or surfing. Then the mountains, rising steeply in the north, becoming more and more lovely towards the south, for climbing, biking or hiking, with a new fascinating view at every bend. Finally, the small towns and villages, one prettier than the other.
The three regions bordering the lake represent this rather unique mix: the mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige in the north, then the upper Italian provinces of Lombardy (in the west) and Veneto (in the east), with their rich history, culture and lively present. Some of Italy’s most beautiful cities, not only the magnificent Verona, are within easy reach, and the towns on Lake Garda itself are also rich in sights.
Sirmione is located in the middle of the southern shore of Lake Garda, but is not its southernmost town, as it extends far into the lake on a peninsula. Figuratively and emblematically, the town is often called the “icing on the cake of Lake Garda” and the pearl of the south. Sirmione is one of the most imposing towns on Lake Garda, with many historical sights and a vibrant life within medieval walls.
Over a length of 4 km, a narrow landing stage on its southern shore reaches into Lake Garda, at the end of which the medieval old town of Sirmione spreads out like a fan. Drivers park their cars at the gates of the town, because there is no car traffic in the old town. The old town of Sirmione is separated from the surrounding area by a wide moat, over which a bridge leads into the town.
Right at the beginning, the 13th century Scaliger Castle welcomes visitors to the town. The base of the castle is a fort from the Roman period. Sirmione is a lively town with a varied nightlife, visited by numerous day visitors during the summer months. Things are quieter north of the historic center in the area of Sirmione’s thermal spa.
22. Isola del Garda
With an area of seven hectares, it is the largest island in Lake Garda: Isola del Garda. The islet is privately owned by the noble Cavazza family, which has opened it to visitors since 2001.
Ancient excavations prove that the island, located in front of Cap San Fermo, was already used as a relaxation place and hunting ground in Roman times. It was then known as Insula Cranie, Island of the Cranes. At that time, Lake Garda itself had another name: It was called “Lacus Benacus”.
The Isola del Garda, which is just over 100 meters narrow and just under a kilometer long, is characterized by dense tree growth with cypresses and lemons, extensive parkland and pretty rose gardens. The owners, the Counts Cavazza, live on the island themselves and offer guided tours from spring to fall.
A tour of about two hours takes visitors through the garden and park as well as inside the brilliant white, tower-adorned villa. Visitors can see the dining room and music room of the stately home. The paintings there depict ancestors of the Cavazza family. Boat trips to the island depart from Manerba, Garda or Bardolino, among others.
In Limone sul Garda once ran the border between the popular tourist destination of Riva and the town of Limone. From this and from the word Limes, Latin for “border,” comes the place’s name. Today, however, hardly anyone is interested in this anymore, because the approximately 1,000 inhabitants of the village have long since discovered the power of the Limone for themselves.
On the slopes of the mountains they cultivate lots of lemon trees, which provide a rich harvest year after year. It is best to leave your car in the parking lot above the town center and then walk into the village life.
The heart of Limone sul Garda beats in the middle of the small old town, which ends in a large promenade directly on Lake Garda. Partially covered paths, lined with old buildings, in which small stores and quaint restaurants are located, invite you to take a quiet stroll.
On the promenade of the lake, small cafes with delicacies are waiting, and also the way to the port is not far, from which ships depart regularly. In the middle of the old town of Limone sul Garda is the Porto Vecchio, a small harbor, where shallowly the boats of fishermen sway to the beat of the water.
The small old town of Bardolino is centrally located behind the shore of the lake. In front of the old town and beyond is the lakeside promenade Lungolago Bardolino. This is where life is bustling – with restaurants, cafes, stores and the port of Bardolino, which is located directly in front of the old town.
From the harbor, boats leave for the other places on the lake. To Limone, to Riva del Garda, to Pesciera del Garda you can go from here across the magnificent blue of the water. Behind the lakeside promenade opens the small historical center of the town with some pretty alleys.
The beautifully decorated lakeside promenade, on the other hand, continues along the lake; to the beaches in Bardolino or even further to other towns by bike. The bike and walking path leads to Lazise and Garda. Along the lake promenade there are also events such as markets, a wine festival and the like.
In the old town is also the church of San Nicolò and San Severo in Baroque style; built to a design by architect Bartolomeo Giuliari between 1830 and 1847, inside there are frescoes from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. Even older is the church of San Zeno, dating from the second half of the 9th century. In Cortelline is the church of San Vito, originally built in the 13th century but rebuilt in the 17th century. The church of San Michele Arcangelo is located in the hamlet of Calmasino.
19. Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is also called “the pearl of Lake Garda”. Particularly characteristic of the place are the lemon and olive trees, the laurel bushes and the palm trees that adorn the place. Riva del Garda forms the transition to the southern part of Lake Garda. There also begins the majestic Brenta Group, which is particularly suitable for climbing enthusiasts.
With its bays and harbors, Riva del Garda is also one of the most famous meeting points for windsurfers and sailors: the north wind Pelèr in the morning and the south wind Ora in the afternoon give surfers the best wind conditions almost every day at the same time.
The architectural styles of the “palazzi” in the historical center of the town date back to the Venetian domination. The city castle “Rocca di Riva” from 1124 is completely surrounded by water and today houses the city museum and the “Pinacoteca”.
Lazise looks back on a long history, because the foundation of the town on Lake Garda was already in the Bronze Age. The importance that Lazise had as a port town in the Middle Ages is still witnessed by numerous buildings in the town. The city walls of Lazise are still completely preserved and surround the car-free old town. Access to it is through four impressive city gates.
Directly adjacent to the city wall is the Scaliger castle from the 14th century. The old town is characterized by small, winding streets and pretty squares such as Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and the forecourt of the port. Other medieval buildings include the 14th-century Verona Customs House and the 12th-century Church of San Nicoló.
In addition to its old town in the center, Lazise consists of two other hamlets, of which the small hamlet of Colá in the hinterland is a famous thermal spa. Within a vast park area called Villa dei Cedri, there is a 5,000 square meter thermal lake fed with 37 °C hot water from a depth of 160 meters.
In the area of the park there are various thermal fountains and hydro-massage pools. The thermal waters of Lazise are said to have a healing effect against skin diseases and circulatory disorders.
At the foot of the local mountain of Lake Garda, the almost 1,800 m high Monte Baldo, the town of Malcesine fascinates with its winding streets, stylish squares and picturesque archways. The most popular vacation resort on Lake Garda has lost nothing of its medieval charm.
Around the imposing Scaliger Castle, which proudly towers over the scenery, and the dreamlike Palazzo dei Capitani, the special attitude towards life of the lively bathing and wellness resort developed. While the castle was built as early as the 1st century A.D., the palace emerged as a truly privileged residence for the governors in the 13th century. Artfully renovated in Gothic times, with the best lake view and a lush palm garden, it is still a feast for the eyes today.
Subtropical vegetation and enjoyable resting places are offered by Malcesine’s lakeside promenade, which leads to the tip of the Val di Segno peninsula. Passing several inviting bathing spots, you reach Malcesine’s green-covered finger, surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of Italy’s largest inland lake.
A cable car takes you from Malcesine up to Tratto Spino, a summit point of Monte Baldo. The view from here is unparalleled: Like a jewel, the picturesque town lies above the lake, framed by the ornament of the mountain ridges.
From the Romans to the Venetians to the Fascists, over the centuries everyone has appreciated the strategic importance of Salò. In the Middle Ages, the Visconti family made Salò the capital of the “Magnifica Patria”, which consisted of over 30 municipalities. In the 15th century the town came under the rule of Venice, in the 19th century it belonged to the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia and in 1943 Benito Mussolini made it the capital of his Repubblica Sociale Italiana – a dark chapter in the town’s history.
From the four-kilometer-long waterfront promenade, the “Lungolago Zanardelli”, one has the best view of the cathedral and the city’s palazzi. Particularly worth seeing are the 16th century Palazzo Fantoni and the Palazzo della Podestà, which today houses the town hall.
The Art Nouveau Villa Laurin is worth a visit for its well-preserved frescoes by Bertolotti and Landi, and visitors should also see the clock tower at the beginning of the pedestrian zone.
The late Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata only charms at second glance. Its facade was never completed, which is why the building appears rather austere from the outside. However, when looking into the magnificent interior, the visitor is overwhelmed by the gold decorated altar, the numerous works of art and the unique floor mosaic of the church.
Arco owes its Mediterranean climate and the excellent growth of palm trees to its special location. Protected by the Garda Mountains and located directly on a fertile river land, Mediterranean plants find here the best conditions. The townscape of Arco is characterized by stately buildings with a distinctly Austrian touch, which can be seen above all in the interest of the nobility in the 19th century. For example, Albrecht von Habsburg had his winter residence built in Arco, which still stands proudly out of the arboretum.
Not much time is needed to succumb to the charm of Arco. The small town invites visitors for a stroll and seduces them with its eclectic townscape. Those who stroll through the arboretum will be rewarded with plenty of exotic plants that stretch out here towards the sun. A must is a visit to Arco Castle, which proudly watches over the city. Surrounded by extensive olive groves, even the way to the castle is an unforgettable piece of vacation.
In the heart of the city there are a variety of small and cozy restaurants serving regional dishes. The bruschetta of Arco is legendary and the fish dishes are also among the recommendations. Of course, this is accompanied by a tasty wine from the region.
14. Garda Town
Lemon trees, olive groves, vineyards and a breathtaking view of the lake from every corner: this is Garda. Those who spend their vacations in Garda often imagine themselves much more southern, because so lush are the vegetation and the atmosphere of this small, characteristic town.
Garda is not only one of the oldest places on Lake Garda, but also one of the most beautiful and popular. Already in pre-Roman times the area around Garda was populated. The landmark of the small town, the so-called Rocca di Garda, was built by the Gothic king Theoderic in the 5th century. Today the ruins of the castle are one of the most important sights of the small town.
Garda offers everything tourists love about Italy: The picturesque old town attracts visitors with its numerous stores, restaurants and cafes, where locals and tourists can be easily observed over a cappuccino. The famous Garda promenade, which leads to the neighboring town of Bardolino, is also bustling with activity.
In the morning it is worth taking a walk to the small harbor of Garda: here you can greet the fishermen who bring their fresh fish to the people. Directly behind the harbor are some richly decorated Venetian villas as well as the worth seeing parish church Santa Maria Maggiore from the 16th century.
The municipality of Tremosine stretches above Lake Garda and is characterized by small villages and unspoiled nature. It is a perfect destination for those who want to escape the touristy parts of Lake Garda and prefer to explore its quaint areas. Tremosine is synonymous with nature and tradition, so it is no wonder that your heart remains in Tremosine after your vacation.
The reason for the name of the municipality was the plateau Tremosine, characterized by steep slopes and green meadows. In Tremosine there is an impressive slope. Thus, the highest point is over 400 meters above sea level, but the lowest point is only 65 meters.
The seat of the Tremosine administration is the tranquil village of Pieve. Here is a small parish church, which from the outside looks rather inconspicuous, while inside awaits a magnificent interior. Visitors should therefore not miss the opportunity to visit the church.
Hardly any other area is as popular with hikers as Tremosine. The plateau is predestined for long trekking tours, mountain bike rides and quiet walks through nature.
There are many restaurants on Lake Garda, but none is as extraordinary as the Miralago in Tremosine. Located in Pieve and built directly on a cliff, it provides a thrill of a special kind. The dining room looks as if it has no solid ground, because it floats directly above Lake Garda. On the accompanying observation deck, the brave can experience a feeling of weightlessness.
The mild climate with few rainy days already in spring and until autumn and the moderately high summer temperatures have made the seaside resort a popular vacation destination. Families with children in particular feel at home here: they have several shallow-sloping beaches at their disposal, which guarantee carefree swimming pleasure even for the youngest.
But also water sports enthusiasts will find very good conditions in the less shallow areas of the lake. You can stroll along the harbor and the promenade and stop for a bite to eat in one of the nice little restaurants.
Unique to Manerba is a promontory jutting northeast into the lake, in front of which is a tiny islet, San Biagio. Those who are not afraid to get wet can admire the mini-island not only from the headland, but also reach it on foot.
But also worth seeing are the old town, the churches of the town and, of course, the ruined castle: the medieval Rocca di Manerba. Together they belong to the archaeological park of the town. The Rocca is located on a hill in the district of Montinelle. From here you have a particularly impressive view over Lake Garda.
11. Moniga del Garda
Moniga del Garda is a town on Lake Garda that extends over an area of about ten square kilometers in a charming setting in the province of Brescia.
There are several places of interest in Moniga del Garda that should be visited during a vacation. In addition to the town castle, the wonderful harbor is particularly worthy of mention. There are plenty of rental shops where you can rent a boat and explore the lake with it.
Cafés, bars and some stores are also located directly at the harbor, here you can sit down in peace and observe the hustle and bustle. Also very worth seeing is the panoramic road, about ten kilometers long, which crosses the town and leads through the entire wine region of the region.
The narrow streets of the old town with their colorfully whitewashed houses make their way up to a hill crowned with a mighty castle. This castle is aptly named Castello di Moniga and has lined this spot since the Middle Ages. The castle, still recognizable today by its four defense towers, was probably built on the remains of a Romanesque castle, built as early as the 10th century as a protective element against attacks by the Huns.
Many centuries later the castle tower was transformed into the bell tower of a parish church. The interior of the castle is now inhabited by locals. Equally admirable are Moniga’s sacral buildings.
10. Peschiera del Garda
Those who spend their vacation in Peschiera del Garda will find a magnificent view of the famous Lake Garda and thus sufficient relaxation at any time. The northern Italian city has about 10,000 inhabitants and attracts countless guests with its picturesque harbor and its cozy old town.
Relaxing walks along the dreamlike shore promenades of the river Mincio or a romantic dinner in one of the inviting restaurants: in Peschiera del Garda the Veneto region presents itself from its most beautiful side. The varied excursion destinations in the surrounding area are also very popular, especially the prestigious city of Verona and the idyllic Lago del Fressano.
A vacation with the whole family in Peschiera del Garda is also worthwhile thanks to the relaxed atmosphere and pleasant climate. In the beautiful town center, guests can expect numerous characteristic palaces, pretty squares and imposing sacred buildings. Worth seeing, for example, is the magnificent church Santuario della Madonna del Frassino, built at the beginning of the 16th century.
In addition, Peschiera del Garda has many historic fortifications and a well-preserved city wall. Of particular interest is the Porta Verona, a striking Venetian entrance gate.
9. Lake Tenno
In the hinterland of Riva, at an altitude of 570 meters, in the midst of dense coniferous forest, Lake Tenno (Lago di Tenno) appears – a small, almost circular mountain lake with emerald green water and grassy shores. It can be easily circumnavigated on foot in an hour and, with its clean water, is a popular swimming lake.
About one-third of the lake shore is designated as a bathing zone and is lined with large sunbathing areas. A small island in the lake is easily accessible. When the water level is low, you can even get to the island on dry feet.
The contrast between the alpine mountain landscape and the Mediterranean vegetation, so characteristic of Garda Trentino, becomes impressively clear in the few villages of the Tenno Valley. Olive groves characterize the image of the more southern villages, while the landscape in the higher districts such as Canale or Cavalo is already very alpine.
Canale is certainly the most interesting village in the Tenno Valley. It has preserved its medieval originality until today and is considered one of the most beautiful villages of Trentino. Many artists have settled here and characterize the flair of the village. In the summer there are regular exhibitions in the artists’ house “casa degli artisti” and in August every year a very nice medieval summer festival is celebrated.
8. Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda, with almost thirty thousand inhabitants, is the largest city on Lake Garda and is located on the southwestern shore of the lake on a bay, which is also called the Gulf of Desenzano. The town’s old port continues to serve as a cargo transfer point, while ferries dock at the new port.
More accommodations remain open in Desenzano del Garda during the winter months than in most neighboring towns, and the town is increasingly being discovered as a vacation spot by city travelers as well.
The Desenzano del Garda lighthouse, like lighthouses on the sea, was built as a signal beacon for shipping. Also near the port of Desenzano del Garda can be seen a few remains of a medieval castle.
About four kilometers from the center of Desenzano del Garda, there is Villa Romana, an ancient Roman estate built in several stages from the first to the fourth century AD. In Villa Romana today can be found beautifully decorated floor mosaics as well as an efficient heating system.
The most important religious sight in Desenzano del Garda is the church of Santa Maria Maddalena. It was built at the end of the sixteenth century and preserves in its interior paintings by famous artists from the time of its construction and from later years.
7. Torri del Benaco
Torri del Benaco is located on Lake Garda and is more than just an insider tip for a relaxing vacation. Whether you are a hiker, a water sports and cycling enthusiast or a recreational vacationer, the town combines the view of the picturesque lake with the unspoiled nature in the region and a pleasantly peaceful atmosphere.
Lake Garda remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy and has many lively resorts that attract countless international guests. In Torri del Benaco, however, the region presents itself from the contemplative side and allows travelers to enjoy the unique landscape and relax.
The main attraction of Torri del Benaco is the charming old town, which in combination with the surrounding landscape offers an unforgettable sight. The town’s sizable harbor and extensive waterfront promenades, on the other hand, invite relaxing walks during which vacationers can take in the beauty of nature.
The most important historical building of Torri del Benaco is the impressive Castello Scaligero. The imposing fortress complex was built at the end of the 14th century, initially serving as the seat of the Della Scala family and eventually becoming the property of the commercial metropolis of Venice. In the 1980s, on the initiative of the inhabitants of Torri del Benaco, the castle was lavishly restored and from then on used as a museum.
A dreamlike nature is the trademark of the climatic health resort Tignale. Visitors can get to know the local flora and fauna in the Obergarda Nature Park or dive into the hustle and bustle of Lake Garda from Tignale.
The municipality’s population of just about 1,300 is spread over a total of six villages. Tignale is located in one of the most beautiful corners of Lombardy, namely in the province of Brescia, 550 meters above Lake Garda. From Tignale you have a wonderful view over the western shore of the lake.
Tignale is situated on a plateau, nestled in the southern foothills of the Alps. All around the villages, guests can stroll through extensive olive groves or explore the imposing Obergarda Nature Park. Because the park extends at an altitude of 65 meters to almost 2,000 meters, the extensive forests present themselves very rich in species. In the district of Prabione you can get information about the nature park and the sights in the surroundings.
The most important sight in Tignale is the pilgrimage church Montecastello. It is located below the peak of Monte Cas on a rocky outcrop. The church is a visitor magnet not only for Christian pilgrims. From here, visitors enjoy a special view over Lake Garda.
A total of 16 small villages make up the municipality of Brenzone and make it one of the most popular vacation destinations on Lake Garda. But the place has not yet completely succumbed to tourism, but is characterized by a typically Italian and Mediterranean tranquility. Framed by olive groves and vineyards, Brenzone has an incomparable charm and captivates with its originality.
The municipality of Brenzone on Lake Garda stands for peace and tranquility. Its small villages, which nestle directly on Monte Baldo, have preserved their very own character. The proximity to Monte Baldo makes Brenzone an ideal starting point to climb the mountain from here. Those who do so will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Lake Garda and the Alps. Whether on foot or by mountain bike. Monte Baldo has many paths that lead to the top.
Because of the long past of the municipality of Brenzone and its villages, there are plenty of sights here with a historical background. For example, in Castalletto di Brenzone there is a famous convent for women, which can be visited. The village center of Castalletto, which is characterized by narrow streets and small courtyards, is particularly worth seeing. From here you go directly to the hamlet of Biazza, built on the ruins of an ancient castle.
The town of Torbole is considered a mecca of water sports enthusiasts. Due to its location on the northeastern shore of Lake Garda, the wind conditions here are particularly good. But also vacationers who like to hike in the Alps or want to tackle challenges with the mountain bike are exactly right in Torbole. Hospitality is written large in Torbole, and although it has long ceased to be an insider tip, a vacation here will be unforgettable.
In Torbole, where the Sarca River flows into Lake Garda, there is much to experience. The town is considered a center of water sports not only because it is home to many surfing and sailing schools, but especially because the winds are loyal to the town and always provide a good breeze. Whether sailing, kiting or windsurfing: The possibilities are many, nothing stands in the way of the urge for freedom, and Torbole is the perfect starting point for this.
Torbole is a popular hiking area. From the town there are plenty of tours that lead along Lake Garda, into the mountains and up them. A beautiful circular route stretches from Torbole via Valletta Di Santa Lucia to Nago. Hikers pass a wine-growing area of the extra class here. Here it is worth stopping at the winegrower’s to taste the local wine. After a detour through the olive groves, the Mediterranean feeling will not leave your heart.
3. Gardone Riviera
The municipality of Gardone Riviera, on the western shore of Lake Garda, has been a health resort since the 19th century. Surrounded by rolling hills and the adjacent lake, it enjoys a unique microclimate that ensures that visitors can admire a rare mix of Central European and Mediterranean flora. Next to beech and fir trees, cypresses and agarves gently sway in the wind that changes direction several times a day and gently blows around Gardone Riviera.
Gardone Riviera belongs to Lombardy and is located near Salò. Villas, palatial 19th-century-style hotels and restaurants with exclusive offerings line the shores of Lake Garda, telling stories of the days when the European upper classes enjoyed their spa stays here. Today, not only spa guests come, but also vacationers who want to experience Lake Garda and Gardone Riviera’s charming architecture.
In one of the cafes and restaurants on the shore, you can enjoy a cup of Italian coffee in the sun on the lakeside terraces. The view of the lake, the Alps in the background, plus a mild Mediterranean climate – this combination allows the visitor to relax in a deck chair and forget the everyday life around him. And it is precisely this and the countless sensory impressions that await everyone here that attract thousands of visitors to Gardone Riviera every year.
When they hear the name Gargnano, many first think of the famous sailing regatta that starts here, in the hamlet of Bogliaco, every year in September. The hundred-mile regatta “Centomiglia” is the largest boat race on Lake Garda and regularly attracts the crowds of visitors. But the town in Lombardy is also worth a visit for many other reasons.
There is no big tourist hype in Gargnano. Things are a bit more leisurely here than in many a holidaymaker stronghold on Lake Garda. Relaxation is in the foreground.
Something very special is the picturesque historic center of Gargnano, with its idyllic alleys, colorful little houses and imposing palazzi. Those interested in history and culture do not know where to look first. The cultural richness is no coincidence, as the documented history of the city goes back to the Middle Ages. As early as the 13th century, there was a Franciscan monastery here; the church of San Francesco, parts of which have been preserved to this day and which should definitely be visited for its decorative cloister alone, dates from the same period.
In the southern part of Bogliaco stands the most monumental palace of Gargnano: Palazzo Bettoni. It was built in the 18th century by the counts of the same name and is still owned by the same family. Particularly noteworthy are the beautiful historic gardens of the estate.
1. Mount Baldo
If you want to grasp Lake Garda in its full beauty, you have to conquer its local mountain, Monte Baldo. The view from the top of Monte Baldo leaves many visitors speechless and is one of the highlights of a stay at Lake Garda.
Monte Baldo is located between Lake Garda and the Adige River and is especially known for its species-rich vegetation that often sends botanists into ecstasy. Here on the eastern shore of Italy’s most famous lake grows over 600 different species of plants. Monte Baldo can be reached on foot, by bicycle, by cable car or, coming from the Adige side, also by car. The cable car starts in the town of Malcesine and takes tourists up to Monte Baldo in just a few minutes. It is one of the most popular attractions on Lake Garda.
Monte Baldo is a paradise for vacationers who want to actively experience and discover nature. The area around Monte Baldo is crisscrossed by numerous hiking trails and mountain bike trails. Many visitors take the cable car to the top and use these trails for the descent. Climbers also get their money’s worth at Lake Garda: the Gerardo Sega via ferrata is particularly scenic, but requires some climbing experience. Those who want even more thrills can plunge into the valley from Monte Baldo in a paraglider.
A nice destination on Monte Baldo is the Orto Botanico in Novezzina. Located at an altitude of 1,232 meters, the botanical garden covers an area of 20,000 square meters and is home to about 100 plant species, including many rarities. The Botanical Garden on Monte Baldo was opened in 1989 and since then it has been one of the most important attractions on Lake Garda.