Lake Garda

Lake Garda from above

This is the most complete tourist guide of Lake Garda that you can find on the web: places to visit, things to do and specialties to taste told by tour guides of Lake Garda that, with decades of experience in the field, have decided to share with you all their knowledge and experience.

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+39 333 2199 645 info@veronissima.com P.I. 03616420232 C.F. CPPMHL74L13L781C

Lake Garda extends for more than 50 km (30 miles) from north to south and is divided between three Italian regions (Veneto, Lombardy, Trentino) and three provinces (Verona, Brescia, Trento). The main villages on the eastern coast are no more than half an hour's drive from Verona.
Lake Garda is one of the main Italian and European tourist destination and certainly contributes to make the province of Verona an important vacation hub. There are so many places to visit, experiences to try and things to do, products to taste, that if you have little time for your visit, we recommend that you rely on a tourist guide of Lake Garda to accompany you on a personalized tour.

If you prefer to do it yourself we will be happy if you find the information we provide here useful to better organize your stay.

Lake Garda Itineraries

Here are some of our best itineraries to get to know and enjoy Lake Garda at its best.
They are suitable for individual visitors, small and large groups, students on school trips.
They are itineraries of 2-3 hours to take place in half a day or, combining more than one, as full day tours. Perfect to do together with a tourist guide who will take care of everything.

Borghetto water mills
Valeggio and Borghetto

Borghetto is a small village of water mills listed among the most beautiful hamlets in Italy. Close by is Valeggio, small town famous for the middle age Castle, tortellini and fairy tales.

VISIT
Sirmione peninsula from the keep of the castle
Sirmione

The Scala family Castle, the remains of the Roman villa of Catullus, the spa and stories of Maria Callas make Sirmione an ideal destination for an half day tour on lake Garda.

VISIT
The villa at Punta San Vigilio on lake Garda
The Eastern Coast

Peschiera, Lazise, Bardolino, Punta San Vigilio, Garda, Torri del Benaco, here are some of the most representative villages and landscapes of Lake Garda.

VISIT
red boat on lake Garda
Boat Trips

The best way to enjoy Lake Garda. There are numerous possible itineraries, for small and large groups on the most varied types of boats.

VISIT

Each proposal is completely customisable according to your requests and needs. Do not hesitate to contact us to plan together with our tour guides of Lake Garda your excursion.


Villages and Towns

Below is an in-depth guide of some of the most representative towns and villages of Lake Garda and the sites and monuments to see in each of them. By combining few of them you can design your half-day or full day itineraries.


How to get to Lake Garda

Lake Garda is located in the center of Northern Italy almost equidistant from Venice and Milan, Trento and Mantua.

By Train

You can easily reach lake Garda by train traveling on the Milan-Venice railway. The two main stations are Peschiera in the south-east and Desenzano in the south-west. Both stations are close enough to the town centers to reach them on foot or by taxi. Check train timetables.

Boat Services

Logo del servizio navigazione laghi Lake Garda has a boat public transport service that connects all the towns and villages on the coast. Starting from any point it is therefore possible to reach any other destination with a pleasant navigation. There are direct lines that make only few stops, others that stop at each town.
Between Toscolano Maderno and Torri del Benaco there is a ferry service for cars that allows you to go from one side of the lake to the other with your car. Check lines and timetables.

By Car

From the motorway you can reach Lake Garda from the exits of Peschiera, Desenzano, Sirmione on the A4 route, or Affi and Rovereto Sud on the A22 route.
The lake is completely surrounded by the Gardesana, an well mantained road that connects all the towns on the coast, divided into Gardesana Orientale (Eastern section - SS249) and Gardesana Occidentale (Western section - SS45 bis).

By Bus

From Verona it is possible to reach the main towns of the south and east coast by bus from the Porta Nuova train station or the historical center (Piazza Bra and Corso Porta Nuova bus stands). You can check lines and timetables on the website of the public transport company of Verona (ATV) and Brescia (GBM).

By Plane

The nearest airports are Valerio Catullo in Verona and Montichiari in Brescia. From there shutthle buses and taxi can take you to major destinations.

Accommodation

You'll be spoilt for choice about where to stay to visit Lake Garda. The entire coast and the hinterland are dotted with hotels of all types, budget, costs, apartments and holiday homes, campsites, etc.
The southern area is characterized by thermal springs and both around Sirmione and Lazise there are some interesting spa hotels.
There is of course no lack of agriturismo (farmhouse lodging) and wineries with accommodation.
It is also possible to stay overnight in the hinterland as far as Verona and Brescia and go to Lake Garda for a day trip.

Things to do on Lake Garda

Such as an important destination as Lake Garda offers endless opportunities for activities and things to do during your stay. Below you will find some tips and suggestions from the tourist guides of Lake Garda.

1. Visit a Castle

Malcesine Castle with the blue lake around it

The coast of Lake Garda and the immediate hinterland are dotted with castles and fortifications from various eras. Many of them are open to the public and are located on heights from which you can enjoy magnificent views. Among the most interesting you will find the castles of Sirmione, Valeggio, Lazise, Torri del Benaco, Malcesine (in the picture).

2. Visit and archaeological site

Lake Garda has been inhabited since the most remote antiquity experiencing a great development in Roman times. Remains of the old roman harbour have been excavated in Peschiera. In Sirmione and Desenzano there are the remains of the two most important Roman villas in Northern Italy and both, for different reasons, of great interest. The one in Sirmione, although little remains, is impressive for the monumentality of the great ruins and the spectacular position in which it was built. The one in Desenzano preserves an extraordinarily large and well-preserved mosaic floor.

3. Take a Boat Trip

Boat with passengers on lake Garda

One of the most beautiful experiences is to see the lake from the water. From anywhere on Lake Garda you can take the public service and move from village to village, even without a specific destination, just to enjoy the navigation. Information and timetables.
Main villages on the lake also offermotorboat private services for both small and large groups. You can decide routes, stops and even organise aperitifs and dinners on board.
A tourist guide on board will entertain you telling the history and legends of the lake during the navigation.

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4. Winery tour and wine tasting

a glass of white wine

The coast and hills around Lake Garda are very interesting fine wine producing areas where you can do tours, tastings and purchases.
In the southern coast you will find the vineyards of Lugana, a medium body and sapid white wine from Turbiana grapes.
On the eastern coast there is Bardolino, a light and fruity red wine, also in its rosé version.
The morainic hills to the south-east are the area of the white wine of Custoza, fruity and floral with an elegant aroma.

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5. Going around the lake

For those who like to drive, doing a full tour around lake Garda it is definitely one of the best ways to appreciate it. The road that completely surrounds the lake has a length of about 250 kilometres (155 miles). You can easily drive around its entire extension in a few hours, depending on traffic conditions. Even with few stops here and there it is something you can easily do in one day. You will be impressed by how the landscape and atmosphere will change as you go along, from the flat southern coast where it feels like being on the seaside, to the peaks of the northern side reminiscent of the Alps. Some tree-lined roads that run a few meters from the water are so scenographic that have been used multiple times for movie shootings and TV commercials.

6. Sailing

Sail boat sailing on lake Garda

The northern side is famous all over the world for the Peler and the Ora, winds that blow very regularly and make Lake Garda an important international destination for sailing sports. If you are already experienced and equipped with your boat, between Malcesine, Torbole and Riva del Garda you will find numerous yacht clubs equipped to put your hull in the water. If, on the other hand, you are a beginner, the same centers organize full courses or few hours short experiences and boat rentals.
There are also numerous spots and equipment rental shops for those who want to practice windsurfing and kitesurfing.

7. Go Hiking

The area around the lake, with its hills and mountains, is ideal for hiking and walking enthusiasts, enriched by the pleasure of admiring the view of the lake seen from above. From Malcesine you can also take the cable car that in a few minutes will take you to the top of Mount Baldo which with its 2200 m is the highest mountain in the province of Verona. There are numerous signposted paths to follow, huts and refuges where you can take a rest and have a drink or something to eat. In winter the peaks are covered with snow and it is possible to ski while admiring the lake below.
For the more daredevils from Prada di Monte Baldo you can practice paragliding all the way down to a platform specially installed on the water of the lake.
From Peschiera to Garda (about 20 km - 12 miles) a footpath winds alongside the water and you can walk it even for short stretches. Ideal for walks with children.

8. Taste Garda Lake Specialties

As long as you are on the lake you must of course try some of its gastronomic specialties. A simple and popular cuisine that mixes the products of the water with those of the surrounding hills and the immediate hinterland. More typical dishes and products are:

  1. Tortellini di Valeggio
  2. Pike in sauce
  3. Grilled lavaret (lake fish)
  4. Bigoli with lake sardines
  5. Stuffed Duck
  6. Carne salà (marinated raw meat)

9. Visit an oil mill and have an olive oil tasting

Freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil

Garda is one of the northernmost areas of the world where it is possible to grow olive trees for the production of olive oil. All the hills of Garda are dotted with characteristic olive groves. In many olive oil mills you can have guided tours where you will learn everything about the production of olive oil and have tastings. The best period to visit an oil mill is from the end of October to the end of December when the plants are in full swing.

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10. Bird watching

Water birds on lake Garda

The lake is home to hundreds of species of waterfowl. Just get close to the shore and you will immediately see mallards, swans, grebes, coots, various species of seagulls, cormorants.
A few crumbs of bread is enough to recall even more. A real fun for the little ones, but be careful not to end up in the water.
The enthusiasts can deepen their knowledge at theornithological museum of Cisano.

11. Fishing

Pikes, carps, lavarets, perches, tenches, eels, trouts, in the lake there is certainly no shortage of fish and those who practice sport fishing along the coast or the river Mincio. It is necessary to have a regular fishing license.

12. Do a spa treatment

Woman inside a spa tub in front of lake Garda

The south and east coast of Lake Garda are characterized by thermal springs used for curative treatments, beauty treatments, or simple relaxation. Sirmione, Colà, Lazise are some of the places where it is possible to have thermal treatments in special centers or equipped hotels.

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13. Visit a war memorial

Sculls from Custoza Memorial

Often on the border between kingdoms and nations, Lake Garda and the surrounding areas have been battle fields on several occasions. During the Wars of Italian Independence places such as Pastrengo, Peschiera, San Martino, Solferino (where Red Cross was founded), today pleasant resorts, were bloody battlefields where thousands of soldiers fell. In all these places there are memorials that recall those tragic events and charnel houses for the remains of the victims of the battles.
In Costermano there is an important German military cemetery.
Places to visit for history lovers or those who, together with entertainment and fun, want to reflect on the cruelty of war.


How did lake Garda formed

Illustration of lake Garda during Ice Age

Like all the great lakes in Northern Italy, Lake Garda has also had a glacial origin. In the various cycles of glaciation and interglaciation to which the Alpine and sub-alpine arc has been subjected over the course of about 200,000 years, the valley that once existed where the lake is today frequently found itself covered by a massive glacier.  In some moments the thickness of the ice exceeded 1000 m (3,200 ft).

The continuous process of sliding from north to south of this immense mass of ice shaped the basin of Lake Garda through erosion. At the end of the last glaciation (Würm glaciation) about 10,000 years ago, climate change caused the melting of the ice curtain that covered the north of the Italian peninsula.

llustration of lake Garda at the end of Ice Age

The hollow space left by the glacier filled up with water, taking on the characteristic "pear" shape: narrow in the valley between narrow mountain ranges in the north, free to expand unimpeded to the south where it met flat surface of the Po river alluvial plain. Right here the glacier accumulated the debris of erosion creating a series of concentric arches of hills that form the morainic amphitheater of lake Garda.

Mount Baldo, with its 2,200 metres (7,200 ft), the highest mountain in the province of Verona, managed to soar free of ice during the tens of thousands of years of glaciation. This allowed many plant species to continue their evolution, creating an extraordinary biodiversity.

From north to south the lake is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) long.
At the narrowest point in the north, the width is about 2 kilometers (1,2 miles), while the widest point in the south is about 17 kilometers (10 miles).
The depth is about 350 meters (1,150 ft) in front of Torri del Benaco.

Climate

Orange tree on lake Garda

he large mass of water of Lake Garda acts as a thermal flywheel, accumulating heat during the summer and slowly releasing it during the winter and vice versa. This creates a mild micro-climate all year round, with cool, windy summers and winters whose minimum temperatures are constantly above zero despite the latitude. This allows the growth of a typically Mediterranean vegetation with olive trees, palms, bougainvillea and even citrus fruits that were once grown commercially so much so that there is a village called Limone (lemon in Italian), and you can still find lemon trees on some terraced slopes.


The History

Lake Garda has been inhabited since ancient times. The remains of pile-dwelling settlements have been found in many parts of the coast. Among them those of Desenzano, Manerba, Peschiera, Cisano. As in many of the lakes in Northern Italy, they were part of a complex Neolithic culture dating back more than 5,000 years ago, whose archaeological sites, scattered throughout the Alps and sub-alpine areas, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
Rock carvings have been found on the rocks of some hilly areas of the coast.

Romans

From the 3rd century B.C. the lake was subject to Roman expansion thanks to its strategic position as a link between the mountains and the plain, between east and west. The name of the lake in Roman times was Benacus. Along the south coast ran the important via Gallica that connected Verona and Milan passing through Brescia and dotted with milestones (the ancient "road signs") and mansio (the service stations of the past).
Peschiera, Sirmione, Desenzano became ports and important settlements. In Sirmione and Desenzano were built two of the most important and sumptuous patrician villas in Northern Italy. The one in Sirmione, according to tradition, was the home where the poet Catullus lived. You can take guided tours of both the villa of Sirmione and that of Desenzano with its beautiful mosaics.

Barbarian Invasions and the Middle Ages

During the barbarian invasions the lake maintained its importance. Many military structures were built there with watchtowers and fortresses. One of these, on a rocky spur of the east coast, gave the name to the village below and consequently to the whole lake. Warda, in the ancient Germanic languages of Goths and Longobards, means "guard post", "watchtower" and from there would later derive the term Garda.
In 951 Adelaide of Burgundy widow of Lotario king of Italy, was locked in the fortress of Garda by Berengario II. Berengario, self-proclaimed king of Italy, wanted Adelaide to marry his son Alberto, thus legitimizing his reign. When Adelaide refused, he imprisoned her. She escaped and married Otto I, King of Germany.

The Age of state town (Comuni)

During the Middle Ages some of the small fishing villages that dotted the shore of the lake managed to achieve a certain degree of independence.
Lazise, in 983 A.D. obtained from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, the right to build a fortified wall, to exercise fishing rights in some areas of the lake and to impose taxes autonomously. This makes Lazise the first Libero Comune (independent state town) in the history of Italy.

The Scala family age

With the establishment of the seigniory in Verona, the eastern and southern coast of Lake Garda gradually entered the sphere of control of the Scala family, lords of Verona. For the Scala family the lake had a fundamental strategic role and they equipped it with imposing castles: Valeggio sul Mincio, Sirmione, Peschiera, Lazise, Bardolino, Torri del Benaco, Malcesine. Some of these ancient manors are in an excellent state of conservation and can be the object of guided tours.

Venetians

ith 1404 all the old territories of the Scala family, including Lake Garda, became part of the Republic of Venice. They remained here for the next 400 years.

Engraving showing the transportation of battle ship through mountains In 1438 and 1439 the lake was the scene of one of the most incredible naval feats. In order to effectively fight the Visconti of Milan who had taken possession of the west coast, the Venetians transported thirty warships from the Adriatic sea to Lake Garda, sailing up the Adige river and crossing the mountains to the north on wooden rollers. After an initial defeat, in 1440 the Venetians managed to take total control of the lake.

Napoleon and Unification Wars

The tower of San Martino With the arrival of Napoleon and the consequent upheaval of the geopolitical order of Europe and northern Italy, Lake Garda often found itself at the center of wars and dramatic events.
Rivoli, Borghetto, Valeggio, are places of battles and daring escapes of Napoleon and his army.
With the restoration of 1815 the lake and the whole of Lombardy-Veneto region came under the control of the Hapsburg Empire. The situation of apparent stability did not last long, however, as the lake became once again a friction line between the Austrians and Savoia family during the Wars for the Unification of Italy. Peschiera, Pastrengo, San Martino, Solferino, Castelnuovo were the scene of bloody battles during a war that ended with the annexation of Veneto to the Kingdom of Italy.
In Solferino, in the hinterland of Lake Garda, just after the massacres of the Wars of Independence, the Red Cross was born. In San Martino and Custoza you will find monuments and memorials.

The World Wars

The northern end of Lake Garda, belonging to the Trentino region, remained Austrian even after 1866 and was part of those territories for the annexation of which Italy entered the First World War. Many villages on the lake were bombed on both sides, Italian and Austrian.
With the end of World War I, Gabriele D'Annunzio, who had been one of the protagonists with his spectacular exploits, retired to his villa-museum near Gardone: the Vittoriale degli Italiani, which, together with its amazing park, is still open to the public and where it is possible to take guided tours.
Many historians see D'Annunzio as a precursor of the political movements that led to the rise of Fascism and Mussolini.
After 1943 the lake became sadly known during the Italian civil war because Salò, a pleasant town on the west coast, was the capital of the Italian Social Republic, a puppet state controlled by the Germans in the last, convulsive phases of the World War.

Modern Age

After World War II, the lake gradually changed its economy, originally limited to pure subsistence with agriculture and fishing, towards tourism, becoming one of the most organized and flourishing international holiday destinations.
The humble fishing villages were transformed into charming places of fun and relaxation with hotels, restaurants, bars, discos that still characterize the area.

Did you like our guide to Lake Garda? Did you find it useful? Would you have liked some information that you did not find? Let us know.

Info & Guided Tours:

+39 333 2199 645 info@veronissima.com P.I. 03616420232 C.F. CPPMHL74L13L781C