Lake Garda, with its mild climate and perfect water temperature, seems but a patch of sea set between the Alps and northern Italy’s Pianura Padana (i.e. the Po River Plain). Garda – which touches the three Italian Regions of Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto – is even surrounded by palms oleander, olive trees and vines, in addition to the picturesque villages, beaches and little ports, parks and nature reserves it is known for.
Lake Garda is ideal for a tailor-made vacation, whether for nature lovers, athletes, or history and culture buffs.
Architecture, history, art
Architecture, history and art aficionados cannot help but appreciate the numerous borghi, castles, monasteries, monuments and museums lining the lake’s shores.
History lovers especially can marvel at the evidence of prehistoric settlements in the Valtenesi and on Monte Baldo, or the remains of Roman villas in Desenzano and Toscolano.
Equally-charming are the Medieval castles and Scaliger fortresses, from which the Benaco and Sirmione Towers rise up to dominate the scene.
Sacred art comes to full fruition in the Romanesque Abbey Churches of Maderno, Sirmione and Bardolino, and in the neoclassical Parocchial Churches of Bardolino and Cassone. Then, the Sanctuaries of the Madonna del Frassino, Madonna di Montecastello and Madonna della Corona make for important pilgrimage destinations.
Among the countless palazzi boasting gorgeous gardens with a view, the majestic Vittoriale, former residence of writer Gabriele d’Annunzio, can be found in Gardone Riviera, a gem of a town whose architecture was developed in the Art Nouveau. The André Heller Botanical Garden is also here, with its more than 2,000 plant varieties.
Finally, take this occasion to see Sirmione, thermal spa locale comprising a very characteristic historic center, the Grotte di Catullo archaeological site, and the 13th-Century Scaliger Castle
Just about every sport can be taken up, both on and near the Lake, and with gusto – think swimming and sailing, mountain-climbing and biking, hiking and horseback riding, rafting and hang-gliding.
On its southwestern coast, rather, from Sirmione to Limone, the ports of Bogliaco, Campione, and Limone are favorites of the sailing and surfing set.
The Trentino coast, on the north shore – where the communities of Riva del Garda and Nago-Torbole are located – is also highly sought-after by windsurfers.
And, the “Olive Riviera,” the zone running from Malcesine to Peschiera, in the Province of Verona, is approximately 50 km of well-outfitted beaches and sports hubs, for those preferring fun, summer activity. (This is also where travelers can find the amusement park, Gardaland.)
If relaxation is more your speed, plenty of hot springs spas abound between Sirmione and Lazise, along with other resorts and golf courses.
One of the first and most famous personages in history to remain spellbound by Lake Garda was Latin poet Catullus, whose family had a villa in Sirmione. Later, Dante, Goethe, Ugo Foscolo, Lord Byron and Stendhal all waxed poetic on Garda and its environs. Not to be left out are Giosuè Carducci; Gabriele D’Annunzio, of course, who spent the last 17 years of his life in the Vittoriale degli Italiani; James Joyce; Ezra Pound; and Franz Kafka, resident of Desenzano and Malcesine from 1909 to 1913.