In his “Journey to Italy” Goethe described Lake Garda as a ‘wonder of nature, a corner of paradise among the Alpine peaks’ and he was right. Lake Garda is truly a mirage of Mediterranean colour among the ice of the Alps: here spring is a wonder of colours, summer is sweet, autumn is warm and winter is mild.
A sea nestled between the mountains, with mild waters moved by the wind and sails, rocky walls, tidy villages, elegant villas and picturesque harbours. A place where Mediterranean flair and Alpine purity come together. Then there are the gentle hills and sprawling vineyards, olive and citrus groves, the vivacity of the lakeside promenades, buzzing from aperitif to after dinner, and the huge theme parks, real cities within the city.
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Among the towns facing the lake, Sirmione is certainly one of the most attractive; famous since ancient times for its thermal baths, it spreads over a 4 km long strip of land in the middle of Lake Garda and is preserved, like a pearl, inside the walls of Rocca Scaligera. Not to be missed are the Grotte di Catullo, an imponent building built between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. at the end of the Sirmione peninsula.
With its Scaliger castle and the narrow stone streets climbing up the hill, Malcesine made even great artists like Goethe and Klimt fall in love. Today the town is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Lake Garda, thanks to its beauty but also thanks to its privileged position: rich in beaches, surrounded by nature and dominated by the impressive Monte Baldo, is the ideal place for sports lovers who can combine water and mountain activities here. It is precisely from Malcesine that the modern funicular railway – with glass cabins that rotate on themselves, so as not to miss a single panorama – starts from the lake and takes you to the top of Monte Baldo at an altitude of 1780 metres. Just a few minutes to contemplate a breathtaking view of the entire Garda landscape and have a typical lunch in a mountain cottage. If you are more sporty, this is the perfect starting point for a day of trekking, hang gliding, or even skiing overlooking the lake during the winter.
Torri del Benaco
From one small port to another, from one castle to the next: Lake Garda offers a thousand and more postcard views. Torri del Benaco is no exception, where the castle seems to embrace the small harbour full of colourful boats.
You can access the museum of the castle, walk along the walkway and climb to the top of the main tower: more, if you wish you can even decide to get married up here with civil ceremony. Behind the walls there is also the only lemon grove on the east coast of Lake Garda.
Garda e Punta San Vigilio
After a walk along its lovely lakeside promenade and after getting lost in the tiny streets of the old town, go up another stretch of coast until you reach the small peninsula of Punta San Vigilio. A historic villa, a small church and an inn with an old-fashioned atmosphere overlook one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, surrounded by the quiet of a large park. The Baia delle Sirene offers several beaches and shady corners to take refuge in on summer days, and with a lunch at the inn’s restaurant you can then admire splendid views of the lake and imagine being in the company of the illustrious guests who have passed through here: from Churchill to Charles of England, passing through Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Salò e Gardone
History lovers of the twentieth century will immediately recognize many names among the places on the Brescia coast. Among the hills of Gardone Riviera, Gabriele D’Annunzio decided in the ’30s to build his own monumental city, where he could spend the last years of his life and at the same time celebrate the exploits of the First World War. The complex of palaces, squares, gardens and even a large theatre is now a large diffuse museum that includes the famous “Schifamondo”: the building that was to house the Vate’s residence is built to resemble a ship, with portholes, wooden panelling and a study imitating the command bridge.
Not far away is Salò, the largest town on the west coast of the lake. The Palazzi Comunali, of the Patria and Podestà, are small jewels rich in frescoes, but the main attraction is the splendid lakeside promenade: the longest in the entire Garda area, from here the panorama embraces the slopes of Monte Baldo.