Lake Garda is just waiting to be discovered. It is indeed a magical place (to quote Goethe’s Travels in Italy).
Starting from the little port of Sirmione, which is protected by the 13th-century Scaligera Fortress you come to the remains of the Grottos of Catullus, an aristocratic residence dating back to Roman days. Sirmione, called the Pearl of Lake Garda, is famous for its thermal waters and has a unique atmosphere.
Continuing north we come to Desenzano which is a well-known and very popular tourist resort. Its old centre, with its typical little streets, is popular with shoppers.
Don’t miss the famous antiques market on the first Sunday of the month. In Lonato, a small town not far from Desenzano, you can admire the Fortress and visit the Ugo da Como Foundation and the Abbey of Maguzzano.
From Lonato, heading towards Salò you cross the Valtenesi (‘Valle degli Ateniesi’) valley. There are splendid castles and ancient towns, beaches and little ports in the municipalities of Padenghe, Moniga, Menerba, San Felice, Pugnano, Polpenazze and Soiano Don’t miss the stunning views from the Malerba Fortress. This area is famous for its excellent wines. Once past the Valtenesi you come to the Gulf of Salò which has a lovely lakeside promenade. Stop to visit the cathedral and admire the many works of art by the romantic painters. Salò too has many interesting shops in its old centre.
Must-sees in Gardone Riviera are the Vittoriale degli Italiani and the Andrè Heller Foundation Botanic Garden, where works by international artists are on display in atmospheric floral surroundings.
Moving north we come to Toscolano and Maderno, which is a firm favourite with sailors, windsurfers and kitesurfers. You should visit the Cartiere and the Museo della Carta museum of paper.
And talking of sailing we have to mention Gargnano,which hosts the Centomiglia del Garda sailing regattas. Another important local event is the Giardino di Delizia, flower show. At the northernmost extremity of the Bresica side of the lake we come to Tignale and Tremosine, which are an ideal choice for nature lovers and Limone, which is one of the most visited tourist resorts thanks to its mild climate and is named for the many lemon and citron groves in the area.
One good way to delve into Garda’shistory is to discover its splendid villas from the lake. Crossing the lake towards the Valtenesi valley you come to the largest island with Villa Cavazza. This villa has been inhabited since very ancient times and has romantic gardens, with canals and little bridges, which have been constantly looked after and embellished. In summer there are guided tours of the villa. Continuing north, in Salò we find Villa Leonesio from the facade of which there are stunning views of the surrounds. Further on we come to Villa Simonini. Then, in Barbarano di Salò, we find the splendid architecture of the Palazzo Terzi Martinengo, a 16th-century fortified residence with beautiful coffered ceilings and gardens.
Not far away inGardone Rivierastands the 17th-century Villa Ruhland One of the town’s most famous guests was the poet Gabriele D’annunzio who left indelible traces on Villa Cargnacco, known as the Vittoriale.
In D’Annunzio’s day the Brescia Riviera was an up-market tourist resort and at the end of the 19th century many Art Nouveau villas like the Villa Fiordaliso were built there. As were the two Feltrinelli villas in Gargnano. Since 1949 the first of these villas has been a seat for the University of Milan while the second, which recently underwent renovations, is a prestigious hotel. Our journey ends in Bogliaco, where the mix of architecture and nature, mountains and lake, green and blue blend in the handsome Villa Bettoni.
Area: 369,98 square kilometres
Length of coastline 158,400 kilometres
Maximum length. 51,600 kilometres
Maximum width 17,200 kilometres
Maximum depth 346 metres
Islands: Isola del Garda (private) – Isola di San Biagio (also called the ‘Isola dei conigli’) – Isola del Trimelone – Isola degli Olivi – Isola del Sogno
Average depth 133,30 metres
Volume 49 cubic kilometres
Average height above lake level 65 metres
Carrying capacity Mincio river 58,4 cubic metres/second
Replacement time 26,8 years
Area catch basin 2260 square kilometres
Maximum height catch basin 3556 metres