The largest lake in Italy, but not only that… thanks to its beautiful landscape, its crystal clear waters and its picturesque surrounding villages, this place one of the favorites for both Italians and tourists!
I have to confess that I had no idea which town to go or where to stop, so… just by looking at Google Maps (and by pure luck too) I found Sirmione: Located south of Garda on a small peninsula that goes deep into the lake! This place is one of the most important touristic centres of the area… In summer it is very crowded and if you go by car, finding a place to park will be a headache. Go with lots of patience!
In spite of being a small place, it has plenty of activities to do! From touring among medieval castles, stroll through the historical center and the preserved ancient Roman villa, to perform different aquatic activities and of course… relax in some the beautiful beaches! My recommendation, specially if you go in high season, is to book the accommodation well in advance, as I said before Sirmione is small and in high demand.
Getting to the place is very easy, the most comfortable way is to rent a car from Milan, for example, only 140 km away and the trip is mostly by motorway, just follow the “AutoStrade A4” signs “To Verona”. Everything is very well marked! It is impossible (or almost) to get lost. Another way to get there is by train! From Milano Centrale the trains depart to “Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione” where the journey lasts between an hour and an hour and a half depending on the train of your choice: “Velocce” trains cost about 24 euros each way while the “Reggionale” only 9.20 euros!
Although it is possible to visit the place as a single day tour from nearby cities, the best choice would be to take at least a weekend, traveling along whole peninsula and its ancient ruins without rushing; enjoy the beautiful beaches and even its thermal baths.
TIP! You will notice that the historic center is packed with ice cream shops! Everywhere! Don’t miss the ice cream from “Marko”, simply exquisite!
Below let me show you some of the “Must See” spots:
Grotte di Catullo
It is at the end of the peninsula and even there’s not much left of this huge Roman mansion, at first glance you can see the size and majesty that once had! It has a privileged location and the views from there aren’t to be missed: A tiny forest of olive trees in what seems to be the old courtyard where you will be able to find some shade.
Very close to the entrance there’s a museum that houses pieces found on this site, entrance costs 6 euros and includes both the museum and the ruins. Although the climb can be a bit tiring, especially on midsummer days, it’s worth an effort! The path is full of flowers and vegetation which makes it very pleasant, in addition to the views… Wonderful!
Didn’t convice you? There’s also the option to take a nice train leaving from the City Center and for just 1 euro leaves you right at the entrance of the ruins. See? There are options for everyone!
The walk through the complex is 360! You will have views of the whole lake and the mountains… a thousand spots to shoot some incredible photos! It deserves to spend between 2 or 3 hours. Natural thermal baths by the beach will be waiting for you right at the exit! So if the tour was tiring why not take advantage and relax a bit in this beautiful place?
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione
This medieval fortress of the XIII century is just past the gateway to the Citadel, impossible not to see it! Even from far away! The castle is very well preserved, with its spectacular towers and surrounded by the lake’s turquoise waters… Seems like it came out of a tale! Although the interior doesn’t say much it’s worth paying the entrance only to go up to the tower and appreciate the view from there! You can see all the historical center of Sirmione, the lake, the moats where the water enters and even the mountains! Be prepared to climb a sweet amount of steps… Fortunately the fact that the stairs are newly renovated, the path is wider and a bit more comfortable than other castles.
Giamaica Beach, Lago di Garda
A lovely coastal road starts from the Castle… worth to walk by and get lost inside this spectacular village, at the end of it you will be rewarded with this amazing beach! It has long pier that goes into the lake! What makes it special isn’t only the spectacular color of the water, but also the fact that isn’t surrounded by any building except for the majestic ruins of Catullus, closing this unforgettable environment.
A not so favorable point, as mentioned above, is that in summer this is usually super crowded! Tourists everywhere! Despite this mention, I still find that impossible to bring down the beauty of the place. One last recommendation: go with proper footwear as the ground is built of large slabs of rock which are often slippery and uncomfortable to walk! Specially after walking many miles per day!