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Overview

The largest of Italy’s lakes, Garda is an international playground especially for Germans and Austrians. Don’t be surprised if, in the summer, German is more commonly heard than Italian. The climate is so mild that palm, lemon and olive trees grow on its shores. Narrowing toward the north, where the shores rise steeply to mountains, Garda offers stunning scenery along with water sports and charming lakeside towns. A road, La Gardesana, hugs the shore, and boats circle the lake and shuttle from town to town.

Sirmione has been popular since Romans bathed in its mineral springs, and ruins of their magnificent spa, Grotte di ...

The largest of Italy’s lakes, Garda is an international playground especially for Germans and Austrians. Don’t be surprised if, in the summer, German is more commonly heard than Italian. The climate is so mild that palm, lemon and olive trees grow on its shores. Narrowing toward the north, where the shores rise steeply to mountains, Garda offers stunning scenery along with water sports and charming lakeside towns. A road, La Gardesana, hugs the shore, and boats circle the lake and shuttle from town to town.

Sirmione has been popular since Romans bathed in its mineral springs, and ruins of their magnificent spa, Grotte di Catullo, rise at the end of a long narrow point. Enter town across the moat of the 13th-century Rocca Scaligeri castle. Laid-back Bardolino overlooks a little marina and the lakefront. Shop for local olive oil at Museo dell'Olio d'Oliva after visiting the 9th-century Carolingian San Zeno and the 11th-century Romanesque San Severo churches. Equally pleasant is lakeside Garda, where a lakeside promenade and a lively nightlife invite relaxing.

At the other side of the lake, Gardone is more elegant, with terraced public gardens and the Hruska Botanical Gardens, where tropical plants thrive. Above, the over-the-top villa of the eccentric poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, sits in its own extensive gardens. Malcesine’s Castello Scaligero also sits high above the water, reached by twisting narrow Medieval streets that wind past artists' studios and restaurants. A revolving Funavia (cable car) climbs to Monte Baldo for views of the lake and Dolomite mountains. At the northern end, the small Rocca di Riva castle holds an excellent museum, and nearby Torbole is world-famous to windsurfers for its steady breeze.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It is a popular holiday location and is located in Northern Italy, about half-way between Brescia and Verona, and between Venice and Milan. Glaciers formed this alpine region at the end of the last Ice Age.
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Italy | Lake Garda | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Summer for water sports, beaches and amusement parks. Bardolino celebrates the harvest with a wine festival in late September, and Christmas festivals are held in towns on the southern lake shore.