We also suggest a number of rewarding sightseeing tours, including to the celebrated towns of Riva del Garda and Sirmione. Again, please pay locally for all transport and visits.
Limone & Riva del Garda
Once the border between Italy and Austria, the lake’s northern shores are dazzling and dramatic, with narrow, fjord-like waters edged by steep-sided cliffs. From Gargnano, regular boats and buses depart north for Limone, a pretty cobbled town surrounded by citrus groves. A walk along the ‘floating’ footpath here is a must – suspended above the lake, this offers exhilarating views – before you continue north to Riva del Garda, snug beneath its amphitheatre of mountains. Riva first blossomed as a resort during the days of Austrian rule (1813-1918) and it remains a prosperous and sophisticated town, with an elegant lakefront promenade and wide array of waterside cafés. Return to Gargnano by bus or boat.
Isola del Garda
To the south of Gargnano lies Salò, seat of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic during the later years of World War II. Today, the town is better known for the beautiful island anchored just off its shore: Isola del Garda. This privately-owned paradise is the home of the Borghese Cavazza family, who welcome visitors to the island – but only in guided groups so it’s vital to plan ahead and secure your place (reservations can be made here
). Once on the island, you will be led around the untamed and luxuriant parkland, through the English and Italian formal gardens and – fleetingly – inside the magnificent, Venetian-style villa itself.
Sirmione & Desenzano
At the southernmost end of the lake, the spa town of Sirmione extends spectacularly into the waters on a narrow, two-mile-long promontory. Taking the hydrofoil from Gargnano, you will arrive in the town’s bustling harbour, guarded by the picture-book, 13th-century Scaligero Castle. From here, follow the mazy medieval streets north to the quiet of the headland, where, amid a grassy olive grove, lies the most important Roman site in northern Italy: a grand, ruined villa believed to have belonged to the lyric poet Catullus. After taking the time to look around, we recommend continuing by boat to neighbouring Desenzano, which, despite being one of the largest of the lake towns, still retains plenty of historic charm and offers a good choice of restaurants. Enjoy a late lunch by the waterside before leaving the popular southern shores behind to return by bus to tranquil Gargnano.