Slightly south of Bolzano and about a half hour west of Verona is the Italian wind-surfing destination of Lake Garda. As popular as Lake Como with the local crowd, Lago di Garda offers stark, fjord-like beauty at its northern end, and a more expansive width towards the south. The lake is popular with boaters, wind surfers, and of course, the local swans. These are some of the highlights you can expect to enjoy when you have the chance to visit Lake Garda for yourself.
Wind surfing is one of the most popular activities with visitors to Lago di Garda.
The colorful sails that sweep the waters year-round are a sight to behold. And there are certainly plenty of them to see, as this is one of the most popular activities on the lake. Newcomers to the sport will find this a picturesque venue in which to learn, and wind-surfing veterans will certainly appreciate the scenery along with the nearly constant winds necessary for the activity.
Wine tasting is a great way to experience the area around Lake Garda.
Many small wineries near Lago di Garda are open for exploration, wine tasting and by-the-case-or-bottle purchases. Scheduling a number of tastings around visitations to the other attractions the lake has to offer will bring a bit of diversity to your Garda getaway. Of course, it doesnít hurt that the wine is pretty freaking great here, too.
Lazise is a precious little town on the shores of Lake Garda that you definitely donít want to miss.
Dating back to before the year 900, Lazise boasts impressive historical structures, church frescoes and one of the most precious waterfont plazas youíre likely to ever see. Itís perfect for a romantic stroll, photographing iconic European street scenes or enjoying a great book on a bench by the lake. If you are heading to Riva from Desenzano del Garda, Lazise makes a great stop for a mid-morning cappuccino and some light street strolling.
At the northern end of lake lies the popular resort town of Riva del Garda.
First-time visitors to Riva del Garda may be surprised to discover just how Germanic this Italian resort town actually is. In point of fact, youíre as likely to hear the German language spoken by the various restaurant owners and shopkeepers as you are to hear Italian. Youíll find a pleasant old city center with cobbled streets and various eateries in the surrounding area. We enjoyed a great German meal in a restaurant that was carved into a cave during one trip to Riva del Garda, and my parents still remember the evening fondly from their visit with us.
Thereís also a great waterfall worth visiting while youíre in Riva called Cascata Verone. Itís a pleasant hike up a paved trail with labeled plant life and scenic stopping points. Thereís also a point where you can actually walk into a small cave-like formation that takes you behind the actual waterfall itself. Itís a great way to get a break from the heat on a summer day!
After youíve enjoyed your time in Riva del Garda, head back towards Desenzano through the rock tunnel that will provide you with one of the more interesting drives youíll ever experience. I say interesting with tongue in cheek, because quite frankly it can be a bit death defying until you exit the tunnel and are once again on the open road back to the southern end of the lake. That being said, shortly after you enter the tunnel youíll find an exit to your left that takes you into the parking lot for a restaurant that is literally built into the side of the rock face overlooking the lake. Itís a great place to enjoy a trout dinner with a phenomenal view.
Sirmione is a scenic town on an islet on the southern end of Lake Garda.
It makes for a great family daytrip as well as a romantic afternoon for couples. Sirmione features a castle, boat rides and an impressive set of Roman ruins along with scenic streets and spot or two for swimming. Itís popular with locals for dining, wedding photos and weekend getaways.
Desenzano del Garda allows exploration of the lake, as well as easy access to additional Italian vacation destinations throughout the country.
On the southern end of Lake Garda lies the town of Desenzano. The town boasts an excavated set of ancient Roman baths, a quaint church and a picturesque waterfront piazza with a small marina among other venues. Itís a great place to feed the swans, dine on the delectable local lake trout and explore a number of exceptional area restaurants. Accessible by train from both Milan and Venice, Desenzano del Garda is also the perfect launching point for a more detailed exploration of Lake Garda itself.
No visit to Lake Garda is complete without driving to El Convento for dinner.
Heading out of Desenzano towards Lonato, youíll notice a restaurant a sign on your left that reads El Convento. We drove by this place for months thinking it was an actual convent. While that was the buildingís original purpose, itís now one of the best-kept restaurant secrets in the area. It wasnít in a single guide book when we lived there, and thatís a shame. With a fantastic anti pasta buffet, phenomenal gnocchi and an unrivaled atmosphere, youíll definitely want to seek out this dining gem for an evening meal while youíre on the south end of the lake.
San Martino della Battaglia is an attraction worth a morningís exploration.
Located between Desenzano and Sirmione, this site boasts a tower that I always referred to as the Mother of All Rooks, because it looks like the most enormous chess piece on the planet. Itís a historical site from the Napoleonic wars, and features an interesting chapel, pleasant grounds and a stunning view of the surrounding area from the top of the tower.
There are many more sites and attractions in the area around Lake Garda, but this list should give you a great starting point from which to begin your visit to this picturesque area of northern Italy.
Photo Credits: Images in this article were photographed by the Trek Hound team, but you can access these and other pictures of the Lake Garda area through a creative commons agreement on our sister site, Pictures of Travel Places.