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Der Gardasee bei Riva del Garda, Bild: pointbreak / shutterstock

Lake Garda – gateway to the land where the lemons bloom

In the north of Italy, where the foothills of the Alps merge into the Po Valley near Verona, lies a dream destination for many Europeans, the blue Lake Garda. The largest Italian lake stretches for almost 70 kilometers from Riva del Garda in the north to Sirmione in the south. The lake is lined in the west and east by mountains up to 2300 meters high, which slowly descend to the south and open the gate to the Po Valley. On both sides of the lake, a drivable road with many tunnels, the Gardesana, is carved into the rock and connects the shore villages.

The north around Riva del Garda

If you come down the slopes to Riva del Garda from the north, you will be greeted by a magnificent panoramic view of the lake. This is where the dominance of Mediterranean plants begins. Riva, however, is characterized by the south winds “Ora” and the north wind “Pelér”, which make the waters on the north shore a surfer’s paradise.

The western shore of Lake Garda – from Limone to Desenzano

Limone sul Garda
Limone sul Garda, Image: xbrchx / shutterstock

The shore in the west of Lake Garda shines with palaces, wonderful mountain tours and fine lakeside villages. During his stay, Goethe spoke enthusiastically of the “land where the lemons bloom”. Even today, lemon farms can be visited on the shores of the lake at Gargagnao in the west and Limone in the east. The houses nestle romantically against the mountains on Limone’s narrow strip of shore. The old town, harbour and market square are filled with lively life. Mountain bikes are available for rent in the village, which tempt you to take a tour up the mountain to Tremosine with fantastic views. The cycle path to Pregasina is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

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Campione del Garda, accessible only by water or through a tunnel, seems spectacularly glued to the almost vertical rock walls resting on a small headland. The place guarantees sailors, kite surfers and surfers the best wind conditions and a large beach.

Gargnano stretches along the shore with its ancient alleys. Some magnificent palaces enchant visitors. The church, originally built by Francis of Assisi, shines with a richly decorated cloister. The fairytale Villa Feltrinelli, owned by the 19th-century family of paper manufacturers, is now a luxury hotel. In the neighboring village of Gardone Riviera, a museum resides in the former, huge residence of the poet D’Annunzio. Andre Heller invites you to the large botanical garden he helped design.

Salo presents a variety of shopping experiences in its old alleys in characteristic small Italian shops. The large cathedral delights with its floor mosaics and the port of Salo is bursting with life. The long waterfront promenade leads past numerous palaces and arcades. A good place to shop is the Saturday market.

Sirmione, Lake Garda
Sirmione, Image: BNFWork / shutterstock

Desenzano has a beautiful old town with wonderfully restored merchant houses. Here you can shop elegantly. The town’s large marina is also classy. The place is known for its nightlife with discos and bars. Piazza Malvezzi at the Old Port is a center of city life. In the ruins of a Roman villa, magnificent mosaics can be seen.

Uniquely situated on a peninsula jutting deep into the lake, Sirmione, where Maria Callas already lived during her performances in nearby Verona , has remained a picturesque and partly sophisticated place. In the village with its narrow, old streets, fascinating remains of a Scaliger castle and the Roman baths of Catullo can be visited.

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The eastern shore of Lake Garda – from Nago-Torbole to Peschiera del Garda

The eastern shore is strongly influenced by water sports, bathing and adventurous mountain tours. From Torbole you can access the large natural park around the towering Monte Baldo. The Busatte Adventure Park near Torbole offers sports facilities from the high ropes course and the climbing park to mountain bike trails.

Image: zilber42 / shutterstock

Malescine is both a water sports and bathing resort and offers access to the ski areas by cable car in winter. In the Arena Monte Baldo there are all winter sports possibilities, from downhill skiing to ski mountaineering, snowboarding and snowshoeing. In summer, the athletes take mountain bike trails down to the valley. On Monte Baldo, paragliding is offered, also as a tandem flight. At the bay of Val di Sogno, a little south of the village, the trend sport of ultra-fast cat sailing is practiced and taught on two hulls. In nearby Lazise, the water sports enthusiast flies over the water with jet propulsion at Gardawake. In Torri del Benaco, the outdoor planet allows climbing, trekking and canyoning.

Garda shines with lush Mediterranean vegetation. Visitors and locals stroll along the lakeside promenade. At the harbour you can see the Palazzo dei Capitani from the time of Venetian rule. Near Garda, the beautiful Punta San Vigilio promontory juts out into the lake with villas and a small harbour, where you can drink a cappuccino. The Bay of the Sirens on the north side of the headland is probably the most beautiful bathing bay on the lake.

Bardolino breathes the wine culture of the wine of the same name. Winegrowers invite you to wine tasting, a wine museum tells of the ancient culture of viticulture.

The fishing village of Peschiera del Garda in the far south is dominated by a Venetian fortress. Near the village are the amusement parks Movieland Park and Gardaland.