Lake Garda: beaches, sun and olive groves

A green bench overlooking Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes with a surface area of 369.98 km²; situated in the North of Italy, it is about 25 miles from the city of Verona and its international airport.

View of the small harbour of Cisano in Italy
An archway passage in Torri del Benaco, Italy

In summer, tourists flock to the lake to top up their sun tan on one of the numerous beaches and explore the villages dotted all along the coast with castles, churches and lake-side villas framed against the mountains in the background.

Boats in the harbour in Lazise in Italy
View of Bardolino main street and church in Italy
Panoramic view of the village of Torri del Benaco in Italy

Garda, the village which gives the lake its name, has some interesting buildings like the Captains’ Palace in the main square, Palazzo Pincini-Carlotti and Villa Albertini (a private residence not open to the public).

The Rock of Garda in Italy
Flowers on the windows of the Captains Palace in Garda
View of Garda's Palazzo Pincini Carlotti in Italy
View of Villa Albertini in Garda

Climbing to the top of the Rock that stands 300 meters above the village, there is the opportunity to visit St.George Hermitage, a Carmelite monastery.From here, the magnificent view of the lake stretches to the neighbouring villages of Bardolino, Cisano and Lazise on one side to the peninsula of San Vigilio on the other, a location which counts among its visitors Winston Churchill, Lawrence Olivier and in recent years HRH Prince Charles.

Hermitage St.George main entrance, Garda, Italy
Building and trees at St.George's hermitage in Garda, Italy
Villages on Lake Garda seen from the top of the Rock
The village of Garda seen from the top of the Rock
View from the top of the Rock in Garda
View of the small church of San Vigilio on Lake Garda

As the coastal road gets really busy in peak season (April to October) the best way to explore this vast lake is by boat: a number of ferries, hydrofoils and privately owned boats travel around the lake stopping at all the main villages.

View of the lighthouse at Garda's harbour in Italy

Every village has its own character and identity, catering for a diverse clientele with accommodation including luxury hotels, cosy Bed and Breakfasts and a number of campsites for budget-conscious visitors.

One of the beautiful lakeside villas on Lake Garda

Malcesine on the north,is famous for its castle and a rotating cable-car that goes up to Monte Baldo from where there are a number of hiking opportunities and stunning views of the lake.

View of Malcesine and its castle in Italy
Monte Baldo hiking paths sign

It takes about 20 minutes to reach the upper station of the cable car and a short walk to get to the view points. With the lake on one side and the alpine landscape on the other (including some camera-friendly cows and alpacas), a few hours up here will make for a nice break from the beach.

The cable car connecting Malcesine to Monte Baldo in Italy
View of the upper station of Monte Baldo cable car
View of the northern shores of Lake Garda
Alpine landscape and cow in Italy
A little girl and an alpaca in Italy

From Malcesine a car ferry goes across the lake to Limone (Italian for lemon); another picture-perfect village with luxury hotels and a busy lakefront promenade dotted with cafes and restaurants. Driving south of Limone the villages of Gardone Riviera, Salo’ and Desenzano can be visited.

Panoramic view of Salo' in Italy
One of Lake Garda's ferries

Not far from Malcesine, Torbole is very popular with windsurfers and kite-surfers as, due to the narrowness of this part of the lake and the closeness to the mountains, it is always windy in this area. It was also here that the car chase of the opening scene of 007 Quantum of Solace was filmed.

View of colorful houses of Torbole in Italy
Windsurfers on the lake in Italy
Kitesurfers on the lake in Italy

A holiday on Lake Garda will offer the opportunity for a number of activities in and around the lake: from paragliding to scuba-diving to shopping for Italian shoes, leather and designer clothes and accessories.

Bag in a colorful window display

For the children Gardaland, the biggest amusement park in Italy, can be found on the shores of the lake near the village of Peschiera del Garda; a free shuttle bus connects the park with the railway station.

Colorful houses of Gardaland

The village of Sirmione with its imposing castle and thermal baths is also nearby.Driving inland, near Pastrengo, there is a Safari Park where animals are roaming free and can be viewed from the safety of a car…beware of the cheeky monkeys!

Sirmione street and castle in Italy
Sun setting on Lake Garda in Italy
Lights reflecting in the waters of Lake Garda

In the evenings, the choice for dinner is endless: from pizzerias to gourmet restaurants proudly serving dishes using products locally sourced. Due to the mild climate, vineyards and olive groves found all around the lake make the area a focal point for the production of olive oil and world renowned wines like Chiaretto and Bardolino, celebrated every year in October after the grape harvest is over.Many wine producers in the area offer wine tasting sessions where local cheeses and cold meats are usually also offered.

Wine festival sign in Bardolino

From Lake Garda day trips are easily arranged to other famous Italian cities nearby: Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, is less than an hour away and from there it is just over an hour by train to Venice; Milan is also easily reachable and in recent years with low-cost airlines gaining popularity, the airport of Bergamo, not far from Milan has become an important hub for visitors to this part of Italy.

View of Juliet's balcony in Verona
View of four gondolas in Venice
View of the Dolomites in winter

For mountain lovers, the scenic Dolomites mountain range is a coach ride away, offering breathtaking views and plenty of chances for hiking, climbing or just sit, relax and indulge in some authentic Italian ice-cream before travelling back to Lake Garda and laze by the pool or on the beach.

Ice-cream in a glass bowl in Italy
Colorful beach umbrellas

For people who wants to explore more of the lake, in summer the private Isola del Garda is open to the public for tours of its villa and gardens. Another place not to be missed on a trip to Lake Garda is the church of Madonna della Corona in the village of Spiazzi; the sanctuary can be reached on foot from the village on a road with beautiful sculptures depicting the Via Crucis. This important pilgrimage site is in a spectacular location on the side of a rock and many devotees reach the church through the Scala Santa (Holy Steps) climbing on their knees.

View of the sanctuary of Madonna della Corona in Italy

Although the area around the lake is very quiet off-season and locals “reclaim” their villages, a visit during late November and December will give a chance to sample the Christmas atmosphere: villages decked with Christmas decorations and “German Markets” selling trinkets and hearty food accompanied by a glass of mulled wine to warm the body and soul. Spectacular fireworks displays on the lake on New Year’s Eve and bonfires to “exorcise” the old year on the 6th of January, make sure that tourists that venture in the area during these months are entertained before a new season starts again.

Lake Garda on a calm November day
Sun setting on Garda's harbour in Italy

One thought on “Lake Garda: beaches, sun and olive groves

  1. We are planning to go there in 10 days’ time. This gives me a better idea of what the area is like. I’m currently searching accommodation. We want to cycle and are aiming at the east coast from Peschiera to Riva del Garda. Perhaps we’ll try Bardolino or Lazise. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.