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Lago di Garda – Lake Of Lakes

June 23, 2020

Lago di Garda is Italy’s largest but perhaps not best known lake. It sits just north of Verona and extends northward toward the Italian Alps with a total length of almost 52 kilometers. When one thinks of lakes in Italy, Lake Garda’s neighbors Como and Maggiore often come to mind. These are located further west, but like Garda are fed from waters flowing south out of the mountains.

Lago di Garda was formed in the last ice age when huge glaciers pushed southward toward what is now the Po Plain. At one time, the lake was actually a fjord of the distant Adriatic Sea. Today it is one of the grandest jewels in all of Italy and a frequent tourist destination for Europeans. But what about Americans? Although a few Americans do find their way to its shores, Lago di Garda is often overlooked as Americans often travel between Milan and Venice seemingly without time to stop for a visit. The next time, find the brake pedal…. it’s worth exploring.

Lago di Garda was famous even in Roman times when it was known as Lacus Benacus (the beneficial lake). In the year 268, the Romans defeated the Alamanni in the famous Battle of Lake Benacus. The southern lake features the Grottoes of Catullus, a Roman villa of huge dimensions located at Sirmione. Throughout modern and pre-history, the lake has been inhabited by fishermen, traders, and military leaders. In World War II, Benito Mussolini established the capital of his Italian Social Republic at Salò. Other Roman and prehistoric dwellings dot the lake’s shores and are a reminder of the lake’s long endurance throughout history.

The west side of the lake is generally very steep and is reached by a roadway with dozens of tunnels. The east side is mildly hilly until it joins the west side at the bottom of the lake where it is very flat. In between, there is every imaginable type of water, landscape, food and culture to explore and enjoy. The northern part of the lake is frequented by a large number of German tourists and hence the German language is found everywhere from hotels to restaurants. The southern half of the lake is more Italian in feel and is close to the towns of Verona and Brescia. However the entire lake in international in every sense of the word so all visitors feel welcomed and virtually all languages are spoken.

Now for the personal touch! Since I live just an hour and a half north of Lago di Garda, I have been a very frequent visitor over the last 15 years. I have gotten a good feel for all of her towns, large and small, and the people who inhabit her shores. Without writing a travel book, here are a few personal suggestions for towns to visit and things to do in each:


Limone sul Garda – Located on the lake’s northwestern shore. Small, quaint, steep terrain are the key words. Great hotels, restaurants and a lovely public beach. There’s also fishing and water taxis to take you all over the lake. Don’t forget the public market on Monday!


Campione sul Garda – Located on the lake’s northwestern shore. This is one of the premier wind surfing spots in the world. But bring a wetsuit, the water is cold! The town is reached by a series of tunnels and is truly an unusual experience.


Malcesine – Located on the northeastern side of the lake. This is currently home to a magnificent castle and an amazing two stage cable car system that will transport you to 5,741 feet above sea level for great views of the entire lake. Bring a jacket and remember that the Etruscans were here in 500 B.C.!


Salò and Gardone Riviera – Located on the southwestern part of the lake. This is a quiet part of the lake and a great place to dine and enjoy the history. Make sure to see Mussolini’s old digs!


Sirmione – Located on a peninsula at the south end of the lake. This is home to the Grottoes of Catullus. The old ruins of this immense Roman villa are worth visiting.


Desenzano del Garda – Located at the southern end of the lake. Here you can visit a restored Roman villa and enjoy more shopping and dining. There’s also a lovely harbor area to explore.

There are dozens of other towns to see and a car ride above the western shore also provides even more places to visit along with spectacular views of the lake. Maps are available for free so all you need is a little gas and guts! If you get to this lake of lakes, enjoy and remember, “La vita bella è di tutti i giorni!”

PS – The photo through the arch was taken at the Hotel La Terrazzina. It’s located at Via della Repubblica 102, 25084 Gargnano, Italia, Italy. It is a great place to stay and dine! All photos copyright: Allen E. Rizzi.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

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  1. Now when Italy we should gone there. That is a massive lake…lovely artistic castle…the cable car would be a great way to catch the view.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the Lago di Garda atmospheres!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Though we didn’t spend much time there, we enjoyed our visit to the lake. Took the ferry from north to south (Mantova, I think).

    Liked by 2 people

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