Hugged by mountains and touched by three regions, Lake Garda is Italy's largest lake. Located in the north near the cities of Verona, Mantua and Brescia, the alpine lake is a favored summer spot, not just for relaxing but for high-energy fun, too. Pretty towns sit waterside with lovely buildings clustered around the shore, while hill towns and mountain hamlets are sprinkled in the heights. There are quiet spots for contemplating the water and nature, bird watching, and botanic gardens. Thermal spas for wellness and unwinding, and beaches for sunning are attractive vacation experiences. But there are also big amusement parks for thrill-seekers who like roller coasters, an adventure park for those who want to zip-line or learn to rock climb, along with hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding for sporty types. Water activities like sailing, wind-surfing, and swimming are available, too.
Towns such Sirmione and Riva del Garda are attractive villages to explore and soak in the atmosphere of history. Castles are sprinkled all over the area, and there are opulent villas and manicured gardens that show that Lake Garda has long been a destination for the wealthy and nobility through the centuries. Decorated churches and interesting museums lend a cultural aspect to the mix, and there are plenty of shops in the lakeside towns, not to mention delectable restaurants that serve both fresh fish and land-based specialties of northern Italy. Grana Padano cheese, a close cousin to Parmigiano-Reggiano, forest truffles, and lake fish like carp, trout and perch are just a few of the local products to enjoy.
Lake Garda brushes against three regions - Trentino, Veneto, and Lombardy, and takes in influences from each in its traditions, recipes and lifestyle. But the temperate climate of the lake and the friendliness of the people welcome you to a beautiful place that is laid back and steeped in history.
It is a major destination with Gardaland on the east side, Italy's largest amusement park. Next door is Movieland, an Italian version of Universal Studios Park, with cinema-related rides and games. Water parks and adventure parks are found here, too, so between water sports, town-hopping and theme parks, you'll never be bored!
Lago di Garda is within reach of some of northern Italy's best art cities, like Verona, Padua, Brescia, Mantua, and Vicenza. Venice is not too far afield, either. The breathtaking panoramas, relaxed atmosphere and charming villages make Lake Garda an ideal destination.
Salò is a lovely and lively town on the shores of Lake Garda, the gateway to the area known as "the lemon coast".
Arco is a town on the north side of Lake Garda, looking at the lake with the mountains at its back door.
Ciliverghe is a mostly modern town that is part of Mazzano, to the west of Lake Garda, between the lake and Brescia.
One of the largest towns on Lake Garda, Desenzano del Garda is a great choice for seeing the area.
Manerba del Garda is on a spur in the lake with a panoramic point that leads right out to the water.
In the hills that rest between Lake Garda and the mountains, the town of San Felice del Benaco offers the best of beaches and land-based sports.
Been there? Done that? Share your experience and tips!
Haven't visited yet? Have questions about Lake Garda? Ask them here!