On the northern end of Lake Garda, the bustling town of Riva del Garda stands at the lake's most dramatic point. Mountains loom larger and closer at the tip where the lake narrows. It's worth a ferry ride or a drive up the lake to visit this picturesque and lively town.

Its roots date back to the Roman empire when it was a strategic water route. It was controlled by the Goths, the Lombards, and the Franks, then by Verona, Venice and Trento. It was under the Austro-Hungarian empire and remained a part of Austria until 1918. This upper tip of the lake is in the Trento province. During WWII, Riva was on the frontlines between the Third Reich and the partisans.

Riva del Garda is the second largest city on the lake (after Desenzano) and is a lively place with activity, shopping, festivals and a year-round economy. There are several music festivals, including a popular Jazz festival.

What To See

The town centers on the waterfront with medieval lanes meandering off, sprinkled with pretty piazzas and pastel palaces. The harbor provides a lovely setting for a gelato or a drink while taking in the relaxing view of the lake. The atmosphere is beguiling.

The Rocca and museums. The old fortress complete with moat is a picturesque. Inside, you will find the Museo Civico, the civic museum with displays on the area's history and archeology, along with special exhibits. It is also home to the Pinacoteca, the art gallery. A cute canal curls behind the Rocca for boats. An elegant curved piazza fans out, with outdoor cafes and shops (Piazza del Brolio). The Salita al Mastio is the castle tower, which you can climb (mastio means central tower of a fortress, the highest point).

Lungolago Marinai d'Italia. The "lungolago" lakefront promenade is the perfect place for a stroll. It skirts the water and is lined with restaurants and cafes, Liberty-style villas, palms and trees, and is sprinkled wilth park benches. You can rent a pedal boat to get out on a water.

Piazza III Novembre. The principle piazza, here you'll find the Palazzo Pretorio, once the seat of the commanders; under the portico you'll find the crests from Roman and medieval rulers. The palace houses the town hall. Also on the piazza, the stolid stone Torre Apponale, a 13th century guard tower. Climb the steps for a beautiful view!

Churches. Chiesa dell'Inviolata: This baroque beauty was started in 1603 and consecrated in 1636. It holds a miraculous tabernacle and incredible frescoes. Its intriguing octagonal shape holds five altars. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta church in Piazza Cavour was originally built in 1106 and reconstructed in 1728 with flourish. Inside you'll find a glory of stuccoes and basrelief.

Centrale Idroelettrica. The hydroelectric plant from the 1920s may not sound like much of an attraction, but it has an interesting multimedia presentation on clean energy and gives insight to developing the water resources of the lake.

Parco Grotta and Cascata dal Varone. A rare geological phenomenon created by the Garda glacier of fissures and cavities with a wonderful waterfall and stream. It is an incredible natural creation that will take your breath away! Paths and bridges lead you in and through the park. Just north of Riva del Garda at Varone.

Besides the attractions, there are watersports, of course, with boating, pedal boats, swimming and windsurfing. There are plenty of trails around the lake and in the mountains for hikers. Or, you can just meander the pretty town, enjoy the shops and cafes and drop-dead views of the magnificent lake and majestic mountains!

You can find ferry schedules here: http://www.navlaghi.it/ita/g_orari.asp

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Address in Lake Garda:

Riva del Garda.