Of course, it is a shame that you have only a day to visit Lake Garda in Italy, but if this is the case, I got you covered. Check my advice for the best ways to spend your only day at Lake Garda.
Lago di Garda, as it is known in Italian, is one of northern Italy's most popular tourist destinations. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, with a 370 km² surface; it is almost 52 kilometres long and about 17 kilometres wide. It is situated among the three Italian regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The lake has 25 picturesque villages that boast numerous historical monuments, castles, and fortresses. For this reason, famous writers and painters choose Lake Garda as their favourite holiday destination. A ferryboat service connects all villages of the lake. The villages are also easily accessible by motorway. Check my suggestions for your day on Lake Garda. These include three towns to visit. First of all, I would advise you to base yourself in Desenzano. This will allow you to reach two other villages by boat. If you have enough time, make four villages instead! So let’s start with the base town Desenzano.
Desenzano is located on the south-western side of the lake, easily reachable by train or by car. With plenty of cafés and restaurants and convenient boat connections, Desenzano is a great base for exploring the lake. Most of the lake's best beaches are along this southern shore. Desenzano, also known as the capital of Lake Garda, is one of the richest towns in history, life, and places of interest. The centre of Desenzano is ideal for relaxing and sightseeing. Next to the Piazza Malvezzi you will find Piazza Duomo and the baroque cathedral of Desenzano, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, finished in the early 17th century. The facade is a great example of the late Renaissance. Six paintings of Pietro Calcinardi can be found in the nineteenth-century chapel devoted to Santa Angela Merici. Particularly impressive is the Last Supper by Giambattista Tiepolo in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
Todeschini Palace and the Old Port
The Old Port, first mentioned in 1274, was built in its current shape during the era of the Veneto Republic in the late 16th century. Todeschini Palace has fifteen arches of stone of Malcesine. It was used as a municipal house until the 1970s and now serves as a prestigious conference palace.
Statue of St. Angela Merici, patron Saint of Desenzano
Keep an eye out for the statue of the patron of Desenzano, St. Angela Merici, who was born in Desenzano around 1474 and died in Brescia in 1540. She was canonised in 1807.
There is a statue in the Piazza Matteotti Square that is dedicated to the aviators of Desenzano in the 1920s and 1930s. The statue represents a woman's face leaning forward, with her eyes closed and her hair back, as if she had just been thrown into the air.
You cannot say you have actually visited Lake Garda unless you have seen Sirmione. Sirmione, the jewel of the southern shore, is the most popular Lake Garda town. History and nature meet in a picturesque town dividing the eastern and western sides of the lake. Sirmione was the home of the great Maria Callas when she was married to the entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Menehune. The Park Maria Callas is situated near their villa. Strolling along the peninsula, you will pass through alleys full of life, among ice cream parlours, restaurants with outdoor tables, and shops in pure Italian style. The water-surrounded fortress of Sirmione was constructed in the 12th century by the Scaligeri, Verona's ruling family. Expect crowds in chic Sirmione on weekends.
Lazise is a picturesque town that overlooks the south-eastern shore of Lake Garda. It is well known for its charming landscape and its artistic and historical value. Lazise has a castle built by the Scaligeri family from Verona in the 14th century. The town is surrounded by turreted walls enclosing the historical centre, full of elegant restaurants, and craft shops.Picturesque Old Port and the Venetian Customs are facing the lake. Its function during the Venetian era was to transport the goods between Lombardy and the Republic of Venice. After the restoration works in 2003, it hosted events like weddings, congresses, gala dinners, fashion shows, and art exhibitions. The most famous churches of Lazise are the Church of Saint Nicolò, located next to the Old Port built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style, and the Church of Saints Zenone and Martino that was built in the 18th century on the site of a medieval church. With its high white bell tower, the Roman church of San Nicoló is one of the most beautiful places in Lazise. The church is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors and fishermen.
Saints Zenone and Martino Church
The church was built in the neoclassical style. Inside the building, you will see two side altars belonging to the previous church, which represents the idea of a connection between both new and old churches. The stairs outside the church were added in the late 19th century. The three statues on the facade symbolise St. Martin, St. Fermo, and St. Rustico.
In case you have more time
Include also Bardolino, one of the most beautiful places on the lake.Bardolino is famous for its wine festival in late summer, and the area behind the town is full of farms with vineyards and groves producing the famous olive oil. Take a look at how olives are pressed into oil at the Museo dell'Olio d'Oliva, and stop to admire the frescoes inside the church of San Severo, which dates as far back as the eighth century.
Since Garda is a lake, I highly recommend taking a boat so you can admire the views of the surrounding villages from the boat. Check the boat schedule and plan your trip accordingly. You will need to stay overnight for this trip, so I suggest staying in Desenzano, the capital of Garda, or in Bardolino. If you decide to stay in Desenzano, I recommend the hotel Lido International with direct access to the lake. In case you think to spend more time at the lake, stay at the Aqualux Hotel Spa & Suite in Bardolino. Are you a lover of Italian lakes? Then visit also Lake Como!
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.