Do you wanna catch new feelings in 2018? Surrounded by three distinct regions – Lombardy, Trentino Alto-Adige and the Veneto, Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) is the largest lake in Italy and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. The name Garda comes from the town with the same name, meaning “the place of guard”. Here, you’ll enjoy a holiday full of entertainment, relaxation, authentic experiences and the special vibe of discovering new places.
Let’s take a look closer to this beautiful land surrounded by morainic hills and enclosed by mountains and discover together the most important Lake Garda attractions, what to see around this area and how you can get here.
How to get to Lake Garda
Fortunately, Lake Garda is located near the principal national and international airports, as follows: Verona International Airport (only a 30 kilometre distance), Brescia International Airport (40 kilometres) and Bergamo (80 kilometres). If you are travelling by train, you should know that the stations on the southern shore of Lake Garda are Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda. Trains here run almost hourly. The nearest train station to the northern area of the lake is Rovereto.
From Desenzano’s train station, you can also take the bus to Sirmione, which takes about 30 minutes. In the summer, buses tend to be more frequent, so every tourist can go wherever he wants.
Lake Garda weather – When to go
The water of the Lake is colder than the air in summer and warmer in winter. This strongly contributes to mitigating the summer heat and harsh winter, thus rendering the Garda climate incredibly mild and temperate.
The Garda area boasts all the characteristics of a “pre-alpine zero-thermal oasis”. It is a sub-Mediterranean climate, so mild and different from the other lakes that it can be defined as the “Benaco climate”. The average winter temperature varies between 12° and 18°C and in summer between 24° and 30°C.
The Lake is swept by high-altitude mountain winds that can be quite intense. There are two major winds: the “Pelér” blows from north to south in the morning when the tepid air of the lake rises and gets air from the Valle del Sarca; while the “Ora” blows from the south in the afternoon: it is a lake wind that moves the cool air to the mountains that are warmed up by the daily sunlight. Many other secondary winds accompany these two: the powerful “Bali” or “Balinot” that blows from Passo Ballino above Riva; the “Vinessa” that comes from east and is considered an extension of the “Bora” of Trieste; the “Ander” from the north; the “Gardesana”, a chilly and strong breeze that mitigates the summer heat; the “Ponale” that comes from the Valle di Ledro, from the west, and that blows in the evening or at night – sometimes even in the morning. Several other breezes take on different names depending on the area.
In May, as the temperature in Lake Garda, northern Italy really begins to warm up it becomes a popular tourist destination for both sightseeing and a full range of outdoor activities.
With average mountain temperatures of 17°C (63°F), the area’s outdoor sports like hiking, mountain biking, sailing and windsurfing really begin to take off for the summer season. Those looking for an adventure holiday at the lake, or even warm weather to explore the Roman ruins and beautiful lake-side villages and towns, can expect average highs at this time of year of 22°C (71.6°F) and lows of a mild 12°C (54°F). The temperatures tend to climb throughout the month, with the highest average daily temperatures being recorded towards the end of the month, from around 21°C, making this an ideal time to travel. In fact, this month the temperature is rising across northern Italy with Milan experiencing average temperatures of 15°C (59°F).
June in Lake Garda is one of the hottest months of the year with highs reaching 26°C. September is still fine for swimming. In our opinion, May, June and September are the best months to visit this stunning area where you can enjoy long warm evenings, great sunrises and beautiful moments to the beach.
Best towns to stay in Lake Garda
Lake Garda is one of the most stunning regions of northern Italy that has a lot to offer for everyone. We’ve made a list of the best towns to stay in Lake Garda for spending special moments along with your family or friends. Let’s collect some special memories!
Torri del Benaco
Our journey begins with Torri del Benaco, immersed in a green paradise with its impressive castle rising above and dominating the lakefront. Thanks to its strategic position, this town is easy to reach: you can take the train to the Peschiera railroad station and arrive here. The main attraction is the Castello Scaligero, built by Antonio della Scala in 1383. Also, you can walk through the woods and olive groves, along the “strada dei castei” for example. Catch a glimpse of old towns and solitary and take some special photos surprising the medieval air. Torri del Benaco is an idyllic place to relax and soak up the sun while admiring the lovely harbour filled with colourful fishing boats.
The most popular destination on the lake due to its thermal waters, recreational facilities like different water sports (windsurfing, sailing) and environmental beauty. Sirmione is located on the south shore of Lake Garda and has its own independent administration from Verona. We can say that this place was designed to delight your eyes with every street you walk on. Sip up a Margherita coffee and don’t forget to visit some impressive Roman ruins at the end of the promontory. Also, you should know that cars are not allowed in the historic city centre.
Main Sirmione attractions include Grotte di Catullo, Rocca Scaligera Castle, Jamaica Beach, Church of San Pietro in Mavino and Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. In the summer, you can visit Grotte di Catullo from 08:30 to 19:30 and during the winter months, you can visit the place from 08:30 to 17:00. Explore the beautiful surroundings by boat or visit the Ca dei Frati Vineyard – a must-see for wine lovers. If you are looking for a place to relax, take your spot at the beautiful Jamaica Beach. Even if Sirmione is a picturesque small town, there are still plenty of things to do here and around the area.
What better way to spoil the one you love with a romantic dinner over the lakeshore? Enjoy the morainic hills covered with olive groves and vineyards and taste the famous red wine, Rosé Chiarett made from the first pressing of the gropello grape. Gropello is a red grape that gives light and spicy wines. Bardolino offers any kind of special activities: from spectacular events like the Carnival of “Bacchus and Ariadne”, the Aperitif Under the Stars to amazing places that are worth visit: Museo dell’Olio d’Oliva , the church San Severo, Zeni Winery and Wine Museum.
Are you looking for adrenaline? Here, you’ll find a wide range of sporting activities: sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, water-skiing, scuba-diving, mountain-biking, tennis, mini-golf, archery etc. Not surprisingly, the city is the perfect place for anyone who wants to wind down the nights with a glass of wine or trying to make something memorable in their vacation.
We strongly recommend visiting the pearl of Lake Garda in May, June or September. Otherwise, the town is overcrowded and the temperatures are very high. Malcesine is another charming town with narrow medieval streets, ancient architecture, an amazing harbour and lots of small shops. You can take the cable car to Monte Baldo for breathtaking views of Lake Garda.
What you can visit here? The striking Castello Scaligero and Palazzo dei Capitani are among the first sightseeing of Malcesine. At Castello Scaligero, you can climb the tower and enjoy magnificent 360˚ views over the lake. Also, the Goethe room is expecting you! He reproduced in his drawings the authentic colours of the landscape which became the starting point for his “Theory of colours”. Outside, in a contemplative corner of the small garden, there’s the poet’s bust. Nestled between Lake Garda and the mountains, Malcesine has become a very popular tourist destination, so don’t miss an enchanting walk here.
Isola del Garda
And last, but not least, Isola del Garda is the largest island and it must be on your ‘to do’ list while planning to explore the depths of Lake Garda. Anchored just off Salò, the island is private and owned by the Contessa Cavazza. You can get here only with a guided tour and spend a couple of hours. It’s an impressive botanical garden rich in exotic plants and the sumptuous villa will leave you with a magical feeling like you’re back in time. So, a short visit to Isola del Garda is a captivating experience!
Lake Garda – Festivals and Events
Lining up plans in Lake Garda this year? Between medieval architecture and age-old rites, you’ll find exciting experiences and memorable events that will fulfil your holiday wishes. We pass a little through the history of this area and then we’ll celebrate the most important events and festivals on Lake Garda.
Involve yourself in everything that Lake Garda has to offer to you!
Step back in history
Choosing to spend a trip in Lake Garda, means travelling back in time, walking into ancient Roman times among the ruins and exploring many villages around the lake, and monuments like Verona Arena and the Roman Theatre, which are both unique in the world.
This land has always been considered a strategic crossroad and many have tried to conquer it. Here Napoleon defeated the Austrians in the historical battle of Rivoli in 1797.
Many emblems of this region are keeping the strong history alive, such as the 19th-century defence walls of Forte Rivoli. Impressive fortifications and castles are surrounding the lake, which will offer you a journey through time, along with the mesmerizing views of the Castles.
Culture and festivals
Whenever you decide to visit Lake Garda, there will always be something interesting and exciting going on. There are a lot of events that are performing throughout the year, starting from plays performed in an open-air and the opera arena in Verona.
Concerts and festivals bring all musical styles and genres here, year after year. Food and wine events represent the best way in which you can enjoy the local traditions and regular firework displays offer a spectacular end to the day.
Considering the amazing water conditions and the beauty of the land, there are also a lot of sport events taking place during the year, athlete competitions and bike races. On the other hand, Lake Garda is also a region full of history and culture, where you will have the possibility to explore religious rituals, historic commemorations and fantastic traditions.
Here are the main events taking place in Lake Garda:
Film Festival del Garda
Each year the film festival in Lake Garda celebrates national and international films, both new and old. If your trip is taking place during this celebration, get ready for some of the most unique moments that you have ever seen, with features of short and long films, followed by ceremonies, lots of music and entertainment which you should never miss. This is a festival open to new emergent artists from all around the world, in order to give them the possibility to show their works. The festival takes place in Gardone Riviera and it is open to the public from July to November.
Festival Del Garda
There is a special time during July and August, where all the events performed are managed by all the towns on the lake. There are a lot of music competitions, which bring exquisite air to the region, make it look like a magical place. The Festival del Garda is the only real benchmark event around Lake Garda, a well-established event which ideally connects all the towns that make up the splendid mosaic of the lake. The Festival will have 6 legs in the province of Verona: Villafranca, Torri del Benaco, Garda, Bussolengo, Cavaion Veronese and Lazise.
Mille Miglia, Desenzano, Sirmione and Pescheria
This is one the most beautiful and interesting races in the world. The famous race of classical cars starts in Brescia, passes through Desenzano, Sirmone and Peschiera and ends in Rome. This is an event that you should never miss, being at the same time a wonderful display of classic cars and a way of entering into the spirit of real competition. The first race starts in May, from Brescia to Padova.
Chiaretto wine festival
The Bardolino Chiaretto DOC wine is certainly one of the most appreciated wines of the Veronese area. Made from a red-grape variety with a pronounced floral scent, served chilled it is pleasant and thirst-quenching and is a particularly good accompaniment to fish, cold meats, rice and white meat. It also makes an excellent aperitif.
The spectacular festival celebrates the famous rose wine, well known in Lake Garda. If you’re staying near Bardolino, you must enjoy the wine tasting and the local food, as well as the live performed music and entertainment for all ages.
Tourists and all wine-lovers can take part in this wine-tasting experience and enjoy the colourful stands positioned along the lake, from the 2nd to the 4th of June.
Festa dell’Uva e del Vino
This is one of the most important events in Bardolino area which takes place at the end of September or at the beginning of October every year. Sit on a table, relax and enjoy a glass of red wine made of cultivated grapes. It’s your option: Bardolino Classico or Bardolino Chiaretto?
The special atmosphere attracts wine fans and people from all over Europe, with more than 100 000 visitors. Every local winery offers samples of its wine accompanied by local delicacies. If you want to experience la dolce vita, this is the perfect event to spend some interesting hours with your friends. The end of the Festa dell’Uva e del Vino is celebrated with large fireworks.
Night of Enchantment, Desenzano
In the last few weeks of summer, the sky turns into a shining sea with classical and modern dance performances, poetry readings and other spectacular activities that will enchant your senses. This unforgettable festival has reached its 29th edition and has a specific program. The entire spectacle is on the Lake Garda: boats are twinkling with thousands of candles and floating candles are released onto the lake. Don’t miss the light festival and the magnificent pyrotechnic show! Will leave you all with the nose in the sky!
Opera Festival at the Arena di Verona
Who of you will be our guest? In a truly unique location, close to Lake Garda, you’ll be seduced by the magic of the Opera Festival in Verona and its amazing scenography. From June to September, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the magical setting of an ancient Roman amphitheatre and to listen to the evocative productions of great musicians. Nabucco, Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly are among the most appreciated operas on the Arena calendar. Also, Roberto Bolle, a famous Italian dancer has his own special show accompanied by artists from the biggest international dance companies. Be ready to enrich your stay at Lake Garda by participating in this unforgettable event. A short trip to Verona is a must!
Sardellata al Pal del Vo, Lake Garda
This is one of the most fascinating events of Garda, which reinterprets the ancient rites of Lake Garda fishermen. At the beginning of July, many boats gather in the middle of the lake and celebrate this event by catching sardines and enjoying a moonlight special dinner. It all ends with memorable fireworks.
Festival del Vittoriale
When it comes to jazz, dance, rock or classical, the Vittoriale Festival is on everyone’s lips. Every summer, the Gardone-Riviera area hosts incredible performances including classical and modern ballets, classic, pop or jazz music concerts, as well as some theatre pieces in an open-air theatre. If you didn’t know, the open-air theatre has been designed by the poet Gabriele d´Annunzio. In 1952, it was finally finished and, on 8th August 1953, it was festively inaugurated. Book your tickets now and enjoy live music and spectacular views over the mountains.
The Centomiglia (a Hundred Miles) is the longest inside-waters contest at the highest European level. The first edition took place in 1951 and, since then, it’s turned into a worldwide famous sailing competition organized at Lake Garda. The first weekend in September is full of boats built specifically to win this race. While some crews are there to compete, most are just looking to sail, to enjoy being on the water with the wind in their hair and a lot of adrenaline in their hands. As a tourist, you can admire the boats while the sun is producing golden reflections in the clear lake water.
Both adults and children will never want to leave Gardaland Park once they arrive in the 200,000 sqm theme park. Home to both traditional attractions, daredevil rides and entertainment shows, Gardaland Park is the 8th most popular theme park in Europe, with a total of 32 rides, including seven rollercoasters (the Mammoth, the virtual reality Shaman, Blue Tornado, Oblivion – the Black Hole, Sequoia Adventure), water rides (Jungle Rapids and the Fuga da Atlantide Shoot the Chute, Colorado Boat), action games such as the shooter Ramses: Il Risveglio, or taking a boat ride in the pirates’ world I Corsari. The park is also home to a sea life aquarium, a monorail, a walk-through canyon creek and carousels fitted for the little ones (Peter Pan and Mr. Ping’s Noodle Surprise), so the entertainment level will be high up for the entire family. We recommend buying the tickets online for cheaper prices and no annoying waiting in line, while others are having fun inside.
All year long golf courses
Lake Garda’s sinuous hills, plain fields, beautiful landscapes with varied vegetation of trees and flowers and translucent lakes have been successfully transformed into golf courses for every level of experience.
Whether you’re looking for a beginner’s practise course or one that requires technique, precision and complex calculations in order to avoid obstacles such as bunkers or waters, play narrow fairways and account for the wind, golf courses such as Arzaga Golf Club (Calvagese della Riviera), Bogliaco Golf Resort (Toscolano Maderno,Brescia), Golf Club Il Colombaro (Cunettone, Brescia), to name just a few, will provide you with a relaxing and satisfying way to enjoy the amazing scenery of Lake Garda. Between 31st May and 3rd of June, the Gardagolf Country Club (the only golf course on Lake Garda which counts into the Leading Golf Courses of Europe), will be the 3rd time host of the Italian Open.
Spend the sunny afternoons on the golf course and, when you’re ready to take a break, enjoy the fine cuisine and wines from the clubs’ restaurants, walk around the area and take in all that Lake Garda has to offer.
Here we are at the end of this article… Which of the festivals and entertainment options above will be on your holiday schedule this year? Festival del Garda, maybe the Night of Enchantment or the Blue Tornado rollercoaster? No matter what you choose, be sure that you’ll make some of the best memories that you could have on Lake Garda. Best escape anyone can have! Let’s go!