In my teens, my family and I took a holiday in the north of Italy, exploring the lakes and visiting nearby villages, towns and cities. Around fifteen years later, I was lucky enough to spend half a year living in the north of Italy with the mountains and lakes at my doorstep, meaning I got to take a second, closer look at the lakes. Here are some suggestions on what to see around Lake Garda based on one of my favourite experiences from my time there.
Starting Out – Brescia to Salò or Desenzano
In February 2017, I hired a turquoise-coloured toothpaste tube with an engine and drove around an even bluer lake. It was a beautiful day and the views were something else.
For my own convenience, I hired the car from Europcar in Brescia. From their offices, it was a relatively straightforward drive to Lake Garda – I followed signs to Salò, the town from which I had decided to start my lap.
Note – New visitors to Lake Garda may wish to drive east and begin in Desenzano del Garda, which is definitely worth a visit. I decided to omit Desenzano from this drive, however, as it is conveniently located on the Milan-Verona train line and I had already been there for a long walk!
In Salò, aim to get to the lake’s coast as soon as possible and start driving north towards Limone. Naturally, there are numerous places to stop, take photographs and marvel at the mountains. The drive itself requires a little concentration though as the roads are often a little narrower, at the foot of a hill, and hug the lake side. When you come across a new view or beauty spot that you wish to photograph, simply make a mental note and one of the multiple parking spots should not be far ahead.
Limone Sul Garda
An extremely popular little town with tourists in the summer, Limone is somewhat empty in the off-peak months. As this visit took place in February, a number of restaurants were closed. It should still, however, be a stop on your journey.
Limone, unsurprisingly, takes its name from one of its most prolific products: lemons! These can be seen growing in multiple places, and with Limone sitting at the foot of some of the rockier-faced mountains, there are multiple opportunities to take some stunning photographs.
Free parking was available here and this location was ideal for a quick walk into the old town.
Riva del Garda
Not much further north is one of Garda’s most popular towns: Riva. Parking was easy to find as you enter the town here and is again an easy walk away from the town centre.
Riva will most likely take a little longer to explore on foot as there are plenty of little streets to wander up and get lost in. For this reason, I chose Riva as a spot for some lunch.
Viale Dante Alighieri is a good place to find shops and places to eat.
From Riva, head east towards and through Torbole.
The ‘Mirador’ located here offers great views looking over the northern part of Lake Garda. It’s easy to drive up and back down from Torbole.
Head back down towards Torbole and further south to our next stop, Malcesine.
Famous for its castle, cable car and some other things not beginning with ‘c’, Malcesine is definitely worth a stop. Plenty of ideally-located parking can be found here.
Malcesine is another town well worth exploring thoroughly. From its harbour and castle to its antique streets, Malcesine is everything that Lake Garda is about.
The castle can also be entered for an extra cost.
The journey down the eastern side of the lake is just as beautiful as the west. As you near the south again, you’ll pass Gardaland, which is basically Italy’s answer to Disney. Kind of.
Peschiera del Garda
The final leg of this lap of Garda is Peschiera.
Parking is again very easy to find and is located here. Having fully been around one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes, why not treat yourself to a Gelato? (I did not usually need an excuse.)