"Suso in Italia bella giace un Laco,
a piè dell'Alpe che serra Lamagna
sopra Tiralli, ch'ha nome Benàco."
Divina Commedia Canto XX Inferno
Lake Garda or Benaco is the largest Lake in Italy, with a surface area of 370 km². It is surrounded by three regions, Lombardia (with the province of Brescia), Veneto (province of Verona) and Trentino-Alto Adige (province of Trento) and is parallel to the Adige river valley and separated from it by the Mount Baldo massif. The northern part of the Lake is narrow like a funnel and surrounded by steep mountains whereas the Lake widens towards the south, where it is surrounded by hills that make the landscape much more gentle. The Lake is an important destination for tourists and is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
The following are brief descriptions of the main towns and areas around the Lake that can be easily reached by car or ferry.
Riva is the largest town in the northern area of Lake Garda (the biggest of all is Desenzano). It is a pleasant mixture of Italian frivolity and Tyrolese precision (until 1918 Riva was in Austria). Surrounded by impressive mountains, Riva offers many opportunities for sport lovers.
• Mountain bike
For those who want to relax there are inviting beaches and many attractive shops along the streets in the charming old town.
Riva has an extensive and varied cultural and trade fair programme not only in the summer but all year round. There is an interesting museum in the old fort "La Rocca" that goes back to the 12th Century.
Situated on the east shore of Lake Garda, Malcesine has conserved untouched the characteristics of its mediaeval origins. It has an attractive port and an ancient Scaligero Castle, spectacularly perched on the lakeside. Sailing and windsurfing are amongst the most popular sports in this area. From Malcesine you can go up on Mount Baldo using the cableway, to what is called "the botanical garden of Europe", with many interesting walks and fantastic unique views over Lake Garda. In the winter you can go up on the cableway and ski on 11 km. of ski slopes (varyng levels of difficulty).
Characteristic resort composed of various hamlets situated partially along the Lake and partially on the lower slopes of Mount Baldo, south of Malcesine, where the Lake is narrow and deep. The panoramic inland area offers wonderful excursions into the hills through olive groves and into the mountains to reach the alpine huts on Mount Baldo.
These routes are much appreciated by walkers and mountain bikers.
Nestling on the slopes of Mount Baldo, San Zeno juts out like a balcony over the entire area of Lake Garda. Located as it is, it is the perfect starting point for excursions to discover the unique geological, botanical and faunistic features of these mountains, as well as a pleasant opportunity to enjoy local restaurants.
Torri can be reached easily with the Navigarda ferry service from Maderno. It retains its mediaeval charm and with its towers and Scaligero Castle it is one of the most interesting towns on the eastern shores of Lake Garda and is popular with visitors. It is well equipped for:
• water skiing
• horse riding
There is a market on Monday mornings.
Garda’s greatest feature is the beauty of its surroundings and Punto San Vigilio is a fascinating spot.
Garda also has the austere charm of the Rocca, thick with vegetation and ideal for the spirit and meditation with its heritage situated here.
The surrounding area offers many opportunities for sports, walks, and the ancient tradition of fishing.
Situated on the lower eastern shore of the Lake where Lake Garda widens and takes on a Mediterranean appearance, Bardolino, famous throughout the world for the name of its wine, is an attractive town with its old historical centre, and pleasant walks both along the lakeside and in the hills above with lovely views over the southern part of the Lake.
Lazise, situated on the south east coast of the Lake, has maintained its historical outline throughout the years, with its ancient Scaligero town walls and the charm of its old buildings and characteristic streets. The main water fun park is located in the Lazise area.
The splendid panoramic peninsula of Sirmione on the southern shores of the Lake, thanks to its splendid natural position, has been a privileged place of settlement since ancient times and has a long and interesting history. Its attractive scenery, pleasant climate, the source of sulphurous water that has led to the development of an important spa centre and its history, for example the remains of the most grandiose private Roman villa in northern Italy (Le Grotte di Catullo) and its Scaligero Castle, have made Sirmione a popular and interesting town to visit.
Desenzano, located on the southern shore of the Lake, is a lively, bustling tourist and commercial centre all year round. It enjoys an excellent climate and has an attractive centre, and port. It is well served for transport being near the motorway, having a railway station, and coach and ferry terminuses.
Valtenesi consists of the municipalities of:
• all their hamlets
Attractive hills with olive groves and vineyards form the background to cultural and gastronomic routes that pass near the numerous castles of mediaeval origin that are to be found in this area.
Salò is the most important town on the western side of the Lake. Located in an attractive bay, it has a rich cultural and historical tradition, but also is well known for its very elegant shops.
The attractive Cathedral, (Duomo) rebuilt in late Gothic style in the 15th Century, is worth visiting.