Italy’s Amalfi Coast may be the capital of la dolce vita, but Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) has its own brand of effortless elegance that has attracted celebrities and artists for centuries. Ringed by steep alpine foothills, tiny spa towns, and vineyards, the lake offers a heady mix of languid leisure and cosmopolitan flair.The Basics
Lake Garda has something for everyone. Hikers and landscape lovers can explore the northern reaches of the lake, where peaks rise dramatically from the water and the slopes are thick with trails and picture-perfect towns such as Torbole. Gourmands and sybarites should hang out on the southern shore, home to spas and wineries. If you’re more of a history buff, don’t miss the medieval castle and Roman ruins in Sirmione. And families can head to Gardaland, an amusement park.
To avoid the hassle of getting to Lake Garda on your own, book a tour of the area with round-trip transport included. Boat tours include free time to wander the resort towns, romantic sunset tours are a relaxing way to take in the views, and wine-tasting tours whisk you around to some of the region’s best vineyards. If you’re going to Gardaland, buy tickets in advance to avoid the long lines.Things to Know Before You Go
- Plan to spend a lot of time outdoors—dress for the weather.
- Rent equipment or hire instructors for water sports at the beaches along the southern shore.
- For views overlooking the lake and Riva del Garda, ride the gondola to the top of Monte Baldo.
- Take a boat from Salò to the private island of Isola di Garda to tour the neo-Gothic Venetian villa and grounds owned by Contessa Cavazza.
- Fans of the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio can visit his vast Il Vittoriale degli Italiani estate, as eclectic as the writer himself, above Gardone Riviera on the western shore.
How to Get There
Lake Garda sits about halfway between Milan and Venice, and is an easy train ride from either direction. Ferries run between some of the towns along the lakeshore.
When to Get There
As Lake Garda is in northern Italy, temperatures drop drastically in winter. Visit from spring through fall if you’re planning to engage in water sports.
The landscape north of Riva del Garda is dominated by rugged mountains and glacial lakes and rivers. Stop by and marvel at the striking Cascata del Varone, a theatrical waterfall that has carved a corkscrew-shaped vertical gorge through the cliffside.