What destination can provide spectacular scenery, good weather and delicious food? Are you interested in water sports or walking, or is history or the arts more your thing? Then Lake Garda could be the ideal place for your next trip!
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and a good entry point to the region. Forget Lake Windermere – this lake is vast – 51.6km long and 16.7km wide and a staggering 346 metres deep. Coupled with a temperate sub-tropical climate due to the mountainous hills that surround it, the area abounds with lemon groves, olive and cypress trees and is a gem for walkers. The sharpness of an Italian lemon surpasses anything you buy in your local supermarket and a whole industry has been built on the lemon, the base ingredient for everything from soap, body creams, ice creams and liqueurs. The humble lemon even has a town named after it – Limone – which is well worth a visit.
The Garda area is a short flight from London into Venice, Verona or Milan. Its position makes it the perfect place for a twin-centre holiday. Fancy catching the opera at Verona? Or feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco in Venice? Both are possible from Lake Garda with many tour operators offering packages to the area. It is possible to visit Verona as a day trip, but in my view more time is needed to discover this lovely city.
If flying isn’t for you, what about taking the train? There are two railway stations serving the southern-most end of the lake (Desenzano and Peschiera) with Rovereto serving the north. Peschiera is a small fishing village and still retains some of its charms. The lake is a source of freshwater fish such as brown trout, which often appears on restaurant menus.
Choosing which of the many pretty towns that surround Lake Garda can be difficult, but as a first-time visitor to the region I chose the bustling, but delightful, town of Sirmione in the province of Brescia as my base. Situated on a narrow peninsula at the southern end of the lake, the town is known for its thermal waters and spas. Many of the major hotels offer spa treatments or pools using the therapeutic waters, which smell pretty sulphuric – so much so you could be fooled into thinking there is a problem with the drains!
Must-sees in Sirmione include the ancient Roman villa – Catullus Grotto, the Castello di Sirmione and the 14th century church, Chiesa San Pietro in Mavino. You can even catch a free opera in the town hall in the summer – but get there early for the best seats!
With so much on offer its no surprise that the region has been a popular tourist destination since Roman times, and includes the likes of Goethe, Shelley and Tennyson amongst its admirers. How long will it be before your name will be added to the list?