Garda is a fantastic town not only because it is beautiful and houses a fantastic variety of things to see and do, but also due to its fantastic location. From Garda you can easily access the fabulous cities of Verona, Venice, Milan even Florence, or head north into the mountains and visit the South Tyrol. All of these places are fabulous destinations well worthy of visiting. But what about the days when don’t fancy travelling quite so far afield? This sounds like an opportunity to explore the lake! And what better way to do so then by using the local ferry’s. With so many beautiful destinations around Lake Garda however, you’ve still got some decisions to make and choosing where to go can be difficult. So here are my top three destinations to visit by ferry from the town of Garda:
A fantastic quaint town towards the north of the lake, Malcesine takes around 1 hour 30 minutes to reach from Garda. My recommendation for Malcesine is to use a combination of boat and bus to best utilise your time. A lot quicker than the ferry, the bus will allow you to spend more time exploring the town and what it has to offer. Cobble streets, lovely shops and fantastic restaurants, Malcesine is full of charm. It is also home to one of the four Scaliger castles on Lake Garda. One of the main attractions is the cable car which takes you to the top of Monte Baldo, up to a height of 2218m. From this height you’re rewarded with fantastic views over the lake and beyond. The cable car has two stations and at the second station, you board the cable car that rotates 360 degrees allowing everyone inside to enjoy the vistas, but don’t worry it isn’t a roller coaster ride, you move very, very slowly! At the top there are great opportunities for hikers to explore to their hearts content, or alternatively, you can take a gentler path leading to the view point. One tip if you are wishing to go up the cable car is to go early as queues can get quite long.
The town of Sirmione sits on the peninsula, jutting out into the waters of Lake Garda. Famous again for another Scaliger castle, Sirmione is a very popular town to visit, often described as the pearl of the lake. From Garda town, Sirmione can take as little as 30 minutes to reach. There are many things to see and do in Sirmione, but one attraction you certainly cannot ignore is the gelato. With ice cream shops on nearly every corner serving incredibly varied flavours you are spoilt for choice. Alternatively if you feel like getting pampered, then once again Sirmione is the place for you, home to natural hot springs, why not treat yourself while on holiday to a dunk in these healing waters.
One thing I would recommend when visiting Sirmione is to take a trip to the Roman ruins which sit on the tip of the peninsula. These can either be reached by a short walk, or by the local car train. The ruins themselves are fantastic, beautifully preserved, and fascinating to see. The artefacts that were recovered on the site can also be found displayed in a small building near the entrance with information about each one in English.
The Gardone Riviera is a beautiful small town situated on the south western shore of Lake Garda. It takes approximately one hour to reach by slow boat from Garda. The thing you are most likely to notice when you pull into the harbour is the prominent and beautiful building that holds the Grand Hotel Gardone, the first hotel to be built in Gardone, welcoming guests from 1884.
Gardone is also home to a fantastic botanical garden known as Heller botanical gardens. The gardens were created by Arthur Hruska in 1910 and in these gardens you will find species such as Magnolia, Tibetan Primroses, as well as several types of ferns and Irises. The garden is full of exotic plants and has landscaping in styles from Japan as well as Italy. The gardens are now owned by the Andre Heller foundation who have installed a number of sculptures for the public to enjoy. Other places of interest in Gardone include Il Vittoriale Degli Italiani, the former home of Gabriele D’annunzio, and a house full of eccentricities and fascinating artefacts.
Lake Garda has so much to offer and each town has its own unique style, history and attractions. Using the ferry system is a great way to explore these places while at the same time being able to see them from a different perspective as you cruise in to their harbours and enjoy their beautiful architecture. So sit back, relax and enjoy three incredible towns!
Words by Brittany Miller, Resort Representative in Garda.