Lake Garda, Italy: Where to Stay, How to Get Around, and More

Lago di Garda in Italy
Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake—and one of the most beautiful
Lago di Garda in Italy

Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake—and one of the most beautiful

Lake Garda isn’t just one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy, boasting picturesque towns, a rich history, and striking beauty; it’s also Italy’s largest lake. Spread across three regions (Lombardy in the west, Veneto in the east and Trentino-Alto Adige in the north), Lake Garda’s sheer size means figuring out where to stay, and how to get around, can be a little confusing!

We’re here to help. Read on for our insider’s tips and tricks to Lake Garda, including which towns to visit, how to use public transport to get around Lake Garda, and where to stay!

Towns around Lake Garda

Map of Lake Garda

Map of Lake Garda

At about 30 miles long (50km) and 10 miles wide (17km), Lake Garda covers an area of 100 miles (158km). It’s dotted with more than 20 charming towns, from Riva del Garda in the north to Peschiera in the south.

While some towns such as Sirmione are especially renowned, Lake Garda also offers many off-the-beaten path gems, such as Torri del Benaco (Veneto region) and Nago-Torbole (Trentino-Alto Adige region).

Figuring out what to add to your itinerary? Here are a few of our favorite towns around Lake Garda.

Torri del Benaco

One of the lake’s smaller towns, picturesque, medieval Torri del Benaco has a lovely harbor filled with colorful fishing boats, the imposing Castello Scaligero, and a lakeside promenade lined with restaurants.

Even in summer, this town remains relatively calm and makes for an idyllic place to relax.

Lago di Garda

Boats in the harbor at Torri del Benaco. Photo by Amanda Ruggeri

Nago-Torbole

Nago-Torbole actually includes two different towns—both strikingly different, yet fascinating. While Torbole lies along the lake, and is extremely popular with windsurfers and sailors, Nago, on the slopes of a mountain, boasts breathtaking views. Goethe was so impressed by Torbole that he described it as a “marvel of nature, an enchanting place.”

Nearby is the Monte Baldo park, known as the “Garden of Europe,” thanks to its variety of flora and fauna.

Bardolino

The mild climate makes Bardolino ideal for vineyards—so it’s no surprise that its hilly (and picturesque) landscape produces the famous Bardolino red wine. Wine aside, don’t miss the Romanesque church of San Severo, with its traces of original frescoes, and, nearby, the 9th-century church of San Zeno.

Limone sul Garda

Limone sul Garda

Lovely Limone sul Garda. Photo by Amanda Ruggeri

A popular destination that’s retained its small-town charm, Limone sul Garda, lying at the foot of the steep Dosso di Roveri mountain, is known for its lemon groves (although its name isn’t derived from lemons, but rather the Latin word limes, which means “border”). A must-visit is the 18th-century Castel lemon house; acquired by the city in 1995, it houses a museum and an educational center. Also worth a visit: The San Pietro church, with beautiful 13th- and 14th-century frescoes.

Salò

Salo, Lake Garda

The harbor at Salo. Photo by Amanda Ruggeri

Salò, located on the foot of the San Bartolomeo mountain, is the largest city on the western part of the lake. And its lakeside promenade is the lake’s longest. Don’t miss the Palazzo of the Magnifica Patria, built in 1524 and  rebuilt after the 1901 earthquake, and the Cathedral, which was commissioned in the 15th century.

Malcesine

 

Malcesine, an impressive town on Lake Garda. Photo by S. Longstone (Wikicommons)

With Monte Baldo as its backdrop, Malcesine is stunning—and impressive. Most visitors come here for the striking Castello Scaligero and Palazzo dei Capitani, but many visitors also come to take the cable car to Monte Baldo for breathtaking, 360-degree views of Lake Garda.

Sirmione

Sirmione

Sirmione’s Scaligero castle

Famous (and touristy) Sirmione sits on a peninsula stretching into the lake. It’s also home to the Grotte di Catullo (the ruins of a vast Roman villa), the imposing Scaligero Castle, and its thermal baths. Keep in mind that in summer, Sirmione swarms with visitors; to best enjoy this charming town, try to visit in the off-season.

Getting to (and around) Lake Garda

By air 

Lake Garda is situated near several major airports, making it easily accessible. Verona-Villafranca airport, the closest, is only 9 miles (15km) away, while Brescia-Montichiari is 18 miles (30km). Another option is flying into Milan (both Linate and Malpensa airports), about 60 miles (100km) away. From the airports, you can take a car, train, or bus to Lake Garda’s towns (read on for more information about public transport at Lake Garda!).

By train

Desenzano, is only 20 minutes by train from Veronoa. Photo by RicciSpeziari (Wikicommons)

Two towns on Lake Garda can be reached by train from Verona: Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano. Both are on the southern part of the lake. It takes 15 minutes to get from Verona’s Porta Nuova station to Peschiera del Garda, or 20 minutes to Desenzano. Trains to both towns run almost hourly.

Traveling to Riva del Garda, on the northern part of the lake? From either Verona or Milan, take a train to Rovereto (about 40 minutes to an hour), then a bus to Riva del Garda.

 

By bus

If you’re traveling to the eastern side of Lake Garda, you can take buses from Verona to Riva del Garda, including stops in Lasize, Bardolino, Garda, and Torre del Benaco, among other towns. The full bus schedule is here.

If you are going to the western side, your best bet is to take the train from Verona to Desenzano; from there, buses connect Desenzano with towns all the way to Riva del Garda, in the north. From Desenzano’s train station, you can also take the bus to Sirmione, which takes about 30 minutes. Note: Buses tend to be more frequent in the summer, which is the region’s high season.

Sirmione, a popular destination on Lake Garda

By ferry
Another convenient mode of transport is the ferry. Lake Garda’s options range from standard to fast ferries; there are also ferry services for cars between Maderno and Torri del Benaco, and in summer, also between Limone and Malcesine. The timetables can be downloaded here for the various times of the year, and you can find the details for ferry prices here.

Where to stay in Lake Garda

While there are plenty of accommodation options around Lake Garda, we recommend staying in an agriturismo, where you can combine having an “authentic” experience of the area with enjoying the beautiful outdoors. (Here’s everything you need to know about staying in an agriturismo in Italy!). This website has a listing of farmhouses offering a wide range of facilities.

Another popular option is camping. These are not your average campsites!  Many boast excellent facilities, such as swimming pools, kids’ clubs and even an on-site restaurant. There are campsites all around the lake; at this website, you can search for them by town.

Have you been to Lake Garda?  What were your favorite towns and sights? Let us know in the comments!

17 Comments

  • Alberto says:

    Well written, all the these town are caractheristic. Also Lazise in the east coast worth a visit. I agree if you visit Malcesine go to Monte Baldo the view is incredible.

  • Really it’s most beautiful place. I like this.

  • vivi mcdonnell says:

    How do i get from Milan to Sirmione in lake garda?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Ciao! You can take the train from Milan to the Desenzano station. From there, buses are available every 30 minutes to Sirmione and the ride should take approximately 20 minutes. Let us know if you have any questions 🙂

  • Christy chubb says:

    Help!
    We have our visa appointment tomorrow and I didn’t realise we had to have all our accommodation booked!

    We arrive in Rome on Sat 31 and need to be in France by 6th June!
    We are having a meeting in Venice on the 3rd, but other than that we are flexible.
    We really would like to see Rome, Venice, Positano and Tuscany.
    We want traditional farm/low key rural accommodation if possible.
    We would most like to not have to stay in too many different places if possible, but to rather travel and come back to our accommodation at night.
    While we would like to see some of the standard must see tourist sites, we would really like to experience vineyards and the essence of Italy.
    We are on a tight budget, and have seen your recommendation of Monestery and farm stays.

    I hope you are able to help at such short notice!

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Ciao Christy, apologizes for the delayed response! We hope your visa appointment went smoothly. We would suggest booking various b&Bs and agriturismi (farm stays) in the various cities you’d like to visit. We think it may be difficult to do day trips to Venice, Positano and Tuscany from Rome, so you may want to consider choosing one or two destinations for your week-long vacation (like Rome and Venice) and doing day trips nearby. Do let us know if you have any questions!

  • Jan says:

    We plan to come to Italy for 6 or 8 weeks (Feb. and Mar. of ’15) and like to rent places for 2 weeks to get to know an area then move on. We travel primarily by train or ferry or bus and would like an idea of the weather at Lake Garda in Feb. and what would be a good base town to explore the area. Thanks so much!

  • Barbara says:

    Best way to get from Bergamo airport to Garda in April 2015

  • You have shared really useful info in this article – ” Lake Garda, Italy: Where to Stay, How to Get Around, and More “. with necessary details.
    Tons of thanks to this Author.
    Great Job

  • Maya Nagaoka says:

    Hello,
    We are visiting Northern Italy in the early June. After reading your articles, I am looking for a place in farm through the site you mentioned (Agriturismo). But it is difficult to tell whether we are okay without a car. Do you know farms that we can get around easily without a car? I appreciate for your help!

    Maya

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Virtually all agriturismi in Italy are accessible by car, as this is the only way for Italians and locals to get to them as well. The hardest part is often finding the road that leads to them, as there is often poor signage or none at all. However, the owners or managers will frequently offer an easy-to-find meeting point. You call or text them when you’re there, they’ll drive up and have you follow them to the destination. I wouldn’t worry about finding a place that’s hard to travel to by car… unless you’re booking on an island! 😉

  • Edd says:

    It is an amazing place, quite busy and full of tourists but that is part of the fun! We had a great time just walking around and taking in the views! Sirimone is particular is beautiful and would really recommend taking a boat trip. We made a short travel video of our time, check it out on YouTube;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2epEzTEZE8

    Thanks Edd

  • Den says:

    Garda town is beautiful, with numerous narrow side streets, hiding little gems of places to eat & drink. Fabulous lakeside promenade makes a great place to sit, chill and watch the world drift by.
    Tremendous….

  • Anna says:

    Where is the best place to stay for walking? Circular day and half day routes. We are experienced hikers so we don’t need to hug the lakeside. We won’t have a car so meed to be able to get straight onto paths from where we are staying. Are the paths well marked?

    Thank you.

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