The largest lake in Italy, at over 50 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide, Lake Garda is located in the north of Italy between Milan and Venice. The beautiful blue lake has stunning natural scenery, surrounded by pine trees and olive groves. With the protection of mountains in the north and hills to the south, Lake Garda has a lovely mild Mediterranean climate which makes it a great wine growing region. The long shoreline of the lake is dotted with historic towns as well as luxury villas belonging to the rich and famous, including Hollywood actor George Clooney.
The towns around the shore of Lake Garda have a rich history that you can enjoy exploring. A pretty medieval castle greets visitors as they cross the bridge to enter the town of Sirmione. If you want to climb to the top, you will be rewarded with great views of the lake. There are also the ruins of a Roman villa, Grotte di Catullo, and quaint, narrow streets to wander around in the town centre. Another medieval castle looks down on the town of Arco, while in Gargnano you will find Palazzo Bettoni. Built in the late 18th century, this impressive villa shows how Lake Garda was, and remains, a popular place for the rich to live. Even further back, examples of cave art found around Lake Garda which date back to Bronze age can be found in the museum at the castle in Torri del Benaco. There are hotels in the towns all around Lake Garda, so you are sure to find something of historical interest nearby.
It is no surprise that there is a great choice of water based activities in Lake Garda. Windsurfing is popular in the town of Torbole, which hosts windsurfing competitions, while if you like to sail Riva del Garda is a popular starting point. A choice of different types of boat are available to rent and there are sailing schools, if you are new to sailing but would like to learn. Fishing is also popular, and a tourist fishing licence is available for a fee. If you would like to enjoy the lake in a leisurely manner, you could rent a motor boat or just choose to travel on one of the ferries which travel between towns on the lake. This is a good option to avoid the crowds, particularly in the height of summer, and you get to enjoy the scenery. It is certainly a lovely way to get back to your hotel at the end of the day.
Visitors to Lake Garda may go for the stunning scenery and history, but with an excellent choice of shops you may find it difficult to return home empty handed or with money to spare. The towns around the lake have designer shops and small independent boutiques, together with traditional weekly markets, while around the area there are shopping outlets and shopping centres. If you like to buy tasty treats to take home, the olive museum in Cisano offers a history of olive oil production with oils and other products to taste and buy in the shop. The Zeni Winery and Wine Museum in Bardolino gives a tutored wine tasting, along with food, and you can then buy the wines you like to take home. With so much to offer, Lake Garda is a popular destination for Italian and international tourists and the towns on the lake have a good choice of hotels and other accommodation to choose from.
Lake Garda has five main islands and the largest, Isola del Garda, is home to the Borghese Cavazza family. During the summer you can take a boat ride to the island for a guided tour of the beautiful house and gardens and to learn about the history of the island before it was owned by the family. If you enjoy the gardens at Isola del Garda, pay a visit to the Hruska Botanical Garden in Gardone Riviera which has sculptures and waterfalls among the planting. Also in Gardone Riviera, visit the Art Deco villa which belonged to the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. The house and garden are both quirky in design. There will not be many people who chose a coffin shaped bed, or to put a ship in their garden! If you like the stunning villas in Lake Garda, many of these are now luxury hotels so you do have the chance to stay in one. But whatever your budget, there are hotels available to suit your needs.