The villages that overlook the shores of Lake Garda, enchanting for their beauty, each with historical-architectural characteristics, present an urban layout of ancient origin which very often recalls the classic medieval villages.
Starting our journey from the Venetian shore of the lake, we find Peschiera del Garda in the southern part, at the point where the lake waters flow into the Mincio river. The historic center of the country, bordered by canals, is unique for its fortified structure and Venetian walls declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.Also noteworthy is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Frassino, where the religious, historical and artistic aspects are combined in a magnificent combination.
Going north, we proceed towards Lazise a village rich in history as the remains of the city walls testify, the Scaliger Castle, the bell tower and the splendid building of the Venetian Customs House. The central square with its checkerboard pavement, the alleys and the marina make Lazise a very suggestive destination.
The splendid town of Bardolino deserves special mention, the historic center of which preserves its medieval structure with streets perpendicular to the lake shore. The town is particularly known for the production of “Bardolino” wine which has guaranteed a great reputation for the area, so much so that the Wine Museum was established in the early nineties. There are many annual events related to wine: the Chiaretto Festival (May), the Grape Festival (October) and the Novello Festival (November).
Further north we reach Garda, whose name derives from the ancient Lombard “guard”, “fortress” which alludes to the defensive purpose that the country had during the barbarian invasions. A holiday resort for the nobles of the past, it boasts a rich historical heritage of villas, palaces and churches. Behind the historic center on the Rocca di Garda, the hill that rises above the town, there is the abbey dedicated to San Colombano. Garda is known for hosting important events: such as the Bisse Regatta, traditional boats for Venetian rowing.
The next location, Torri del Benaco, deserves a stop for the beauty of its historic center with an enchanting little port and medieval walls as well as a valuable historic lemon house.
Continuing we find Malcesine, awarded the Orange Flag, an award given by the Italian Touring Club to all those Italian municipalities that stand out for the quality of the tourist offer. Town that develops at the foot of Monte Baldo reached by cable car overlooking the lake.
The country boasts an intense oil activity which constitutes the nerve center of the local economy and the spearhead in the territorial culinary sector. There are also numerous sports activities that can be practiced in Malcesine so that they make it a destination of great interest for sailing, hiking, paragliding and cyclists.
After passing the beautiful Malcesine, you enter the Trentino area and reach Riva del Garda, the pearl of Lake Garda, in the far north. A town rich in history enclosed in a territory with strong contrasts, with Mediterranean vegetation that grows vigorously at the foot of rocky walls. It fascinates with architectural works, evidence of ancient history and a past rich in culture, such as the Rocca, the Apponale Tower, Palazzo Pretorio and the hydroelectric power station designed by D’Annunzio’s architect, Giancarlo Maroni, former architect of the Vittoriale degli Italiani. A town that puts sport at the center of everything: sailing and windsurfing, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, climbing, tennis and rowing. Furthermore, the MusicaRiva Festival is the most important music festival in the country.
Continuing south, on the Brescia side of the lake, we meet the enchanting town of Limone sul Garda, an ancient village that has preserved the typical atmosphere of a fishing village. The characteristic “lemon houses”, already described by the poet Goethe in his “Journey to Italy”, constitute a very important architectural element. The citrus plants, grown on terraces above the town, during the long flowering season perfume the air together with the intense aromas of honeysuckle, pythosphorus and jasmine, while colorful Bougainvillea waterfalls cheer up the facades of the houses with their intense color.
Halfway on the Brescia side Gardone Riviera, a pretty town full of history deservedly occupies a place on the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The symbol of the town is the Vittoriale degli Italiani, a monumental complex covering an area of almost ten hectares that collects streets, palaces, squares, an open-air theater, streams of water and gardens, wanted by the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio to celebrate his life. Elegant buildings and monuments of great value, including Villa Alba, a place of art and culture, hosts exhibitions, art exhibitions and cultural events of all kinds.
Salò is one of the most evocative towns on the western shore of Lake Garda. Located in the center of a large gulf at the foot of Mount S. Bartolomeo, it is a town full of history, architecture and art. The historic center overlooking the shores of the lake has a splendid promenade and a dense network of streets, alleys and squares that wind through elegant period buildings. To admire The clock tower and the Palazzo del Podestà. In the cultural field, the International Violinistic Festival “Gasparo da Salò” is interesting, in which the cultural project “Il Filo di Arianna: Art as cultural identity” came to life with the aim, as the name says, to promote art in its multiple forms.
On the southern shores of the lake, Desenzano is the most populated of the lake towns. This charming town has an artistic, historical and archaeological heritage that has its roots in Roman times. The historic center develops around Piazza Malvezzi and the Porto Vecchio. Do not miss the archaeological area, which houses the remains of a grandiose Roman villa with splendid mosaic floors and the Civic Archaeological Museum, at the former Carmelite monastery where you can see many of the prehistoric finds discovered in the area. Dominating the village, the Castle of Desenzano stands on the highest hill, built in the early Middle Ages, recently recovered and from which you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lake Garda.
Last, but not least, on the peninsula that divides the banks, we find “the green Sirmione” which smiles in the shiny lake “. This is how the poet Giosuè Carducci defined it in his “Odi barbare”. The imposing Scaliger Castle is an entrance to the historic center, one of the rare examples of lake fortification, as well as one of the most complete and best preserved castles in Italy. Sirmione owes its fame more to the thermal baths, known for the healing properties of its thermal water and to the Grotte di Catullo, an archaeological complex, considered the most important example of a Roman villa present on the territory of northern Italy. The title to Catullo is of medieval origin, but the hypothesis of the poet’s real residence has never been verified. Inside the park, the Archaeological Museum has recently been opened, which houses not only the remains of the alleged Catullian villa, but also those of other villas scattered throughout the lake area.
In addition to the towns mentioned, you can meet smaller villages along the way, but no less enchanting and equally suggestive both from a landscape and historical point of view.