Desenzano del Garda: between golden beaches and history

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see. Between walks in the historic center and magnificent activities in the surroundings.

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see

In Desenzano del Garda, history comes alive wherever you turn. Within the city, you will find numerous testimonies. In this article, we will talk about things to do and see in Desenzano del Garda.

Is it worth visiting Desenzano del Garda? I’ll let you decide! Take a stroll in the historic center, visit the Roman villa, and do activities like a day at the beach, or an olive oil tasting. Desenzano has a lot of things to offer. Let’s discover them!

Credits: silviarita

How to reach Desenzano del Garda

  • By train. Desenzano del Garda train station is on the Milan-Venice railway line. The station is just a 15-minute walk from the town center.
  • By car. Along the A4 highway, there’s an exit named “Desenzano
  • By bus. The line number LN0026 of the company ARRIVA is the one that goes through Desenzano. It is the bus that connects Desenzano del Garda to Verona and Brescia.

To view the schedules in PDF and discover how to move around Lake Garda by bus, check out our detailed article.

Moreover, in the city of Desenzano del Garda, you can find some free parking lots:

  • Via Caporali. At an 11-minute walk from the old port, you’ll find this unpaved parking area. A little further, turning onto Via Cattaneo, you’ll discover another small parking lot.
  • Via Dolarici. Continuing straight on Via Cattaneo and crossing the street, on the left, you’ll find this parking lot. It is a 20-minute walk from the old port.
  • Piazzale Fleming. Very close and convenient for the historic center, it’s located 10 minutes from the old port.
  • Via San Benedetto. Along this street, you can find several small free parking lots. The closest one to the center is a 15-minute walk from the old port.

Things to see in Desenzano del Garda:

1. The castle
2. The lighthouse and picturesque marina
3. The Roman Villa

Things to do in Desenzano del Garda:

1. Spend a day at the beach
2. Enjoy an olive oil tasting
3. Do a little shopping


Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see
Credits: s_marelli

Things to see in Desenzano del Garda

1. The Castle 

The imposing Castle of Desenzano offers you a breathtaking view. You will see that the whole town will be at your feet, with the silhouettes of the mountains standing out against the blue of Lake Garda.

The Castle of Desenzano has a different history from those located in other places to visit on Lake Garda.

The castle never became a military fortress, hosting only a few garrisons over time. Its important role was instead to offer shelter to the people of the town in case of danger.

Although the construction of the building dates back to 1400, the structure has its roots in what was once a Roman castrum. Built in stone, it also houses a small amphitheater, where nowadays performances and evening events are organized in an elegant atmosphere with dimmed lights. Throughout the year, it hosts various temporary exhibitions; I recommend checking the schedule for upcoming events.

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see

2. The lighthouse and the picturesque marina

The lighthouse of Desenzano, or rather ‘il fanale‘ as it was nicknamed at the time, began operating as far back as 1895. As you make your way toward the pier, near the port, a narrow lane flanked on the left by a small stone cliff will lead you here.

History resonates in the port, with remnants of its maritime heritage visible in the architecture and stories shared by locals. The area of the old port, with its charming bars and shops, invites visitors to savor local flavors and enjoy breathtaking views.

A perfect spot for a drink at the bar, followed by a sunset stroll to the lighthouse.

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see

3. The Roman Villa

Among the things to do and see in Desenzano, the Villa Romana is certainly the most historically fascinating. Away from the crowds, nestled in the streets hidden behind the center, stands the most significant testament to a Roman villa in Northern Italy amid lush greenery.

Today, the villa is an open-air museum for those wishing to dive into the past. The structure originally faced directly onto the lake, near the strategic Via Gallica, connecting Brescia to Verona.

What makes this Roman villa so special? Read below, and you’ll understand why it, too, is a must-visit place on Lake Garda.

The magnificent mosaics still visible on the floors of the villa are what truly make it special, along with all the artifacts preserved in the antiquarium. Among statues of Dionysus and Hercules, ceramics, utensils, and ancient glassware, the past magically comes back to life. Exotic plants, palms, and other shrubs frame the ancient remains. Interestingly, these were only unearthed 100 years ago!

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see

Things to do in Desenzano del Garda

1. Spend a day at the beach

  • The most beloved beach by locals and tourists is Lido Desenzanino, a free beach with the option to rent sunbeds and umbrellas. Perfect option if you’re looking for things to do in Desenzano del Garda for families.
  • From the center, Spiaggia Feltrinelli is also quickly reachable. It’s a free beach and an excellent starting point to rent canoes and pedal boats to explore the lake.
  • If you prefer to take a stroll instead of staying in one place, opt for a beautiful lakeside walk towards Rivoltella! Along the way, there are several free gravel beaches where you can stop for a swim in the coves or sunbathe.
  • Once you reach Rivoltella, there are two well-equipped beaches where you can have all the comforts and spend a relaxing day by the beach. If you’re looking for Desenzano del Garda nightlife, you’ll find it here! The kiosk at Spiaggia d’Oro turns into a disco pub after a certain hour. While at Spiaggia Rivoltella, summer evenings feature dance nights with Latin American music, ballroom dance, live music, and themed parties.

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see
Frantoio Montecroce

2. Enjoy an olive oil tasting

Did you know that in Desenzano, you can savor one of the best internationally acclaimed extra virgin olive oils? The Garda Bresciano D.O.P oil produced at Frantoio Montecroce has been awarded as the best among more than 200 participants.

Frantoio Montecroce is nestled amidst the lush vegetation of Monte Croce Hill. As soon as the doors open, the authenticity of simple things is immediately felt. From the surrounding olive groves, they create delicate, mild oils to the more robust ones. Having the opportunity to taste a high-quality, artisanally produced, and completely natural oil doesn’t happen every day. That’s why, if you’re here, it’s one of the things to do and see in Desenzano del Garda.

Frantoio Montecroce is always open to the public, add it to your list of things to do and see in Desenzano del Garda. Let yourself be enchanted by the flavors of Garda D.O.P. oil and balsamic vinegar from Modena.

3. Do a little shopping

Desenzano del Garda offers not only breathtaking views but also a delightful shopping experience. The city centre, Le Vele, and Leone Shopping Centre beckon visitors with a diverse array of shops, boutiques, and more. What shops are in Desenzano?

  • City Centre. Desenzano’s historic city centre is a charming labyrinth of narrow streets, lined with quaint shops and boutiques. Fashion enthusiasts can explore local clothing stores, featuring the latest trends and unique pieces. From chic British fashion to handmade accessories, the city centre is a haven for those seeking one-of-a-kind finds.
  • Le Vele. This modern shopping centre boasts a mix of renowned international brands and local gems.
  • Leone Shopping Centre. This expansive mall features a plethora of stores catering to various tastes. From high-end fashion outlets to electronics and lifestyle stores, Leone has it all. Take a break from shopping at the food court, offering a variety of cuisines to satisfy your cravings.

Desenzano del Garda: things to do and see
Credits: Stefano Marelli


But beyond these things to do and see in Desenzano, the events organized by the municipality are also worth considering when planning your visit:

  • Sagra di San Biase. A celebration festival of the patron saint of Rivoltella, a district of Desenzano. Music and gastronomic stands will liven up the cold winter days.
  • Festa di Santa Maria Maddalena. Held towards the end of July, this festival includes a series of concerts, dinners, activities organized by volunteers, and a charity fishing event.
  • Open-Air Cinema. At the Castle of Desenzano, several open-air cinema nights are organised during the hot season.
  • Fireworks Show. On August 15th, typically, a grand fireworks display is organized for Ferragosto.
  • Autumn Chestnut Festival. In November, in Piazza Matteotti, you can enjoy a snack in good company, accompanied by warm mulled wine.

But there is an event that characterizes this magnificent town. Tourists from all over Italy and around the world come to Desenzano precisely for this reason!

Desenzano del Garda: Cose da fare e vedere - frecce tricolore
Credits: Berend Verheijen

Lake Garda Air Show: The magnificent aerobatic display by the Frecce Tricolori. The azure sky over the lake is painted with the colors of the Italian flag – you’ll be left in awe! For more information on the schedule, read our article here.

With that, we’ve reached the end of this article about the things to do and see in Desenzano del Garda. I hope I’ve been helpful, and happy travels!


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