Garda: the lake in one city
Since you are reading this article it is probably because you are looking for some suggestions on what to see in Garda. You may be short on time and can only choose a few places. Well, I have selected for you the main five things to see in Garda, the city that takes the name of our wonderful lake.
Among the towns of the central-northern and southern part of the lake, you can find Garda, a small town of 5,000 inhabitants. The first question I ask you is: do you know what Garda means? The toponym derives from the Lombard “guard” and indicates an elevated place for military observations. This is absolutely linked to the construction of the fortress on the Rocca during the barbarian invasions.
As a fundamental tourist and economic center on the Lake, Garda also stands out for an important record. In fact, not many know that here is the largest Venetian and standing rowing school in Italy. An association is responsible for training athletes who compete in regattas. Their goal is to raise the Garda pride of rowing and why not, maybe even win the coveted prize: the wooden statue of the Madonna.
Do you know what else this place to visit on Lake Garda is known for? I’ll tell you right now…
This town jewel has a significant artistic and cultural heritage: it hosts numerous villas and ancient buildings. Among all, Villa Carlotti Canossa stands out. It is curious to know that it originally belonged to the Carlotti family, but without any heirs, in 1920 it passed to the Marquises of Canossa. You can admire it from the outside in all its majesty, together with its English garden that overlooks the lake.
Furthermore, Garda is the favorite place for visitors to discover the vast food and wine heritage of the area. Entering from the Clock Tower, the main entrance to the ancient village, you can already see a large number of bars and restaurants. Traditional first and second courses, exquisite desserts and local wines are ready to pamper your palate. What a better way to taste them than by admiring the breathtaking sunset overlooking the lake?
START YOUR JOURNEY TO DISCOVER THE FIVE THINGS TO SEE IN GARDA
After this brief introduction, you are ready to discover the jewels that this country offers. So, let’s start our journey.
1. The Rocca di Garda
Our first stop is the Rocca, a mountainous relief overlooking the lake. On the border between Bardolino and Garda, the castle built here was a military bulwark of great strategic importance. Inside it contained centuries of history. In particular, at the end of the 12th century it was ceded by Henry VI to the city of Verona. The reasons why it was demolished in the 13th century are still unknown.
You can reach the Rocca through a somewhat impervious path inside the woods. On the way you will see the Hermitage of the Camaldolesi, where the monastic community will welcome you. Peace, silence and tranquility will surround you with a relaxing atmosphere. But be careful not to relax too much: the uphill path continues. Don’t worry, all the effort will then be rewarded by the spectacular view that will open up to your eyes once you reach the viewpoint.
Before continuing our journey and getting to know the other things to see in Garda, you need to know one last thing. La Rocca hosts the typical Mediterranean vegetation, but also shrubs in the undergrowth such as broom and viburnum and various animal species. Olive groves and vineyards, on the other hand, protrude near the lake.
Read on to discover other beautiful places to visit on Lake Garda in this magnificent area.
2. The Bardolino-Garda lakefront and the Port of Garda
But how can you get to Garda? As well as by bus, by ferry and by car, Garda can be easily reached on foot or by bike if you are in neighboring countries. The suggestive lakefront that leads from the town of Bardolino to Garda is very popular and visited. A tree-lined avenue and an asphalted road will show you the way to approach the town of Garda. In these 4 km you will be accompanied by the sound of the waves and the rustle of the leaves.
If you need a break, several cafes and benches are ready to welcome you along the way. In fact, although the path is flat you may need a moment to rest. Then stop to observe the inhabitants of the lake’s waters: swans, ducks and various bird species.
The goal of the peaceful walk may be to reach the port of Garda, from which you can admire the pretty village. The moored boats of the fishermen frame this characteristic port, while the flower beds embellish it more and more.
3. Punta San Vigilio and the Baia delle Sirene (Bay of Mermaids)
The third stop I suggest you is at the fascinating peninsula of Punta San Vigilio, reachable also on foot from the city of Garda. It is absolutely at the top of the list of the five things to see in Garda, since it is one of the most visited places on the lake. Over the years it has been the destination of prominent personalities such as Winston Churchill and the actor Laurence Olivier. No wonder since Punta San Vigilio always gives unique emotions and sunsets to anyone who visits it. Impossible not to be fascinated by the sight of the crystal-clear waters of the peninsula that blend with the orange of the sky.
In addition to the spectacular panorama, what does characterize this little jewel on Lake Garda? First of all, Villa Guarienti, which directly overlooks the water. Its simple but elegant architecture recalls the period in which it was built, 1500. The garden is truly magnificent, with elements of the late Renaissance and humanistic culture, such as the rotunda surrounded by tall cypresses and Roman busts. In conclusion the ancient church and the marina are two other fundamental parts of the villa.
In the port of Punta San Vigilio there is a beautiful inn where you can drink and eat something. A suggestive atmosphere will surround you during your stay. Follow the sign on the plaque at the entrance that invites you to leave the worries of the city outside. You will thus be able to appreciate the view: the lake, the mountains, the Rocca di Manerba and the Gulf of Salò.
If what you want is to enjoy a day of total wellness in this place to visit on Lake Garda, do not miss the next lines.
If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy a full-relax day on the beach, you will find the solution right around the corner. The Baia delle Sirene, a private beach with numerous services is ready to welcome you. The crystal-clear waters of this magical place will leave you breathless, together with the 30,000 square meters of the green park where you will relax quietly.
4. Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills)
Are you looking for some adventure? A walk following the hiking itinerary in the Valle dei Mulini can satisfy your sporty spirit. Before proceeding, you should know that the name can be a bit misleading. In fact, along the way you will find only one single water mill wheel.
The name derives from the fact that carts loaded with cereals used to pass along those paths and the houses you will see were mills.
Moreover, once the ancient water route was located there. It is now surrounded by vineyards, groves, olive groves, green spaces and gurgling streams of water. You can choose between two possible routes: the Valle dei Mulini of Costermano and the one of Garda, called “Outdoor gym”.
Once your trekking route is over, there are two trattorias surrounded by nature ready to host you. Otherwise, if you prefer to continue your day in the nature, there are several picnic areas along the way.
To read about other places to visit on Lake Garda with beautiful still active mills, look for our article “Borghetto sul Mincio” in the related.
5. The Church of Santa Maria Assunta and its cloister
Here we are at the last of the five things to see in Garda. At the foot of the fortress, in the ancient village, stands the majestic parish church of Santa Maria Assunta. If the first stone had been laid in the 16th century, we must wait until the 18th century to see the work completed.
The church overlooks the small square shaded by large plane trees and time seems to slow down in the shade of their branches.
The facade and the bell tower are the result of a recent restoration, while the central stained-glass window depicting the Assumption is a contemporary work. Inside, the church houses several altars, including the one dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua and several paintings, including that of the Assumption of Mary.
The cloister opens to the right of the church and buildings from different eras overlook it. If you are curious, you can search for a fragment of an early Christian ciborium in this courtyard. It represents wheat, grapes and the peacock. They mean respectively Eucharistic bread and wine and spiritual rebirth.
Moving under the arcades, you will surely notice an inscription that refers to the year in which the Brescia Hospital renounced the rights on the territory’s revenues. It was precisely because of the belonging to the hospital that the church was condemned to poverty. This led to the postponement of the works for over 2 centuries.
The sacred atmosphere of the church is suspended among time giving unique emotionsyou’re your moments of meditation.
In addition to the five things to see in Garda, I would like to tell you which the various annual events are.
First of all, those related to sport.
The Regata delle Bisse takes place between June and August each year. Whoever wins gets “the lake flag” as a trophy. In mid-August, on the occasion of the patronal feast, the Palio dell’Assunta is held. The difference lies in the type of boat used: here the athletes use fiberglass boats, whose rowing is four. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the prize is the wooden statue of the virgin. Also, on this occasion, the similar Palio delle Contrade takes place.
We all know that Italy is the country of good food and those who visit these areas will not be disappointed. Culinary tourism should be one of the main requirements in choosing your places to visit on Lake Garda, right? If you decide to visit Garda, here are some events that you cannot miss.
If you are a beer lover, the first week of September is held the Craft Beer Festival, or Brewery Festival and street food. On the Regina Adelaide lakeside, a series of vans offer you real street food that you can accompany with exquisite craft beers.
On the other hand, for the sweet tooth persons, the Chocolate Festival takes place in the first days of October. While at the end of June Garda hosts La Sardellata, where you can taste exquisite gastronomic specialties based on lake fish.
Furthermore, in mid-September the lakefront hosts a colorful market for the Garda Fantasy and Comics event. Cosplayers, manga, gadgets, tarot reading, owl trainers, are just some of the elements that enrich the location. Instead, the Festa delle Fate celebrets the summer solstice. Particularly interesting is the ritual of the elven marriage and the lighting of the Sacred Fire. You can write your wish on a piece of paper and then the staff will pour it into the brazier.
As you can see, Garda is full of events that involve locals and visitors in every period of the year. Other special occasions for the town are also the various weekly, antiques and Christmas markets, the Riviera Laurence and Leigh Award and the International Punto Meeting. The latter is a historic gathering at the beginning of summer that assembles enthusiasts of the FIAT sedan from all over Europe.
Well, now this place has no more secrets for you. Now you know how to best organize your visit to Garda.
You can find further great ideas on different places to visit on Lake Garda by reading the other related articles!