Gardone Riviera: things to see and do

A charming town located on the west shore of Lake Garda. Here nature dominates, so much so that the village is considered a botanical garden. But before telling you the things to do and see in Gardone Riviera, I will start with some useful information!

It is on the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy along with Tremosine and are the only municipalities in Garda Lake to boast of this recognition. Gardone is an excellent starting point for many hiking trails or pleasant lakeside walks. Thanks to its location in the mountains, overlooking the lake.

In this article we will discover what, in my opinion, are the destinations that can not miss in your trip to this place to visit on Lake Garda.

First of all it is interesting to discover the history of this wonderful location. Gardone is considered, apart from being one of the best known, also the first holiday destination in order of time. In fact, thanks to the opening in 1879 by Luigi Wimmer of the “Pizzocolo”, a small pension at the time, the number of tourists began to grow. It is no coincidence that this over time has become the Grand Hotel of Gardone.

The Austrian Wimmer had a very important role for the city, because after being in love with him himself, he introduced her to his compatriots. For this he was also elected mayor of the city in 1881 until his death two years later. This important figure is considered a true pioneer of Garda tourism.

However, the real development is after the Unification of Italy, when in the wake of the success of the hotel in Wimmer, began to spread hotels, inns and pensions. The area continued to be frequented by many Germans and Austrians who built sumptuous houses that today enrich the center.

The First World War almost stopped the foreign interest in Gardone and the consequent growth, but, thanks to the intervention of Gabriele d’Annunzio, the fate of the city changed again.

Vittoriale degli italiani
Credits: Maria Bosetti – Maria.santiago18 (IG)


1. Il Vittoriale degli Italiani
2. Lakeside promenade of Annunzio
3. The André Heller Botanical Garden


1. Spend a day at the beach
2. Take a boat trip to Garda Island
3. Attend a show at the Vittoriale amphitheatre

When we come to talk about the vate, we must start with our list of the three things to see in Gardone. This place to visit on Lake Garda boasts a unique jewel, but I do not want to anticipate anything!

Gardone Riviera: things to see and do
Credits: Stefan Schweihofer

1. Vittoriale degli Italiani

A must and the first of the three things to see in Gardone Riviera is certainly the Vittoriale degli Italiani, a set of buildings wanted by the eccentric poet Gabriele D’Annunzio.

This monumental complex consists of streets, gardens, squares, waterways, buildings and the immense Amphitheatre of the Vittoriale, which hosts events on a national and international scale. D’Annunzio bought this property after falling in love with the wonderful view of the lake (how to blame him!). After the failure of his Rijeka venture and the Treaty of Rapallo, he decided to move here, where he spent the last years of his inimitable life.

It was the architect and friend Giancarlo Maroni who followed the direction of the works, finished in 1938. With its collections of war memorabilia, sculptures, paintings, books, photographs, objects from different cultures, the eccentric home could not fail to be admired by fellow countrymen. For this reason, in 1923 D’Annunzio decided to donate the complex to the “Italian people”, hence the name.

Inside the Vittoriale you can see all the different rooms, anything but sober where the arrangement of the objects is exactly the same wanted by d’Annunzio. In the Priory, main building and real house of the poet, everything is taken care of in every detail and nothing is left to chance. That the poet had a particular personality, it is clear to all. As you will see every single object and symbol has a very precise meaning. The undisputed charm of this place is also perceived in outdoor environments. You can see the luxurious gardens, the lemon-house with the Belvedere, the Portico del Parente and the amphitheater, perhaps the most evocative relic is the immense ship Puglia, given to the poet by the Navy, set inside the park. At the top of the Vittoriale is the Mausoleum, a monument that houses the tomb of the Vate and offers a beautiful view directly on the lake.

Gardone Riviera: things to see and do
Credits: Harry Fabel

2. Lakeside promenade of Annunzio

The second stop not to be missed is the wonderful walk along the lakeside of Annunzio. Perfect location for an ice cream, an aperitif or an elegant and romantic dinner. The magic that you breathe is given by the touch of the landscape architect Paolo Bürgi. Everything is studied in detail, you will be surrounded by oleanders, oranges and roses that will fuel the sense of peace that characterizes this place. Evening meeting point, both for tourists and residents, it becomes a lounge where to attend cultural and musical events, visit exhibitions and markets.

Let’s talk about the great poet d’Annunzio, have you ever thought you could see him sitting on a bench while reading a book? In the enchanting lakeside promenade D’Annunzio this particular bronze work of life-size will surely capture your attention. In this quiet and romantic walkway full of shops, bars and restaurants you will be caressed by a pleasant lake breeze.

The view is breathtaking, you can admire the majestic Monte Baldo and look at the Island of Garda and the fortress of Manerba. Then this will get lost towards the opposite banks of Veneto.

From here it is very easy to reach the main port of Gardone, where the various ferries that allow you to move around to visit the other wonderful cities around. The ferry, in fact, is a valid option to visit the lake that also makes the trip more picturesque.

Gardone Riviera is among the places to visit on Lake Garda but it is not focused only on Gabriele D’Annunzio and his inimitable life. Let’s discover together the last stage that I think can not miss in the three things to see in Gardone Riviera!

Il Giardino botanico André Heller
Credits: Sail over 

3. The André Heller Botanical Garden

Have you ever wondered why Gardone is considered a garden-city? Now I’ll tell you the number 3 of things to see in Gardone Riviera! At the beginning of the twentieth century, at a time of particular tourist prestige, several green areas were built. These include the park of the doctor-dentist Hruska, predecessor of the Botanical Garden Andrè Heller. The common thread that connects the two personalities is the love for travel, as well as the passion for gardens. In fact, the memories of their visits in distant areas accumulate in the unique climate of Lake Garda.

Arturo Hruska, at the service of the Tsars, once left Austria and moved to Gardone, fell in love with these places and decided to create here his personal terraced botanical garden with vineyards. Only in 1988 the Austrian Andrè Heller bought the land enriching it with contemporary works of art and surprising scenic effects but at the same time perfectly balanced with the natural landscape.

For nature lovers this is paradise. Here you will find an extraordinary path through Japanese gardens, streams, caves, water lilies, artificial lakes and rocky areas. You will have the impression of taking a trip around the world thanks to the many and different families of botanical species. Huge ferns such as the Osmunda Regalis, bamboo woods, beautiful Primroses of Tibet and Iris of all colors grow in the shade of large trees of Cryptomeria japonica.

Visiting the Andrè Heller Botanical Garden you will have the opportunity to fly to Japan, with a traditional garden with its bridge, near which blooms a beautiful pink banksiae with yellow flowers. Colorful carps and aquatic plants live in small ponds, enriched by fountains, water features and waterfalls typical of the Japanese landscape.

Finally, inside the garden you can admire Indian and Moroccan sculptures and installations by Roy Lichtenstein, Susanne Schmögner, Mimmo Paladino and Keith Haring.

Gardone Riviera: things to see and do
Credits: Alessandro Vecchi 


1.Spend a day at the beach

If you came to Gardone to spend a relaxing day, after a walk among the oleanders and citrus trees on the lakeside give yourself a break on the beach.

Here are some tips to choose which of the beaches of Gardone is right for you!

  • A few meters from the center there is the Casino Beach, here you will find everything you need for a pleasant day on the lake. The beach is free access, in sand and gravel and you can rent sun loungers and umbrellas. Its clear water is perfect for a refreshing bath in a serene and familiar atmosphere thanks to the managers of the lido and the kiosk, friendly and kind to their guests.
  • The other beach with free access to Gardone is Lido di Fasano, also equipped with toilets and showers and a convenient free parking nearby. Perfect beach if you are with a group of friends or family. In fact here you can compete in the beautiful field of Beach volleyball or take a drink at the kiosk. Not only that, near the beach there is also a bicycle shop, where you can rent them to explore the hinterland or continue the lakeside promenade.
  • With entrance fee the beach offers all kinds of comfort and service. For children are organized swimming classes in the pool, entertainment and baby area. While for adults tennis court and soccer, summer gym, and beauty center. Not enough? On the beach there is also a Diving center that offers assistance, courses and equipment rental.
Gardone Riviera: things to see and do

2.Take a boat trip to Garda Island

From the port of Gardone depart various excursions to the lake. What I definitely recommend you do is the Tour to the Island of Garda.

You should know that the largest island of the lake is private and still inhabited by the Cavazza family. Which resides in the wonderful Venetian neo-Gothic villa.

For this reason it can be visited only by small boats. This is why exclusive tours are organized from April to October to discover the beauty of this place to visit on Lake Garda.

With this tour you will be able to reach the island by boat and take a guided tour of the villa that already arriving you will see the waves of the lake. Walking through the halls of the villa you will be surrounded by beauty and incredible attention to detail. The building built by the architect Luigi Rovelli is a combination of harmony and surprising architectural details. The villa is surrounded by a luxuriant and well-kept park where hedges alternate with sinuous shapes and many varieties of plants and flowers.

To round off the tour you will have some time to sip an aperitif on the spectacular terrace of the villa… with breathtaking views of the Italian garden and the blue of Lake Garda.

Are you curious enough? Here you can book your Tour to Isola del Garda now!

Isola del Garda

3.Attend a show at the Vittoriale amphitheatre

One of the events not to be missed that deserves to be included in the things to do in Gardone is to participate in a show inside the immense amphitheater of the Vittoriale.

Many prominent personalities and many great names of national and international music perform inside the Amphitheater and in the beautiful Lake of Dances. A series of concerts, national premieres, shows and events that stand out for quality and futurism.

The amphitheater can accommodate up to 1500 people and is made at the desire of the poet on similarity of the best Roman theaters. Did you know that the same architect Maroni went to Pompeii to study the structure of the Teatro Grande and to give his friend what he wanted?

What undoubtedly distinguishes it is the view that can be seen opening onto the lake behind the stage. From here you can admire the wonderful Isola del Garda, Monte Baldo, the peninsula of Sirmione and the suggestive Rocca di Manerba.

The music festival “Tener-a-mente” is probably the most illustrious program of the Brescia summer. Not only this event is classified as most prominent on Lake Garda, but also at the Italian level. The Festival takes place every year in the amphitheater of the Vittoriale degli Italiani and in its wonderful park, elected in 2012 “Italy’s most beautiful park”. A place suspended between art, culture, nature and beauty where they have the honor of performing great Italian and international artists.


But this is not the only event that takes place every year in Gardone. To close my article on things to do and see in Gardone Riviera I will now give you some indication on the events you can find here. The city is full of various events throughout the year, although as you can imagine they are mainly concentrated in the summer. Some are cyclical and repeat every year, every month or every four. Others are related to the patron saint of the city, Saint Michael.

  • The patron feast, in fact, is celebrated on September 26 and for the occasion you will also find beautiful markets in the city center. But the markets can also be visited during the year. On some fixed dates of each month, in fact, from 9 to 23, the lakeside promenade d’Annunzio is teeming with stalls with antiques, crafts and modern art.
  • Also on the lakeside promenade d’Annunzio and in Gardone di Sopra are also organized pleasant musical evenings, perfect for contemplating the wonderful view accompanied by sweet musical notes.
  • During the summer you will find various musical events, usually located in the Wimmer Palace, in the Vittoriale Palace or in Piazza Marconi.

My advice on the three things to do and see in Gardone Riviera ends here. I am sure that this country will also capture your heart and you will understand why it is one of the main places to visit on Lake Garda.


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