In this article, we will talk about the best things to do and see in Malcesine. A gem overlooking the shores of Lake Garda that captivates visitors with its blend of history and breathtaking scenery. Are you ready to immerse yourself in the charm of this town, explore its historical attractions, enchanting landscapes, and hidden treasures that make it unique?
Before we begin, let’s dive into some historical background to understand how this magnificent place to see on Lake Garda came into existence.
The first records of settlements in the lands that now correspond to Malcesine date back to around 500 B.C. by the Etruscans. These populations were later brought under Roman rule and, subsequently, Lombard rule.
From 1277 to 1378, Malcesine came under the rule of the Della Scala family, who modified the entire city. During this period, the fortress in the village, now known as ‘Scaligero Castle,’ was modernized and strengthened. Various dominions followed until the Venetian Republic took control from 1405 to 1797.
After the Venetians, Malcesine came under Austrian control until 1866. They revitalized the economy and administration of the territory and modified Scaligero Castle, expanding it and turning it into a military garrison.
With the Third War of Independence, Malcesine finally became part of the Kingdom of Italy and over the years transformed into the charming village we can admire today. Considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, it is a must-visit on your trip to Lake Garda!
Explore the Wonders of Malcesine: A Comprehensive Guide to Must-See Attractions on Lake Garda!
1. Historical Centre and Palazzo dei Capitani
The first of the things to do and see once you arrive in Malcesine is undoubtedly to take a stroll through the historical centre. A labyrinth of charm, with pastel-colored buildings, flowered facades, and artisan shops. The cobbled lanes invite you to a romantic walk, revealing hidden corners and visual surprises at every step.
The main square, Piazza Statuto, is the pulsating heart of the village. Surrounded by picturesque cafes and traditional restaurants, during summer evenings, it comes alive with cultural events, markets, and live performances. The pastel-colored buildings resonating with Mediterranean charm will make every visit special. Sitting at a café table becomes an immersive experience in the rhythm of Malcesine’s life.
All this wandering through the alleys of the village has made you miss the blue water? Take a stroll towards the harbor, just a few meters from the square.
Sit on one of the benches along the small old port of Malcesine and admire the panorama. The small boats gently rocking on the water, the azure of the lake, and the mountains on the other shore will paint a perfect picture. And when the sun sets, the sky and Lake Garda are adorned with warm tones, creating a romantic atmosphere.
Moored at the port, you can often find an ancient sailing ship: the Siora Veronica. Designed by some blacksmiths from Peschiera del Garda in 1926, it was part of a fleet of 100 boats used for transporting people and materials. When the construction of roads began in 1930, these boats were no longer used, and only two have survived to the present day.
Restored in 2001, it is now the venue for some special activities on Lake Garda. Among these, during summer evenings, there are live concerts of various musical genres, such as swing, blues, and soul. And if those aren’t your favorite genres, I’d still go for the experience.
Among the things to do and see in Malcesine a visit to the Palazzo dei Capitani is unmissable. It will be a journey into Renaissance history!
Built by the Scaligeri, the Palazzo dei Capitani was later reduced to simple walls, perhaps due to an earthquake or fire. It was then the Venetians who reconstructed it and turned it into the residence of the Captain of the Lake. ‘But captain of what?’ you might be wondering. In 1351, the Gardesana dell’Acqua was established: a federation with mainly fiscal characteristics formed by 10 municipalities around Lake Garda.
Inside the palace, you can admire paintings and pieces of furniture that narrate the history of the local nobility. Among the most iconic rooms of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors stands out as a true architectural gem. The walls are adorned with Venetian mirrors and frescoes, creating a magical and suggestive environment.
Immersed in a charming natural setting, the Palazzo dei Capitani also offers the opportunity to stroll through its well-kept gardens. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Garda, adding a touch of natural beauty to the already fascinating architectural heritage.
Let’s continue our stroll through the historic centre and we arrive at one of the symbols of Malcesine and Lake Garda.
2. Scaligero Castle
The Scaligero Castle is undoubtedly one of the things to do and see in Malcesine and represents a testimony of power. Over the centuries, it has witnessed conquests and changes, becoming an indelible symbol of Malcesine’s history.
The architecture of the castle enchants every visitor with its majestic towers and imposing walls, telling tales of sieges and resistance. The drawbridge, still functional, adds a touch of magic, transporting visitors back in time.
In the basement and ground floor, there is the Natural History Museum, making your visit a sensory experience: you can watch, touch, smell, listen, or use touch screen displays.
Great names have passed through Lake Garda. One of them stopped right in Malcesine, and a room of the castle is dedicated to him.
The most famous room is the Goethe Room, located in the heart of the castle. It’s a treasure that tells a fascinating chapter of the visit by the famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Malcesine in the 18th century.
Goethe, during his journey in Italy, made a stop in Malcesine, attracted by the beauty of Lake Garda. Legend has it that the writer was mistaken for a German spy and was at risk of arrest by the residents.
Among the things to do and see in Malcesine, the next one is a bit outside the centre but is quite special. Let’s explore it together!
3. Cassone and the Aril River
Cassone is a charming fishing village located just a few steps from Malcesine on the shores of Lake Garda. A hidden treasure, rich in history, charm, and authenticity.
The characteristic colorful houses of Cassone, with their vibrant facades and typical architectural details, create an enchanting picture along the lake shores. The narrow and winding streets add a picturesque touch, inviting you to explore every corner of the village.
But the gem that makes this part of Malcesine unique is the river that runs through it.
The Aril River is fed by local springs and surrounding waters. With a length of only 175 meters, it is one of the shortest rivers in the world. On the surface of the river, a myriad of small white flowers and plants float, finding peace right where a tiny waterfall accompanies the waters toward Lake Garda.
THINGS TO DO IN MALCESINE
1. Activities on the waters of Lake Garda
For the more adventurous and sporty individuals, one of the many wonderful windsports is a must-try! If you’re a beginner, no worries—there are opportunities for lessons in your chosen sport.
Staying on the waters of Lake Garda, if you want to spend a fun day with friends, try your hand at windsurfing or kitesurfing! Windsurfing is a water sport that falls under the sailing category, involving moving on a board with a sail-powered by the wind. Kitesurfing, on the other hand, is also a water sport but more akin to regular surfing. In this case, you’ll use a board and be pulled by a kite to navigate.
In Malcesine, you’ll find various rental services and windsurfing/kitesurfing schools offering courses, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. They provide lessons ranging from a few hours to several days.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed activity that allows you to explore other places to visit on Lake Garda, why not opt for a ferry ride?
During the summer season, thanks to the ferries, you can reach all the villages surrounding Lake Garda. Departing from Malcesine the easiest places to reach are Limone, Torbole, and Riva.
From the port of Malcesine, ferries depart throughout the day, offering you the magnificent crossing of the lake. You’ll reach Limone sul Garda on the other shore, one of the most charming and romantic villages. Perfect for spending a peaceful day in excellent company.
Did you know that for centuries, Limone could only be reached through the water? It was only in 1932 that they built the Gardesana Road connecting it to other towns. If you want to discover more insights about this magnificent village, you can find all our articles here. If you choose not to stop in Limone, the ferry will continue to Torbole and Riva del Garda. For the return trip, you can find the ferry from the ports of the various villages.
Are you looking for a unique experience? Among the things to do and see in Malcesine, a sailing boat excursion is a must.
To spend a few relaxing hours on the lake waters in a somewhat extraordinary way, Malcesine offers sailing trips with skippers. There are several possible itineraries, including a tour of the beautiful Limone where you can observe the famous lemon groves. Or you can head south to reach the Olive Island and the suggestive waterfalls of Tremosine.
You will be accompanied by instructors from the Italian Sailing Federation on boats for 2 people or 6/8 people if you are in a group. During the journey, they will convey the values of this sport and serve as guides to show you the most beautiful views of the lake.
But that’s not all! Now, move away from the lakeside of this must-see place on Lake Garda and immerse yourself in the beauty of Monte Baldo.
2. Explore Monte Baldo
Among the things to do and see in Malcesine, a trip to Monte Baldo cannot go unmentioned. This option is perfect in any season because this mountain offers many possibilities!
During the winter, try your hand at skiing or snowboarding in one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. With its 10 kilometers of slopes, it’s not the largest, but it offers a spectacular panorama! During your day, you can admire the magnificent Lake Garda beneath you.
In summer, on the other hand, there are several hiking trails of varying difficulty that start from various villages on the mountain. If you don’t have a car with you or don’t want to move it, you can reach one of the peaks also via the Malcesine – Monte Baldo Cableway.
Read our article dedicated to the Monte Baldo trails for more information on the trekking routes of this beautiful place to see on Lake Garda.
Are you looking for something romantic? If the weather allows, plan a picnic with a breathtaking view of Lake Garda. On clear summer days, you can admire the azure of the lake in all its beauty and the mountains surrounding the Brescia shore.
Once you reach the top station of the cable car, you’ll find many spots where you can sit down to eat. Choose whether to play some background music yourself or listen to the relaxing sounds of nature. Near the cable car, there’s also a hut where you can stop for a coffee or a snack in the afternoon.
And what if I told you that among the things to do and see in Malcesine, there’s also the possibility of taking an alpaca for a walk? Would you believe me?
For children and all animal lovers, I propose an incredible experience: trekking with an alpaca! From Spiazzi, a hamlet in Caprino Veronese, you can take a guided walk along the path leading to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona. They accept groups from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 15 people, and the tour lasts about 50 minutes.
At the end of the excursion, if you wish, you can also visit the farm that breeds alpacas and produces textile products with their wool. What are you waiting for? Take an alpaca for a walk on a leash and embark on this unique journey!
But it doesn’t end here. Among the things to do and see in Malcesine, harness the power of the wind for an incredible experience (and view)!
Through the Malcesine – Monte Baldo Cable Car, ascend this magnificent mountain range and opt for a breathtaking paragliding descent. It will be a fantastic experience lasting at least 30 minutes, during which you can admire the entire lake in front of you and more. If you decide to paraglide privately, you’ll need to register (fly card) at the Paragliding Bar. You’ll also need to wear a life jacket, which you can find for free at the same bar.
The takeoff point is less than a kilometer from the cable car station at the top. The landing, on the other hand, will take place on the shores of Lake Garda, 2 kilometers north of Malcesine, and will be visible to you while in flight.
If it’s your first time, many associations offer the opportunity to fly in tandem with an experienced pilot. This way, you can enjoy this new experience and the beautiful scenery safely.
3. Taste the foods and wines of the region
Among the things to do and see in Malcesine, I couldn’t miss telling you about the local gastronomy! Two things you absolutely can’t miss: olive oil and lavarello fillet! While Limone is famous for its lemon groves, Malcesine is the land of the golden oil: extra virgin olive oil. The presence of the olive tree probably dates back to Roman times. Slowly but surely, this plant stole ground from the Monte Baldo forest, finding its ideal habitat.
You can visit the Malcesine Olive Growers Consortium, a society founded in 1946 that brings together all the small olive producers in the area. You can take a guided tour where the olive processing process for the production of extra virgin olive oil will be explained. Also, you can see the tools used for olive harvesting. At the end of the visit, there will be a tasting of the oil accompanied by bruschetta and wine.
Feeling a bit peckish? There’s one thing you absolutely must try before leaving Malcesine.
Lavarello is a typical fish from Lake Garda that the people of Malcesine have learned to cook to perfection. The lavarello fillet is a dish served with black rice and then seasoned with fresh carrots, leeks, zucchini, and, of course, Malcesine olive oil. The fillet is breaded with breadcrumbs and saffron to maintain the light flavors of the lake fish and browned in a pan. Delicious!