What are the best things to see and do in Desenzano del Garda?
Desenzano del Garda is the ideal destination for those who wish to plan a historical and cultural trip. In the fascinating Rambotti Museum, you can find the oldest plow in the world and the most important ancient Roman villas in all of Northern Italy. But there’s more! The town is also connected to many illustrious names such as the famous poet Giosuè Carducci and Saint Angela Merici, a fundamental pillar for the Catholic Church. That’s why this list of things to do and see in Desenzano del Garda can be really useful during your visit!
The lakeside promenade, the small harbor, the lighthouse, and the colors that paint every corner of the town bring back the feeling of being on a perpetual vacation.
To reach Desenzano del Garda, you have several options:
- By train: You can arrive by train, as Desenzano del Garda has a train station on the Milan-Venice railway line. The station is just a short walk from the town center. After a steep descent alongside the state high school, you’ll arrive at the main street.
- By car: If you prefer to travel by car, take the A4 Milan-Venice highway and exit at Desenzano. Parking in the town’s main area, you will find yourself within a green park, facing the lake.
- By bus: If you’re coming from Brescia or Verona, you can take the LN26 line operated by the company ARRIVA. You’ll arrive at the central Piazza Matteotti, which will welcome you. Read all about bus routes on lake Garda.
Now, we are ready to embark on the discovery of what you can do and seetoday, or whenever you will visit, in Desenzano del Garda!
Things to see in Desenzano del Garda:
Things to do in Desenzano del Garda:
1. Sunbathing on the beach
2. Enjoy an olive oil tasting
3. Embark on a bicycle tour
Things to see in Desenzano del Garda:
1. THE CASTLE
As you ascend from narrow cobblestone alleys that start from the center and converge to form Via Castello, you will finally catch a glimpse of a stone tower. Turning left, a small street will lead you to the entrance of the impressive Desenzano Castle, offering you a breathtaking view beforehand. Desenzano will literally lie at your feet, while the silhouettes of mountains will stand out against the deep blue of Lake Garda on the horizon.
Desenzano Castle has a different history compared to other castles located in other places to visit on Lake Garda.
The castle, in fact, never became a military fortress, hosting only a few garrisons over time. Its important role was to provide shelter for the inhabitants of the village in case of danger. Inside its walls, there were 120 houses in addition to the Church of Sant’Ambrogio. Although the construction of the building dates back to the 1400s, the structure has its roots in what was once a Roman castrum. Built of stone, it also houses a small amphitheater where performances and evening events are now organized in an elegant atmosphere with soft lighting.
The castle is currently open to visitors, including the main tower, which offers an even more extended panorama to admire. The visit is pleasant and of short duration, so you can definitely dedicate part of your trip to it!
Throughout the year, the castle hosts various temporary exhibitions, so I recommend checking the schedule when you plan to visit. What to do in Desenzano in the evening? In the splendid setting of the castle, several shows and concerts are organized!
2. LIGHTHOUSE AND PICTURESQUE MARINA
The lighthouse of Desenzano, or rather “il fanale,” as it was nicknamed in the past, began operating way back in 1895. Initially, a petroleum lamp served as a signal to the boats, later replaced by electric lighting. At any time of the day, as you pass by, the scenery will never lose its uniqueness and beauty.
As you head towards the pier, near the harbor, a small alley flanked on the left by a small stone cliff will lead you here. As you walk, on the right, you can admire the masts of picturesque boats moored at the pier, and in the background, ferries departing towards the deepest part of the lake.
One fantastic detail about this place to visit on Lake Garda:
Despite being made of visible beige and gray bricks, you’ll be surprised to know how its color changes depending on the position of the sun. During the day, especially on clear skies, you’ll see its true vivid color. But passing by during the sunset hour, even the stones will light up with a magnificent orange-pink hue.
Just before the pier, leaning over the bridge towards the other side, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Old Harbor, which dates back to the 1200s! Even here, in this painting-like landscape, taking a photo is a must.
3. THE ROMAN VILLA
Of the three things to see in Desenzano, the Roman Villa is undoubtedly the most historically fascinating. Away from the crowd, in the hidden streets behind the center, it stands amidst the greenery as the most important testimony of a Roman villa in Northern Italy.
Today, the villa is an open-air museum for those who wish to take a dive into the past, precisely between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD. Since its discovery, the name of the owner has never been found. However, it is believed to have belonged to the brother of Emperor Magnentius, from whom the name “Desenzano” is said to derive. The structure was originally situated directly overlooking the lake, near the strategic Via Gallica, which connected Brescia to Verona.
What makes this Roman villa so special? Read on, and you’ll understand why it’s also a must-visit place on Lake Garda.
The magnificent mosaics still visible on the floors of the villa are what makes it so special. As much as all the other archaeological finds from different historical ages stored in the antiquarium. For the historical importance that this testimony has, all the schools closest to the town organize trips, that kids usually appreciate and enjoy.
In fact, walking among statues of Dionysus and Heracles, ceramics, utensils and ancient shop windows, the past magically comes back to life. Exotic plants, palm trees and other shrubs surround the ancient remains. These, by the way, were found only 100 years ago! That is why, despite being in ruins, every effort has been made to clean them up and keep them safe.
Things to do in Desenzano del Garda
1. Sunbathing on the beach
The most beloved beach by locals and tourists is Lido Desenzanino, a free beach where you can also rent sunbeds and umbrellas. The kiosk and restaurant at the lido are perfect meeting points for a snack with friends or an excellent fish dinner on the terrace with a lake view.
From the center, you can quickly reach Spiaggia Feltrinelli, located in front of Hotel Riviera on Lungolago Cesare Battisti. This beach is also free and a great starting point to rent canoes and pedal boats to explore the lake freely and independently. If you prefer to move around during the day, you can take a beautiful walk along the lakefront that follows the water towards Rivoltella. Along the way, there are several free gravel beaches where you can take a swim in the small 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 at the beach. Spiaggia d’Oro and Spiaggia Rivoltella offer rental services for sunbeds, umbrellas, and pedal boats, as well as restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and several play areas. These places are particularly popular with young people, becoming lively from aperitif time until evening. The kiosk at Spiaggia d’Oro even transforms into a disco pub after a certain hour. On the other hand, Spiaggia Rivoltella organizes dancing nights with Latin-American music, ballroom dances, live music, and themed parties during the summer.
2. Have you ever done an olive oil tasting?
Did you know that in Desenzano, you can taste one of the best extra virgin olive oils internationally? And it’s not just me saying this… The Olio Garda Bresciano D.O.P produced at Frantoio Montecroce has been awarded as the best among more than 200 participants. It has a fruity and light flavor because the philosophy of the Ramanzini family believes in creating balanced oils from different varieties of olives. Here, you can perceive not only the quality but also the importance of pursuing an idea and continuing to enhance it, embracing the past, present, and future.
Frantoio Montecroce is nestled among the lush vegetation of Monte Croce hill. As soon as the doors open, you immediately feel the authenticity of simple things. Delicate and gentle oils are born from the olive groves that surround it, all the way to the more full-bodied 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 find yourself here, it’s definitely one of the things to do and see in Desenzano.
Frantoio Montecroce is always open to the public, allowing you to be enchanted by the flavors of the Garda D.O.P olive oil and Modena’s balsamic vinegar. Reservations are only necessary for large groups.
3. Embark on a bicycle tour
Are you a sports enthusiast or do you love to cycle? Here’s the right option for you. From Desenzano, you can embark on a guided e-bike tour to discover the hinterland of Lake Garda. Accompanied by an expert local guide and with the assistance and organization of Lucky Traveler, you can spend a pleasant day cycling through the Morainic Hills.
I’m talking about the Bike Tour Colline Moreniche: Bike ‘n Lunch. The guided tour starts from Rivoltella, and you’ll pedal through hills and vineyards until you reach San Martino della Battaglia. Here, you’ll stop to see the majestic tower linked to the Italian Risorgimento. The itinerary then continues through rural villages, orchards, and vineyards, where you can admire glimpses of villages and everyday life. You’ll have a lunch break at the Bruschetteria “Nose,” a convivial place offering unconventional bruschettas made with local and typical products.
Lucky Traveler will provide you with an E-bike rental, including a helmet and insurance, all included in the tour price. Upon request, you can also rent a Gravel Bike! If you have your own bicycle, you can still participate in the tour, and the rental fee will be deducted from the total cost.
EVENTS IN DESENZANO DEL GARDA
Apart from my suggestions of things to see and do in Desenzano, the events organized by the municipality are also worth considering when planning your visit.
- First of all, remember that the weekly market in the town is held on Tuesdays, while the farmer’s market, in Piazza Garibaldi, takes place every Thursday, offering local products.
- At the beginning of February, the Festival of San Biase is celebrated annually, honoring the patron saint of Rivoltella, a fraction of Desenzano. Music and food stands liven up the cold winter days.
Then, summer and autumn are the seasons when the main events take place in Desenzano (and the other lake villages)
- The Feast of Santa Maria Maddalena, towards the end of July, includes a series of concerts, dinners, volunteer-organized activities, and charity fishing. It usually takes place at the Cathedral and the Oratorio Paolo VI.
- Throughout the summer, don’t miss the numerous outdoor cinema nights at the Desenzano Castle.
- Among others, I’d like to remind you of the enchanting Concert at Dawn in Rivoltella, usually held in August.
- Also, there’s the Festa dell’Ospite (Guest Celebration);
- The Lake and the Wine Festival in the fraction of San Martino.
- On August 15th, a spectacular firework show is generally organized to celebrate Ferragosto.
The you must know that Desenzano del Garda is the location for an unique annual show: (!)
- Every year, the Italian sky is painted with the colors of the Italian flag thanks to the impressive acrobatic performance of the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows): it will leave you in awe!
- Finally, in November, the Autumn Chestnut Festival awaits you in Piazza Matteotti, for a snack in company, accompanied by warm mulled wine.