Gardone Riviera is a fascinating town located on the western side of Lake Garda, where nature is predominant. The city is in fact considered a botanical garden.
This town, along with Tremosine has been inserted in the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. A recognition that only these two cities on Lake Garda have received.
Thanks to its position between the mountains, you’ll have a wide choice of trekking paths. Even the strolls through the historical center will not disappoint you.
As you may have understood, this city has a lot to offer, but which are the three things to see in Gardone?
In this article we will find out which, in my opinion, are the unique destinations that can’t be missed while discovering this place to visit on Lake Garda.
First of all, it is interesting to discover a little bit more about the history of this wonderful town.
Gardone is considered, beyond one of the most famous, the first holiday location in chronological order. In fact, after the opening in 1879 of “Pizzoccolo”, at that time a small guesthouse, on behalf of Luigi Wimmer, the number of tourists started to increase. It is no coincidence that over the years it has become the Grand Hotel of Gardone.
The, of Austrian-origin, Wimmer played an important role for the city. After falling in love with it, he contributed to popularize this place among his compatriots. For this reason, he was elected mayor of the town in 1881 until his death two years later. This important character is considered a real pioneer of tourism on the lake.
The proper evolution is after the Unity of Italy. After the success of Wimmer’s guesthouse, hotels, taverns and boarding houses started to spread.
The area kept being frequented by many German and Austrian people, who built luxurious residences that today enrich the city center.
The WWI risked stopping the foreign interest towards Gardone and the consequent growth but, thanks to the intervention of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the faith of the city changed again.
Speaking of the “Vate”, we must necessarily start with our list of three things to see in Gardone. This place to visit on Lake Garda hosts a unique jewel, but I don’t want to spoiler anything!
Vittoriale degli italiani
A must-see in Gardone is without a doubt the “Vittoriale degli Italiani”, a combination of constructions wanted by the eccentric poet Gabriele d’Annunzio.
This monumental complex consists of streets, gardens, squares, streams, buildings and the big amphitheater of the Vittoriale, which hosts events at national and international level. D’Annunzio decided to buy this property after falling in love with the view on the lake (can you blame him?).
After the failure in Fiume and the Rapallo pact, he decided to move here, where he spent the last years of his “inimitable” life. The direction of the works was entrusted to the architect and friend Gianmarco Maroni and they ended only in 1938.
With his collection of war memorabilia, sculptures, paintings, books, photos, objects of different kinds and cultures, the eccentric house had to be enjoyed and admired also from the compatriots. For this reason, in 1923 d’Annunzio decided to gift the complex to the Italian population, hence the name.
Indoors you can still see all the different rooms, far from sober, even more suggestive and picturesque thanks to the soft lights given by the colored windows and the heavy curtains.
The disposition of the objects is still the one wanted by d’Annunzio himself. Inside the Priora, the central building and the proper house of the poet, everything is down to the last detail. As you will see every single object and symbol has a specific meaning.
The poet had a very peculiar personality, this is quite clear to everyone. Still today it is possible to visit the two different waiting rooms where the time spent there could be pleasant and short or long, useless and unnerving. In fact, one was dedicated to the welcome guests whereas the other one, well… you can imagine it.
The visit from Benito Mussolini went down in history, when he had to wait two hours in the Mascheraio (Mask Maker) room before being received by the poet. For this reason, it is more accurate saying that the Vittoriale not only has a theatre, but it was a theatre because of the events that took place here.
The undisputed charm of this place is perceived also outdoors. You can see the luxurious gardens, the lemon house with the panoramic viewpoint, the “Portico del parente” and the huge amphitheater. It can host up to 1500 people and not only actors used to perform here, but the poet himself too. Now it is possible to admire from this point the marvelous Island of Garda, Mount Baldo, the peninsula of Sirmione and the evocative Rocca of Manerba.
Did you now that Maroni himself went to Pompei in order to study the structure of “Teatro Grande” to give his friend exactly what he wanted.
The most suggestive memento is perhaps the massive Puglia ship, given to the poet by the naval forces. You got it right, here you have the chance to visit a real ship nestled in the park. Given the difficulties to transport the boat to the current location and to symbolically address it towards the Adriatic and Dalmatia, is definitely worth the visit!
But, for this place a military ship was not enough, therefor there are also the airplane SVA and the antisubmarine motorboat MAS 96.
Located at the top of the Vittoriale is the Mausoleum, a monument that houses the tomb of the Vate and offers a splendid view of the lake.
Last year this place to visit on Lake Garda celebrated its 100th birthday. It is more than a normal house, much more than a museum: it is the symbol of the Italian pride.
Speaking of the Vate, have you ever thought to spot him sitting on a bench while reading a book? In the charming d’Annunzio lakeshore this particular life-sized masterpiece in bronze will surely catch your attention.
On this quiet and romantic promenade full of shops, bars and restaurants you will be caressed by a pleasant lake breeze.
This is the perfect location to eat an ice-cream, to have a drink or a romantic and elegant dinner.
Here you can breathe a magical atmosphere thanks to the landscape designed by architect Paolo Bürgi. Everything is studied in detail, you will be surrounded by oleanders, orange trees and roses that will increase the sense of peace that characterizes this place.
Meeting point in the evening, both for tourists and for residents, it becomes a parlour where you can attend the many cultural and musical events, visit expositions and markets.
The view is breathtaking; it is possible to admire the majestic Mount Baldo and to turn your gaze towards the Islandof Garda and the Rocca of Manerba. Then your gaze will space towards the opposite Venetian shores.
From here it is easy to reach the main harbor of Gardone, departure point of all the different ferries that allow to visit the other wonderful cities here around. The ferry is in fact a valid option to explore the lake; it makes also the journey more picturesque.
From this port leave also different excursions, for example the boat tour to the Island of Garda.
Indeed, it is possible to visit it only through small ships, reason why from April to October many exclusive tours are organized in order to discover the beauties of this place. If you are interested in discovering more about this marvelous island, click here (link) to read all the curiosities and the ways to reach this truly hidden gem.
Gardone Riviera is one of the places to visit on Lake Garda but it is not only about Gabriele D’Annunzio and his inimitable life. Let’s find out together the last destination that in my opinion can’t be missing in our list of three things to see Gardone Riviera!
The Botanical Garden André Heller
Have you ever wondered why Gardone is considered a garden city?
At the beginning of the 20th Century, in a moment of particular touristic prestige, many green areas were set up. Among them also the park of the doctor and dentist Hruska, predecessor of the Botanical Garden André Heller.
Arturo Hruska, at the service of the tsars, after leaving Austria and moving to Gardone, fell in love with these places and he decided to create here his personal terraced botanical garden with vineyards. Only in 1988 the Austrian André Heller bought this piece of land and enriched it with works of contemporary art and stunning special effects, which at the same time are perfectly blended in with the natural landscape.
The red thread that connects these two personalities is the love for travel, as well as the passion for gardens.
Gardone di Sotto and Gardone di Sopra are connected by this fascinating and charming area.
For Nature lovers this will seem like heaven on earth. Here you will find an extraordinary path among Japanese gardens, streams, caves, water lilies, artificial lakes and rocky areas. You will have the impression to be doing a journey around the world thanks to the many families of botanical species. A collection of flora from all over the world with plants from Africa and South America interspersed with species from Asia, Europe and Australia. What makes it even more priceless is the fact that every floral species has been lowered in its natural environment.
Not only will you feel relaxed by taking a pleasant walk, but also have the chance to learn new things thanks to the many nameplates that define the scientific name of every plant, flower and rock.
The artificial parts of the garden have been realized with such care, that they seem autochthonous. For example, the rocky part has been recreated with dolomite and granite rocks, gorges, cliffs, crevasses and streams and hosts a mountain flora. Enormous ferns like the Osmunda Regalis, bamboo forests, wonderful primroses from Tibet and Iris of all colors grow in the shade of big trees of Cryptomeria japonica. Every year these trees turn red, making this place definitely one of the three things to see in Gardone.
This garden won’t stop to surprise you. It will provide the chance to feel like you were in Japan, thanks to a traditional garden with its footbridge near to which a gorgeous rose blooms with yellow flowers. Colorful carp and aquatic plants live in the small ponds, enriched with fountains, water works and waterfalls, characteristic of the Nipponese landscape.
Lastly, within the garden it is possible to admire Indian and Moroccan sculptures and installations of Roy Lichtenstein, Susanne Schmögner, Mimmo Paladino and Keith Haring.
In order to make your visit in Gardone even more pleasant, I’ll give you some information about the events you can find taking place here.
The city is full of all kinds of events throughout the year, even though, as you can imagine, they tend to focus mainly in the summertime. Some of them are cyclical and recur every year, every month or every four months. Others are linked to the patron of the city, San Michele.
The patronal festival, indeed, is celebrated the 26th of September and for the occasion some markets are organized in the city center. But the markets can be visited also the entire year round. In some fixed dates of every month from 9 A.M. to 11 P.M., d’Annunzio lakeshore will be teeming with stands of antique, handicrafts and modern-art items.
Still on d’Annunzio lakeshore and in Gardone di Sopra many musical evenings are organized, perfect to contemplate the stunning view while listening to some sweet musical notes.
During the summer also tributes of all kinds are scheduled, located normally in Wimmer Palace, in the Palace of the Vittoriale or in Marconi square.
Let’s finish with the programming that is, maybe, the most illustrious of the Brescian summer: the music festival “Tener-a-mente”. This event has been not only classified as one of the most important on Lake Garda, but also recognized on a national level.
The Festival takes place in the amphitheater of the Vittoriale degli Italiani and in its wonderful park, that has been awarded in 2012 as the “most beautiful park in Italy”. A place suspended between culture, art, nature and beauty.
Lots of prominent personalities and many big names of the national and international music perform in the amphitheater and in the gorgeous “Laghetto delle Danze”. A series of concerts, national previews, shows and events that stand out for quality will lead you through an entire month.