There are many picturesque towns and resorts around the lake, including Bardolino with its vineyards and thermal baths and Riva del Garda, a popular summer resort and one of the best places for windsurfing. There may be no ocean at Lake Garda, but the lake does have some wonderful beaches and its beautifully crystal-clear water is ideal for swimming and splashing about in.
To the south-west of the lake Garda is Desenzano, with a population of 27,788 people it is considered as the capital of the lake. During the Middle Ages Desenzano was an important trading point in northern Italy and remnants from the past are all around to see. The G. Rambotti Museum holds artefacts found in the areas of Desenzano, Lonato and Lavagnone such as ceramics, flint arrowheads, weapons and utensils and some from as early as 2000 BC.
Discovered in 1921, was the remains of an ancient Roman villa which lay over a hectare of land. It is regarded as one of the most important grand villas in northern Italy from the late Roman era. It is suggested that its construction began in 1st century AD and was completed in 4th century AD. It contained sculptures, necklaces, utensils etc of everyday life from that era and even a magnificent mosaic floor also reflecting this, with images of hunting, fishing and farming. The villa is open for visitors to view and is well worth a visit whilst on a coach holiday.
The cathedral in Desenzano is dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena and it contains various works by Andrea Celesti, Gian Battista Tiepolo, Zenon Veronese and many more. The Tomb of Atilia Urbica is situated within Santa Maria de Senioribus Church. It was made for Atilia Urbicus by her sons in the 3rd century AD. The tomb has a Latin inscription with two women, one playing the lute and the other removing a cloth from a basket.
Malcesine is a small town on the north-eastern shore and is one of the most popular resorts on the Lake Garda. Its medieval setting, narrow lanes, a small harbour and pretty walkway along the lake, make it inviting for a walk around the town.
Scaliger Castle has had a turbulent history of ownership; destroyed, rebuilt, renovated by numerous owners. It now houses a small museum dedicated to Lake Garda; especially to its geology, flora and fauna. It also has a room dedicated to the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe displaying his drawings of Lake Garda.
The slopes of Monte Baldo offer a superb view of the lake. Ascending the mountain is a cable-car service, which takes you to an ideal point to start a hike or mountain bike tour. During the winter Monte Baldo is home to skiers all over the world.
Sirmione is a town situated to the south of Lake Garda. Surrounded on three sides by the lake it is one of the most breathtaking places to view the sunset. On entrance, you are greeted by a dominating castle - Rocca Scaligera. It was built by the Venice Republic near the end of the 15th century in exchange for control of the domain, from the Della Scala family on top of the ruins of their Roman fortress.
Grotte di Catullo is one the largest Roman villa ruins which can be seen from the top of Sirmione. As tradition claims the villa was home to the Roman poet Catullus, who died in 54 BC. The area is in a beautiful location, surrounded by olive and lemon trees.
Simione is famous for its thermal spas and sulphuric springs and many visitors come to experience its therapeutic properties.
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is the second largest town with 15,838 inhabitants to the north of the lake. It is one of the best places for windsurfing and sailing in Lake Garda. As you walk around the town, you will see surviving structures of the Middle Ages such as the city walls, portals, towers and moats. The Fort in Riva del Garda was built during the 12th century and later enlarged by the Della Scala Family, the Venetians and the Bishop Princes of Trento and was even renovated by the Austrians. It is now home to the Civic Museum archaeological, geological and mineralogical exhibits, as well as an art gallery, collection of weapons, prints and rare books. You will also find many churches from various time periods to admire
Bardolino is popular amongst coach holiday visitors, internationally famous for its production of Bardolino wine, is situated in the middle of the Riviera degli Olivi landscapes filled with vineyards and olive groves. A visit to the local wine-cellars presents plenty of opportunities to sample the local wine.
There are various churches to visit, such as San Zeno, San Colombano and Santa Maria; some date back to as early as the 8th century. In addition, there is an Oil Museum, which displays the production of oil at Lake Garda with a reconstructed 19th-century water-powered oil presser.
After sunset Bardolino bars and cafes become social hubs, especially as many shops are open until midnight making it ideal for an evening shop, stroll and dinner.
Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda is a small picturesque town situated to the south-east of the lake. Its town centre is contained within an enormous ancient fortress, with five sides in the shape of a star completely surrounded by water. There is plenty to see and do here, from Market Day to exploring the history to a short trip to Verona or Milan by train, ferry, bus or bike ride to other Garda towns.