Lake Grada is Italy's largest lake an a popular recreation area in the northern area. The lake is bordered by the Veneto, Trentino Altoadige, and Lombardy regions and offers multipule outdoor recreation attractions. But there is always the question of where do you go or what to do if you have limited time. In this Lago di Garda guide we will touch base on some of the top places to see and what to to do during your adventure.
The first thing we have to consider is how much time and how are we traveling. If you plan on renting a car you have a bit more flexibility but you also have to deal with the traffic and finding places to park (which is usually paid parking). If you are using public transportation and looking to do outdoor activities you will most like want to base yourself in one place and adventure from there. Then you will want to follow the general flow of the transportation system to get the most out of your time.
GETTING THERE: Flying into Milano or Venezia you can reach Lake Grada by Train very easily. You will be arriving at the southern shores of the lake and from there you can utilize the lake ferry or public buses to get to your destination.
What Do I Do As A City Walker? For everyone who enjoys walking I would suggest you utlize the lake ferry or public bus exploring a few places each day, while you move up the lake. There are 4 Places Not To Miss and each having their own charm.
Located on the southern shores this one of the most popular tourist area on the lake and it is very much worth the visit. The old town has roman ruins, a medival castel, mineral spa, and plenty of shops and ice cream places. It sits on a small peninsula and even though it is only about 4 to 6 kms of walking if you like to linger you could spend the entire day here.
TRAVEL TIP: By car you have to park in one of the paid areas and then walk into the city. If you are arriving by train the regional and local trains from Verona and Bresica stop at Sirmione and you can walk down to the city or takea bus. If you are planning to arrive by boat it is best to start from Desenzano del Garda (almost all trains stop here including Eurostar).
For More about Sirimone | Brescia Province check out our page.
Malcesine sits on the eastern shore about half way up the lake. This is a nice little town setting at the base of Monte Baldo and has narrow medieval streets, harbor, and lots of shops and cafes. This is also a jumping off point for some great walks on Monte Baldo with a cable car that takes you up to 2000 meters. There also several nice nordic walks along the shores on both sides of the town.
TRAVEL TIP: Plan time to go up on Monte Baldo worth the cost and there are places to eat and just relax with a picnic lunch. The town can be a challenge for anyone with restricted mobiity due to the steep terrain.
For more about Malcesine | Veneto Region check out our page.
Across the lake from Malcesine and the next stop on the ferry is Limone sul Garda. Lemone is where the Roman's introduced citrus fruits into northern Italy. With a mild climent lemons and other fruits are still cultivated today and if you like limoncello this the place for you. A nice picturesque town with a waterfront area full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. There are good trails above the town that takes you through the orchards and there is new bike path on northern part of town.
TRAVEL TIP: If you are crossing over from Malcesine there are private shuttles that will take you over. Limone is a nice partical day and then moving on to Riva del Garda.
For more about Limone Sul Garda | Brescia Province check out our page.
Riva del Garda sits in the north west corner of the lake and is one of the larger towns on the lake. Historically this was an Austrian town until after the First World War. There are plenty of nice day walks around the area and after you can explore the narrow streets of the old town with plenty of shops.
TRAVEL TIP: If you only have a couple of days this is probaly your end point. As you plan on moving somewhere else still using public transportation it is actually quicker to take a but over to Rovereto and then pick up a train to your next destination otherwise it is a long boat ride back to the southern area.
For more about Riva del Garda | Trento Province check out our page.
For those who like to hike on the trails and explore the more remote areas there I would suggest a few more days on the lake. The best hike in the area would be on Monte Baldo which overshadows the entire eastern shore. There are several main trail systems that pass by the northern area of the lake or you could create or own custom plan.
Over the years we have walked in many area's and one of the best early season treks has been walking the spine of Monte Baldo. This is a 3 to 5 day hike on moderate terrian and offers some spectacule views, mountain floria, and just quite relaxing atomsphere to enjoy nature. The hike can be reached by taking the ferry to Garda or Torri del Benaco then transfering up or walking up to Prada. From there you will have about 4 to 6 hour days (suggested) as you work your way toward Nago. Along the way you will pass Cima Costabella, Punta Telegrafo, Monte Baldo, and Cima Altissimo. The lodging will be in mountain huts and simple hotels.
TRAVEL TIP: This hike passes the Malcesine cable car so you could either shorten the length or take an extra day to descend do for day on the lake and a refit.
Monte Baldo Ring - This hike starts in Avio and you do not have to navigate on the lake. A 4 day loop that also passes the Malcesine cable car giving you an option to descend to the lake.
Treking around Riva del Garda - If you base yourself in Riva there are several good loop routes outside the town. You could spend 3 to 4 days doing these loops with varied difficulty. There is also a couple of nice via Ferrate if you wanted something more exciting.
For anyone wanting to do water sports I suggest you making you base yourself in one location and spend a few days there.
Windsurfing or Kitesurfing - The best place for these activities is Torbole on the northern part of the lake. Over the year more areas have been established but this considered the place to go.
Sailing - You can rent a small sail boat and explore the lake but you do need to have the appropiate license and proof of experience. The sailing is best in the middle area of the lake but it is a bit more techniqual so you need good skills. The southern part can be dead for parts of the day and the northern area to much wind.
SCUBA - There are a few places to dive along the lake but they are not recreational. They tend to be fairly deep and sometimes you are just looking at rock formations. I have conducted several classes there over the years but I would never suggest anyone to go there for fun.
Rockclimbing - There are many climbing site around lake Garda but you need a car to really explore. If you are a climber I would suggest the top 4 towns to visit as you make your way up the lake. Then when you get to Riva del Garda take a transfer to Arco. There you can stay and you are in the mecca of Italian Climbing.
Road Bike Touring - I do not suggest you road biking around the lake or on the lake unless it is off season or unless you are comfortable with your bike skills. From April to October the traffic can by harsh. There are sections of the lake with bike paths but they are full of beach walkers and tourist. The roads are the safest but the road from Limone to Riva is several tunnels. However, there are a few nice climbs and you can stay at a section of the lake and ride loop routes always from the best area would be Riva or Torbole on the north. Garda or Laszie on the south east, and Salo on the south west.
Mountain Bike - Plenty of trail and downhill all around the northern end of the lake. A very popular place and it easy to find bike rental, service, and shuttles in Torbole and Riva. Also just north of the lake at Arco there are several mountain bike area.
So as you plan your Italian Adventure we hope this quick guide can get you started. If you need assistance or want some suggestions drop us a line. However, Lake Garda is an excellent visit if you plan and know where to go. Combining a few days here with Venice, Bologna, and Florence can be a great 7 to 12 day visit. Travel should be about your time, interest, and budget and thats what we specialize in helping you do.
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