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Lake Garda holidays introduce you to the largest body of water in Italy – and the jewel of the Italian Lakes. Lake Garda’s shoreline is more than twice the length of the Amalfi Coast, and it’s still possible to find untouched towns and villages among the glossy resorts.
The southern basin of Lake Garda has some of the biggest draws, from quaint lakefront towns like Lazise to the thrills of Gardaland, Italy’s premier theme park. First stop for those arriving from Verona is Peschiera del Garda, a pretty waterfront town often compared to Venice for its network of canals. A little further north is Bardolino. Its elegant promenade is surrounded by miles of vineyards, and the lakefront path takes walkers as far as Garda, the lake’s namesake town.
Further north is Malcesine, rising from the waterfront in a picturesque jumble. Meanwhile, at the lake’s northernmost point lies Riva del Garda – a cosmopolitan town with a pretty piazza and some great gelato parlours.
Lake Garda holidays introduce you to the most-visited lake in Italy, so there are plenty of things to do.
Most people start in the south, where you can hop between castles like Castello di Sirmione, Castello Scaligero di Lazise and Castello Scaligero in Malcesine. Roman villas (try the one in Desenzano del Garda) and archaeological museums are sprinkled around the southern shore, too. The south is also where you’ll find family-friendly theme parks such as Gardaland, along with a swathe of vineyards that host the yearly Bardolino Wine Festival.
To explore somewhere a little less well-trod, head north. A frame of mountainous national parks overlooks Lake Garda here, dishing up must-drives like the Gorge Road and Tremalzo Pass. Meanwhile, cable cars whisk view-seekers to the top of Monte Baldo in minutes. If you prefer the quiet life, then go for a stroll through the wildflower-speckled foothills.
The closest airport to Lake Garda is Verona (VRN). Direct flights to Verona are available from Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, London Gatwick, London Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton and take approximately 2 hours.
Lake Garda is traditionally a summer getaway, with hotels usually welcoming guests between April and October. Temperatures hover around 25°C in July and August – and this is when Lake Garda is at its liveliest. However, the climate in Lake Garda is very mild in spring and autumn, with temperatures rarely ducking beneath 20°C. Fancy avoiding the busiest months? Consider visiting in May, June or September – you’ll avoid the crowds and still be treated to warm weather.
Food and drink from Lake Garda echoes its surroundings. Fish is a staple on the menu of many local restaurants, which often serve a different catch each day. Marinated sardines (sarde in saor) are piled onto pasta, while creamy luccio e polenta uses popular pike as the main ingredient. Meanwhile, olive groves in the surrounding countryside produce some of the best extra virgin olive oil in Italy.
The Alto Garda Bresciano Park around Limone is the hilly home of ‘lemon houses’, where harvested citrus fruit is used to produce liqueurs and sweets. Some houses and terraces date back to the 13th century, when travelling monks first brought lemons from the south of Italy.
Buckwheat polenta, meat and vegetables are all sourced from local fields, woods and orchards. This is where the homely recipes step in – bean stew with smoked ribs (yota) and cheesy cabbage and bacon casseroles (zuppa di valpelline). Other recipes have crept in from nearby Verona and Venice. Sample risotto packed with salami (tastasal) or cooked in dry Amarone red wine. Popular pasta includes spaghetti-like bigoli and tiny tortellini. Handmade gnocchi – potato dumplings – are a must-try, too.
The combination of lakes, mountains and a Mediterranean climate means that vineyards decorate the shores Lake Garda. Red lovers should sample Bardolino – a fruity, light wine that works well with pasta dishes. Meanwhile, white fans have the crisp, dry Lugana that’s best served with fish. Limoncello – usually associated with the Amalfi Coast – is a perfect after-dinner tipple. Feeling indulgent? Try the cream version drizzled over gelato.
If you would like to pre-book one of our excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.