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Sirmione holidays take you to a historic spa town on the shores of Lake Garda. The oldest part of Sirmione stands on a narrow 3km long peninsula that juts out into the lake, offering strolls beside the water and a series of narrow cobbled streets and squares. The town’s famous thermal waters have been attracting visitors since classical times and you can still take advantage of their relaxing qualities at several spas.
Sirmione is one of the most popular resorts on Lake Garda – as well as the healing waters, visitors are drawn to its fairy tale medieval castle, ancient Roman ruins and some highly regarded ice cream parlours. The town’s location at the southern end of Lake Garda makes it easily accessible. By road the A4 Autostrada passes within 5km of Sirmione, while the nearest railway station is 8km away at Desenzano del Garda, on the main Venice-Milan line.
Exploring the narrow lanes of Sirmione is a relaxing pleasure, as most of the streets along the peninsula are pedestrianised. And it’s virtually impossible to get lost here because you’re never more than 200 metres from the lake, on one side or the other.
The well preserved fortress of Scaligero Castle guards the entrance to the historic town centre, and you’ll cross its moat on your way to the little maze of streets beyond. The old town is home to some charming restaurants and cafés – if you want a meal with a view, La Speranzina and Il Grifone both have terraces right beside the lake.
At the northern end of Sirmione the narrow strip of land widens a little, and this is where you’ll find the atmospheric 14th Century Church of San Pietro. Slightly further, at the very top of Sirmione, are the Grottoes of Catullus – the remains of an impressive Roman villa with panoramic views of the lake on three sides. There’s also a small museum here, explaining the history of Sirmione over the past 2,000 years.
Sirmione has a handful of spa hotels that take advantage of the thermal springs in this area. So if you really want to chill out, book yourself in for a swim, a sauna or a hydro massage, before lazing on a sun lounger with a view of the lake.
Another great way to take in the scenery of Lake Garda is from the water, with several ferries running regular services to and from Sirmione. You have the option of high speed hydroplanes that will whisk you between the lake’s resorts in exciting fashion, or the pleasure boats that cruise around at a more sedate pace.
In Sirmione’s old town, Piazza Carducci is the focal point for eating and drinking. It’s also home to Palazzo Callas, a house where the famous opera singer Maria Callas often stayed. The building looks rather modest from the square, but it’s much more impressive when you go inside. These days it’s used as a venue for art exhibitions.
The Italians take their gelato – ice cream – very seriously, and in Sirmione you’ll find one little street in particular that has earned the nickname “ice cream alley”. As you wander along Via Vittorio Emanuele you’ll find half a dozen gelato parlours within a few yards of each other, selling all sorts of delicious flavours. Everyone seems to have their own personal favourite, so it’s worth trying a few – most of these places will offer you little tasters before you buy.
As you’d expect in a town that’s virtually surrounded by water, fish features heavily on the town’s menus. Popular dishes in Sirmione’s restaurants include trout carpaccio, tench risotto and pasta with sardines, all caught fresh from the lake. Another local favourite is lavaret, a white fish that’s plentiful in Lake Garda and often served whole and straight from the grill.
Lake Garda is an esteemed wine region. The gentle slopes around its southern end are perfect for growing grapes and are peppered with vineyards. In Sirmione you can drink some quality vintages that were made within a few miles of the town, such as the red Bardolino and Mantovani, and the white Custoza and Lugana varieties. It’s lots of fun deciding which ones you want to take home with you.
To pre-book one of our specially selected excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.