Sirmione, Lake Garda
After our day exploring the small town of Bellagio on Lake Como, our next stop was heading east across Italy to Lake Garda – the biggest of all the Italian Lakes. We arrived in Sirmione located at the south of the lake on a small peninsular. We arrived just before lunchtime and didn’t plan on staying all day – we were thinking about heading to the train station and hopping on a train to Venice for the afternoon after we’d had a quick explore of the town.
Little did we realise just how amazing Lake Garda and Sirmione would be, that we actually ended up staying the night and totally abandoing our Venice ideas! A top tip is to get there really early, as all the parking right by the main entrance to the town gets filled up really quick.
We arrived around lunchtime and all the car parks were closed. Luckily, being in a campervan worked out amazing for us, because as soon as they saw us pull up after refusing so many cars ahead of us, they opened the gates and let us in. Turns out there’s a whole huge section in the carpark for Campervans/Motorhomes – and you can even stay overnight too!
We managed to get parked looking right out onto the water. We had no idea what was in Sirmione at all, other than the fact that it was a town on the Lake Garda, but we walked into town and were amazed by the entrance over the bridge with the castle towering over everything. As soon as we walked across the bridge, I knew it was going to be good!
There’s a few beaches in Sirmione, with Jamaica beach being the most popular. The colour of the water was so enticing and it was actually pretty warm. We decided to do a loop from one side of the town by the lake and around to the other, and we suddenly came across a stong rotten egg smell and realised there’s also a natural thermal area in the lake too!
Grotte di Catullo
We headed up the hill to head back down into town, but saw a road with a tourist train heading in the opposite direction so decided to follow it and ended up at the Grotte di Catullo instead,. Having no idea what it actually was, we decided to go in and see. We bought the joint ticket which allowed you access to the castle too for €12pp, or you can get entry to the Grotto only for €8pp.
It’s the ruins of an ancient Roman Villa that was built between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD – so it’s pretty old! There’s a museum in there which shows how it would have looked back in the day, and some of the artifacts that were found during the restoration of the Grotte. I always find stuff like that so fascinating and how they managed to do all that back in those days!
The area is actually pretty huge, and it has some amazing views of the lake and down to the beaches below. I could have sat and people watched for hours, but we could see a storm rolling in from across the lake and didn’t want to get caught in it, so started heading back into town. The walk into town is actually really nice – you can either walk along the lakeside (which is what we did to get to the Grotte) or walk along the road and back into the heart of the town.
After getting lost in the streets of Sirmione, we headed over to Scaliger Castle. The views from the top of the castle looking over Sirmione were some of my favourite of the town, especially as it started getting moodier with the storm on it’s way. The castle was built in the 13th Century at the entrance to the peninsula – it’s actually cut off from the mainland by a moat except from two bridges – one from the mainland to the island, and one across the moat to the Castle.
Don’t you just love the orange toned buildings and their terracotta roofs? I could just stare at them all day!
After a long day exploring Sirmione, we headed back to the van, not without stopping at the fruit stalls out the front of the old town. We picked up some fresh fruit and lemonade – so so good! The lemons were insanely huge there, and the lemon juice was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Once we were back at the van, we got our chairs out, sat right by the lakeside and watched the storm slowly make it’s way towards us, before going in and cooking some dinner.
It was definitely a highlight of the trip and one of my favourite days by far! I definitely want to return to Garda one day, maybe on a joint trip with Venice, though I’d have to go for a swim in the lake for sure. I’ve heard Riva del Garda and Limone are pretty nice to visit too!
Have you been to Lake Garda? Is it somewhere on your bucket list?