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Jewel of the Garda Lake - A Day-Trip!!

Published by Emma Barbacini — one year ago

If you're staying in Milan, Venice, Verona or any other city in the north of Italy and looking for a day-trip that combines on-the-beach style relax, exploration of little typical Italian burgs with lots of delicious food and little picturesque streets, history, art and fun, Sirmione is the place for you!! Built on a spear of land reaching into the water, this city is the crown jewel of beautiful Garda lake.

How to Get There

  • ·         By train: by means of the local train  lines ( called regionale; fares will be around 10 euros from Venezia, 6/7 euros from Verona,  10 from Milano) you can reach the town of Desenzano, closest train stop to Sirmione, which unfortunately doesn't have one of its own. But don't worry!! Right in front of the station (ask the tourist office for direction, it's right inside the station!) you can take the L027 bus, which will bring you to Sirmione in around 15 minutes. A shuttle from the bus stop to the city center is included in the 1.80 euros fare, but if you can easily take the 10 minutes walk instead - the route is scenic and tranquil. I know this sounds like a lot of transportation for a day trip, but trust me, it's worth your while!! As the station is pretty small but often very crowded, make sure to allot enough time to buy return tickets on your way back.
  • ·         By car:

The town

Sirmione certainly makes an effort to impress its visitors at first glance: the entrance to the city goes through the arching portal of the ancient Scaligero castle, which still stands proud and encircled by its old moat, now refuge to the various swans and ducks that populate the city. The castle is still open to visitors, and you can tour the decorated rooms and turreted guard's walkway as soon as you enter Sirmione!

Beyond the castle, the city spreads out in a maze of small streets, mostly reserved for foot traffic except for the various hotel's transportation vehicles: the best way to enjoy it is to get lost through the twists and turns and discover niches and interesting corners of your own! Observe the life of the ihabitants of dozens of thermal hotels and make sure to enjoy some of the famous local gelato, that you can see amassed in colorful gigantic mountains in ice-cream vendors' displays on practically every street. The cones and scoops are truly impressive!


The Beaches

If you're here mostly for the lake life, however, the city won't disappoint you! The Garda's water is so clear and blue on a sunny day that it really could fool you into thinking you're on the sea. The easiest way to reach the shore is to take the panoramic walkway around the small peninsula of Sirmione (take  the second right after the castle to access it): you will immediately find the first of the small beaches that dot the town's perimeter, covered in the typical small, smooth white rocks. Walking along the lake shore you will find several of these places, as well as many wooden piers. Some of the larger beaches offer umbrellas and sunbeds, courtesy of the local hotels; behind the last one grows an impressive sloping field of olive trees, under whose shade sit a number of benches for those who don't enjoy the sun.

The most famous of these places is probably Jamaica Beach: this is where the young visitors of Sirmione usually convene to sunbathe, swim and generally relax and have fun; the bar situated right on the beach blasts all kinds of music and offers cocktails at all hours! Jamaica beach lies at the extreme end of the peninsula, right under what is perharps the most famous site of the city: Catullo's Caves.

Catullo's Caves

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that no caves at all are actually involved in this site: the gigantic complex of walls, rooms, archways and fallen columns thus named is formed by the ruins of an ancient roman villa. While mosaics and frescoes have been stored safely in an indoor on-site museum, most of the remains are actually still standing outside among beautiful oleanders and olive trees. As you walk along the rather intricate labyrinth, stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains will suddenly open up through unexpected halls in the walls or solitary archs; stepping around fallen capitels of a white still unexpectedly blinding under the sun, you will be able to appreciate the sheer vastness of the land once owned by the fortunate inhabitants of the villa. For years it has been thought of as belonging to  famous first century poet Catullo, and although the ruins have been proved to be far more recent (and therefore could not possibly have belonged to him ), the name still stuck; for Catullo did indeed own a property in roman Sirmione, and his verses of love and gratitude to this patch of land, inscribed on a plaque on the way to the Caves, are still the best accompaniment to the swaying of the trees in the perfumed lake breeze.

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