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Lake Garda – The Insider’s Top Tips & Things to Do

12 November 2015

A visit to the Market on Tuesday in Desenzano is always a must with its many tens of stalls which stretch along whole of the lake side from one end of the town to the other. The market here is a treasure trove of fine Italian cotton shirts.  The town is beautiful, especially the Old Town and the castle - which holds lots of information on the history of the region.

There is plenty to do in the region, most of which I have at least tried over the years, here are my favourites…

I suggest taking a trip to Parco Sigurtà Girardino.   It takes a train to Peschiera and then the 46 bus to Valeggio sul Minico but is well worth it with some 600,000 m2 of gardens and parks.   The lawns are immaculate, as is the rest of the gardens.  You need good walking legs or you could hire an electric golf cart or a bicycle to make your way round the park.   The carp in the ponds are enormous and the pond full of turtles is fascinating.

Lake Garda has an extensive timetable of ferries to take you across and up the lake to many different towns.  Some of the towns are not easily accessible from Desenzano by Ferry in a day and you may need to also look at the bus timetables if you want to reach Riva Del Garda at the head of the lake or Malcesine for the cable car up Monte Baldo providing great views over the lake and the surrounding mountains.

A very popular trip which many of us took on one of the free days was to take the ferry from Desenzano to the lake sides towns of Bardolino or Garda. Bardolino is famous for its deep-red coloured wine, which comes highly recommended by many.  The ferry takes about 1 hour 20 minutes and provides a very relaxing crusie across the lake via Sirmione to arrive at Bardolino harbour side.

Thursday is market day so if you have not had your fill of markets then you can shop until about 1.30pm when the market packs up.  Bardolino has many lovely shops, especially selling leather goods and many, many handbags!  One passenger bought no less than 5 handbags in a week!!   The church in the main square is well worth a visit, as are the restaurants and ice cream shops.  If you want to relax you can just sit by the lake and review the scenery.

If you would like a little more exercise then you can walk along the side of the lake from Bardolino to Garda, stopping at any of the lakeside bars on the way.   When you arrive in Garda there are many little streets to explore whilst perhaps sampling the ice cream. It is then easy to get your tickets at the harbour side and take the ferry back to Desenzano.

There are many other lakeside towns to visit if you are so inclined.  Some are accessible by ferry and some require a bus.  If you're staying in Desenzano it is easy to catch the bus from outside the station to many of the towns with tickets available from the station café. You can take the bus to the top of the lake in about 1 hour or the ferry which takes just over 4 hours, arriving in Riva Del Garda.  There is a beautiful lake side with plenty of eating places.

On the same side of the lake some passengers visited Gardone Riviera where there are Botanical Gardens on the side of the hill which are well worth a visit, as is a visit to Il Vittoriale Delgi Italiani; home of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. Limone, built on the cliff side with many steep paths, is a lovely location and the nearby town of Salo provides a great opportunity for a lakeside walk in the sun.  

On the Garda side of the lake a visit to Malcesine is not be missed with its narrow streets and reasonably priced shops. You can also take the cable car from the town up to the top of Monte Baldo for great views of the whole lake.

Some passengers travel further afield for their day trips; Milan is always a possibility with trains from Desenzano or Peschiera providing the quickest route there.  There are the old trams to ride on and worthwhile visits to the Cathedral and La Scala and of course, there are all the designer shops and arcades. If you are visiting in July and August then a trip to the Opera in Verona is an experience that should not be missed, whether sitting on the stone steps (cushion essential) or paying more the more comfortable seats.