Set on Lake Garda's southern shore, the quiet town of Desenzano is one of the lake's most charming towns, and boasts a long history. The area is known to have been inhabited for several thousand years, as recently the remains of a pre-historic pile dwelling were discovered on the outskirts of the town (note that this site is not open to the public). The town has been a popular tourist destination since about the 1st century BC; wealthy families from Verona - then north-eastern Italy's main city - began to visit the lake for tours.
Today the town continues to attract visitors, due in no small part to the beautiful views of the Alps to the north, and the clutch of pretty beaches at the lake's shore. The town itself is a delight to explore. The compact center consists of a series of interconnected squares, along which there are various pavement cafés, ice cream parlours, shops, bars and restaurants. The medieval castle on the hillside and the picturesque waterfront are some of the more popular attractions. The ruins of a Roman villa can also be found in Desenzano, complete with a mosaic and a small museum about the building. Other highlights include the archaeological museum, which tells the fascinating story of the town's long history, and the magnificent 16th-century Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene.