Wouldn’t you like to vacation on Lake Garda and relax while discovering art, culture, and one-of-a-kind panoramas? Here are 14 must-see points of interest ranging from a regenerating walk in Valle delle Cartiere (Paper Mill Valley) to a visit to Vittoriale, from a tour of the main archaeological sites to a religious tourism experience visiting the most evocative churches.
Enjoy this magic land; let the journey start!
Famous archaeological area perched over the lake and surrounded by an olive grove, Grottoes of Catullus owe their name to the Roman poet who was enamoured with the Sirmione peninsula. The site contains the remains of an imposing Roman villa built between the 1st century b.C. and the 1st century A.D., one of the most remarkable examples of residential villas in northern Italy. The precious artifacts displayed in the archaeological museum are absolutely worth a visit.
Learn more about Grottoes of Catullus and the archaeological area.
Evocatively rising from the waters of Lake Garda, this castle was built at the entrance of the town of Sirmione in the second half of the 14th century by the noble Della Scala family of Verona. Among the main attractions are the harbour, an exceptional fortified port dating from the 14th century, ramparts, crenellated walls, and the main tower reaching 37 m. The wall walk is beautiful, especially at sunset when lights create an evocative dance on the water and the stones.
Learn more about Scaligeri Castle in Sirmione.
Originally located in proximity to the beach and equipped with docks and piers, the Roman Villa in Desenzano is the most important archaeological testimony of great Late Antiquity Roman villas in northern Italy. Divided into three parts – old villa, green area with exotic species, and antiquarium – it preserves outstanding polychrome mosaic floors and artifacts found in the villa such as daily life objects and parts of statues and portraits.
Learn more about Roman Villa and Antiquarium in Desenzano.
In a panoramic location, Rocca di Lonato is a military fortification from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of Lake Garda. Inside the large complex stands 15th-century Casa del Podestà, restored and improved at the beginning of the 20th century by Brescia senator and lawyer Ugo da Como, today a house-museum open to the public. The monumental library, containing over 50,000 volumes, is of particular value.
Learn more about Rocca and Casa del Podestà.
Created through the dedication of Fondazione Luciano Sorlini, MarteS in Calvagese contains an extraordinary collection of paintings by the most important 18th-century Venetian painters such as Tiepolo, Ricci, Guardi, and Canaletto in addition to famous Lombardy artists like Savoldo, Bramantino, and Pitocchetto. Hosted in an elegant 17th-century palace and organised in 14 rooms, the museum has a strong educational component and offers events and workshops for children.
Learn more about MarteS – Museo d’Arte Sorlini.
Among the most visited attractions in Lake Garda, Rocca di Manerba (Castle) is located in a spectacular position on a spur dominating the lake. The remains of the old fortifications are very interesting; a path runs along them and culminates with the famous cross and a breathtaking view of the lake.
Along the slope that takes to the Rocca is a Museum, whose galleries showcase local archaeological findings as well as geographical and natural features of the region. Among these are the prehistoric pile dwelling site which is part of UNESCO’s serial site “Alpine arc pile dwellings”.
Learn more about Rocca di Manerba and archaeological park.
Surrounded by peaceful olive groves, Madonna del Carmine Shrine is a beloved place among the faithful. The Church dates back to the 15th century, has one single nave, and contains precious frescoes inspired by Mantegna and Foppa. The tree-lined road in front of the building is very elegant; the view of the lake all around makes this place even more evocative.
Learn more about Madonna del Carmine Shrine.
Located in Salò’s historic centre in a convenient position just steps from the lake, the Cathedral was built between 1453 and 1502 in Late Gothic style. The interior is divided into three naves and is an authentic art gallery. Among the many precious works, there are paintings by Romanino and the large 15th-century cross by Giovanni Teutonico. In the middle of the unfinished façade stands an interesting Renaissance-style door.
Learn more about Salò Cathedral.
A place for culture and events, the civic museum of Salò contains artistic and scientific collections which narrate the history of the city, an important “Magnifica Patria” town during the Venetian domination. Opened in 2015 inside the former Church of Santa Giustina by the lake, the museum dedicates an entire room to old musical instruments in honour of violin maker and player Gasparo da Salò. There are ample spaces available for temporary exhibitions.
Learn more about MuSa in Salò.
Strongly wanted and created by Gabriele D’Annunzio with the collaboration of architect Maroni, Vittoriale is an ensemble of buildings, gardens, streets, squares, an outdoor theatre, and water streams which reflects the eclectic personality of the Vate. Built starting from 1921 in the enchanting landscape of Gardone Riviera, every summer it hosts Tener-a-mente Festival where the most famous global musicians perform.
Learn more about Vittoriale degli Italiani.
Built in the 12th century on a prior pagan temple, the church stands in the middle of the square in a beautiful position by the lake. A remarkable example of Lombardy’s Romanesque style with some Verona influences, the precious façade presents stones and polychrome marbles. The church contains a Madonna and Child by Paolo Veneziano and the oratory crypt with the remains of St. Ercolanus.
Learn more about St. Andrea Monumental Church.
For those who visit the Brescian coast of Lake Garda, we recommend stopping at Nonii Arrii Roman Villa, one of the most important examples of Roman residential architecture alongside the Sirmione and Desenzano sites. Located in proximity to the lake and Toscolano Paper Mill, only some remains of the villa are open to the public, including noteworthy wall paintings and splendid mosaic floors.
Learn more about Nonii Arrii Roman Villa.
Historically, this site has enormous importance. It can be reached with a small detour from the main road that connects Salò to Limone. It’s Valle delle Cartiere (Paper Mill Valley) in the municipality of Toscolano, a peaceful oasis where you can admire the remains of dozens of buildings used in the past to produce paper.
The valley is easily accessible to everyone thanks to significant efforts to improve the paths leading to the various sites. At the start you will find the Paper Museum, opened in 2007 in the old Maina Inferiore paper mill. Characterised by a tall chimney, the museum has a fascinating display enriched by interesting historical artifacts and interactive activities. Spaces for schools and educational workshops are available.
Learn more about Paper Mill Valley and Paper Museum.
Known also as Montecastello Hermitage, the shrine is one of the best known attractions in upper Lake Garda. Located on a splendid natural terrace with unobstructed view of the lake, it can be reached on foot or by car and has a small restaurant. Built on the remains of a prior building, it contains beautiful frescoes by Giotto’s school and the biggest ex voto in Europe, dating from the beginning of the 17th century.
Learn more about Tignale and Montecastello Shrine.