“Certain memories are enough to perfume a soul forever.” This is what Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote in “The Child of Pleasure”, one of his most famous novels. And this is what everyone experiences when they visit Gardone Riviera for the first time. They will be forever under its spell.
Located a few km north of Salò along the western coast of Lake Garda (in the province of Brescia), Gardone Riviera is a hidden gem. Named one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy, it’s one of the only two Lake Garda towns (the other is Tremosine) which received this recognition. This enchanting town is surrounded by mountains with several hiking trails and has a lovely old centre. In addition, D’Annunzio’s house Vittoriale degli Italiani is one of the most famous Gardone attractions.
However, not everyone knows that Gardone Riviera is also the town of André Heller Botanic Garden, with a one-of-a-kind collection of plants from all over the world, and Divine Infant Museum, with a rich private collection of over 200 miniature statues of Baby Jesus. In addition, you have the elegant lake front promenade, a large offering of water sports, and exclusive food&wine experiences such as the one offered by Chef Camanini of Lido 84, the winner of several global awards.
Let’s discover all the not-to-miss beauties of Gardone Riviera.
Gardone Riviera has the privilege to host one of the most important museums and mausoleums in the country. It is Vittoriale degli Italiani, an eccentric complex of constructions built starting from 1921 following the indications of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s genius mind. A short stay was enough for “Vate” D’Annunzio to fall in love with this magical place, so much that he decided to purchase the property and build a monument to his own life and the variety of activities in which he engaged, from literature and journalism to military actions. The result is a highly fascinating monumental complex organised on multiple levels and set in a unique environment with buildings, paths, gardens, water streams, and the well-known Vittoriale Amphitheatre, which with Tener-a-mente Festival turns Gardone’s summer into an exciting stage where the most acclaimed national and international music stars perform. One of the most visited sites of Vittoriale is the Mausoleum where the poet rests, built on the upper portion of the complex with unobstructed view of the lake.
In the 40s, Gardone Riviera was in the international spotlight also for another historical reason. Indeed, there were over 20 buildings in the town which during the Republic of Salò became government offices and residences for political leaders. You may be surprised to learn that Grand Hotel Gardone and Grand Hotel Fasano were utilised as military hospitals, while Villa Fiordaliso (today a hotel) was the home of Claretta Petacci, Mussolini’s young mistress. Learn more about the sites of the Social Republic on Lake Garda.
The surprises do not end here. During your stay in Gardone Riviera, we recommend visiting Fondazione Museo Il Divino Infante (Divine Infant Museum), an interesting collection of over 200 sculptures of Baby Jesus, Mary, and Neapolitan nativity scenes. This is a one-of-a-kind exhibition encompassing four centuries; the fruit of the passion of Ms. Hiky Mayr, a fine German collector and restorer.
Nature is the undisputed protagonist of Gardone Riviera. Among the many outdoor attractions, André Heller Botanic Garden boasts an invaluable collection which reflects the passion and extravagance of his founder, Dr. Arthur Hruska. The unique design of this garden includes Japanese gardens, water streams, grottos, lily pads, artificial ponds, rock formations, and Dolomite rocks. We find ourselves on a journey around the world thanks to the over 3,000 different plant varieties from all climate zones, which are able to coexist on Lake Garda thanks to its mild climate. A rather peculiar collection ranging from Tibet primrose to bamboo forests and colourful irises. The garden is dotted with sculptures by Keith Haring, Mimmo Paladino, Roy Lichtenstein, and other contemporary artists.
You can continue to relax with a walk along D’Annunzio lakefront, ideal destination for a romantic stroll by the lake. From here, you will enjoy stunning views of the lake and the most beautiful villas along Lake Garda while being caressed by a gentle lake breeze. You will also find many bars and restaurants for a relaxing aperitif or romantic dinner.
Finally, we highly recommend visiting the old centre of Gardone Riviera with its picturesque alleys, old stairs, and colourful houses displaying splendid floral arrangements.
There are two main religious buildings that you can’t miss in Gardone Riviera. The first is the parish church of San Nicolò di Bari (via dei Caduti 26), with interesting frescoes and three medallions on the vault attributed to famous local artist Francesco Monti. The second is the charming Evangelic Lutheran church near Vittoriale, characterised by an unusual Gothic Revival architecture and a lovely garden overlooking the lake.
Those who are passionate about SPA and wellness centre holidays will find SPA hotels and resorts in Gardone Riviera which are sure to fulfil their desire for relaxation and unforgettable emotions. Wellness, beauty farms, hydromassage, custom-designed massage packages: check the list of Gardone Riviera hotels and choose what best fits your needs.
Are you looking for an active holiday on Lake Garda? You are in the right place! In Gardone Riviera, you can experience the thrill of a day of sailing or a kite surf lesson. For the brave at heart, paragliding flights are also available.