We’ve known for a very long time that you can fall head over heels in love with Italy. We were exploring the south during our first trip together in 2009. We fell in love with Positano, Amalfi Coast, Trani, Matera, Gallipoli’s surroundings and fishing Scilla, but we fell even more in love with Italian cuisine and sweet dolce vita.
We would come back to Italy in the following years, but for a very short time.. But this time, our Italian vacation lasted for over a week and now we are enchanted by Lake Garda’s surroundings! I know many of you have been waiting for this post and now it’s finally here 🙂 How to get there, where to stay, what to see – this post is going to be long, but you will find everything here! 🙂
HOW TO GET TO LAKE GARDA?
Lake Garda, the biggest lake in Italy, is located at the north of the country, halfway between Milan and Venice. From Poland, you can drive to Italy with stops in Germany or Austria. You can go by plane. We took a plane to Milan – Milan-Malpensa Airport is 215-250 kilometers away from Garda (depending on where your base is). You may want to rent a car anyway, because you have to drive across beautiful towns by the lake. If not Malpensa, you should look through cheap airlanes that can get you to land at Orio al Serio International Airport – it’s 120-160 kilometers away from Garda.
WHERE TO STAY?
There are various options – you can look for a hotel or a guest house in one of the popular towns, you can rent a house somewhere aside and treat it as your starting point. We chose the latter – you’ve asked about the house hundred times on Facebook, so HERE is the link. The house was near Paitone, not by the lake, but it was a perfect option for us – we were there with our friends, so the kids had a lot of space to have fun, goof around and learn how to swim. For us it was a charming place to spend our time together when the kids went to sleep.
The house is beautiful, well equipped, with a huge pool. We used our cars to go for trips and to grab dinners, and whenever we wanted to spend a day at the pool, we would make lunch by ourselves. We had about 15-20 kilometers to the closest towns (Saló and Desenzano del Garda), but for dinners we chose climatic restaurants in the middle of nowhere, 5-8 kilometers away from the house. Their huge advantage was localization and local cuisine, not for tourists 🙂
WHAT TO EAT BY LAKE GARDA?
Pasta, pizza, gnocchi, mozzarella di bufala, burrata and ice cream every day – that’s obvious. When it comes to typical dishes that you can eat in the neighbourhood, you should try pasta with local fish or tortelli / casoncelli all bresciana (with meat) typical for Brescia. However, this time we didn’t focus on creating a culinary guide, although we visited a few places worth mentioning. Most of them are restaurants located somewhere aside, away from main hiking trails, local, no lie. They’re the best. Write these names down because you may need them one day: Trattoria Eva Di Fantoni, famous for its steaks Fior di Lotto and very Italian La Scailoa.
Lunches and dinners were also a chance for us to keep on testing DiPocket app that I wrote about HERE. I already told you that DiPocket comes in handy when you split your expenses with friends, but it’s also great for any other payments during travels.
Along with the app, you get Mastercard cards: one for zlotys, second one for paying with euros and third one for paying with pounds, so in Italy we would always pay with the euro card. Thanks to that we saved money off provisions and currency conversions – I highly recommend it for your trips in Europe. We also exchanged zlotys to euros using our app, which pays off way more than using exchange office of taking euros out of your account with zlotys. While in travel, we always pay with our card. We keep some cash on ourselves for small expances or paying in places where you can’t pay any other way – this solution is way safer than having a looooot of cash on you. You can download the app HERE. It only takes a moment and you will definitely use it! 🙂 For the scatterbrained, it has one more important function – instant international transfers between DiPocket users so even if you lose your wallet, you will have an access to money.
NOW LET’S GET TO THE MOST IMPORTANT PART … WHAT TO SEE BY LAKE GARDA???
Towns by Lake Garda are beautiful. It’s a perfect destination for those who love wandering small streets, sitting at squares, eating gelati and saying “It’s so beautiful in here!” a dozen times a day. And even though after some time you may feel like it’s enough, like all these towns look the same, you should see as many of them as you can! We managed to see up to 7-8 of them… we wanted to see more, but unfortunately our last day by Lake Garda was … a wall of rain! 😉 Still, we have a pretty long list for you 🙂
Our favorite 🙂 It’s charming, you get a beautiful view of the lake, a lot of streets, squares, picturesque harbor and Castello Scaligero from the 6th century. There are no crowds like in Sirmione… and that’s good! 🙂 You have to eat some ice cream (do it everywhere!), walk towards the castle and look at everything from a hill – you can go to Monte Baldo by cable railway – but because of unsure weather, we didn’t do it. Maybe next time!
2) PESCHIERA DEL GARDA
My favorite. What’s funny is that out of our 6 person group, I was the only one who got there. After a battle with huge crowds in Sirmione, our friends got back to our base, Maks fell asleep and Łukasz said that he wouldn’t explore anything else as the second tour. But me, I was enchanted by Peschiera. Beautifully located – colorful houses by the water, red flowers, blue sky. Small streets are rather empty and it’s good – you can bask in this place in silence and peace.
They say that this is one of the must-sees by Lake Garda and one of the biggest hits. Pictures of Sirmione from the air look awesome – the town is located on a small peninsula entering the lake. We pull over in a carpark by the water and we go towards the historical part of the town. You can get there by walking over the bridge, and you are welcomed by the impressive Scaliger Castle. Nearby the entrance to the town, you can buy great, refreshing granita di limone – a good idea when it’s hot outside. Walking around the town with kids in August is not the easiest thing to do – it’s very crowdy! You can go to a small beach and cool down in the lake or get some ice cream from one of the gelateries that are EVERYWHERE!
4) DESENZANO DEL GARDA
Another charming town. Less popular than Sirmione or Riva del Garda. Peaceful, with less tourists and with a picturesque harbor and beautiful views once you get closer to the castle.
Saló is the closest town to our base in Paitone. Nice promenade by the lake, beautiful views, nice restaurants and empty streets that you can walk while hiding from the sun. There’s Gardone Riviera a few kilometers away, where you can find a few brasseries by the water, but I think the biggest and main spot in the town is… Grand Hotel, so you can skip Gardone while planning your trip.
6) LIMONE SUL GARDA
Limone sul Garda is amazing when it comes to views. This town, located in the north of the lake is an unbelievable connection between the lake and the mountains. We weren’t that lucky and we could only look at Limone in the rain. Still, I’m happy we stopped here, even for a moment. Limone used to be famous for lemon and lime production – nowadays you may find a lot of shops selling lemon souvenirs here – soaps, liquers and whole lot of other gadgets. Once in Limone, you can go on a cruise to Riva del Garda or Malcesine, located on the other side of the lake. Now imagine what it looks like in the sun, not in the rain 🙂
7) RIVA DEL GARDA
Riva del Garda is a town that everybody talks about, and we didn’t see it at all! We had one simple reason: while driving north from Limone, the rain wouldn’t leave us alone, our shoes were filled with water and we didn’t have raincoats. We decided that exploring Italian town with a soaking wet kid (and a pregnant woman :)) is not RIGHT 🙂 I can’t tell you anything about Riva – all I know is that people say you should see it! 🙂 Go and see why! I borrowed this picture from Kamil – he was one of the people we spent our time with by Garda and they got to see Riva before. Looks nice, huh? 🙂 They say you should go to Torbole, which is 4 kilometers away. You have to check it out yourself as well 😉
The most popular town of people in love, Verona, is also not that far from Lake Garda. Peschiera del Garda is about 30 kilometers away fom Verona! You can’t be in the neighbourhood and not see Juliet’s famous balcony. I will write more about Verona soon! 🙂
So? Who wants to see Garda this year, and who wants to see it next year? 🙂 Because it’s obvious that you have to go there! 🙂
* this post was created in cooperation with DiPocket