Today I’ll be covering things to do in two towns around Lake Garda. There are so many others but these were more convenient for me on a day trip! They are Desenzano Del Garda and Sirmione. Just one hour away from Verona, we took the train straight to our first stop, Desenzano. Being a beautiful harbour town, this place quickly became one of my favourite places that I’ve ever seen in the world! I am starting to sense a theme with my favourite destinations (small ~aesthetic~ towns anyone?)
Desenzano, what do you have to offer? As I’ve said above, just 1 hour away from Verona, it is the perfect little place for a half day/full day away from the busy city. We explored for half a day, arriving super early and “accidentally” eating cheese cake for breakfast! I wish I could of stayed longer and explored a little more but our train was coming at 7pm and we wanted to hop over to Sirmione as well. Advanced warning: potentially a lot of photos of boats.
Things to do in Desenzano :
1. The Harbour lighthouse
I actually think this spot would be perfect for a picnic or to just sit and take it all in. It has gorgeous views and you should do what I did, climb on the wall! (using the bench and bin) it is so worth it and so many locals did this as well so you don’t need to worry about funny looks, just don’t break any body part and say that I told you to do it.
2. Head to the castle
Even if you don’t want to go in (we didn’t) it is just a 15 minute hike uphill (with steps) but the view point is gorgeous! Also if you go down the left side when you’re up there you come in to a little town which is more personable, no shops with over bearing magnets and just simply full of people actually living there (if you know what I mean)
3. Ice cream!
I got this homemade ice cream while in the town that I mentioned above. The queue was locals and their kids and it was a really lovely atmosphere just queuing up! It is definitely worth popping by if you’re near by, it could make their day.
4. Eat at little Venice.
Now this particular spot is not hard to miss at all and it is absolutely beautiful (and in my opinion, a little prettier than Venice) there are some restaurants surrounding the mini harbour and no doubt charging crazy prices, but I believe it would all be worth it when the sun is setting. This place is also really popular for Instagram so if you want to get your shot then get there early, but otherwise If you like the buzz of dinner being eaten outside and the atmosphere of it all, this one is for you.
As Desenzano is a harbour town, of course you can get a boat at the harbour to explore more around Lake Garda! I hopped on a ferry (12 Euros, I think! don’t quote me on this) and in just a mere 10 minutes I was in the polar opposite of Desenzano. Sirmione was packed to the brim with tourists, touristic shops and no room to breathe. I think if you want to visit this place in it’s full glory, go as early as you can as I think this town is the go-to place to see. I personally didn’t enjoy many aspects of this little town due to the amount of touristy heavy things, but that could be just me, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
So what what should you do here?
1. Take a photo in front of Scaligero castle
One of the most beautiful castles I’ve seen and surrounded by beautiful blue water. If you get there early enough you can get the shot, even if you are surrounded by people, take a picture even if you don’t want to. You might regret it (Source: experience)
2. Grotte di Catullo
Ancient Roman ruins of a villa which once was! You can explore the space freely and completely, no tour necessary. There was a big event happening on this day so I got in to this for free. You can buy a combined ticket for the castle & these ruins for 12 Euros. I’d say this is 100% worth visiting. Make sure you climb right to the very top! There is a beautiful view there and not packed at all. We sat here for a while just watching the sparkling sea and looking at the view. In my opinion, the complete highlight of this island really.
3. Get another ice cream
Okay Okay, hear me out before you judge me. This side of Lake Garda is completely catered to tourists, although not home made or authentic, can you really pass on a white chocolate ice cream with crunchy toffee bits? No? I didn’t think so either!
4. Jamaica Beach
This one is a little hike downwards from the Roman ruins and in my opinion.. not really worth it. Maybe I went at a bad time but this little beach was absolutely crowded with party goers with no space for us to even sit down, litter was everywhere and the general vibe of it was really not my cup of tea. There is a bar there and porta-potties should that be your thing though! (hey, honestly no judgement, just not what I was expecting)
Note: this island has no public bathrooms to use (unless you go down to Jamaica beach). Well, technically they do but they were out of service (50c) and I overheard that this is a regular occurrence. So the near by cafes con you out of 5 euros for a coffee and then you can use theirs.
We also took a little tourist train from the top to the bottom of the park because we were so tired and lazy. This was 1 Euro and extremely worth it by the end of the day.
By the time 6pm rolled around we were exhausted from exploring and sat on the rocks to relax, explored the shops that were left open and even tried to go for dinner but the restaurant was so busy we ended up leaving before ordering because we were cutting it too fine! reflecting on this now, we could of stayed longer but we were worried about train times.
I really enjoyed this little trip outside of Verona and it was one of the highlights of the trip.
Let me know if you’ve been before or want to go there!