Desenzano-Sirmione-Bardolino itinerary

  • Lake Garda

On the waters of Lake Garda: the Basso Lago aboard a boat

Desenzano, Sirmione and Bardolino: sailing to discover Roman villas, see enchanting villages and savour glasses of wine

Have you ever been lulled by the waves of Italy’s largest lake? Have you ever navigated over 370 square kilometres of fresh water? More importantly, have you ever done so surrounded by steep mountains, green plains, medieval villages and breath-taking views?

If you have not yet savoured such experiences, know that Lake Garda awaits you, with its mild climate and the calm of an ideal place to practise what the ancient Romans called “otium”.

And there is nothing better than lazing on a lake trip aboard a Navigazione Laghi riverboat, discovering some of the most popular lake resorts in northern Italy.

Let’s take advantage of the fine weather and see what is offered by one of the most invigorating Navigazione Laghi routes offers visitors to the lake.

Basso Lago route: Desenzano, Sirmione and Bardolino

What awaits you is an unforgettable journey through some of the most fascinating locations on Lake Garda, ferried by a Navigazione Laghi boat on the waters that, in the past, buoyed no less than the poet Catullus.

To these lands and in particular to Sirmione where his family felt right at home, Catullus even dedicated inspired poems. For you, the Pearl of the Garda will only be the intermediate stop on a thrilling tour that will start from Desenzano and end in Bardolino.

So, here’s what you can visit ashore, in between stretches of navigation on the lake …

Desenzano del Garda: the stage set for history

Before departing from the picturesque Desenzano del Garda, we recommend a tour of its historic village.

Yes, “historic” is perhaps the word that best describes this village, since it is here you can find millennia of history enclosed in a single splendid landscape – from the prehistoric pile dwellings in the lower lands of Garda, which you can discover in the Archaeological Civic Museum, to the interesting ruins of the Roman Villa that still preserve splendid mosaics and precious remnants of the classical era, along with the Castle dating back to the 10th century, which today hosts exhibitions and conferences.

Add to this a visit to the Old Port, built for the merchants of the Serenissima around the 15th century, along with a tour of Piazza Malvezzi, designed in the 1500s by Architect Giulio Todeschini and dedicated to a partisan martyred by Nazi-Fascism, and you have an almost complete panorama of the historical events to have taken place in Desenzano over the centuries.

Conclude your city tour with a stroll through the centre, past the shops and restaurants, then head to the pier, where your Navigazione Laghi riverboat awaits.

Here, as you ascend, glance eastwards and in the distance, you will spy the next stop on the tour organised for you: beautiful Sirmione.

Sirmione: the Pearl of Lake Garda

Here before you, extends only the shimmering waters of Lake Garda and 20 minutes of absolute tranquillity to spend on board the boat, enjoying the breeze and the breath-taking panorama of the southern shore of the lake.

You will land right in the heart of Sirmione, a stone’s throw from the Castello Scaligero, testimony to the presence in the town of the most important of Veronese families, there around the mid-13th century. To access the castle’s walkways and enjoy the incredible view of the lake, simply climb up a very extensive flight of stairs with 146 steps.

For the less energetic, Sirmione also offers decidedly regenerating opportunities for relaxation, starting with its renowned Aquaria centre, where one can be immersed in the beneficial thermal waters surrounded by the picturesque park by which it is framed.

Alternatively, Jamaica Beach will transport you to an exotic atmosphere worthy of the most beautiful tropical shores, where you can enjoy an exceptional sunset over the lake.

The last unmissable landmark in beautiful Sirmione is the Grotte di Catullo, the ruins of a Roman domus built between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD. Legend has it that this property was once owned by the poet Catullus, celebrated for his inspired words. The term “Grotte”, rather, derives from the dense vegetation that covered the ruins at the time of their discovery and made them look like caves.

A day on the lake can fly by, so get back on board and, in the next hour or so, think back to Catullus and what you have seen so far, as you look forward to Bardolino, home of tulips but above all of grapes and fine wines to delight your palate on the eastern shore of the lake.

Bardolino: tulips and glasses of wine

Arriving in Bardolino, you will be welcomed by its historic centre, with alleys and lanes concealing a Venetian soul to be discovered. Between the parish church, the crenelated tower of the old Scaliger castle and the Romanesque church of San Severo, there will be no lack of interesting historical delights.

But the real attractions of this resort are the walks – be it along the lakeside, enriched by the incredible spectacle of flower beds of tulips in bloom, or the long route (100 kilometres) of the Cammino di Bardolino to be taken on foot through vineyards and hills surrounded by nature. And if you happen to be in the area between the last days of September and early October, don’t miss the Festa dell’Uva e del Vino – the Grape and Wine Festival!

Yes, because we don’t need to tell you that in Bardolino, you certainly can’t say no to a nice glass of local red wine, perhaps savoured before a magical sunset with lake views near the romantic harbour of the nearby Punta San Vigilio.

And with this last thrill, your tour ends. All that’s left to do is put down your glass and head back to the boat. The crossing back to Desenzano is set to begin …


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