Lake Garda - Italy's Blue Pearl
Mediterranean vegetation, beautiful mountain peaks and vast plains characterise the scenery of Lake Garda. Between them you find medieval fortresses and splendid villas, which add cultural attractions to the varied natural and leisure facilities at Italy's greatest lake.
Geography - Italy's largest lake
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. With an area of 369 km², a maximum depth of 346 metres, a length of 51 kilometres and width of 18 kilometres, the inland water extends over three regions: Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino-South Tyrol. Lake Garda lies about 65 metres above sea level between the Alps in the north and the Po Plain in the south. The northern and narrower part of the lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains like the Monte Baldo (about 2,200 m), while the southern and wider part is located in a flat to hilly plain. The main tributary is the Sarca, which issues into the lake in the north near Torbole and leaves it again as Mincio near Peschiera del Garda. Sub-Mediterranean climate creates warm summers and mild winters with low precipitation.
Nature - Mediterranean vegetation between the Alps and the Po Plain
Lake Garda was shaped by a Palaeolithic glacier during the Ice Age, whose traces can still be seen at the south coast. There are several islands in the lake with Isola del Garda as the biggest one. Other islands are Isola di Trimelone and Isola San Biagio with the smaller island Isola dei Conigli ("rabbit island"). The landscape around Lake Garda is vegetated by Mediterranean plants such as cypresses, oleander, cedars, olive trees, palms, agaves and caper bushes. In addition, the lake is known for its orangeries. Although only a few of them are still cultivated and this is mostly done for the tourists, the western bank is referred to as "Riviera dei Limoni". The eastern bank, on the other hand, is called "Riviera degli Olivi" because the hillsides of Monte Baldo accommodate olive groves.
Culture - Medieval fortresses and splendid villas
The first settlements near Lake Garda date back to the year 2000 BC, which is shown by prehistoric rock paintings, for example at Monte Baldo. The region around the lake was also settled in ancient times. The Ligurians, Veneti, Etruscans, Gauls and Romans took up residence here and called the water "Lacus Benacus". In addition, the Langobards, Charles the Great, the Scaliger family and Napoleon settled at the lakes's shores. Many castles and villas, which string together at Lake Garda's coast, were built at that time. Examples are Palazzo Bettoni in Gargnano, the Vittoriale degli Italiani (a residence containing a museum), the castles of Desenzano and Malcesine as well as Scaliger Castle in Sirmione. The latter two date back to the rule of the Scaliger family and offer a breathtaking view of the lake and the surrounding landscape.
Experience - Exquisite wine and high-quality olive oil
The regions around Lake Garda live mainly on tourism but agriculture is an important source of income too. They grow lemons, figs, mulberries, olives and vine, for example. The latter is characteristic of the lake region, especially of the south bank. High-quality white, rosé and red wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Merlot, Bardolino or Nosiola are produced here and exported to the rest of the world. Further north, at the Riviera degli Olivi, olives are grown. Cold-pressed they result in a light and fruity olive oil, which has been awarded with the title DOP (protected designation of origin). The cuisine at Lake Garda combines the best from the lake and the mountains. You find fish from the lake such as eel, trout, sardines, pikes and carps on the menu of many local restaurants. In addition, many dishes contain mushrooms, local fruit and vegetables as well as sweet chestnuts.
Activities - Sailing and surfing on Lago di Garda
The area around Lake Garda is very popular with water sports fans. Swimmers, sailors, surfers, divers and anglers find everything they could wish for on the bank of Lago di Garda. Hikers get their money's worth on the signposted hiking trails around the lake. A special attraction is a cable car ride to Monte Baldo's peak from Malcesine. Many hikers and mountain bikers enjoy the challenge of going back down on foot or by bike. Monte Baldo is also a common starting point for paragliders. There are several leisure parks near Lake Garda which provide entertainment. With the Gardaland as Italy's greatest leisure park and the Canevaworld, the region around Lake Garda has the highest density of leisure parks in the whole of the country.
The peak season at Lake Garda lasts from the end of March to the beginning of October. At this time, all accommodation facilities such as hotels, guest houses, holiday apartments and camping grounds as well as the restaurants are opened. In the winter months, however, most of them are closed.
Lake Garda offers a great variety of leisure activities which will make every active holidaymaker's hear leap for joy. Lovers of culture also get their money's worth here because of the medieval castles and magnificent villas near the lake which are waiting to be visited.