Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian great lakes, in spite of Lago Maggiore’s boastful name. Its southern end is in the Veneto and it’s in the Alto Adige at its northernmost point. The topography goes from dead-flat around Sirmione and Desenzano to the dramatic pre-alps at Riva.
We’ve been to Lake Garda many times, and have loved it – particularly the north. It has always seemed to get short-shrift from the tourist publications in favor of the more popular big lakes, Como and Maggiore.
If you’re planning a visit I highly recommend taking the extra time to head north, at least as far as Malcesine, but I would not suggest getting the notion to take a leisurely drive around the lake. It will take hours and you may well find yourself stuck in horrendous traffic.
I recommend taking the Autostrada on the east side of the lake and cutting across to Riva – arguably the most scenic town on Garda.
There are many interesting towns inland from Riva as well. Arco is home to a terrific castle ruin that was painted by Durer on his way from Austria to the Veneto. Our favorite of the inland towns is Canale – a nearly perfectly preserved medieval borgo.
There are many good painting sites along the lakefront. Riva’s stone beach offer a long view down the lake. There are places to rent boats of all sorts, and to take sailing or wind surfing lessons.
The older section of Riva rises from the lakefront, offering some architectural subjects.
Riva del Garda is quote popular with german tourists who come for long weekends. The culture is somewhat Germanic as is most of the Alto Adige. If you’ve never been to this part of Italy, a treat awaits.
Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.