Poetry on the Water: Exploring Lake Garda’s Southern Spots
Others flock to Lake Como but Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is a worthy destination. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains with a number of historical sites, museums, and beautiful villages. The temperate climate makes it an ideal vacation spot. While there are many destinations around the lake to explore, an exploration into the Southern corner of the lake by boat is a perfect journey.
Two hours of scenic roadway from Milan is Salò, a cute little town with a rich history on Lake Garda’s southern shore. Originally it was part of the Venetian Republic, then the Austrian Empire, and finally of the Fascist government during WWII. Salò’s town center’s many shops are all accessible from the lakefront promenade. Which also makes this the perfect launch point to access the next destination.
Sailing on the water, one can see the beautiful historical villas of Gardone Riviera. The olive, lemon, palm, cypress, oleander, and orange trees dot the hillsides and waterfront. One of the most spectacular views of Lake Garda can be found at the former residence of famed poet, journalist, playwright, and soldier Gabriele d’Annunzio. As intriguing as Hearst Castle, the Vittoriale degli Italiani was created from money given to d’Annunzio by the Italian government. Explore the beautiful pools and gardens as you traverse to the Amphitheatre and Mausoleum to see the incredible view of the lake – and board a land-locked historic Navy cruiser that protrudes from the hillside.
Sailing from Gardone Riviera you pass Garda Island and its castle on your way to the thin peninsula that is Sirmione. Sirmione’s rich history is told through its remains: an ancient medieval village protected by a fortress with Roman ruins at one end and thermal waters throughout. The Scaliger castle greets you on the cobblestone streets with numerous shops and buildings all made from Lake stones. Dining at a lakeside restaurant, reminiscent of the Italian Riviera, exploring the Roman ruins, or visiting the world-class thermal spa, are all recommended activities.
Lake Garda makes a great day trip but, with a number of beautiful places to stay, many extend their stay, perhaps called by the words of d’Annunzio’s poetry:
I believe I hear in the air the waters whispering
luminous secrets to the shores;
but no wind stirs over the sea,
the poets’ mandolas keep silent.
Jennie Olson Six
Cultural Italy Content Writer