Lake Garda is a magical place. I've visited it twice and would happily go back for a third visit.
Life slows down immeasurably when you travel around the lake on the ferries that ply between the lakeside towns and villages. The views of the surrounding hills and mountains are spectacular and the light has something special about it. And isn't that what holidays are for? Slowing down and enjoying everything that make a place a wonderful holiday destination.
There are the towns such as Sirmione which, whilst always busy with tourists, is a pleasure to saunter around. Set on a peninsula it has marvelous views as well as a castle and Roman ruins.
From here you can get on a ferry to the attractive town of Malcesine from where you can ride a cable car to the summit of Monte Baldo 1,760 m above the lake. From here there is a magnificent panorama of the lake and surrounding mountains. If visiting gardens is your passion, take the ferry to Gardone Riviera for the short walk to the botanical gardens.
If you have a car you can travel inland a short way from Desenzano or Sirmione to visit the monument of San Martino. This tower with commanding views over the countryside and lake neatly encapsulates the history of Italy for this is where the battle took place in 1859 after which the Italy as we know it today took shape.
But this is Italy so naturally two of the biggest attractions are the food and wine of the area.
Many of the lakeside towns are dominated by wine such as Bardolino for this a large wine producing area. One of the lesser known wines of the region is Chiaretto a delightful fresh rose that is best sipped outside on one of the many warm days in a cafe or restaurant at the lakeside.
The white wines from Lugana, at the southern tip of the lake deserve to be much better known outside Italy. Young wines, made from Turbiana the only grape allowed in the region, are vibrant and inviting. Wines with a few years bottle age have an added complexity and texture to them making them a perfect match for the plentiful fish served in the restaurants of the area.
Wine tourism is well developed here. You can follow the suggestions of the Strada dei Vini e Sapori del Garda which has recommendations of producers that are open to the public for tastings or suggestions of the local foods to try. The olive oils are also worth exploring and it is easily possible to visit quality producers such as Frantoio Montecroce.
For such a tourist mecca there is plentiful accommodation. You can stay in a hotel such as the Hotel Desenzano or at an agriturismo such as Cascina Feliciana set amongst the vines. Food is always a pleasure in Italy and no less so than surrounding Lake Garda. Restaurants serve food to a very high standard with plentiful salamis, dried and cured meats, fish from the lake and local cheeses.
Whatever your reasons for taking a holiday, whether your focus is food or wine or sightseeing or simply relaxing, Lake Garda really has it all.
Disclaimer: for my second trip to the region I was there as a guest of the Consorzio to learn about the wines.