Introducing Lake Garda
A playground for Italians of all ages, Lago di Garda encompasses an immense 370 sq km. The lake is shaped something like an isosceles triangle, and its broad southern end resembles an inland sea. In the southwestern corner, Desenzano del Garda is known as the porta del lago (gateway to the lake), with good transport connections around the lake and beyond. In the centre of the southern shore, on a sliverlike peninsula, is the impossibly quaint village of Sirmione, bookended by a castle at its entrance and a maze of Roman ruins on its headland. If you have kids to entertain, the lake’s southeastern corner is home to two amusement parks.
Particularly as you head north, Lago di Garda’s Ora (southerly) and Peler (northerly) winds make it a windsurfer’s haven. Once you’ve hit flower-filled Gardone Riviera, the lake rapidly narrows as the altitude climbs. Across from Gardone on the eastern shore, a cable car glides from the windsurfers’ hang-out of Malcesine to Monte Baldo (2200m), where there’s wintertime skiing and year-round mountain biking. By the time you reach the hiking haven Riva del Garda, at the northern tip, craggy mountains tower over the lake, likening it to a fjord.
The diverse range of activities on offer has made Garda the most (over) developed of the lakes, and despite a plethora of accommodation, booking ahead is advised.