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As a long, thin peninsula that extended in the middle of the southern shore of Lake Garda, Sirmione is blessed with mild weather, rich history and of course, the lovely Lake Garda. Inhabited since the ancient times, it was the favourite resort place for the people of Verona, and later the Romans. And it’s not hard to see why so many falls in love with this beautiful spot – in fact, I wanted to kick myself for skipping it in favour of Padua and Milan the two weekends before.
I was drawn in by the charm of the castle-gate that guarded the entry point of the city, as well as the stone paved streets and rustic buildings. The town isn’t large at all, especially the old part, and you can easily see everything. Although prepare for fighting with yourself to leave.
- See my full Italy series and itineraries here
Things to do in Sirmione
Did you know that Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy? But when most people think of a beautiful lake in Italy, most of them would think of Lake Como, but Lake Garda, in my opinion, is more worth a visit. It was formed on a fault line as a result of Pleistocene deformation, with the water from the retreating glacier in the last ice age. It runs roughly North-South, a long, tapering lake that widens southward that likely marks the fault line.
Scaliger Castle (Sirmione)
The 13th century castle right at the front of the old town, the Scaliger Castle looks like it appears straight out of a fairy tale. It is rare in the fact that it perches right by the water, stretching across the narrow peninsular and marking the entrance to the old town.
The Scaliger family from Verona built this not to protect invasion, but from the locals as well! There isn’t a lot to see inside the castle, apart from the spectacular view it offers on its wall. You can see the entire town from the watchtower as well as Lake Garda – which is worth every penny.
Address: Viale Guglielmo Marconi 2, 25019 Sirmione, Brescia, Italy
Admission fee: 6 euros for adult, 2 euros concession
Grotto of Catullus
A Roman ruin from 1st BC to 1st AD, Augustus period, the Grotto of Catullus was once an imposing remnant of a villa at the very tip of Sirmione. It is named after the famous poet Cattulus, though the actual owner of the place is unknown. The place was abandoned after some kind of disaster in the 3rd AD and it was buried underground. Here, you can see the ruins in all its glory with sections of columns and walls still remain standing. You also get a clear view of the limestone beaches below as well – in fact, I scouted out a spot to head up there before heading down.
If you are interested in the history of Sirmione and Lake Garda, they also have an exhibition hall as well as several informative videos in the visitor’s center.
Address: Piazza Orti Manara 4 | Tip of Sirmione Peninsula, 25019 Sirmione, Italy
Opening times: July – Sept Mon – Fri 8:30 – 19:30, Sat-Sun: 9:30 -18:30
Admission fee: 6 euros for adults, 3 euros concession
If you are looking for a stereotypical sandy beach, then you are in for a disappointment. However, personally, I quite like the slabs of beige-yellow rock that surrounded the northernmost tip of the Sirmione peninsula. Although the waters seemed a little rough for swimming, and that there was frequent sea traffic, there was plenty of space around the smooth, white rocks for you to lay down and enjoy the Sun. They also make for a spectacular photo composition as well!
You can only success the area from the east side of the island via several points, so if you want to walk all the way around, you would have to walk all the way back to get out!
How to get to Sirmione from Verona
You can take the bus or a combination of train and bus from Verona to Sirmione. The bus is the most direct route.
Go to the bus station at Porto Nuova, buy the ticket at the office inside for 5 euros. It’s the Ln 026 to Brescia at C6 station outside.
Where to stay in Sirmione
If you decided you want to stay in Sirmione – and let’s face it why wouldn’t you? – here are some suggestions:
Budget: although not in the center of the old city, Hotel Riel has an outdoor pool and spacious room. The same goes for Hotel Porto Azzurro, which is even closer to the beach.
Mid-range: Also with a pool, Villa Pioppi Hotel boasts a great lake view. Otherwise, Loft Sirmione is a beautiful modern and clean apartment in the center of Sirmione.
Splurge: Inside the old town limit, La Luce di Sirmione is the perfect place to stay. If you really want to treat yourself, Relais La Speranzina is definitely worth the splurge.
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