Italy, Lake Garda – Sirmione

The waters of Lake Garda are an almost luminous green colour. The locals say that it is because we are so close to the mountains and because the water in the lake is high in minerals and sulphur. On a clear day the waters of the lake shimmer and sparkle in the sun. The northern end of Lake Garda is in the mountains, with the snow capped peaks of the Alps beyond, whilst the southern shores are surrounded by flat, fertile land, mostly fields and vineyards.

At the southern end of the lake is the peninsula of Sirmione. A narrow piece of land that stretches into the lake with water lapping on both sides. There’s a castle here, with a drawbridge and a watch tower. As you walk across the draw bridge you enter into the medieval city, it’s a strange, slightly claustrophobic feeling. Narrow, cobbled streets lead the visitor forward, persuading, cajoling you to progress further into this shaded world of ancient stone houses. Every so often a glimpse of the lake brightens up the view, blue sky, green water, so much less threatening.

At the far end of the peninsula is a ruined Roman villa, it’s known as the Grotto of Catullus. Catullus was a famous Roman poet, however he died about 200 years before this particular villa was even built, so it seems highly improbable that Catullus ever spent time here! You can see that it was once an impressive Roman villa and the location on the edge of the lake is spectacular. Also on the peninsula is the former villa of Maria Callas. Callas was the most famous opera singer of her day, she was a veritable ‘Diva’. Her 1958 performance of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata in Lisbon, is regarded as one of the best of all time. Callas had a long and tempestuous romance with Aristotle Onassis, a very wealthy Greek shipowner. Onassis went on to marry Jackie Kennedy.

Garda - mountains and plains
This map of Lake Garda shows the mountains in the north and the plains to the south of the lake. The lake is about 70 kms in length
Sirmione – aerial view
Sirmione - draw bridge
Sirmione – Scaligeri Castle
Bertoldi boats - Garda
Sirmione, Castle and motor launch

Today Sirmione is a popular holiday destination. The mineral rich waters of the lake have therapeutic properties and there are numerous spas to visit. The old town of Sirmione is full of character and charm. Then there’s the opportunity for a boat ride on a sleek Italian launch. For a water lover like me a trip on a boat is essential. I recently arranged a cruise on the lake for some clients. I love organising these delicious jaunts on the lake. Even on the hottest summer day, the minute the boat leaves the jetty there is a breeze and with the wind in your hair the feeling of exhileration and joy is complete.

The boat trips include a tour of the Sirmione peninsula and a foray into the centre of the lake to see the sulphuric bubbles making their way to the surface from the geo-thermal springs below the lake. The water is crystal clear and there’s time for a swim if you don’t mind the rather invigorating temperature of the water. The boatmen are really professional and for special occasions we can arrange Prosecco and snacks on board too. Last time I was in Sirmione a young man had just proposed to his girlfriend on the lake. How romantic!


  • For more details on Lake Garda and Sirmione you can contact me Janet at Grand Tourist for tailor-made itineraries here and throughout Italy.
  • On the shores of Lake Garda I’d suggest Sirmione as an excellent day out.
  • Nearby you have the wonderful City of Verona, which celebrates Valentine’s Day with a Festival of Love each year – so romantic –  Verona – City of Love 
  • One of my favourite country house hotels is just twenty minutes from Lake Garda – it’s called Villa Cordevigo and it is superb – Villa Cordevigo Country House Hotel
  • Near to Sirmione is Peschiera del Garda another really delightful lunch stop!
Peschiera del Garda - 2
Peschiera del Garda – the old port – ideal for an al fresco lunch
  • The author of this article is Janet Simmonds.
  • I am a writer and travel company owner. I focus on specialist travel in Italy. My company is Grand Tourist don’t hesitate to contact me for truly exceptional travel experiences in Italy. I write my blog as the ‘Educated Traveller’
  • 27th May 2017

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