This post was most recently updated on September 22nd, 2020
Why a side trip to Sirmione? I spent 15 glorious days in Italy last year, and my agenda was full of amazing places to go and things to see. But, in my OCD way of trying to fit in just one more thing, I had my nose glued to a google map, calculating what was halfway between two cities…and how far off the route it was. “So what do you think about taking an 8 km detour at lunchtime? I mean, we’d want to get a bite to eat, anyway, right?” The rest of my family knew that was code for “I found a place to explore — please, please, please say yes!”
(Hover over any photo for caption; click on a photo to enlarge)
Why I chose a side trip to Sirmione
It’s so hard for me to drive past interesting ruins and medieval towns without stopping. The best I can do is snap photos from the car as we speed by. We were making our way from Padova on the east coast of Italy, to Milan. We wanted to arrive with time to check into our apartment and see a few things before nightfall, so I knew a side trip to Sirmione couldn’t be long. But I couldn’t stand the thought of driving past the largest lake in Italy with a 13th century castle 5 miles away from the A4.
Sunshine, exploring and a castle
So perhaps everyone was getting hungry. Or maybe the first sunshine we’d seen in three days was making everyone amenable. But in any case, I got the go-ahead! We only had about an hour to explore.
Because Sirmione is so easy to access, it is a very popular tourist spot. I was surprised to find that parking was relatively easy to find, even with 15 charter buses in the parking lot. I knew what that meant — lots of people. But it wasn’t bad at all.
We started by touring the perimeter of the peninsula (as you can see on the map, Sirmione sits on a tiny peninsula that is nearly an island at the southern end of Lake Garda). There’s a lovely paved walkway that continues a quarter mile or so up the east side of Sirmione, right on the water. From that walkway we could see the castle, the mountain range to the north, and beautiful views of the lake.
If we had continued making our way to the northern tip of the peninsula, we would have been able to explore Catulla’s Grotto, the three-story Roman ruins from a villa built in 150 AD. Time didn’t allow for that, but here’s a photo to whet your appetite:
Instead, we wandered through a peaceful park behind a hotel and then into the tiny old town portion of Sirmione. Cobblestone walkways, arches, shuttered windows, and stone walls definitely added to the medieval town atmosphere. With the Scaliger castle casting its shadow over much of the town, we could almost have imagined ourselves in another time. Except for all the gelaterias! Ahh, but who’s complaining?
Finally, it was time to be moving on. We stopped at the least expensive gelateria we could find and then made our way back to the parking lot. It was a sweet side trip to Sirmione! If I ever have the chance, I’d love to return and see more of Lake Garda!
For your information:
Parking at Sirmione 2,10 euros
Public restroom in parking lot .50 euros
Gelato for two 5,00 euros
Other attractions in the area:
Tour of the Scaliger (Sirmione) castle
Gardaland — an amusement park, aquarium, and hotel only 30 minutes away
Parco Sigurta Giardino — incredibly gorgeous gardens (some of which are original to its 15th century beginnings) with ponds, a maze, water gardens, manicured lawns, a castelletto, small temple. and unique box-tree sculpted gardens. Just a 38-minute drive from Sirmione.
Garda Island tours – Garda Island is a small privately-owned island on Lake Garda with an incredible villa and estate with gardens and lots more. There are two-hour boat tours from Sirmione to see the island. Tourists can stroll the gardens, outside the walls of the estate, and a few select rooms.
If you’d like to see why I loved Lake Garda so much, enjoy this website with dozens of virtual tours from different vantage points along the lake. If you’re in the area, make time to add the lake to your itinerary. You won’t regret it!
The best part about this article is that you can download it free and take it with you. Just go to this link at GPSmyCity; if you pay a small fee to upgrade, it will be your GPS-guided tour guide. Then you can view it without internet or data charges! I’ll get a few cents, and you’ll enjoy a great trip to Sirmione and Lake Garda!
Want to see what we did in Venice before we left for Sirmione? Read about it at A Day in Venice.