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.
And after Sirmione, we went to Milan and Lake Como — check out my posts: Mysterious Milan and Lake Como – Photo Journal.
What a perfect detour! I’m exactly the same and always try to convince my travel companions to take a “small” detour to some interesting place. So worth it! I would love to visit Sirmione one day.
Haha. I like how you put it: “I found a place to explore — please, please, please say yes!” I guess it’s a good thing we said “yes” to your detour! 🙂
I’m glad we took that little detour. It really was a convenient stop, right on the way to our destination. Too bad we didn’t see the grotto, though; that sure looks cool! But, at least now I know what to go and explore the next time I head up to Northern Italy! 🙂
It’s the detours that often bring about some of the best memories. I found a town with a population of one once…only because I left the road and went down a lane to a place I didn’t know existed.
Population of only one? Wow! You’re right, though. I love to explore off the beaten path!
What a nice little detour, I’ll have to try to make a visit!
Glad your detour worked out for you all. 😉 I’ve never heard of this place, very interesting. I like taking the back roads and allowing time to see things “unexpected” but I have had my share of adventures turning into stories I would rather forget that way, too. Usually with an empty gas tank. LOL
Gelato always makes everything even better 🙂 I often plan small side excursions that aren’t always approved, haha…but sometimes they turn into amazing parts of the trip! Nothing like jumping off the cliff of the southern most point of the US.
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I have traveled all over Italy, but I have never been to Sirmione. It looks like a great place to visit. I should go back and see it. the food looked great too!
We stayed on Lake Garda with the kids about five years ago and visited Sirmione. The ice cream parlours are to die for!
Detours like this (especially if it involves good food) is ALWAYS worth it! YUM! Never heard of this place- thanks for sharing.
I’m with you, it’s just too difficult to drive past ruins and beautiful little villages! That is one of my favorite parts about roadtrips in Europe!
LOL, right there with you Tami. I try to pack in as many sights and activities when I travel also. Those roadside views and Catulla’s Grotto were worth it. Loved the angle of the yellow building.
Sometimes you stumble upon wonderful gems unwittingly. Your detour to Sirmione was indeed a great experience. I am always surprised by the sheer number of wonderful towns and villages that are hidden in the interiors of Italy. Sirmione for me is a revelation, the place is so charming and enthralling, Will love to visit this place when we are next in Italy.
Sirmione sounds lovely! I really like that Catullo’s Grotto, it looks like a great place to explore as well! I am the same way when road tripping always finding a detour as my family rolls their eyes LOL Sound like your my kind of traveler!!
I just learned about Sirmione recently and it’s as beautiful as I imagined. I could sit looking at the water eating gelato for hours! What a great place to explore – bet you’re family were pleased they gave you the go ahead too!
Wow, I hadn’t heard of Sirmione but it looks like an incredible part of Italy – so much medieval history and Roman heritage – I would love to travel to explore. We’ve been considering a road trip through Italy for a while now, so it’s good to know that parking is easy 🙂
You’d love it, and it is so easy to access, it doesn’t take much away from your itinerary!
I adore Italy! I’ve never heard of this place before, but it sounds like the perfect day trip. I’m always looking for hidden gems like these!
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