At the tip of a narrow peninsula that breaks into Lago di Garda—Italy’s largest—stands the serene and monumental town of Sirmione, a place of rare beauty.
View of Lake Garda.
The lake is located at the foot of the Italian Alps, near Brescia and Verona. For centuries, it has been a recreational spot for Italians and foreigners as well.
One can only reach Sirmione by foot, crossing the drawbridge of the Rocca Scaligera Castle, built on the water’s edge and leading to one of the oldest and most bucolic towns in northern Italy.
The castle has a central core which connects to the mainland by two bridges. It was built in the 13th century by the Della Scala family of Verona to protect the town and the harbor because Sirmione was a coveted strategic entry to Lago di Garda.
1. View of the lake from the pier.
2. Sirmione Castle.
3. Quaint homes and lively shops in Sirmione.
4. Roman ruins at the end of the Sirmione peninsula.
Once inside the city, the visitor feels immersed in the Middle Ages, since there is a profusion of historic buildings at every turn. Cars are not allowed inside the city, which is ideal for pleasant strolls through the narrow cobblestone streets where an air of nostalgia fills the entire town.
There are plenty of shops selling handicrafts, where the visitor can purchase all kinds of souvenirs, including beautiful pieces of Murano glass brought from Venice, which is only an hour and a half away by car.
At noon, the quaint restaurants become filled with tourists eager to try delicious pasta dishes and freshly baked pizzas while enjoying stunning views of the lake and the castle.
1. The Old Town.
2, 3, 4. Views from Scaliger fortress.
5. Sirmione boasts a great number of cafes along its streets and boulevards.
Sirmione´s glorious Roman past can be seen in the use of Roman remains even in the more modern buildings. Among the most beautiful architectural gems in this monumental city, the churches of Santa Maria della Neve, and San Pietro in Mavino cannot be missed.
The former is a treasure that dates from the 15th century with a beautiful porch of five arches. To the left of the entrance, there is a column dedicated to the Emperor Julian the Apostate who lived in the area in the 4th century AD.
1. The town is full of narrow cobble stone streets ideal for a leisurely stroll.
2, 3. The town still has a medieval feel that delights the travelers.
4. Scaliger Castle by the lake.
5. Cafes by the pier.
6. Narrow streets lead to the castle.
The second church—San Pietro in Mavino—was built in the 8th century and features frescoes in its three apses and on most walls. It is the oldest in the city.
In the background, through Via San Pietro in Mavinas, you will reach the western part of the peninsula, and after walking a few hundred meters you reach the Roman baths of Catullus and Virgil.
In Sirmione there are hot springs that have lured travelers since Roman times for their high content of sulfur. Also in this area, you’ll find the ruins of Catullus, dedicated to the Roman poet who was a frequent visitor to the baths.
The place is a huge geological park located at the northern end of the peninsula. A visit at dusk—when the impressive ruins emerge among the olive trees and the blue of the lake bathes Sirmione with unparalleled subtlety—is a unique experience. If you like lakeside living in Italy, read here about Lake Como. ■