From Sirmione to Limone, the Lombard shore of Lake Garda
You access Sirmione, flagship destination in Lake Garda, by the wonderful Rocca Scaligera, a fortress of the 13th century remodelled by the Venetians during the first half of the 15th century. Its walls surround a unique example of fortified Medieval dock. If you cross the centre, you will reach the end of the peninsula which has the same name. Here you will see the ruins of the Roman villa, also known as Catullus’ Caves (Grotte di Catullo), which include an archaeological museum. The shore of the lake on the side of Brescia develops westwards towards Desenzano, a tourist destination with a population 25,000 inhabitants. Its name derives from Decentius, the owner of another Roman villa whose excavations can be seen in via Crocefisso. A few kilometers away is the Rocca di Lonato, a wonderful example of Medieval fortress which was built during the Visconti influence and was later owned by the Venetians. Inside the fortress the Fondazione Ugo da Como foundation takes care of the historical, artistic and book collections belonging to the once chief magistrate. If you follow the coast road northwards you will reach Padenghe. This village is sheltered by the oldest castle of Valtenesi. It was built between the 9th and the 10th century on pre-existing Roman works. Not far from here, in the hinterland, you will find to the nearly coeval Soiano Castle (Castello di Soiano), which is very well preserved. Elevated as it is, this castle had direct line of sight to those of Padenghe, Polpenazze, Moniga as well as to the Rocca di Manerba del Garda. The latter is a fortress in the middle of a natural reserve of rare beauty.
On the rocky promontory you will easily see the ruins of the foundations of the castle which was torn apart in 1573 by the then Superintendent of Veneto. If you move northwards, facing San Felice del Benaco, you can land on the Isle of Garda (Isola di Garda). There you will see the Neo-Gothic villa designed by Luigi Rovelli at the beginning of the 20th century. Going on the dry land, you will reach Salò, where the Italian Social Republic was established by Mussolini between 1943 and 1945 after fascism collapsed. Now it is a renowned tourist destination. Few kilometres away is Gardone Riviera, where you can visit the rich residence of Gabriele D’Annunzio, called ‘Vittoriale degli Italiani’. It is a monumental complex stretching for 9 hectares on the hill and in which the works and memoirs of the poet are preserved. Your next destination is Toscolano Maderno, a village divided in two by the river Toscolano. The Romanesque church of St. Andrew (Sant’Andrea), which is located in Maderno and dates back to the 12th century, overlooks the highway. At a distance of approximately 7 km away is Gargnano, a village which lies among olive trees and lemon houses in the middle of the Natural Regional Park of the Upper Garda of Brescia (Parco Naturale Regionale dell’Alto Garda Bresciano), established in 1989. A winding road will take you to Tignale, a municipality divided into many typical sheer administrative divisions overlooking the Lake Garda. In Pravione is situated Museo del Parco Alto Garda Bresciano. Included in the park is also Tremosine, a village divided into many small hamlets which overlook the lake. Your itinerary ends in Limone sul Garda, a picturesque village where, as its Italian name suggests, stand the northerner lemon houses of Italy.