This community of nine villages on the western shore of Lake Garda is known for its botanical gardens and parks, so holidays to Gardone Riviera will certainly give you plenty to look at.
Flora and fauna
Gardone's lakefront promenade is perfect for people watching on lazy sunny days, before making the short uphill walk to the old village centre for an evening wander through its courtyards. Gardone is sheltered from poor weather conditions by the mountains, resulting in a wonderful subtropical climate. Take to the resort’s lush parks or visit the Heller Botanical Gardens and you’ll see the rich plant life this has produced.
An eccentric home
A short walk from the village is the intriguing and extravagant Il Vittoriale, a complex of squares, gardens and waterways that sits in the hillside overlooking Lake Garda. It’s the brainchild and former home of the controversial poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, and is a must-see, if only for its collection of bizarre artefacts from his eccentric life.
Out and about
• Lakeside promenade
• Boat trips
• Botanical gardens
• Public villas and gardens
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Things to See and Do in Gardone Riviera
Blue Flag beaches
In 2011, Gardone's pebble beaches were granted Blue Flag status - the only two to be awarded on Lake Garda. The Blue Flag is granted on stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria that are reviewed annually. The Lido Cisano has a play area for children, sun lounger and parasol rental, and deck chairs, while Lido di Fasano has bar service, changing cabins, showers and toilets. Both are free to access.
The white sands of Baia Bianca
If you’re looking for something a little sandier, you can’t get better than Baia Bianca. Located 14km south of Gardone Riviera, this beach is worth the trip for its white sands, imported from the Caribbean. Sun loungers and parasols are available for a fee, and facilities also include bars, a restaurant and music.
Take a dip
The majority of beaches near Gardone are pebble, and the few sandy beaches have been man-made by covering the pebbles with sand. Whichever beach you choose, it can be stony underfoot when you're in the water – we recommend taking lake shoes for your comfort.
The weekly market arrives in Gardone every Friday from around 8am. While the prices may not be as low as you may expect at a market, the quality of the goods is usually really good. The market moves around the lakeside towns throughout the week, so if Friday is not convenient, you can travel to a nearby town on another day.
Gardone is not a large shopping town, but has a small selection of rather lovely shops to browse. For more variety, take a trip to the nearby town of Salò, or to the Il Leone indoor shopping centre in Desenzano - it has 120 shops, with a range of international brands, in the comfort of an air-conditioned mall.
Small boutiques in the resort offer a selection of higher-end products, but if you’re looking to splash the cash, take a trip to Verona or Milan. Both towns are accessible by train from Desenzano on the south-west corner of the lake. Brands such as Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana are all available, and will leave you feeling a million dollars.
The Gardone way of life is very relaxed and all about gentle strolls through the town and along the promenade. Get your favourite flavour of ice cream from Penguino Giallo, or a spritz from a café along the lakefront, and watch the world go by.
Gardone is a relaxed, laid-back town, ideal for wandering and strolling. If you’re looking for something a little more lively, heading to nearby towns such as Salò or Desenzano will provide a little more buzz.
The small town of Gardone Riviera has a good few pavement cafes, pizzerias, gelaterias and fine-dining restaurants dotted around, some with views of Lake Garda. As the eateries are quite spread out, it’s hard to be spontaneous when it comes to lunchtime, but you can definitely find some hidden gems if you look in the right places.
Creative twists at Locanda Trattoria Agli Angelli
Hidden away in Gardone Sopra is the Locanda Trattoria Agli Angelli. It’s an intimate restaurant with tranquil indoor and outdoor dining, where you'll be served creative and modern Italian dishes – but remember to book as it’s always busy.
Sweet treats at Gelateria Pinguino Giallo
With views of the lake, promenade and square, the Gelateria Pinguino Giallo is a great place to stop for a drink and an authentic Italian ice cream – the guava flavour is delicious.
Fresh local produce at Osteria Antico Brolo
Off the Via Trieste is the rustic Osteria Antico Brolo, with outdoor and indoor seating. The restaurant serves up fresh, colourful dishes presented in an inventive and contemporary style and uses local produce in all of its food. It’s pretty reasonably priced too.
Exploring Gardone on foot is mostly easy thanks to the paved streets and leafy lakeside promenade. However, the centre of town has a lot of small courtyards and stairs, so it may not be suitable for those with walking difficulties.
Steamers and fast hydrofoils leave town from the port in Piazza Wimmer (between the Grand Hotel and Hotel du Lac), and run to most towns on the east shore of the lake, throughout the day.
The nearest station is in Desenzano, which can be reached by bus or taxi. Direct trains run from there to Venice (from 2.5 hours), Verona (30 minutes) and Milan (2 hours).
To head north to Maderno, catch the bus from the stop opposite the Hotel Grand. Or walk 5 minutes past the hotel to the Bay of Salo to catch a bus to one of the other towns on the west shore.
The Gardone Riviera is a haven for nature lovers. Start with a stroll along the shady lakeside promenade and then head into town to explore the warren of courtyards and stairs. The nine villages are home to many picturesque walks, over gentle hills dotted with cypress trees. Spend a day wandering among exotic plants in the Heller Botanical Gardens, or walk to Il Vittoriale, the former home of eccentric poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio, to stroll through the unique gardens and house. From San Michele, you can follow one of the famous footpaths, such as the panoramic Via della Calma route, to Mount Spino.
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