With so many lakes and day trips from Milan, it can be really overwhelming trying to make decisions about how to spend your time. We were assisted in our decision about where to visit from a local that grew up in the region near Franciacorta. Ultimately, I do not think you can go wrong when exploring any portion of Milan and the Lakes. Sirmione is a beautiful stop on the way to LaFay Resort. A short 45 minute drive from Sirmione further to the east is Verona. If you have the time, make a stop here to visit Juliet’s House and the Verona Arena. This “baby colosseum” is reminiscent of its counterpart in Rome with smaller crowds.
When you are nearing Sirmione, in November we found ample parking near the water in the area close to Rocca Scaligera. This is the medieval fortress that marks the entry point to the town. While we did not have difficulty parking, I could see how this could be quite crowded and difficult in the high season. We utilized one of the close by parking stations/machines to pay for parking and place the ticket in the dashboard of our car. This was rather simple and user friendly.
We started our journey by exploring the Rocca Scaligera castle at the start of the medieval city. Something that we did not do, which I regret, is going into the castle and climbing to the top of the tower for better views of the turquoise waters below. This castle of Sirmione served as a battle fortress in the 13th and 14th centuries.
After exploring the castle, we moved on through the town. It is charming and the streets were nearly empty during our visit making it very peaceful. We enjoyed a gelato and small sandwich at a cafe that we passed by. If you are looking for a more elevated experience, La Rucola 2.0 is a Michelin starred restaurant you will see after you pass by the castle. Another dining option for a great view of Lake Garda is Molin22. Once you get a bite to eat walk to Aquaria THERMAL spa for a more relaxing experience. You will see the steam escaping into the air from these thermal springs. We opted to skip because of the spa we had ahead at La Fay, but they looked very enticing.
One of the experiences that I loved the most was exploring the Grottoes of Catullus. These are ruins from a Roman villa and the most extensive in Northern Italy. We were there during the week, but we nearly had the place to ourselves! It made the experience even more amazing to not have to fight with any crowd. These ruins are beautiful and right on the water with unparalleled views. You cannot miss this! Honestly, I cannot recall ever being at a tourist site in Europe with so few people. This was so special, and we really enjoyed our time here.
Finally, we walked to the Church of San Pietro de Mavino. This is the oldest church in Sirmione and dates back to the 14th century. Its simplistic yet beautiful appearance make it worthy of a stop before leaving town.
I really enjoyed our visit to this area in November. If you travel outside of high season, make sure that the places you want to visit are open. There are closures particularly of hotels in the colder months. The Lake Garda and Sirmione area was gorgeous! Consider these stops in addition to Verona for a less mainstream visit as compared to the more popular Como. They are just as worthy and did not disappoint!