History from up high
For even better outlooks during your holiday to the Italian Lakes, head to the Castello Di Sirmione, also known as Rocca Scaligera. This moated castle was built in the 12th century to protect Verona against their rivals in Milan. Located at the narrow point where the peninsula joins the mainland, you can climb the tower and explore the ramparts while looking out over the lake.
Another historic place to take in is the Grotto of Catullus, which are the ruins of a large Roman villa on the headland. Surrounded by olive groves, there’s a small museum at the entrance displaying archaeological finds like Roman carvings of rabbits.
Get in the water
Sirmione has a handful of mainly rocky or pebbly beaches, which are nonetheless very pretty and have excellent water quality. The main public beach is Santa Maria, where there’s lots of space for families to play. Jamaica beach on the tip of the peninsula is made up of flat rocks, or Lido delle Bionde has the cleanest water anywhere on the lake.
With 25°C water temperatures in summer, bathing in the lake is a delight, but even when the waters are chillier – they drop to 6°C in January – you can use the thermal baths instead. The main bath is located in the north of the town, feeding from the therapeutic natural hot water that bubbles up from the lake.
You can also swim in the water below the Grotto of Catullus, where the natural springs begin 20 metres below the surface. Other options for getting out on the water include taking a boat trip, try your hand at sailing or taking windsurfing lessons.
Eat and drink continental style
Trattorias and ristorantes abound in Sirmione, so expect lots of Italian food, as well as some seafood and tastes of the Med. The antipasti and tiramisu at Trattoria Clementina are raved about. Or for something different, you can get a burger quite easily at places like Leo’s Hamburgeria.
Sirmione has classy cocktail bars by the shore and cafes that turn into bars after dark. For example, you can sit at Lagoacafe beside the marina for a pizza and coffee then stay on for drinks. If it’s a big night out you’re after, you’ll find big clubs and late nights over in Desenzano del Garda to the southwest.
Explore the surroundings
It’s a short boat or bus journey into nearby Desenzano del Garda. As the biggest town on Lake Garda, on top of the nightlife, it’s a great place to shop or grab a bite to eat at the international restaurants, including Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Brazilian places.
For a fun day out, Gardaland theme park is just along the shores to the east, which is divided into the realms of history, geography, space and fantasy. There are over 30 rides, from the Oblivion to rapids in the jungle, plus a Madagascar live show that kids will love.
Alternatively, in under an hour you can be in Verona, to see the famous Juliet’s balcony. And if you’re visiting in summer, the Roman Arena has a programme of theatre and opera events. Or you could just spend time wandering the attractive centre with grand palazzi, or squares, and admire the fine art in Castelvecchio Museum or Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti.