Welcome to Sirmione, a popular holiday resort seated by the shores of Lake Garda in Northern Italy. This pretty town is in the province of Brescia and part of the Lombardy region of Italy. Lake Garda is known as “Lago di Garda” in Italian.
Yes, it does get a little touristy even during off-peak season in October but it is bearable. Sirmoine sits on the tip of a long and narrow peninsula that divides the Gulfs of Desenzano and Peschiera.
A great way to enjoy Sirmione is by taking a speedboat excursion around the peninsula. There are also ferries that ply the different towns around Lake Garda like Desenzano del Garda (the largest), Riva del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, Salo, Garda & Malcesine to name a few.
Sirmoine has been dubbed “the Pearl of the Islands and Peninsulas” by Roman poet Caius Valerius Catullo (85-54BC). Though he spent most of his young adult life in Rome, he describes in a poem his happy homecoming to the family villa at Sirmione on Lake Garda.
There are countless comfortable hotels and inns(Albergo), some of which offer sun terraces, pools and even private beaches for a laid-back holiday. Sirmoine makes a great weekend getaway or a day-trip for those who are based in Verona, Venice or Milan as it is under 2 hours away by road.
Known for her thermal springs and their healing properties since Roman times, the waters that bubble out of Lake Garda near the Northern shoreline of the Sirmoine Peninsula is piped and channeled to the Thermal Baths. Terme di Sirmoine is a facility that comprises of Spa centres, Wellness centres, an ultra-modern hotel and thermal products; combined with their long history and natural beauty guaranteeing customers an efficient, relaxing and completely satisfying experience. They were awarded ISO9001 Certification for their quality brand of services and ISO14001 for safeguarding the environment in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
This famous site at the end of the Sirmoine Peninsula is the remains of a Roman Villa which was believed to be the home of the Roman poet Caius Valerius Catullo. Catullo originally a native from Verona moved to Sirmoine and wrote splendid poems extolling the beauty of the place and its soothing influence on his life.
The Grotte di Catullo is the largest, most intact and finest example of a Roman Villa in Northern Italy and it sits at the outer-most point of the Sirmoine Peninsula on Lake Garda giving it a spectacular view of the surroundings.
The bubbling waters are an outflow from the outcropping cretaceous limestone rock lake floor and it is mineral rich and has a temperature of about 50°C. The shallow cold groundwater gets mixed with the deep rising thermal waters as Sirmoine lies near the fault lines of the tectonic plates parallel to the eastern shoreline of Lake Garda. This water is channeled and used for health treatments in two thermal baths and spas on the peninsula.
The Castle fortification of Rocca Scaligera is completely surrounded by water. Built in the 13th Century, it was part of a defense network surrounding Verona. The Castle was maintained by the Veronese noble family of Scaliger, as protection against their rivals in Milan during the 13th and 14th centuries before falling into the hands of the Venetian Republic.
Santa Maria Maggiore is a late 15th century Catholic Church located in the centre of Sirmione, easily identified by its belfry. It stands on the former site of the Lombard Church of San Martino built during the second half of the 8th Century. This church is rectangular in shape but has a polygonal apse with beautiful frescoes and a contemporary wooden statue of ‘Madonna Enthroned“.
The climb up the 47m fortress tower is quite a good option as it affords a lovely view on a clear day of Lake Garda, the interesting rooftops of the old town of Sirmoine and the enclosed harbour.
This well-preserved castle is an outstanding example of medieval port fortifications. The building complex was started in 1277 by Mastino della Scala who was a member of the famous Scaliger family of Northern Italy and a Veronese Lord.
Rocca Scaligera is located at the narrowest part of the peninsula and this enormous square-cut castle sits right at the entrance to Sirmoine.
The castle literally guards the footbridge access into town, looming overhead with its impressive turrets, crenellated battlements and towers and this footbridge is the only connection between the Peninsula of Sirmoine and the mainland.
Sirmoine may look very much like a laid-back Mediterranean resort today belying her turbulent history because of her strategic position in Northern Italy but she was invaded many times during the fall of the Roman Empire, the expansions of the Lombards and was embroiled in the struggles between the Guelphs and the Ghibelines during the Middle Ages. The moat around Rocca Scaligera was originally built to defend Simoine from intruders but the artificially structured harbor turned out to be a safehaven for the Lake Garda fleet.
The square-like fortress which stands imposingly and has protected Sirmoine for centuries past is today but an empty shell. You can still explore the ramparts, admire the views over Lake Garda and perhaps climb the tower but nothing else remains of its past glory.
As I was strolling along the shores of Lake Garda which incidentally is the largest in Italy, these two boys caught my eye as they were picking out small stones and engaging in a mini stone skipping contest.
Lake Garda is fed by River Sarca and its outlet is River Mincio. It is narrow in the North and broadens out towards the South where Sirmoine is situated. The length of the lake is 51.6km, width 16.7m with a maximum depth of 346m but averaging 136m. There are many tiny islands but 5 main ones that are better known like Isola del Garda and Isola San Biagio nicknamed the Island of the Rabbits.
There is an unmistakable air of old town charm in Sirmoine, with the colourful buildings, cobblestone streets, cafes and restaurants beckoning.
Quaint, tiny shops like this one are found around the streets and corners which are pretty fun to browse in even if you are not a keen shopper.
The historical heart of Sirmoine is closed to traffic and pedestrianized and getting around the narrow, winding lanes in the small town is not difficult though it can be confusing.
Sirmoine is picturesque throughout and lovely architecture and pretty windows like this one welcome you at every nook and corner.
I was tempted by this colourful display of Gelato and honestly who can pass up on
Ice cream! I scream, you scream, we scream…. ICE CREAM!!!
When in Italy, one thing which I always do is load up on the Cappuccinos and Macchiatos which are the best in the world as the standards are consistently high even at the motorways Autogrills rest stops. Here’s one for the road!