Touring around Lake Garda, Italy, by car

In En-Route, Europe, Italy, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

A day exploring with the dulcet tones of Dean Martin

Weaving through the narrow tunnels carved-out from mountains, with the wind in our hair and opal waters ahead. Yes, we are touring Lake Garda in northern Italy, by car.

Standing by the lakeside looking north to the small town of Torbole.

The town of Torbole

We wish we had allowed more time around Lake Garda as the scenery and little towns are so picturesque.

However, we were really pleased that we toured around the lake to appreciate its beauty from north to south.

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Where were we heading?

We started from our base of Limone Sul Garda on the northwest shores of the lake. Although to be perfectly honest you’re going in a circle, so it doesn’t really matter where you start. We chose a few destinations for the route; however, for this one-day itinerary, it is also about enjoying the landscape too.

Our car parked up in front of a cafe on the edge of Lake Garda.

The Audi RS5 parked up on Lake Garda

Our stops were to be; Peschiera del Garda, Salò and the hilltop Sanctuary of Montecastello, Tignale.

We’d visited Malcesine the previous day by boat from Limone Sul Garda. 

Our First Tip

If you are on a road trip around Lake Garda, this is a must. Ensure you drive clockwise around the lake and have the unhindered view on your right-hand side. That way you’ll always be hugging the lake’s edge.

With Lake Garda on our right-hand side, we head north, immediately the backdrop is stunning. In the northern region of Lake Garda, the mountains tower above the lake and look magnificent.

A view of Lake Garda, looking south from Trobole, with ducks in the foreground and flanked on either sides by the mountains.

The view of Lake Garda from the north at Torbole

Snaking through the tunnels and arches towards the north of the lake, we pass through the bustling town of Riva del Garda. We wiggled on by, but we couldn’t resist pulling over at the water’s edge in Torbole, to catch the incredible view down Lake Garda. 

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Driving distance around Lake Garda

Touring the whole of Lake Garda by car is around 90 miles (140km). If you didn’t stop it would take about 3 hours, however, this is traffic dependent, and I’m sure you’ll want to stop for a gelato.

You feel like 007

Back on the route, we start heading south, winding our way through more tunnels and towns. With the engine echoing around you and the rumbling sounds beyond, you feel like you are in the opening scene of James Bond’s Quantum of Solace.

A passangers view of the road around Lake Garda, keeping a distance from the cars in front to enjoy the beauital lakes, lined by the ountains to our right.

Driving the road around Lake Garda

We meander down the eastern side soaking up the sunshine and landscape as we go. If you have more than one day to tour, then you must try and stop at numerous towns. 

The quaint old harbour of Malcesine lined on two sides with colourful buildings.  In the port, there are several small boats and one larger rigged sailboat.

Malcesine harbour

When you drive along the main route around Lake Garda, you often don’t appreciate the historical villages below with their unique characters.  Malcesine and Limone Sul Garda have beautiful little harbours and tiny narrow streets that are for pedestrians only.




Peschiera del Garda

The further south of Lake Garda you head, you’ll begin to notice that the mountains disappear in your rear-view mirror and it’s a lot flatter than in the north. It’s also got a lot busier.

A fixed pair of brass binoculars looking over Lake Garda.

Looking across Lake Garda

Passing through Porta Verona, we reach the town of Peschiera del Garda in the Veneto region. We are now in the southeast corner of the lake and jump out to discover it further.

A road bridge over the aqua blue water of the canals off Lake Garda leading to a large stone gate decorated with a winged lion.

Porta Verona, Peschiera del Garda

Did you know?

That Peschiera del Garda is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its Venetian defence fortification. There are six in total and span 1,000km down through Croatia and Montenegro. 

Stroll the canals

The quaint town of Peschiera del Garda is really picturesque. Lovely Italian architecture painted in delightful colours, wrought iron balconies and flowing window boxes. 

Looking across a wide canal.  Powerboats are moored up, and on the far side, a large two storey brick building dominates the view.

A stroll by the canal

We take a wander through the old town and around the canals, it has quite a nautical feel about it. Little boats were bobbing in the harbour and lakeside cafes to relax at. 

Looking along a wide canal, lined on each side with small powerboats.

A view along the Mincio River

You get a lovely view over the historic centre and the Mincio River from the old city walls. The old town of Peschiera del Garda sits on its own island that it shares with the ancient fortress.

A scene from a piazza in front of the Duomo di San Martino, Peschiera del Garda.

Duomo di San Martino, Peschiera del Garda

Something to make your travels easier?

The circular route

It’s relatively easy to drive the whole of Lake Garda, although it does get busy in places. You may also need to slow down when passing larger vehicles in the tunnels, as these can get tight.




Heading up the western shores to Salò

We continue around the south of Lake Garda and start to head north, up to the western shoreline. At times the main route takes you slightly inland, and you are unable to follow the lakeside around. The drive is scenic nonetheless, as you pass by olive groves and honeysuckle bushes.

A lakeside view with small boats moored up alongside the promenade at Salò.

Promenade by Lake Garda in Salò

Now in the Lombardy region of Lake Garda, we stop at Salò, this town was recommended to us by a local, so we were definitely going to take a peek.

A clock tower with an arch at one end of the old town.

Porta dell'Orologio – Clock Gate

A small street scene with a statue of a bishop taking centre stage.

Piazza Angelo Zanelli, Salò

We found that parking was reasonably cheap around the lake at only €1 per hour.

Among the lanes of Salò

With a history dating back to the Romans, this was another incredible lakeside town. Elegant colourful buildings throughout the old town, tiny narrow lanes and intriguing little alleyways.

An elegant building on the edge of a piazza with a group of a people walking along the street in front of it.

Elegant buildings in Salò

A narrow lane, just wide enough for two people to pass that leads down to the lake's edge.

Narrow lanes of Salò

Some of the beautiful buildings were in the process of being restored, and others had the rustic charm that required a little bit of TLC to get them back to their former splendour.

The facade of Salò Duomo.

Salò Duomo

Why not?

Start creating your own Italian lake adventure and discover the beautiful old fishing village of Limone Sul Garda for yourself. You can fly into Venice or Verona with easyJet & British Airways.

Discover more of Italy on your own road trip like us, if your unable to bring your own car or are flying into this lovely country give SIXT car hire a go. They cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Or alternatively, jump on Le Shuttle and tour south under your own steam.




Sanctuary of Montecastello

Our last stop around Lake Garda before heading back to Limone Sul Garda was to the hilltop Sanctuary of Montecastello by Tignale. We were informed that the views across the lake from the top were incredible.

A view over the mountains to the west of Lake Garda

View across the mountain tops

We parked at the bottom of the hill, we knew it was going to be a bit of a hike, but we were led to believe it was only short, I certainly had my reservations half way up.

A view from up high, outside Sanctuary of Montecastello, across a hazy Lake Garda.

A view from Sanctuary of Montecastello across to Malcesine

We kept going and made it to the top, and yes, the views were amazing. The monastery looked as though it was just clinging onto the edge of the mountain side.

It was a bit of a hazy day, so, unfortunately, the views weren’t perfect, but hey we got to the top. 

Although we should have done a little research, as we didn’t realise that you weren’t allowed to enter the church if you were wearing shorts.

Looking through the entrance archway to the exterior of the Sanctuary of Montecastello.

The Sanctuary of Montecastello

So, we had to admire the Sanctuary of Montecastello from the outside and the far-reaching views beyond.




Quantum of Solace

Our final stretch around the loop of Lake Garda we enjoyed the twisting arched tunnels which were used in filming the opening scenes of James Bond’s – Quantum of Solace. Gary drops the car into a lower gear, and it growls its way through the tunnels.

A dashboard view of the road inside one of the tunnels alongside the north of Lake Garda - to the right are columns with a view across the lake and the mountains of the far side.

A view from 'A Quantum of Solace'

Something for the Traveller

Our preference

In my opinion, it appears to be a lot more touristy in the south and also has a couple of theme parks. Not quite our kind of thing, we prefer the mountainous landscape in the north.




Inspired to tour Lake Garda??

Base yourselves by the beautiful mountains in the north at Limone Sul Garda. Does the idea of a road trip tempt you? Would you like to see the opal waters for yourself?

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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