What to see in Sirmione, the pearl of Lake Garda
The Scaliger Castle, thermal baths and the magnificent Grottoes of Catullus
After discovering the beauties of unofficial capital city of Lake Garda, Desenzano, it is the time to find out what to see in Sirmione, the pearl of Lake Garda.
Sirmione (Sirmiù, in Brescia dialect) is one of the most famous location on the lake, known especially for its particular position, for the thermal baths and the artistic and historical sights.
Let’s start with the most value place for the history of Sirmione and the Lake: the Scaligero Castle.
What to see in Sirmione: the Scaliger Castle
First settlements in Sirmione are dated in Neolithic Age. During the Roman Empire, the village became an important point of passage, thanks to the ancient Via Gallica, that was used to link Pianura Padana (Po Valley) with roman colonies.
Because of its strategic position on the Lake, Sirmione and its fortress have been the centre of the life of Lake Garda through the centuries.
Signs of an earlier structure were found in foundation of the fort, but it has reached its majesty thanks to improvements of Scaliger family.
The Scaliger Castle is one of the most charming example of lake fortress, and at the same time one of the most well kept in Italy.
Totally surrounded by the Lake, it is possible to get into the Castle through the village centre or the drawbridge.
You can admire typical battlements of Scaliger costructions, a 154 feet fortified tower and climbing 146 steps that carry you to the walkways. Once on the top of the fortress, you can rest looking out at the suggestive view of Sirmione, Lake Garda and its surroundings.
In your day-trip in Sirmione you cannot miss a visit ot Scaliger Castle, placed in Piazza Castello n.34.
from Tuesday to Saturday - 8,30am -7,30pm
Sunday 8,30am -1,30pm
Full price - € 5,00
Reduced - € 2,50 (18-25 year-old EU)
What to see in Sirmione: Grottoes of Catullus
Gaio Valerio Catullo (Catullus), roman poet born in Sirmione, has returned to this loved territory during all his life.
The Grottoes of Catullus were built between first century b.C. and first century a.C., the villa is the most important roman residential work in Lake Garda territory.
It is named “grottoes” because, during Renaissance, they used to call “grotte” or “caverne” all the abandoned structures that were covered by a dense vegetation.
We are not sure about the origins of the Grottoes, we don’t know if Catullus actually lived here, but the Grottoes of Catullus are surely an obligatory stop of your visit in Sirmione.
The villa extends for 2 hectares and is surrounded by a secular olive grove. Placed on the extreme point of Sirmione peninsula, the Grottoes of Catullus overlook and dominate the Lake of Garda and surroundings.
From this point, we can have a breathtaking view on lake landscape and take amazing photos.
Within the archaeological area of the Grottoes, you will find the Archaeological Museum of Sirmione, that offers a review of frescoes, ornaments and artifacts from all over the Lake Garda territory.
This is the official site of Grottoes of Catullus, for opening time and pricing.
What to see in Sirmione: the relax of thermal baths
After the long walks between Castle and Grottoes, you probably need a relaxing break during your trip. Thermal Baths in Sirmione are the perfect place to regenerate yourself in the suggestive landscape of Lake Garda.
The presence of thermal waters in Sirmione is testified since the Renaissance, but the source of hot water (“Boiola”) was found out only in 19th century.
Procopio, an expert venetian surface-supplied diver, dived in the waters of Lake looking for the source. After a 65 feet down in lake abysses, he finally found out the origin point of the warm water.
Since then, Sirmione has known a deep touristic revaluation, becoming one of the principal location on the Lake Garda.
What to see in Sirmione: Old Town, food and the heart of the pearl
At the end of the day, after discovering activities and relaxing places, it is time to get into the heart of Sirmione.
The village is amazing and romantic, expecially in the sunset and in the night.
Passing through the Scaliger Castle drawbridge, you find yourself in an ancient fishermen hamlet, and you feel overwhelmed by an enchanting atmosphere.
Walking around the Old Town, you can admire Palazzo Maria Callas, a 17th century building renamed to honor the famous lyrical singer.
If you love religious architecture, you should visit the churches builded between 13th and 14th century, where you will admire remarkable frescoes and sculptures as the wooden statue “Madonna in trono”(Chiesa di Santa Maria della Neve).
A special mention goes to the shops, the intimate alleys and the high quality restaurants of Sirmione.
Sirmione traditional recipes are rich of lake-fish specialities: coregone, bleak and lake trout.
You should try àole salè, little lake fishes preserved in salt solution and grilled. Take your place in a typical trattoria in the Old Town and ask for trout and asparagus tagliatelle, risotto with Tinca and bigoli with pilchards…your palate won’t be disappointed.
Sirmione is a lovely village, clean and well kept by the administration. There are a lot of facilities for visitors, as the bicycle lane that links the Old Town and the peninsula.
You can also choose one of the naturalistic itineraries toward the other places on the Lake, as Desenzano, Peschiera del Garda and Toscolano Maderno.