Being 370 square kilometres in size, Garda is classed as the largest lake in Italy. Kindly fought over by three regions – Lombardia, Veneto and Trentino. It has a total of around 30 villages , divided into three different provinces – Brescia, Verona and Trento. The variety of incredible landscapes offers so much to tourists.
The lake has five main islands, the largest Isola del Garda is dominated by a nineteenth century Venetian neo-gothic style palace and is situated on the west side near to Isola San Biagio also known as Isola dei Conigli (“Island of the Rabbits”). Then, Isola dell’Olivo, Isola di Sogno and Isola di Trimelone are all close to Malcesine.
The large portion of land in the south of Lake Garda, which extends over five areas – Desenzano, Siromione, Pozzolengo, Lonato and Peschiera – and which finishes in the Morainic hills, is called Lugana.
This particular clayey area, formed after the ice age, was originally a marshy forest but thanks to human intervention it has become a thriving and prosperous place characterised by the presence of minerals. They, along with the gentle breezes from the lake and the mild climate, are essential for the cultivation of vines that produce the famous brand of wine: Lugana Doc.
But the Morainic territory also offers so much more to visitors: The Tower of San Martino, The Rocca of Solferino and The Mincio Regional Park Nature Reserve of Castellaro Lagusello, all contribute to making the whole region a must-see and rare beauty.
The lake’s name comes from a small town called Garda on the Veronese shore of the lake and, in accordance with the German term “Warda”, which means “place of guard”. Whereas, the name Benaco derives from the Celtic Benācus which when translated means “horned”, ie with various headlands. But in this case the term has a double meaning, and also refers to the peninsula of Sirmione.
We give ourselves a kind of poetic licence, as per Poet Manzoni who was fascinated by Lake Como, but in our opinion the Benaco, with regard to the love part of literature excellence, is no exception. Firstly Goethe, in 1786 stayed between Torbole and Malcesine and was totally impressed. Later during the world wars, the diverse D’Annunzio settled in Gardone Riviera designing and constructing, with the help of an architect, the Italian Vittoriale. On the other hand Ezra Pound dedicated himself to beautiful verses in Sirmione, the undisputable ‘pearl’ of Lake Garda, but Catullus was certainly the forerunner. The poet, was born in Verona and lived in Rome, but spent some time on the Benaco, the famous Grotte di catullo Sirmione are referred to as the remains of the stately villa that once belonged to his family. Some say it is only a legend, however the fact that the poet stayed so long on the Garda makes us think the opposite. Other evidence supporting the theory, are written by colleagues from that time that put Catullus right on the peninsula. Another famous guest of Garda was Dante (Inferno canto XX) who described in detail the lake focusing particularly on Peschiera.
Facts worth knowing
The shortest river in the world is called Aril and is a tributary of Lake Garda. It flows through the small town of Cassone, Malcesine, and is 175 metres long. Despite being small in size, it’s crossed by three bridges and features a waterfall. The water supply of Lake Garda is almost entirely controlled by man because there are many dams present. The Mincio river itself is controlled by the dam at Salionze. This means that the only outlet of Benaco has a small flow of water compared to the volume of the lake, which is why it would take 26.8 years to replace the water. In the 60’s Garda was a place of worship for the film industry. In fact several directors and producers came here mainly for the production of films that themed pirates or sailors. Peschiera even owned the studios, like some kind of north Italian Cinema-city.