A view over the turquoise waters of Lake Garda, Italy

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Everything you need to know about a holiday to Lake Garda

Spare a few days before or after your Italian Princess cruise to explore even more of this beautiful country and fall in love with Italy’s largest lake

Updated July 2020

By Siobhan Grogan

If you want to live La Dolce Vita for a little longer after your Princess cruise in the Mediterranean, who could blame you? With its lovingly prepared cuisine, cities steeped in centuries of history and glorious sun-dappled countryside, it’s impossible to resist Italy’s considerable charms. Here's how to add a trip to Lake Garda onto your cruise getaway and see the best of the area...

Getting To Lake Garda

Italy’s train network is easy to navigate, reasonably priced and reliable all over the country, but Lake Garda is best reached from the port of Venice. Less than two hours away by train, Venice is the embarkation port for many Princess Mediterranean cruise itineraries including the 19-Day Renaissance Explorer, 12-Day Greek Isles Connoisseur, the 24-Day Grand Mediterranean Connoisseur roundtrip from Venice and the 38-Day World Cruise Liner – Mediterranean, Transatlantic Crossing, Panama Canal. If you’d prefer to take it easy in Lake Garda after your cruise, several Princess cruises end in Venice too including the 12-Day Mediterranean Connoisseur and even the incredible 87-Day world cruise from Fort Lauderdale. From there it’s just a short train ride to one of Italy’s most picturesque regions.

Essential information about Lake Garda

Stretching across the three Italian regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige, Lake Garda has a mild year-round climate, an abundance of historical sights and magnificent views that have inspired everyone from D.H Lawrence to Byron. Surrounded by pretty, traditional towns, Lake Garda is easily explored on the ferries and hydrofoils that tour the lake all day, with timetables and tickets available from the nearest jetty. It's worth bearing in mind that the faster the boat, the more expensive the ticket. Base yourself at Desenzano, the largest lakeside town for easy access to the train station, a lively harbour lined with good restaurants and its own 12th century castle.

Boats on marina with tourists at cafes and restaurants at Desenzano del Garda, Lake Garda, Lombardy, Italian Lakes, Italy

Alexandre Rotenberg/Robert Harding

Things to do in Lake Garda

It’s easy to spend a couple of days exploring Desenzano itself, pottering around the weekly market, visiting its remarkable Roman ruins and relaxing on its tranquil pebble beaches before or after your Princess cruise. Those who prefer to keep active can try water sports including sailing and windsurfing, or work off the pasta by mountain biking, horse riding, playing golf and hiking. After that, jump on the ferry to any of the lakeside towns and spend lazy days dining by the water’s edge, discovering hushed Renaissance churches and wandering pretty promenades. Start with quaint Sirmione, a must-visit for history buffs with its imposing 13th century castle, thermal baths and the Roman villa of the poet Catullus.

The best restaurants in Lake Garda

Whether you want to treat yourself to Italian fine-dining or crave a crispy pizza, the restaurants around Lake Garda serve the very best Italian produce for every budget. Just ten minutes from the waterfront in Desenzano, Pizza Per Caso Le Quattro Coppe serves one of the best pizzas around, loaded with toppings and served with local wine. But for a real treat, book a table (ask for one on the terrace) at Ristorante Esplanade, a pricey Michelin-starred eaterie with spectacular lake views, exceptional desserts and fresh lake fish on the menu.

People milling about in the Piazza delle Erbe in Verona

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Where to go in Lake Garda

The easy transport links in Desenzano mean it’s easy to explore this captivating corner of Northern Italy. Between March and October, try a day trip to Isola del Garda, the largest island on the lake, where the Borghese Cavazza family live in a private neo-Gothic Venetian villa with manicured gardens and panoramic views. Verona is also an easy train-ride away, packed with buzzing piazzas, Renaissance artefacts and grand Roman ruins including a well-preserved amphitheatre.

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About the Author

Siobhan Grogan

Siobhan Grogan

Siobhan is a travel, music and lifestyle journalist who has written for publications including NME, Harper’s Bazaar, British Airway’s High Life, Grazia, City AM and the Evening Standard. She is constantly searching out new destinations to explore, but loves returning to Sydney, New York and Italy.