Sirmione is one of the most popular destinations on the gorgeous Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy and one of the most beautiful. Many things about this town attract a number of people, bringing in travellers from all over the world. From an enchanting castle to soothing thermal spas, Sirmione has everything you could possibly dream of in a resort town.
Learn about the rich history of Sirmione through its numerous ancient sites or just hang out on one of the most picturesque beaches on Lake Garda. As soon as you arrive to this historic town, you will quickly understand why Sirmione has been deemed, “The Pearl of Lake Garda” and why it was one of my favourite places to visit while in Lombardia.
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How to get to Sirmione
The medieval town of Sirmione is located on a small peninsula that juts out into the southern coast of the massive Lake Garda. It is super easy to get here from the nearby major cities such as Verona and Milan by train. You can travel to Desenzano station and then either hail a taxi or hop on the ferry across the bay to Sirmione.
Some travellers might opt to take that bus if they are on a budget. The price of the actual bus vs the train doesn’t differ much but the bus can drop you off closer to the city, which is where you will find your savings.
Others choose to rent a car while exploring Italy and the coastline of Lake Garda. Driving a car will help you travel around with ease however, just be aware that Sirmione’s Old Town can only be explored on foot.
Getting around Sirmione
Sirmione is small enough to walk around, and in my opinion that’s the best way to get around. You can also take boats from some of the other main towns around Lake Garda, such is Malcescine or Limone, or rent a boat by the old town marina to take you on a tour of Sirmione by speed boat.
Things To Do in Sirmione
Explore Rocca Scaligera
The most popular thing to do in Sirmione is the breathtaking Scaligero Castle. This stunning building looks as if it is floating above Lake Garda and offers a view of Sirmione atop its fortress walls. Built in the 13th-century by the Scaligers; the same family who ruled over Verona for 125 years; this castle holds lots of historical significance to the town of Sirmione.
Although the interior is a little plain (don’t expect much from a tour inside the castle), a visit to Rocca Scaligera is worth it to see this fortress plucked straight out of a fantasy land.
Time warp to the early 1st-century at Grotte di Catullo
Located at the tip of the Sirmione Peninsula are the ruins of an ancient Roman villa that have been standing since the 1st-century. Not only does this site offer a unique look back into time, but it also has unbelievably picturesque views of Lake Garda.
In the past, Sirmione was a place that the wealthy people from Verona would vacation to. This is evident by the impressive size of this Villa and you can only imagine how extravagant it would be if it were built in today’s modern world.
Take a dip in the crystal clear water at Jamaica Beach
For those craving some fun in the sun, head to Jamaica beach to splash around in the turquoise waters or sprawl out on its soft sands. Located right next to Grotte di Catullo, you can comfortably walk here after exploring the ruins.
The shore is lined with slippery flat rocks which create small pools that you can lounge in. If you are interested in doing something a little more active, discover Jamaica Beach by kayak.
Check out the fresco paintings in the Church of San Pietro in Mavino
This gem is the oldest church in Sirmione and deserves a visit just to see the detailed frescos from the 12th to 16th-centuries that are preserved on its walls. The structure itself was originally built back in the 8th-century and has had various updates and additions throughout the eras as different religious powers have ruled over Italy.
One of the additions was the Romanesque bell tower that was built in 1070 and even later converted into a symbol of remembrance for fallen Italian soldiers. With such a significant historical site in the eart of Sirmione, you don’t want to skip a quick visit to the Church of San Pietro in Mavino.
Eat like the locals at Trattoria La Fiasca
If you are looking to experience some of the local culture, direct your way towards this charming trattoria. Most known for its handmade pasta, La Fiasca is a small restaurant that specializes in cooking traditional Italian cuisine. There are only 40 seats in this compact trattoria so it is highly recommended to make a reservation, especially during peak times.
La Fiasca is an excellent choice for lunch while wandering the historic center. You can also catch some live music performances here in the evenings.
Relax in a thermal spa
After all your adventuring why not take some time to soothe your mind and body. Sirmione is the home to Terme di Sirmione, a spring of sulphurous water that is believed to have multiple therapeutic effects on the body. Some of these things include anti-ageing, rejuvenation of important systems in our bodies and even just to detox.
Although I am not sure about the healing properties, I never need a reason to unwind in a comforting spa. Aquaria Thermal Spa can accommodate all of your wellness needs. Choose to simply bathe in one of two different thermal baths, or splurge on a massage and mud wrap. This is the perfect place to bliss out while taking in the incredible views of the lake.
Stroll through the streets of the Historical Center
Since Sirmione was built much earlier than when cars were invented, it is made up of a labyrinth of narrow alleyways just waiting for you to explore. You can hunt for the perfect souvenirs to take home or stop in one of the cute cafes for some coffee. It is also a great area to stop by for lunch and dine on some fresh, handcrafted pasta.
If you are craving for something sweet, stop by Gelateria Mirkoz for two or three giant scoops of homemade gelato in their crunchy waffle cones. It’s impossible to not want to use this delicious, colourful treat as a photo prop; but will you be able to resist eating it? They even offer vegan with soy milk-based and rice milk-based options to help accommodate any dietary restrictions.
Wander around Parco Maria Callas
Maria Callas was a famous Opera singer in the mid-1900s who was enamoured with Sirmione, and the feelings were mutual. This tranquil park that has been dedicated to Maria Callas is a hidden gem with lush greenery and numerous statues. It is located next to multiple villas including the one that Maria lived at from 1950-1959 with her husband.
Seek out more ancient churches
Sirmione has no shortage of quaint, humble churches with beautiful fresco painted walls. If you left the Church of San Pietro in Mavino wanting to see more, then there are a few other sites to see in Sirmione’s Old Town.
These smaller buildings are estimated to be from the 12th-century while the frescoes are from the 14th-century. They are Chiesa di Santa Maria Della Neve (also known as Chiesa Santa Maria Maggiore) and Chiesetta di St. Anna. See if you can find these hidden little churches.
Have a unique dining experience at a La Rucola 2.0
Expect a treat if you decide to dine at this elegantly designed restaurant. Conveniently located right next to Rocca Scaliger; La Rucola 2.0 has earned Michelin recognition for its appealing ambience and creative dishes. With a carefully curated menu that appeals to all palates, foodies would be remiss to skip discovering the distinct flavours that Rucola 2.0 has to offer.
Not only are they innovative with their food but there is a vast list of wine options and re-imagined cocktails provided to compliment your meals.
Learn how to surf with Claudio
Lake Garda is not only pretty to look at, but you can also take part in many different water activities off its shores. One of the most exhilarating things to do in Sirmione is paddle board along the coast and see the town from a completely different perspective.
There is a well-established surf school in Sirmione where you can try surfing, windsurfing and stand-up paddle boarding, regardless of skill level. Garda Village beach is the location for Claudio Lana Professional Surf Center run by its enthusiastic owner, Claudio.
Do a wine tour and cooking class
One of the highlights of our trip was the wonderful cooking class we did just outside of Sirmione, complete with a short tour of the family-run vineyard and of course wine tasting.
We made many types of pasta from scratch, picked the ingredients in their private garden and enjoyed an incredible meal with the family. If you have a full half day free, this must be one of the top things to do in Sirmione!
Go on a sunset cruise around Sirmione Peninsula
If you think Sirmione is beautiful during the day then you have to see it as the sun sets. One of the best things to do in Sirmione is to enjoy a calming cruise around the peninsula as the sun slowly dips into Lake Garda. While the sky gets darker, the captivating Scaligero Castle becomes illuminated.
There are many different companies that offer to take you out on the water or you can hire a private tour for a more romantic setting as you watch the sunset with your loved one.
Discover the ruin at San Salvatore Monastery
Another interesting thing to see in Sirmione for any history buffs are the ruins of the San Salvatore Monastery. It is believed that this building, much like the many other religious structures in Sirmione, was covered in delicate frescos. However, due to some pulls in political power throughout the centuries, San Salvatore was destroyed and its crypts dismantled.
Nowadays, all that is left behind are the ruins of the east wall.
Spend the day at Gardaland Amusement Park
When I think of quaint, romantic towns in Italy, a giant amusement park is maybe the last thought that comes to mind. However, if you are looking for something fun to do in Sirmione with the family, Gardaland Amusement park and Aquarium are nearby. The amusement park has 32 exhilarating rides spread out amongst the 5 different themed areas.
Head to Gardaland’s Aquarium to explore its 13 unique rooms made to mimic the different biomes found throughout the oceans. They don’t only show off the beautiful sea life that inhabits the water, but they also work to educate about ways to conserve the ocean.
Gardaland also has three fun themed hotels that are all connected by the Blue Lagoon; a large outdoor pool equipped with its own waterfall.
Where to stay in Sirmione // Best Sirmione Hotels
As mentioned earlier, Sirmione was once the resort spot for the rich centuries ago; which hasn’t changed much. Although travelling to and around Sirmione won’t break your bank, the hotels here can be a little on the pricey side.
If you are looking to treat yourself a bit, I would highly recommend staying right in the Old Town as that will give you the best access to most of what Sirmione has to offer. There are many stunning Villas that you can choose from such as Villa Cortine, where you can live as part of the 19th-century elites during your stay.
Most people choose accommodations in other nearby cities on Lake Garda that offer more affordable options but are just as charming. These destinations include Bardolino, Peschiera del Garda, and Desenzano del Garda which are all great choices as you can easily take the ferry into Sirmione.
Lastly, you could choose to stay in a larger hub such as Verona, Milan, and even Brescia as getting to Sirmione from these cities is also not very difficult.
Where to next?
There are so many treasures to find in this small, medieval town. Whether you visit for a quick day trip or decide to stay a few nights, you don’t want to miss a chance to explore this charming city on Lake Garda.
Have you ever been to Sirmione? Let us know in the comments what your favourite thing to do in this town was.
Editors note: This post was written following a press trip to Lombardia region as part of the #DoubleYourJourney blogging campaign I participated in this summer.