Around Lake Garda – Gardone, a Resort of Contrasts (Italy)

Situated on the scenic western shores of Lake Garda, Gardone preserves the elegance of a bygone era. Divided into the lakeside Gardone Sotto and the older Gardone Sopra, it is a resort of contrasts. It is also home to two of Lake Garda’s top attractions – the Vittoriale and the Heller Garden.

Getting there

Gardone can be reached by public transport, either by ferry or by the bus service that runs between Riva del Garda and Desenzano (stopping points include Limone, Gargnano, Salò and Moniga).

Tourism comes to Gardone

Tourism hit Gardone towards the end of the 19th century, when Luigi Wimmer opened a boarding house that grew into the Grand Hotel. Attracted by its mild winter climate, Germans and Austrians flocked to Gardone: there is a report of tourists continuing to arrive well into December, even though the resort was full.

Gardone street

Over the years many famous figures have visited Gardone including Winston Churchill, who stayed at the Grand Hotel.

Gardone Sotto

Gardone Sotto is the location of fine hotels, restaurants, cafés and the main shopping street. Its outstanding feature, however, is the long, elegant, cobbled, traffic free promenade, which is dotted with roses and orange trees, and lined at one point with fragrant star jasmine. After a leisurely, peaceful walk along the promenade, why not retire to one of the lakeside cafés or sit on one of the many benches, soaking up the ambience and enjoying the wonderful views.

Gardone Sopra

A ride on the handy, small, tourist ‘train’ or a not too arduous uphill walk, following the signs for the Vittoriale and passing the Heller Gardens, will you bring you to Gardone Sopra. This old part of Gardone, with its quiet, meandering cobbled streets has, for the most part, the atmosphere of a hill village. There can be, however, a bit of a hub bub in the area close to the entrance of the Vittoriale, particularly at lunch time, when visitors spill out to seek refreshment in adjacent cafés.

Gardone sopra

All in all Gardone Sopra offers a very different experience to Gardone Sotto. The Vittoriale and the Heller Gardens continue the theme of difference, but here it is the thought provoking contrast of the polar opposite visions and philosophies of Gabriele D’Annunzio and André Heller.

David lectured in Science at a Midland college (UK) for many years. He now writes about places he visits regularly with the intention of providing useful information for visitors.