Limone is a very popular tourist resort on the mountainous, northwest shore of Lake Garda. Huddled picturesquely between the turquoise lake and an impressive rock wall, it surely enjoys the most dramatic setting on the lake. Unfortunately its name owes nothing to the lemon groves that were at one time of vital economic importance. Instead scholars suggest that its name derives from limen, meaning boundary or lima, which means river.
If you are staying at the northern resorts of Malcesine, Riva or Torbole, then the ferry is the ideal choice. But if you are holidaying at Desenzano or Sirmione the journey is long, and the rapid ferry, which costs much more, is the only sensible choice if you wish to travel by boat. But even the rapid ferry from Desenzano can take up to 3 hours. If you aim to visit 2 or more resorts, which will need careful planning, then you should consider purchasing a day ticket for the whole of Lake Garda.
Limone can be reached by buses that run along the western side of the lake: journey times – Desenzano (1 hour 30 mins.), Salò (1 hour), Gardone (55 mins), Gargnano (35 mins), Riva (13 mins.).
Buses are not very frequent, and it is wise to check with the tourist office which services are running on the day you intend to travel. Connections improve from mid June, when the schools close for the summer. Sunny Sundays and public holidays can be a problem – traffic may move at a snail’s pace.
The old harbour is the focal point of the small, old town. Narrow, sometimes steepish, atmospheric, cobbled lanes have the usual variety of tourist shops plus cafés and restaurants aplenty. Very close to the harbour, in a northwards direction, is the small Chiesa di San Rocco, whose slightly elevated position ensures that it appears at one with the rock face. Inside are some interesting frescoes and its terrace affords a pleasing view of both the harbour and the jigsaw of terracotta roofs of the old town. A little further from the harbour, in the opposite direction, you will find the Chiesa San Benedetto, which houses some important pieces of ecclesiastical art. The oldest church, Chiesa San Pietro, sits among olive trees some way from Limone, on the road to Tremosine.
At the southern end of the town the cliffs edge further away from the shoreline, allowing space for a wide promenade and some hotel development.
In high season the 1000 or so residents of Limone are rather swamped by the number of tourists. But tourism is what Limone is about, and it pulls out all the stops to ensure that its visitors thoroughly enjoy their stay.
Throughout the holiday season there is an extensive programme of free cultural events. Evening concerts, mostly on Sundays, are held in the old town centre or on the promenade. There is music for all tastes: from classical to swing, from opera to blues, from tribute bands to country. Sometimes the concert is followed by a firework display.
‘Art in the alleys’, an exhibition/ sale of paintings and sculptures, is held on most Tuesdays (10.00 – 22.00) in the alleyways of the old town. And alongside this event the historic Limonaia del Castèl lemon grove offers guided tours, including limoncello tasting and live music (20.00 – 23.00). The Castèl lemon grove is also open daily from April to October.
Together with the cultivation of lemons, fishing and olive growing were once economically important, and there are also museums devoted to these industries.
The Fishing Museum is open from 28th March to 31st October (10.00 – 22.00).
The Olive Oil Exhibition is open from 30th March to the 15th 0ctober, Monday to Friday (10.00 – 12.00 and 16.00 – 18.00).
The rise of tourism
After the devastation caused by World War 1, the people of Limone had to rebuild the fishing and olive growing industries. At this time Limone could only be reached by water or by tortuous mountain paths. In 1931 the construction of the Western Gardesana road changed everything, and a poor, struggling fishing village soon became a prosperous tourist centre. The road, still in use, can be very busy, but fortunately its position means that it doesn’t visually impinge upon the attractive old town.
The rise of tourism and other socio-economic changes are chronicled in the Museum of Tourism.
It is open daily from the 28th March to 31st October (10.00 – 22.00).
There are walking possibilities to suit all levels of fitness and inclination, and throughout the holiday season free guided walks are on offer. Information about these, together walking guides, are available at the two, yes two, tourist offices, located near to the bus station on the main road and at the far end of the promenade.
Long life in Limone
The inhabitants of Limone enjoy very long life, and this cannot be entirely attributed to the usual suspects of Mediterranean diet and life style. A large number of its inhabitants have a gene that codes for the protein A-1 Milano, which is carried in the blood and strips harmful fatty deposits from arterial walls. Following its discovery in 1979, genealogical studies showed that all carriers were descendants of a couple who married in 1644. The population was small and isolated, so the gene quickly became established. The great hope that is that A-1 Milano can be produced commercially, and become a major weapon in the world’s fight against cardio-vascular disease.