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Steaming to Sirmione

En route to Milan, the western shore of Lake Garda was a one-night stopover on a whirlwind tour through northern Italy. Although we stayed in the attractive resort town of Desenzano del Garda, we saw hardly anything of Desenzano aside from its port. Instead we hopped on the ferry to Sirmio, a narrow peninsula jutting out into the southern reaches of the lake.

We arrived at Sirmione late in the afternoon, with just enough time for a wander before a leisurely dinner at one of the lakeside cafés. This ancient fortified town, known for its thermal springs, is a compact arrangement of colourful alleyways and red roofs – all overlooked by the Rocca Scaligera, a 13th century castle built by the lords of nearby Verona.

With so many stops packed into a hectic schedule, little thought was given to a meaningful experience of the smaller, more enchanting places like Sirmione. It was only much later that I realised we had missed the ruins of a Roman villa further along the promontory, one thought to belong to the poet Catullus. On returning home from a long voyage, he described Sirmio as a “jewel of islands and of peninsulas”, then, as now, a fitting image of its wonderful setting amidst the foothills of the Alps.

Rocca Scaligera

Piazza by the water

Leaving Sirmione

Sunset over the lake

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t been there….yet. It looks gorgeous.

    August 20, 2012
    • I only wished I could have spent the entire day there – by the time we arrived the castle was already closed. Do drop by Sirmione the next time you head north to Milan, it is such a lovely little town!

      August 20, 2012
  2. Sirmione was one of several towns in the area that would call me back. I’dgo back just for the wonderful gelato that was around every corner. It is very popular with Italians for a holiday stay so book in advance to get good accommodations.

    August 20, 2012
    • Thanks for the advice! We were there in the off-season, sometime before Easter, so there weren’t any crowds at the time. I didn’t get to try the gelato there but then again the winds blowing off the lake became quite chilly as the day turned to evening!

      August 20, 2012
  3. One of the best weekends of my life involved a day trip to Sirmione! There just so happened to be a flash storm in the afternoon when we were on the ferry making our way back to Garda, I think, and we got soaked to the bone, but then because of the rain we stayed longer 🙂 Bella Italia. Haha, this post also makes me think of Gardaland and Prezzemolo.

    August 20, 2012
    • I can’t imagine what the flash storm must have been like – being completely exposed on the open deck of the ferry! It sounds like you had an incredible time though. 🙂

      August 20, 2012
  4. What you describe is typical of escorted tours! They take you to more places but don’t allow you enough time to see any of them 🙂 Sirmione sounds wonderful!

    August 21, 2012
    • Absolutely, Madhu! This tour was probably the last one I would ever take – after years of independent travel I don’t think I would ever fall for the same offer again!

      August 21, 2012
  5. Hi James, I love to Northern Italy; haven’t been to Sirmione though. It looks charming. It’s great you were able to capture nice images despite your brief time on the island.

    August 21, 2012
    • Thanks Marisol, Sirmione was a romantic little town that I remember with a lot of fondness. I just hope it hasn’t changed much since the last time I visited some eight years ago!

      August 21, 2012
  6. I’m thinking about going to the Italian lakes next year, so this is a useful and inspiring post. Thank you!

    August 21, 2012
    • You’re welcome Denise – hopefully you’ll have a lot more time to soak up the place than I did!

      August 22, 2012
  7. Reblogged this on madeniyahedwards.

    August 21, 2012
  8. Hey James, I grew up in Piemonte but haven’t visited Lago di Garda properly, I have obiously been missing out!

    August 23, 2012
    • Hi Sophie! Next time you return to Italy, try and spend a few days there – I know I would love to!

      August 23, 2012
  9. Blood-Ink-Diary #

    Needless to say, James, but here I go — Your photography is remarkably stunning ! Brava amigo !

    August 24, 2012
    • Thanks very much Shaheen! These were taken eight years ago with an old film camera.

      August 24, 2012
      • Blood-Ink-Diary #

        I absolutely love old cameras ! Cheers

        August 25, 2012
  10. Your story is truly inviting and your photos are simply amazing! It must be a very beautiful place judging by your experience…I should go there maybe to check it out myself. In the meantime, keep traveling, blogging and entertain us in an original, magic way 🙂

    August 26, 2012
    • Thank you for the kind words! My time in Sirmione was very brief but I do hope to return someday – there were so many places in that town that we didn’t get to explore properly.

      August 27, 2012
  11. yay boat travel! I’m loving these photos that you’ve taken on film (at least I think they’re film..). I’ve been seeing quite a few photos being shot on film these days that make me want to try to go back to it.

    December 23, 2012
    • just read some of the other comments and have answered my question of whether these were taken on film. 🙂

      December 23, 2012
      • I have some more old photos on film ready to be scanned for the blog – two future posts will be dedicated to a previous trip I did to Kansai during cherry blossom season. Thinking of scheduling them for this coming March! 🙂

        December 24, 2012
  12. Cherry blossoms on film must be absolutely breathtaking! But you’re waiting until March!? agh, you tease. (though I do agree that the timing makes sense)

    December 24, 2012
  13. theinspiringneighbor #

    Next time you should try and visit Lake Maggiore, also in Northern Italy. From Stresa you can take the ferry and visit the Borromean Islands, you won’t be disappointed 🙂

    April 9, 2013
    • Thanks for the tip, I’ll make a note of that for the next time I visit Milan and the lakes! 🙂

      April 9, 2013
  14. Reblogueó esto en rocardozoreporty comentado:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

    August 20, 2013
  15. I loved Lake Garda. What a magical place. How long did you stay? we only had 2 days but plan on returning. Check out my experience. 🙂 http://dragonfruitphotographyblog.com/2013/10/13/lago-di-garda-and-limone-sul-garda-lake-garda-and-limone-northern-italy/

    November 18, 2014
    • This was a long time ago – we stayed only two nights as well, but most of the days were spent exploring nearby towns and cities.

      November 23, 2014
  16. Great post! I’ve also just started my blog, so check it out: https://travelbabytravelblog.wordpress.com/

    February 5, 2016

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