Garda has staggering mountains and breezy summers. Desenzano, the lake’s southern transport hub, is only 30min. from Verona, lhr. from Milan, and 2hr. from Venice. Sirmione and Gardone Riviera, easily accessible by bus and boat, are best explored as daytrips, as accommodations are scant and pricey.

SIRMIONE. Sirmione’s beautiful 13th-century castle and Roman ruins make for a leisurely day or a busy afternoon. Buses run every hour from Verona (lhr. ‚2.70). Battelli (water steamers) run until 8pm to: Desenzano (20min. ‚3); Gardone (l’ihr. ‚5.40); and Riva (4hr. ‚7.80). The tourist office, V. Guglielmo Marconi 2, is in the disc-shaped building. (030 91 61 14. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 9am-9pm; Nov.- Mar. reduced hours.) The Albergo Grifone , V. Bocchio 4, has country-style rooms, all with bath, and lake views. (sOSO 91 60 14; fax 030 91 65 48. Reserve ahead. Singles ‚32; doubles ‚55.) Postal Code: 25019.

GARDONE RIVIERA. Formerly the playground of the rich and famous, this town is now home to Lake Garda’s most famous sight: the villa of 20th-century poet and latter-day Casanova Gabriele D’Annunzio. His quirky mansion, II Vlttoriale, sprawls above Gardone. (Villa open Apr.-Sept. Su and Tu-Sa 8:30am-8pm. Gardens open Oct.-Mar. reduced hours. ‚11.) Buses (0365 210 61) run to Milan (3hr. 2 per day, ‚8). The APT tourist office, V. Repubblica 8, is in the center of Gardone Sotto. ( fax 0365 20 347. Open daily 9am-12:30pm and 3:30-6:30pm.) Postal Code: 25083.

RIVA DEL GARDA. Riva’s calm pebble beaches are Lake Garda’s compromise for the budget traveler. Travelers swim, windsurf, hike, and climb near the most stunning portion of the lake, where cliffs crash into the water. Riva is accessible by bus ( 0464 55 23 23) from Trent (2hr. 10 per day, ‚3.20) and Verona (2hr. 11 per day, ‚5). Ferries ( 030 914 95 11) leave from P. Matteoti for Gardone (‚6.60). The tourist office, Giardini di Porta Orientale 8, is near the water. ( 0464 55 44 44; fax 52 03 08. Open M-Sa 9am-noon and 3-6pm, Su lOam-noon and 4-6:30pm.) Snooze at the fabulous Locanda La Montanara , V. Montanara 20, off V. Florida. (fax 0464 55 48 57. Breakfast ‚5. Singles ‚16; doubles ‚32-35; triples ‚49.) Postal Code: 38066.


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