Trip Report Index:
Hotel Review: St. Regis Rome
Hotel Review: Hotel De Russie
Hotel Review: The Westin Europa & Regina
Hotel Review: St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace (previously reviewed)
Driving around Lake Garda
Hotel Review: Hotel Sirmione
Day in Sirmione
Hotel Review: Hotel Ideal
Night in Verona
Hotel Review: Sheraton Milan
Sirmione is known for its natural hot springs so some tourists come to “take the waters”, and is a fun place for adults and children to visit.
At the heart of the town is Scaliger Castle, from the 13th century. The fortress was used until the 19th century and even today there is just one road in and out of the town. The castle welcomes visitors to the peninsula, and since it is surrounded by a moat you actually get to go through the drawbridge to get to the peninsula. If driving, you get stopped by a guard to make sure that you have reason to bring your car in (such as a hotel reservation). The castle was originally designed to protect against enemies and today is it still remarkably intact.
For those who don’t want to drive, several ferries take passengers to Sirmione for the day which makes it much easier than fighting for a parking spot just outside of the castle. Here’s a link to the ferry timetables and info. Adult tickets are 3 EUR each way. The ferries run all day and into the early evening so you can take the ferry in to Sirmione, shop during the day, explore and take the ferry back to your hotel for the night. The last ferry times vary depending on date and location, but using the sample date of tomorrow October 29, 2014 the last ferry from Sirmione to Desenzano leaves at 6:30pm. Since I was staying at Hotel Sirmione I could take my time walking around and just return back to the hotel.
Once across the drawbridge the area is quite busy with tourists in the summertime. Few cars actually drive across the drawbridge to the peninsula so it is a great town to explore on foot. There are restaurants galore with clothing and trinket shops, views of the lake and piazzas.
I walked around the moat which is a popular place to hang out. There was a small well nearby with a natural spring water fountain for anyone wanting a drink. The entrance to the castle was busy as there are paid tours inside the castle for those who want to see more, though it is closed on Mondays.
As the day went on the crowd got larger but when you visit in the spring or fall you sometimes get the streets to yourself.
Locals and tourists alike ate bag lunches by the water and took pictures.
The tip of the peninsula is pretty small so you can walk the whole thing easily in an afternoon.
There were plenty of shops.
Another popular thing to do is to explore the 1st century Roman villa ruins at the Grotte di Catullo. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the ferry dock, some hotels provide transportation, and you could also rent a bike though they are not allowed inside the ruins. Surrounded by olive groves, there are gorgeous views of the lake from the top floor of the villa (there are three floors). There’s also a museum that showcases some of the jewelry and materials found during the original archeological dig. Depending on your level of interest in their history, the ruins can take a couple hours on average to explore.
Once back in the main old town section of Sirmione, many places advertise their daily lunch specials with a chalkboard outside so you can find a place that interests you before sitting down. I felt like Alice in Wonderland at this lunch place as soon as I noticed all the plants hanging upside down from the ceiling.
At another lunch place I smiled a bit when I saw that their featured offer was Hamburg ers, Fishburg ers, and Chickenburg er.
I decided on a pizza which was delicious.
Gelato is popular at all times of the day. There are several gelaterias on the peninsula but I think the best gelato in town is at the Break Bar Gelateria.
Perhaps to help people understand which flavor is which, props like plastic pineapples and bananas are next to many of them.
In the evening the restaurants vie for patrons. The often balmy air in the warmer months means that you can sit outside while eating and watch the world go by.
Join me on my next report, where I’ll take a look at some of the best restaurants in town for dinner.
Next up – Hotel Review: Hotel Ideal