Sirmione is located on the southern shores of Lake Garda, a pretty town near the end of a long peninsula jutting out into the lake from the Southern shoreline. You just have to go to Sirmione when you visit Lake Garda…..in the words of our American friends, it is awesome! And you just don’t want to miss it!
Because from the moment you walk across the drawbridge through the Medieval town walls you are met with an absolutely beautiful little town, that isn’t just eye candy, it provides you with so much to see and do while you are there. All the guide books talk about the moated castle, Rocca Scaligera and this is undoubtedly very nice but its Sirmione’s plethora of narrow streets and interesting piazzas which are the real draw, these are just full of vibrant color and life. Sirmione Historic center is also virtually traffic free with only essential travel being allowed by car.
Needless to say there are lots of restaurants and places to eat at Sirmione and the quality is very good (this town depends upon tourism!) and the prices no more expensive than anywhere else. But the most striking feature of Sirmione is the ambience, which is really difficult to explain. It is just that there is an interesting building or shop or cafe or view or harbor around every corner. It even has its own (not insubstantial Roman Villa, Catullo di Sirmione from the 1st Century AD, called after the poet Catullo who didn’t live there!!! But did manage to end his life nearby) which has spectacular Lake Garda views, and virtually every building now seems to be named after him!
But Catullo did say that Sirmione is the “pearl of all islands and peninsulas” and he may have said “It is wrapped in a luminous atmosphere, between the blue of the waters and the green of the olive trees, with picturesque streets full of elegant shops”….but we never got the chance to ask him!
Your visit to Sirmione can take many courses. Some people just like to wander around and take in all of the sights and sounds. Others will be culture vultures and enjoy the castle, architecture and the Roman Villa (and the little train ride to get there!)……great views too! Many people will just sit in Piazza Carducci and people watch as the stylish Italians walk by looking cool in 88 degree heat……and wonder……..how do they do that?
Others will take a walk around the perimeter and see the lovely views of the lake from Sirmione’s lakeside where Italy’s courting couples all stand taking photographs of each other.
Most people though, will wander around and see where life takes them….probably to the shops. This sounds uncool, but that’s what most people do….and there is a fantastic array of shops in Sirmione from art galleries to china and glass, to designer clothes stores to the famous Monoprix, where every item of clothing in the store is ten euros. Or you can spend 2000 euros on a cashmere jacket or ten euros on a hoody at Monoprix! We have put together a selection of shops above but there are countless to browse when you get there!
But, how this little town got its name? The name “Sirmione” is a name deriving from the Greek word “syrma” which means “tail” or “train”, presumably not the little orange train that costs one euro to ride, but is a reference to the narrow peninsula.
Sirmione became a Spa Town when in August 1889, a diver came from Venice to lay pipes on Lake Garda’s clayish seabed. He was presumably more than a little surprised when a 70-degree sulphurous spring gushed out of the lakebed at him coming from the depths of the earth. The hot spring was soon connected to the town and there you have it ……..”An Instant Spa Town”.
Today, there are two Spa’s in Sirmione, Terme di Virgilio, and the Aquaria wellness center. Where you can choose from a menu of inhalations, mud baths and various kinds of massages including under-water massages, with various specialist centres for various respiratory conditions and rehabilitation. But most people on holiday probably just want to be pampered for the day.
As mentioned earlier there are a plethora of places to eat and drink , you might like to accompany this with some Sirmione produced white wine, ‘Lugana’ which goes down well (and sometimes quickly) in the specialist fish restaurants serving a catch, fresh from Lake Garda. You can also visit the wine producers and try their wines in beautifully restored old “cascines” or just buy it at Lidl’s!
Finally, please be aware that Sirmione is one of the few areas around Lake Garda where you have to pay to park your car, generally, the area is reasonably car-friendly and even when you do have to pay it is not usually too expensive (unlike Milan) and well worthwhile!