Gardone Riviera is located on the western shore of Lake Garda, near Salò. In Roman times, this small town with only 2600 inhabitants was also known as Pagus Salodium. Nowadays, Gardone is a popular tourist destination throughout the whole year due to its mild climate, charming streets, cultural attractions, and “central European” atmosphere.
Gardone Riviera is a very elegant place to stay, so it is perfect for those who are looking for a luxurious vacation. If you plan to stay or visit this little gem, and you do not know what to do in your free time, here are the things to do in Gardone Riviera:
Visit Il Vittoriale degli Italiani
The Vittoriale degli Italiani was the property of the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, which lived in Gardone Riviera from 1921 to 1938. He was an Italian writer and poet who was considered to be a source of ideas for Italian fascism and one of Benito Mussolini’s mentors.
Nowadays, this building complex is a large museum on an area of approximately nine hectares and the most famous monument in the town. With around 200,000 visitors a year, the Vittoriale is also one of the most visited museums in Italy. The ticket to the whole complex with a guide costs 16 euros, while the ticket to only park costs 10 euros per person.
This unique museum consists of beautiful gardens, the mausoleum, the waterfalls, fountains, a lemon grove, the secret museum, a rose garden, the cemetery, various statues, all in a luxuriant green and well kept, many plant varieties, and numerous olive trees.
There is also free parking at the beginning of the climb to the Vittoriale, which is around 350 meters above the parking lot. At the entrance, you will get a map for better orientation in a huge park and this whole area, so you can be sure that you will not miss a thing in this museum.
There is also an open-air theater that is part of the Vittoriale. It was designed in 1930 but opened on August 8, 1953, and can accommodate around 1500 visitors. The back rows of seats directly adjoin the wings of the house. The multi-part residential building is all in white, ocher yellow, and dark red and is inspired by the Greek amphitheater present in Pompeii.
The theatre is hidden in the hills above Gardone and has one of the most beautiful stages in Europe. It is still used for some shows and is quite impressive, especially for the panorama that overlooks Lake Garda.
Take a look inside the church San Nicolo da Bari
In the upper part of Gardone Riviera, opposite of the entrance to the Vittoriale degli Italiani, there is the church of San Nicolò da Bari. It was built in 1740 on a pre-existing building dating back to 1391. This Baroque church is located at the end of a short staircase and has a nice facade decorated with pilasters and serrated cornices.
The church’s interior is richly decorated with beautiful frescoes, stuccos, and paintings. The entrance is free for everyone, so the church is worth visiting. Also, it is in a wonderful position overlooking the Vittoriale on one side and dominating the slope, with a splendid view of the lake, on the other.
Explore the botanical garden
The botanical garden in Gardone Riviera is about 10,000 square meters in size and was created in 1910 by naturalist and doctor Professor Arthur Hruska. By 1971, he had more than 2000 plant species there. The artist André Heller acquired the botanical garden in 1988 and continued increasing it.
This pretty big garden is divided into a few sections. One of them is the Japanese corner which is characterized by the bamboo forest, small ponds where aquatic plants live, and a wooden bridge that crosses them. Also particularly interesting is the rocky corner with the driest varieties of plants.
Go and see maginificent Villa Alba
The Villa Alba was built on behalf of the manufacturer Richard Langensiepen, so this magnificent building was the purely private property of the family in the past. Nowadays, the villa is a congress center for various meetings and events, but it is also open for tourists. There is a beautiful staircase in front of the building where you can take good photos.
The palace has a royal entrance, a spacious hall with a high ceiling, and a lovely outside area with a great lake view. The inside hall has a huge glass wall behind which you can see the magnificent garden with giant trees. You should always check out if there is some exhibition, art review, or cultural event inside the villa that is very interesting to see.
Relax on the Piazza Guglielmo Marconi
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi is the main square in the town and the place where locals hang out with each other. The square is easily recognizable because of the long yellow portico that runs on three sides, while the fourth is closed by the lakefront. Inside the square, two large trees create a bit of shade where you can stop on the hottest days to enjoy some refreshment.
Around the square, you can shop in small shops with some typical Italian products and souvenirs. Piazza Guglielmo Marconi a perfect place to relax and drink some aperitif or cocktail while admiring flower boxes arranged along the deep and low stairways.
Soak up the sun in Gardone Riviera beaches
There are only a few beaches in Gardone Riviera, but all of them a located a little bit outside the historic center. The most popular one is called Spiaggia Gardoneriviera and is located around 2 kilometers from the main square. This beach has free access for everyone, free parking spaces, and it is very quiet.
Also, there is plenty of shade available under the trees, which is great for those who are coming with kids. Furthermore, you will find a bar, a clean bathroom, a dressing room, and a sandy beach volleyball court. Those who want a more comfortable staying can rent deckchairs with umbrellas.
Stroll along the Gabriele D’Annunzio lakefront
Before leaving Gardone Riviera, you should not miss walking along the Gabriele D’Annunzio lakefront. The lakefront is full of beautiful buildings facing the lake, and it is the place from where you can reach other destinations on Lake Garda by ferry. A short distance from the short pier, you can also see the structure of the famous Grand Hotel built in 1875.
Gabriele D’Annunzio lakefront is one of the most romantic places in the town where you can stroll peacefully in the shade of the oleanders and breathe in the scent of oranges and roses. Along the lakefront, you will find many excellent restaurants where you can enjoy traditional dishes with enchanting views of the lake.