Malcesine is a picturesque small town located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda and belongs to the province of Verona. This charming town is one of the most visited Lake Garda towns because of its mild climate, pleasant atmosphere, small squares, narrow streets, and various activities. With around 3,700 inhabitants, Malcesine is not that big, but it has a lot to offer and is one of Lake Garda’s most beautiful holiday destinations.
The lake and mountains surround it, and the town has medieval flair. So you can discover magical locations, small beaches, and fairytale houses away from the usual tourist path. There is Monte Baldo mountain nearby for those who want an active vacation, where you can try trekking, paragliding, or mountain biking. Furthermore, there are some magnificent historical attractions like the Scaliger Castle, Santo Stefano church, and Pallazo dei Capitano. Here are all the things you can do in Malcesine:
The Scaliger Castle in Malcesine
The Scaliger castle is the symbol of Malcesine and an attraction you should definitely not miss. This hilltop castle is located at the northern end of the town, directly on Lake Garda’s shore so that you can see it from afar. The castle became known through a story by Goethe on his journey through Italy. When he visited the Malcesine castle, he was accused of spying because he had drawn plans of the castle. After clearing up the misunderstanding, the Italian Goethe became an ambassador for the beauty of Lake Garda.
The first fortress was built in the 5th century by Langobards, and later it was transformed into the Scaliger castle. Today, this well-preserved castle houses the Natural History Museum of Garda and Monte Baldo, which exhibits botanical, paleontological, geological, archaeological finds, and relics of the Risorgimento.
Courtyards of Scaliger Castle
This magnificent castle, perched on a rocky shore, has been a protected national monument since 1902. It consists of three interlocking inner courtyards. In the first courtyard, just behind the entrance gate, the impressive Palazzo Inferiore houses the Museo del Garda and the Museo del Baldo. The museums are primarily devoted to geological finds and the development of the Val di Sogno (Valley of Dreams). The second courtyard is fully dedicated to the famous writer Goethe. A Goethe Museum has been set up in a former Austrian powder chamber, where Goethe’s bronze bust is placed in the front garden.
In the third courtyard is the actual Scaliger castle with the imposing 70-meter high tower. Those who climb up are rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Garda and Malcesine. Besides, you can also see a cistern that should secure the residents’ water supply during a siege. It stands in front of a small fishing museum, the Museo Pariani.
The Palazzo dei Capitani
The Palazzo dei Capitani is located in the center of the town and was originally built in the 13th century as a theater. But in the 15th century, it was renovated and used as the seat of the Venetian governors. Today, you can visit a small exhibition in the palace and take a short tour through the palm garden with a wonderful view of Lake Garda.
This small garden was used as the landing place for the captain’s boat, better known as the “ganzarina.” The upper floors of the palace host concerts, conferences, weddings, and there is the municipal library.
Parish Church of Santo Stefano
Follow the old streets uphill in a southern direction from the city center, and you will reach the parish church of Santo Stefano. The baroque church was built in 1729. It harmonizes wonderfully with the romantic flair of the picturesque town.
In the church, you can admire beautiful altarpieces in the colors of the Italian Baroque. Particularly worth seeing are the altars of the hermits Benigno and Carlo canonized in the 18th century and the “Altars of the Seven Joys” from 1771. You will find a tabernacle from the 15th century and the altarpiece Girolamo dai Libris in the church.
Porto Vecchio is a small harbor surrounded by colorful houses, which give the Malcesine a special charm. The ramp on which boats were once pulled ashore is now a small relaxation area with artistic stone sculptures. There you will find many good restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.
Also, from the port, you can use public ferries to visit some other towns on Lake Garda. Porto Vecchio is in a shady place in the morning when Monte Baldo hides the sunrise, but it is ideal in the evening to admire the sunset.
Malcesine is located right at the foot of Monte Baldo, a mountain that is over 2000 meters high. Monte Baldo is also known as the “Garden of Italy” because of its beautiful flowers, herbs, and trees. There is a cable car station for the trip to Monte Baldo, located 500 meters from the Malcesine center. Furthermore, there is also an underground car park for parking directly at the valley station.
From the station, you will get up to 1780 meters in 15 minutes with a cabin that rotates and allows you to enjoy a magnificent 360-degree view. Monte Baldo is ideal for hiking, cycling, and those who want to try paragliding. In the winter, you can even ski there because of the well-equipped ski slopes.
The Aril River
In the nearby village Cassone, there is the smallest river in the world. The Aril River is only 175 meters long, but it still flows under three bridges even has a waterfall. It comes from a pool that forms a pond a protected fishing reserve. That pound is used by trouts that come to lay their eggs.
In the past, the river was used to supply the old olive mill with energy. Nowadays, it is a potential source of drinking water for the area’s inhabitants and a popular tourist attraction.
Beaches in Malcesine
There is nothing better than enjoying and relaxing on a beautiful beach on a hot summer day. If swimming and tanning are not enough for you, there are various water activities like kite surfing, sailing, or wind sailing.
The Paina beach is the closest in Malcesine, located only 100 meters north of the Scaliger castle. This free pebble beach offers a large sunbathing area, a volleyball court, and small swimming islands in the water. Furthermore, you can find bars and restaurants along the beach, a beach club with an entrance fee, and beach loungers rent.
The beach of Posterna
This small but beautiful beach is located under the Scaliger castle. To find it you have to go through the town center and turn left in the small street near the castle. This rocky beach is perfect for a little cooling off between sightseeing and the historic old town.
Val di Sogno
The bay of Val di Sogno is located near the hospital of Malcesine, about 30 minutes walk from the center. This free beach has very clear water and is consisted of gravel and small stones. On the beach, there are various bars, restaurants, and pizzerias. The highlight of the beach is a small island called Isola del Sogno. It is a natural paradise because it is uninhabited and not cultivated.
Shopping in Malcesine
In the narrow streets, you will find many beautiful little shops, boutiques, and studios where you can buy unique products. In addition to typical souvenirs and tourist items, the small shops also offer many handcrafted products such as soaps, jewelry, and decorations.
Fashion boutiques usually offer high-quality leather goods and trendy clothes. Every Saturday, there is a weekly market in Malcesine where you can buy freshly caught fish, homemade cheese, wine, vegetables, and much more.
Restaurants in Malcesine
Restaurants in Malcesine offer good food, but the prices are a little bit high, especially in the center. If you want to find cheaper restaurants, you should go away from the hustle and bustle and find some hidden alleys. The restaurants usually serve Mediterranean and Italian specialties as well as pasta dishes and delicious pizzas.
How to get to Malcesine
Malcesine is around 30 kilometers far from Bardolino and 60 kilometers far from Verona. Public transport from these cities goes to Malcesine several times a day. You can reach Malcesine by car, bus, or ferry.
Malcesine by car
If you are coming to Malcesine by north, on the E45 motorway, you should take the exit towards Lago di Garda Nord and from there continue via Torbole to Malcesine. If you are coming from the south, you should go towards Bardolino and then continue north to Malcesine. Keep in mind that there is huge traffic in the summer months and it is not easy to find available parking spots.
Malcesine by bus
There are direct bus lines that drive from Garda town or Riva del Garda to Malcesine. If you are coming from Verona, you should first come to Garda town or Riva del Garda and then transfer to a bus that goes to Malcesine.
Malcesine by ferry
There is a ferry line that goes from Limone Sul Garda to Malcesine and costs 6,50 euros in one direction. In the summer, timetables are strengthened with greater and more frequent runs from Limone on the west coast to Malcesine on the east coast.
Closest airport to Malcesine
The closest airport to Malcesine is Verona Villafranca Airport. From this airport, there is a bus connection via Garda to Malcesine. The journey time is around an hour and costs around 5 to 8 euros. The second closest airport is in Milan, but the journey from there takes more than 5 hours.
Parking in Malcesine
Parking in Lake Garda towns is often very problematic, especially in summer. In Malcesine, the situation with parking is the same. The best chance to find an available parking spot is to go to a large parking lot at the north entrance of the town. But, sometimes you can find parking spots in the streets. Keep in mind that all parking spots are paid ones in Malcesine.
Is Malcesine worth a visit?
Malcesine is an ideal town for a stopover on Lake Garda, as a day trip, or for a longer holiday on Lake Garda. It is also ideal as a starting point for tours to one of the Lake Garda mountains, such as Monte Baldo, or a trip to some other town on Lake Garda shore. Since the area is trendy and often crowded, the small alleys sometimes get quite narrow in summer.
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