Desenzano del Garda is the largest town on the shores of Lake Garda, which attracts millions of tourists! But despite this, it remains slightly off the radar of foreign visitors and has become of a favorite spot for the residents of Northern Italy…
Where is located, how to get there and where to stay
Territorially, Desenzano belongs to the Lombardy region, being located on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda and being its most accessible city by road and rail! And even by boat… If you are arriving by car, there is a clearly marked exit on the highway between Brescia (36 km) and Verona (48 km) that willn’t allow you to miss it. You can park in one of the paid parking lots close to the center, such as Parcheggio P5 Vallone, Parcheggio P4 Piazza Bagatta and Parcheggio Autosilo G7. Or try to find a free space at Parcheggio Piazzale Fleming, like we did…
The city is an intermediate stop on the main Verona-Milan train line, making regular rail transport to and from it much easier. For up-to-date timetables and prices, you can visit the Trenitalia website – HERE.
Although we transited, Desenzano del Garda is a perfect base for exploring the area around Lake Garda, which can make choosing accommodation a bit difficult. The variety is huge – from affordable campsites to five-star hotels…
See places to stay in Desenzano del Garda
Start of the day – coffee around Porto Vecchio
As soon as we parked, we headed to the charming old port (Porto Vecchio)! The shaded tables are great for relaxing with a refreshing drink or an aromatic cappuccino… Surrounded mostly by elderly local Italians, we could spend hours enjoying the pleasant atmosphere and the view of the moored boats…
This picturesque area is the most famous view of Desenzano! The old port was built by the Venetians as early as the 15th century to serve the city’s commercial needs. It’s surrounded on both sides by charming buildings in pastel colors, at its upper end are the elegant stone arches of the Palazzo Todeschini, and on the connection with the lake is the relatively new Venetian bridge, from where today you can have a complete view of the port…
💡 The Todeschini Palace is named after the architect Giulio Todeschini, who transformed the city center in the 16th century. Today, the building houses the municipal administration of Desenzano.
More about Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda has been designated as the capital of Lake Garda! The local population numbers about 30 000 people, but in the summer this number increases significantly. The town is proud of its ancient origins, with many of the discovered artefacts from this period on display at the Archaeological Museum of Desenzano del Garda. You can also see the Lavagnone plow there, which is the oldest plow found in the world!
Due to its strategic location, the area has been an attraction for wealthy Romans since ancient times. It’s therefore no surprise that it is here that one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Northern Italy is located – Villa Romana di Desenzano del Garda (admission fee). Its original construction dates back to the 1st century BC. and it is believed that the city was named after one of its owners – Flavius Magnus Decentius.
Another major attraction is the 11th-century Castello di Desenzano del Garda medieval castle (admission fee) towering over the historic center, which is reached by steep but very colorful streets. Designed for defensive purposes, today it is very well preserved, allowing it to be the main stage for concerts, festivals and most of the cultural events held in Desenzano.
💡 Only 15 km away, around Solferino, in 1859 the most famous battle around Lake Garda took place, resulting in over 25 000 casualties. The horrific scenes shocked the Swiss traveler Henri Dunant, who wrote “Un souvenir de Solférino” and subsequently proposed the creation of an international organization to help the victims of the war. This is how the “Red Cross” was born!
What else to see
Many of the summer visitors come here for the best beaches around the lake and the variety of opportunities to practice water sports! We contented ourselves with a walk along the long promenade, which is the most romantic spot in Desenzano del Garda. A specially built platform gives you the opportunity to look over the crystal turquoise waters, and the flower gardens contribute to the pleasant appearance of this part of the city.
The inner streets are a paradise for shopping fans! A huge variety of elegant boutiques, trendy bars, eateries and what not. The best of Italian fashion can be found on the high street! But if you want an authentic Italian experience, you must visit Desenzano on Tuesday mornings, when one of the largest lakeside markets takes place here, dating back to the 15th century, and all sorts of things can be found!
The best thing about Desenzano del Garda is that you won’t be run over by the crowd, even in the squares! The heart of the city is Piazza Malvezzi, the main meeting place for locals. In addition to the diverse architectural styles of the buildings, there you will also find the statue of Santa Angela Merici – the patron saint of Desenzano.
Piazza Duomo is nestled between the inland streets and home to the main cathedral – Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena. Hidden inside is the painting of the Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in portrait orientation – “The Last Supper”.
Two other charming squares are located in close proximity to the coast – Piazza Cappelletti and Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. A central role in the first is occupied by the monument dedicated to the victims of the Nazi-fascist dictatorship, and cozy cafes are hidden behind it. The second one is right in front of the ferry terminal and gives an exceptional color to the space in front of the iconic Mayer & Splendid Hotel.
An ideal choice for a short visit or a long vacation, Desenzano del Garda is a wonderful mix of authentic Italy and luxury glitzy resort!