The last time I looked at visiting Lake Garda, having seen brochures filled with stunning vistas, and jaw dropping price tags, I nearly choked on my Ribena and decided to park that idea for a time where I was earning approximately three times as much as I am now. I would have to wait a long time before I could afford a trip like that…
And then my lovely boyfriend and I set off for Verona. I’d read somewhere that Lake Garda was spitting distance from the Veronese centre, so I made it our collective mission to see this place- and on a tight budget.
Deciding which town surrounding the enormous lake to visit was our first task. After deliberating over the pros of each location, we couldn’t decide and ended up dip-dip-do-ing our way to Sirmione. A small town on the end of a peninsula, it seemed as good a place as any to get to know the lago, so first thing in the morning we hopped on a bus and sped on over.
The bus dropped us off at the very bottom of the town, leaving us with a twenty minute walk before we actually saw any sign of the lake. The streets before the tip of the peninsula are your bog-standard gated-hotel affair, which, only on reflection, made arriving at the Sirmione drawbridge all the quainter.
To enter the town, you must cross a hand-pulled drawbridge. This means there are no cars- just concessional obligatory Italian Vespa, whipping round the cobbled streets. The town is guarded by the Rocca Scaligera, which for the low low price of 2 euros, will give you a stunning overview of the Sirmione town’s rooftops, complete with world famous mountain/lake combo backdrop for added jaw-drops. If you’re in Sirmione, go up it. That’s an order.
We poked around Grotte di Calutto, the gorgeous Roman ruins named after a local poet, which was pretty cheap and gave amazing views of the Garda mountains. We spent a good portion of the day slowly wandering around and trying to guess what all the room ruins would have been once and resisting the temptation to make poppy-daisy-chains. We nosed out the best gelato in the area (seriously, I think about the pistachio cone every couple of days still), and spent the majority of the day at the bottom of the Sirmione cliff paddling about in the water.
I’d read that restaurants tended to be pricey, so we packed a picnic to save on costs here. I’d strongly recommend this- there are loads of beautiful places to eat alfresco in Sirmione. We had ours on the marbled rocks on the lake edge- picking through olives and tearing up bits of cured ham. I’m sure the restaurants are fantastic, but this was a budget day out and nothing beats having your lunch while dipping your tootsies into one of the most famous lakes in the world…
The most noticeable and beautiful thing about Sirmione (and Italy all over, really) is the colour. Little splashes of orange and rose pinks in the flowers and on the houses, the glaring blue of the lake, and, of course, the deep red of the glasses of Bardolino to bring it all together (well, it wouldn’t be Italy without the wine). I loved Sirmione, and the whole day had barely cost anything. Mission accomplished.