Going abroad later in the year isn’t something I’ve done before. Travelling overseas has always been a summer activity for my family and me. We tick off the days on our calendar until the hot weather arrives and we save our pennies for the ice creams, new flip flops, and customary local merchandise (yes, I’ve collected tons of fridge magnets!) However, visiting Italy’s largest lake when the leaves are turning is quite breathtaking.
I thought it might be nice to have my three teenagers to myself and enjoy a relaxing week away to read and get some writing done. I booked for us to stay in Sirmione, Lake Garda, which is a beautiful part of Italy. It’s somewhere we visited a few years ago and a place I loved so much I knew I wanted to return.
Dragged kicking and screaming from their Xbox, social lives, and the cat we flew from Birmingham into Verona and then drove over to Sirmione.
This particular town is steeped in history, dating from the 6th -5th millennia BC. From the 1st century BC, the area became a favourite resort for rich families coming from Verona.
In the late Roman era (4th -5th centuries AD) the city became a fortified strongpoint defending the southern shore of the lake. In the early 13th century Mastino della Scala built the impressive moated castle. The military remained in the city until the 16th century, but a garrison remained at the castle until the 19th century.
Sirmione came under the Republic of Venice between 1405 and 1797 until it was acquired by the Habsburg Empire. In 1860 it became a part of the Kingdom of Italy.
Exploring the castle (Rocca Scaligera) and the various churches in the area was the highlight for me. I love history, and I enjoy imagining who may have walked the castle walls at various times during its existence.
A short walk from our hotel we discovered a beautiful Romanesque church (San Pietro in Mavino) which was built in 765 by Lombardic monks on the remains of a heathen temple. Inside, you’ll find a fresco of the Last Judgement dating from 1321.
The last time I visited Sirmione I wanted to see Grotte di Catullo which is an impressive Roman villa built on the end of the peninsula, but it was closed. Fortunately, I was able to get inside on this trip, and I must say it was worth the wait. Although named after the poet Catullus, nobody believes he was wealthy enough to have built it or lived there. The site is stunning, full of olive groves, a museum, and ruins from the original villa. The views are stunning so it’s understandable why the builder would choose this spot.
Throw in copious amounts of gelato, pizza, and autumnal sunshine, and I can honestly say this was a fabulous trip. Even the kids enjoyed themselves!
If you’re heading to Lake Garda at any point, then I can highly recommend you stop off in Sirmione. It’s a magical town full of friendly people, unique shops, and amazing food.
We stayed at the Continental Therma, Sirmione which is a wonderful hotel.
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