Just back from a fantastic week at Lake Garda with my friend. It was my first visit to the lake and we stayed in Garda town. When I was researching what to do around the lake, I was overwhelmed as there was so many things to do and places to visit. I imagined visiting all the little towns around the lake but we struck gold staying in Garda town ( for what we wanted, we're in our 30s and like a mix of relaxation, eating out and outdoor adventure - not big into clubs and late bars though, so Garda was good for us). Garda town has a lovely chilled-out vibe, not as touristy as the other towns ( well of course it's touristy in August, but compared to the others, it has a nicer feel) It's very pretty, lovely old town with some good restaurants and it is enclosed in its own pretty little bay. I read Bardolino town was fantastic but I walked there one day and I must say I liked Garda more. Only passed Lazise on the ferry and by bus, it looks lovely too. I'm usually up for a bit of adventure but in the end I took the advice of some of our Lake Garda experts here, and just relaxed taking in the views, chilling by the pebble beach, swimming, boat trips, peddle boating, eating Italian cuisine & gelato and sipping Prosecco and Bardolino wine (€2.50 a glass, cheaper than a glass of coke ;-)) around Garda town. Bus transport to and from Garda is fantastic, there's even a bus that goes all the way to the airport in Verona!
We visited Sirmione by ferry and Malcesine by bus - both beautiful! Going up the cable car to Monte Baldo at Malcesine is a must!! We were very lucky with the weather that day, clear and sunny, sometimes the weather was a bit hazy ( there were some fantastic thunder & lightning storms at night). However, we got caught in a 2hour queue at the cable car - awful! (didn't know you could pre-book the tickets to avoid nightmarish queue). So be warned!!! It was still worth it, stunning views and even though it was really sunny up there, a huge cloud came by and surrounded us but moved swiftly on again. Really spooky! Lots of para-gliders taking off from the mountain. Malcesine is very magical - very Austrian feel about it but it's very touristy. We had planned to go to Riva and Limone but never made it there - not enough time!
Our flight arrived into Verona late, so we spent our first night there and explored the city the next day before heading to the lake . It's so easy to get to Verona from the lake so I wouldn't bother doing any 'planned day-trips', just do it independently. It's a small city, so you can see a lot in half a day. It's beautiful! The bus fare is about €4. We went to the opera in the Arena- absolutely spectacular - Verdi's Aida. We got tickets for about €26, on the stone steps with a cushion and had a great view. Don't bother spending any more than this on a ticket! We could see everything! It's a must!
We also went to Gardaland for a laugh. We went at night (or after 6pm) as it's half-price €16 and there are no big queues for the rides. Definitely a good choice! It's also quite magical at night and easy to get to from Garda by bus. Still haven't recovered from those roller-coasters though - Yikes!
I will definitely return again to explore more of the lake sometime. We had an incredible time, everyone was so friendly, especially the waiters ha ha.... that's the irresistible Italian charm :-) I would also stay in Garda again as it's a great base for seeing other parts of the lake. If you're into something more lively or have children, the southern towns of the lake are probably better.
Thanks to all the experts here Tepore and Scozzee (sorry wrong spelling) for all the tips you gave me. I've fallen in love with the place and can't wait to return again some day :-)