Lake Garda is one of the most underrated hidden gems in Northern Italy. This beautiful region offers something for everyone, with stunning views, delicious food, a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, and affordable travel accommodations.
My husband and I spent 4 days visiting this beautiful region and I’m excited to share a 4 day itinerary of everything I can personally recommend when visiting Lake Garda, Italy.
It’s comparable to Lake Como for a fraction of the price and if you are traveling with family or kids, Lake Garda is a great affordable, and family-friendly alternative to Lake Como.
In Lake Garda, you will get to experience eating delicious pasta, the best seafood and drinking local wine. There is a large variety of activities, such as going to the beach, hiking or mountain biking on an Italian Alp, and more, there really is something for everyone.
Whether you’re outdoorsy, a foodie, or someone who just wants to explore or relax, this is the perfect destination.
We stayed at the Hotel Costabella in San Zeno di Montagna, one of the cities in Lake Garda. We also chose to rent a car in Verona from Target Car Rental and were really happy with our stay and the rental car!
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Start the day with the hotel breakfast at the hotel. I thought that the breakfast we had at Hotel Costabella was really good, especially for a free hotel breakfast.
It was buffet style and you could choose from eggs, bacon or sausage, fresh bread, meats and cheeses, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, small donuts or different breakfast cakes every morning, and fresh croissants. We sat on the patio of the restaurant overlooking Lake Garda, so it definitely was not a bad way to start our morning.
In the afternoon, drive down about 20 minutes to the town of Garda which is right on the lake. In Garda, you’ll be able to take a cable car up Monte Baldo, which is one of the most famous Alps in the area. At the top, you can grab lunch, hike around, and take in the amazing views.
I highly recommend buying tickets ahead of time to avoid any long lines. This is one experience I think everyone should do when visiting Lake Garda, it was so beautiful and fun to see the views on top of an Italian Alp.
Taking the cable car is 20 euros per ticket and you get up the mountain in under 30 minutes. The cable car will spin slowly as you go up or down the mountain so everyone will get to see all of the sights as the cable car ascends or descends on the mountain.
It was slightly nauseating because I get motion sick easily but nothing terrible, however, if you have vertigo or another health problem that makes you sensitive to these types of things, I would probably skip this experience.
At the top, there are a few cafes where you can get lunch and drinks. We went to the restaurant that is directly off the cable car to get sandwiches for lunch and Aperol Spritzes. The cafes have beautiful patio areas where you can sit out and enjoy the view from the top of the mountain while you eat your lunch.
The view from the top of Monte Baldo was insanely beautiful. After lunch feel free to walk around the top and do some exploring. We even saw cows with cowbells that sounded very serene and peaceful. It was truly a magical and beautiful experience that I think everyone should do when visiting Lake Garda!
We took a short walk around up top to take in more sights, I recommend wearing appropriate walking shoes which I didn’t and fell on some slippery rocks. Then we headed back down to Garda and got some gelato at Piccoli Piaceri, did a little bit of shopping where we bought truffle oil and dried pasta then went back to our hotel to clean up for dinner.
For dinner, head to the local restaurant, Giardinetto. This restaurant had a large menu of personal pizzas, amongst other dishes, which were all absolutely delicious.
However, when you’re in Italy of course I’m going to recommend you eat pizza! Giardinetto also has a beautiful patio with a lovely view of Lake Garda. It is also a very short walk away from the hotel if you are staying at Hotel Costabella.
Since the hotel breakfast is included with your stay at Hotel Costabella and it’s quite tasty, you’ll want to have breakfast here again on day 2. One thing I really liked about this breakfast was that it was mostly the same but they did change out the foods that were set out each day.
Drive into a nearby town to do some exploring and visit a local winery. We drove into the town of Caprino Veronese and walked around the downtown area. There was a flea market set up in a park that we wandered around before grabbing some gelato to cool off from the heat. It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 Celsius) most days since we visited in late June.
While in this town, we also visited the Gentili Cantina Winery, I recommend calling ahead to schedule a tasting. We thought we could show up and have a glass of wine while sitting outside with a view of the vineyard, similar to the ones we’ve been to in the United States. However, this was not the case here.
We were lucky we were the only people there so the man who worked there gave us a free mini-wine tasting and showed us their wine cellar where they make the wine. He was incredibly kind and welcoming.
Next, spend the rest of your afternoon by the lake in the town of Garda. Along with beaches, there is a walking path around parts of the Lake and restaurants right on the waterfront.
We went to Conca D’oro for drinks by the water. The mixed drinks were 6 euros each, which was quite affordable considering the beautiful view, and are much more affordable than the cocktails in England (where we live). We got Aperol Spritzes and they brought us mixed nuts, chips, and olives to snack on.
For dinner, you will eat back at your hotel, Hotel Costabella. Even if you don’t stay at Hotel Costabella, most hotels have a restaurant attached to it and they usually serve really good food.
The food at Hotel Costabella was delicious. I had a pasta dish with truffles from Monte Baldo which I thought was really cool. We also finished our meal with tiramisu which was also very delicious.
At this restaurant, we got to enjoy the beautiful view of the sun setting over Lake Garda from the patio. We were surprised that the Google reviews are not very good for this restaurant, but if you look at the reviews closely a lot of them are angry about small things such as the restaurant using plastic for to-go boxes, etc. and it is a restaurant we personally really enjoyed the food and the staff was lovely.
We decided to take a day trip from Lake Garda down to Verona. It was an easy 45-1 hr minute drive from where we were staying.
Of course, you’ll eat the free hotel breakfast. My husband and I were pretty happy that we got a hotel that offered breakfast because eating out three times a day on vacation can be a lot, so we really enjoyed the consistency and availability of good food with healthy options to start off our day.
To start your afternoon in Verona, you’ll take a winery tour. We got to Verona at about 11:35ish. We had a 12 pm wine tasting at Mentressor’s Winery which was just about 10 or 15 minutes from the downtown area of Verona. I really enjoyed this tour and recommend doing it if you are in Verona. Here is a link to the tour we did!
This winery offers tours in both Italian and English. Once the tour started we were taken through the history of the family who owned the winery and learned about their story as well as a small museum that went into more depth about how wine used to be made at the winery many years ago and about their grapes, soil, etc. It was really interesting and cool to learn about.
There was also a fun little interactive game where you got to smell different scents of things that they use for the wines. At that point in the tour, someone had come into the winery store and wanted to purchase wine, and since no one else was working that spoke English our tour guide had to help them.
They took about 25 minutes to check out. I’m not going to lie, that was really annoying and the other members of our group were definitely getting irritated.
When our tour guide came back he apologized several times and said he’s never seen it this busy and that he wanted to give us all a free bottle of wine for our inconvenience. His offering of a free bottle of wine really speaks volumes to the customer service and I was really pleased and happy about that.
He then continued the tour and took us to the basement to see where the wine was fermented and stored, as well as the family’s own personal wine collection, along with telling us how it’s made in their cellar.
Then we were taken upstairs to the tasting room where we joined the Italian-speaking group to try about 7 different types of wines and enjoy meats and cheeses. Our guide would instruct and share in English and then in Italian so everyone was able to understand.
I don’t usually like red wine but I think I may be converted to a red wine drinker after this visit. We only sampled red wines and they were all very delicious. We ended up purchasing 1 red wine, and a prosecco, and we took home the free bottle of red wine as well.
Overall, It was a little frustrating having to wait on the tour guide, however, I’ve worked in the service industry and I understand that stuff like this is out of your control.
I think him offering the free bottle really showed how much the winery appreciates the patrons and it just meant a lot because he did not have to offer that. Plus, he said that this was rare that that happened and he was very very apologetic.
I was really pleased with this winery and our experience. I’m not a huge wine drinker when I’m at home or know much about wine, but I really enjoyed this experience even if it did take a bit longer than we had planned.
After your tour, head to downtown Verona to explore. There is a lot to see in this area, including Juliett’s Balcony and the Verona Arena.
If you aren’t familiar, Juliett’s Balcony in Verona is said to be the famous balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette. The home once belonged to the Cappello family and since that is the Italian version of the Capult family, the balcony overlooks a courtyard and that is the reason why it is famously known as Juliet’s Balcony. It was free and easy to walk up to to see and take pictures.
The Verona Arena was built in 30 AD and hosted a variety of shows such as gladiator battles, bullfights, and other types of entertainment. We got tickets to go inside which were 10 euros each and got to walk around and explore. It was really cool being able to walk around a building with so much history. They still currently use the arena for shows even today, they had an opera later that night.
That evening grab dinner at Ristorante Greppia. We went about 10 minutes after they had opened and the outside seating was already completely full. We were shocked and worried we wouldn’t be able to get a table since there was also a line outside waiting for tables.
It wasn’t clear who we could talk to to get a table so we went inside and we were able to immediately sit indoors although the indoor seating did fill up while we ate our dinner.
If you are going here, I highly recommend making a reservation or going right when they open if you don’t mind sitting inside. We didn’t mind being inside because it was around 90 or 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it was so hot!
The food was quite good, I ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli and my husband had a fish risotto. He didn’t LOVE his food, he thought it was good, but it wasn’t really what he was wanting, I think he wanted something that was more cream-based.
I loved my dinner, it was really delicious. After that it was getting late so we decided to head back to our hotel and go to sleep.
You already know what I’m going to say, but start your morning with the free hotel breakfast one last time. It was delicious, the view was lovely, and we left feeling full and happy. After breakfast, we went up to our room to get ready and pack up. Check-out was at 11 a.m.
We then weren’t sure how we wanted to spend the day since we had a few hours before we needed to return our car and head to the airport, our flight was at 7 pm. We first returned my huband’s rental bike then since we were in Garda decided to go sit by the water.
There were a lot of benches right next to the water so we found one in the shade. We sat there for about 2 hours. We got to see a lot of different types of ducks, many had ducklings, which was really fun to watch, and we just spent a few hours relaxing and reading a book.
When we started to get hungry we walked over to the Conca D’oro restaurant where we had had drinks a few days prior.
We sat down right next to the water and wanted to take our time with our meal. We first ordered our Aperol Spritz and after about an hour decided we wanted lunch. Sebastian, my husband got a seafood platter and he said it was easily the best one he’s ever had. He was very very happy with this lunch. I got a pizza and I think it was absolutely delicious. The rumors are true, pizza in Italy is amazing.
Then after a little while of enjoying our food and the view, we decided to walk around Garda a little. We, unsurprisingly, got gelato and walked around a bit before heading back to the car and heading to the airport to go home.
Overall, I really really enjoyed Lake Garda. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to visit Northern Italy. I wouldn’t go longer than a week, just because there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do, it was definitely the perfect place to relax and have a more chill vacation.
It’s also a more budget-friendly and family-friendly alternative to Lake Como. I think having a day trip down to Verona was really fun and it was nice to see a bit more of Italy while we were there. This was my first trip to Italy and will definitely not be my last. It was absolutely gorgeous and I recommend adding it to your travel bucket list! Happy traveling!