PLACESGarda Lombardia

Desenzano del Garda

A journey through the Medieval Castle to the Old Harbour.

by Marco Ghirello

The town of Desenzano del Garda is located on the south-western shore of Lake Garda, between the towns of Sirmione to the east and Lonato del Garda to the west.

The name Desenzano seems to have Roman origins and can be traced back to an ancient owner of a farm and villa still visible today, called "Decentius".

The most significant growth of this town, both economically and socially, occurred around the 15th century under the Venetian Republic. It was at this time that Desenzano became a very important centre for trade in the entire lake area, because it was the location of the grain market.

Under the leadership of Venice, a number of important town-planning projects were carried out, such as the construction of the castle towards the end of the 15th century and the building of the old harbour. The latter was mainly used for the movement of foodstuffs and was later closed by a drawbridge and in the mid-20th century by a Venetian-style bridge, which has become one of the most characteristic and photographed monuments of Desenzano.

Curious fact - In 1928, Desenzano del Garda became the headquarter of the Reparto Alta Velocità (High Speed Department), a unit of the Regia Aeronautica set up specifically for the development of competition seaplanes. The most prestigious result was achieved on 23 October 1934, when Marshal Francesco Agello in command of his Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 reached an average speed of over 709 km/h, a category record that is still unbeaten. In the central Piazza Matteotti, there is a statue dedicated to this historic unit, depicting a woman's face leaning forward to symbolise air speed.

The strategic position of Desenzano del Garda makes it an easily accessible destination both by car and by train. In fact, the city is served by a motorway exit and a railway station, both located on the Milan-Venice line.

Festivities and markets
Patron SaintSant'Angela Merici
Feast day27 January
Weekly marketTuesday

What to see in Desenzano del Garda

Desenzano del Garda offers a lot to see both to people passing through who want to visit it during the day, and to tourists who choose it as their main holiday destination on Lake Garda.

The historical centre is located around the beautiful Piazza Malvezzi, the main square of the city and dating back to the 16th century, created by the architect Giulio Todeschini. It was here, during the period of the Serenissima, that cereals arrived and were stored in warehouses under the porticoes, architectural elements that still characterise the perimeter of the square today. Towards the harbour area stands the monument to the patron saint S. Angela Merici, erected in 1782.

Bordering the square is the Duomo di Desenzano (Desenzano Cathedral), a building dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena and completed in 1611, also planned by Todeschini. Characteristic is the old harbour and its masonry lighthouse dating back to the late 19th century, which initially operated with an oil lamp and served as a reference point for approaching vessels.

A few steps away, near the Maratona car park on the lakeside, a steam locomotive type FS 625 catches the eye, reminding us of the old railway line that connected the harbour to the train station.

At the nearby G. Rambotti Archaeological Museum, you can admire a number of archaeological finds discovered in the municipal area and dating back to the Bronze Age from the Lavagnone pile-dwelling site.

Another essential destination for visitors of Desenzano del Garda is without a doubt the castle, located in an elevated position above the town centre and offering a splendid panoramic view of the lake. Of notable interest is also the presence of an ancient Roman villa, the remains of which are still visible and characterised by the presence of splendid mosaics.

Not far away, in the nearby hamlet of San Martino della Battaglia stands the Risorgimento Museum, the ossuary and the imposing Monumental Tower, inaugurated in 1893 in memory of King Vittorio Emanuele II and all those soldiers who fought for the unification of Italy. Perfectly preserved, it offers a spectacular view of the entire lower Lake Garda area from its summit.

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What to do in Desenzano del Garda

The activities that can be carried out in Desenzano del Garda are numerous, suitable both for those seeking a relaxing holiday and for those looking to experience the lake in a more active and dynamic way.

A good starting point can certainly be to walk along the stunning lakeside promenade, then wander through the streets and alleyways of the historic centre, searching for some souvenir or typical product seen in the many shops available.

Those who love cycling will certainly not be disappointed, the routes suitable for two-wheelers are numerous and of low difficulty, allowing them to explore the surrounding area in an ecological and positive way for their physical health.

Water sports enthusiasts will appreciate the facilities in the area dedicated to them, as well as those who enjoy tennis and golf.

From any place in Desenzano del Garda, it is possible to reach in a very short time some of the most popular Italian theme parks, located right in the southern Garda area. A short distance away in the nearby town of Lonato del Garda, you can also reach the Leone Shopping Centre, the only one in the lower lake area to host an Apple Store inside.

Image gallery

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Map of tourist sites

Click on the button below to open the detailed map of Desenzano del Garda, where we have marked the main tourist sights of this place, sorted by typology.


Lake Garda Experiences

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