Visiting Sirmione by car is not easy. Find out what you need to know about taking a car to this medieval town on Lake Garda. In addition, learn about one of Sirmione’s most beautiful features: Le Grotte di Catullo.
After leaving Venice (I won a trip with Valdo Prosecco), I decided I’d surprise my mother. I was taking her for a one night stay in Sirmione del Garda! If you have been following for any length of time, you’ll already know that I LOVE surprises. (As long as I’m giving them).
This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid for my own car rental, hotel stay, meals and entrance to the archaeological park.
We picked up our car in Venice, which I’d rented through Auto Europe, as usual (not sponsored). The pick up went rather smoothly, except for an off-duty police officer yelling at me to move the rental car as it was parked in his spot. I explained to him that I had not parked the car there, nor yet rented it.
I suggested that he speak to the rental company guys, but he just didn’t understand me. All he wanted was his parking space as he saw me next to the car with our luggage. 😂To be honest, he was justified as the rental car company was parking cars in the reserved spaces for the police station! In the end it was fine, but this is the type of thing to be prepared for when visiting “Bella Italia”!
On our way to Sirmione, we stopped in Verona. Mum thought that we might have visited many years ago on one of our trips from Scotland to Italy, but she wasn’t sure. It was over 40 years ago, and she was dealing with three kids in a car (with no seat belts), for 3 days, so I understand why she might not remember!
I loved the approach into this famous city!
We parked and began to explore. Luckily we were right in the city center. I had asked someone for directions once we came off the autostrada, and in true Italian form, the directions were, “sempre diritto” (always straight)! Honestly, ask an Italian directions anytime, anywhere and I can almost guarantee at some point you will hear, “sempre diritto”! It’s so funny!
The central part of Verona is almost all car-free. The Piazza delle Erbe is surrounded by lots of restaurants, which are mostly geared for tourists. Just remember, whenever you are in a spot with a view of something famous, (like the Verona Arena) you’ll pay for that view. You’ll also probably not receive the value for your Euros because touristy places use less than top-quality products to make even more money. Many of the dishes won’t even be authentically Italian, and much less, regional. So my suggestion is to keep on walking.
Speaking of the Verona Arena, you simply cannot miss it. It’s massive, as well as a stunning piece of Roman history.
The Arena Opera Festival is on during the summer, and I would have loved to go to my first opera here (yes, it’s true, I’ve just never been to an opera)! However, there’s just never enough time to do everything you want to do on a trip, right?
We walked further into to town to find Juliet’s balcony. I wondered how this building had the connection to Shakespeare’s Juliet, and discovered that the archway of the courtyard displays the coat of arms of the “Dal Cappello” family. The “Cappelletti”, or in English, the Capulets; Juliet’s family name! The 13th century building has been renovated more recently. You can see the balcony where Juliet spoke to her beloved Romeo.
Even though we were only in Verona for a few hours, I loved this city! I could easily have spent a few days there. However, we were off to Sirmione as I’d booked a hotel there for the night. Incidentally, Verona to Sirmione by car is only 40 minutes.
I had chosen to stay inside the walls of the town’s fortress which I knew meant driving into the 13th century town. The castle itself is called Rocca Scaligera and is one of the most impressive, well preserved, and beautiful castles I have ever seen. Before driving through the castle entrance, there is a checkpoint as only tourists with reservations are allowed to enter to drop off luggage.
Sirmione by Car
I have driven in some dodgy places: tiny lanes in the middle of nowhere in the UK, ancient British towns, as well as ancient Italian villages, but nothing has ever come close to the experience of driving in Sirmione! Of course, the town was never built with cars in mind, but add that to the hordes of tourists walking about as if cars don’t exist. Oh, and I was driving a stick shift, to boot.
It was a challenge. TIP: if you are not a very confident driver, just don’t drive into Sirmione. You can stay outside the walls if you have a car. You can watch a short clip below.
I dropped Mum and our luggage off at Albergo degli Oleandri (which was just perfect for one night), and drove back through the town to park the car in the lot outside of the castle walls, and walked back.
A bit of a hassle, especially in the heat, so be forewarned. (I was told that Sirmione is planning a multi-story parking garage which would have shuttles to bring guests to and from the center of town, but that remains to be seen. I couldn’t find any confirmation of this online.) This is just good to know if you’re going to Sirmione by car.
After settling into our room, we went up to the terrace for our welcome drink which was a fruity carrot beverage called Ace (pronounced “ah-chey”). We then went for a little walk before deciding on where to go for dinner. Our hotel was very close to some steps to go down to Lake Garda, so Mum decided to dip her toes.
We immediately fell in love with Sirmione. After only a few minutes’ walk we had seen the beach, tree lined walking paths through a park, what looked like ancient olive trees (with holes in each trunk), a church, and the beautiful town itself.
This bougainvillea was being photographed by everyone, and no wonder!
It was gorgeous!
Trattoria La Fiasca
We headed back to the hotel before dinner and asked the manager for recommendations. We decided on Trattoria La Fiasca and were happy with our choice except for one thing. Everything was incredibly flavorful, but I was surprised to order Cotoletta alla Milanese only to receive a thick, breaded cut of meat instead of the usual thin version. Milanese is like Wiener Schnitzel, so I don’t know why this was the case.
Evening in Sirmione
After dinner, we went for a stroll around town. The atmosphere was absolutely wonderful. The temperature had cooled and the sun was just going down creating a magical Italian evening.
And the requisite gelato, of course!
Morning in Sirmione
I got up before Mum to go out early the next morning for some photos with less people and some morning light. It was so peaceful! Shopowners were sweeping and setting up their outdoor displays, people were opening their shades and peeking out of their windows. Sirmione was just beginning to awaken.
Our hotel stay included breakfast, and cappuccini. Then we were off to see Le Grotte di Catullo.
Le Grotte di Catullo
Mum and I walked to the Roman ruins as it was less than 10 minutes away from our hotel. It probably took us 20 minutes, though, because the views along the way were just captivating.
In English, Grotte di Catullo translates to Grottoes of Catullus. The ruins of a luxurious Roman villa, including a museum of artifacts which were found there, are a highlight of visiting Sirmione.
In case you’ve stumbled upon this post because you’re wondering whether it’s worth visiting Le Grotte, let me begin by saying it was a phenomenal archaelogical park. I’ve been to Pompeii at least 5 times, and I would definitely recommend visiting this historical area of Sirmione. In fact, I tried to recreate a photo that was taken in Pompeii when I was about 19. Without having the photo as reference, I think my pose is pretty close!
I noticed one 3 star (out of 5) review online amongst the abundant 5 star reviews. The review was negative because, “museum terrible no English translations”. Excuse me, Dear, but you’re in Italy!
Mum and I actually spent most of our time outside, but the museum did contain some amazing artifacts.
More photos from Le Grotte di Catullo.
For more information on visiting Le Grotte di Catullo, click HERE.
After our exploration of Le Grotte di Catullo, we walked back to our hotel. We were checking out and driving to our next stop: Ferrara. We’d managed to visit Sirmione by car!
But first: lemonade. I couldn’t miss trying one of the fresh lemonades that I had seen the day before!
Let me know if you have ever visited Sirmione by car, or plan to go to Sirmione by car!
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