Gardone Riviera

The ancient gardens of Babylon have nothing on Gardone Riviera. This lush tourist destination has been popular since the 19th century. Located on the south west portion of Lake Garda, Gardone Riviera is host to a mixture of plant life from around the world. It's also a great place to experience all that Lake Garda has to offer.

Gardone Riviera is just the type of town where you can picture yourself lazing away your afternoons. The breathtaking scenery, casual piazzas and diverse shops invite you to meander away your days. Its comfortable hotels make it a great "base camp" for your own Lake Garda adventure. The other towns around the lake are easily accessible by ferry or the lakeside road.

Although it's dominated by tourism, Gardone Riviera remains casual and laid back. There is a lakeside promenade that is framed by flower boxes. There's a wide variety of shops and restaurants at the lakeside, and further up the hill is the historic centre of the village. Up the hillside are most of the major tourist attractions.

Heller Botanic Garden

The Heller Botanic Garden, also known as the Giardino Botanico Hruska, is the city's crown jewel. Arthur Hruska, the founder of the gardens, started creating his masterpiece in 1910. He moved to the area in 1901 and took note of the unique climate. It allowed him to plant exotic species from around the world. At the gardens, you'll be able to see magnolias, Tibetan primroses, several types of irises and ferns, just to mention a few of the varieties growing there. The beautifully designed grounds feature Japanese landscaping, classic Italian foliage and bamboo trees. Hruska tended the grounds until 1971 and today it is owned by the Andre Heller Foundation. Heller, a multimedia artist, has installed modern art sculptures around the grounds which add a dimension of whimsy. Visit the plants, pools and streams of the gardens between March and October. The garden is open daily during these months from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani

One of the most interesting tourist attractions on the entire Garda Lake is located in Gardone Riviera - the Il Vittoriale degli Italiani. This former home of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio is a testament to his creativity and love of grandeur. He resided here from 1921 until his death in 1938. The hillside estate was a gift from the Italian State, an attempt by Mussolini to keep the nationalist D'Annunzio out of politics in the capital.

Visiting the Il Vittoriale degli Italiani gives you a glimpse into the life of one of Italy's most eccentric figures. This is evident as you stroll through the grounds and wander through the many buildings. In addition to the main house, the Casa di D'Annunzio, there is the amphitheatre, a boathouse, a mausoleum and the prow of the ship that D'Annunzio used to serve on placed into a hill. The darkened rooms of the Prioria are host to his eclectic collections of art and curiosities. Of note are the two waiting rooms, the relic room and the leper's room, named after the fact that D'Annunzio felt spurned by the Italian government. Outside you can view his ancient car and a small airplane that he used to drop leaflets during World War I.

There are so many different things to explore at the Casa di D'Annunzio and a variety of different tickets you can purchase. If you have to pick and choose just one, make sure it includes entrance to the main house. It is closed on Mondays, so make sure to plan ahead. The whole estate is a rather popular tourist attraction, even for those who aren't staying in Gardone Riviera. So make sure to leave plenty of time for waiting in line at the various buildings. It will be worth it to get a glimpse of this notable Italian's way of life.

Villa Fiordaliso

You can round off your tour of Gardone Riviera with a visit to one of the historic villas in the area. At the lakeside Villa Fiordaliso you can view 16th century Tuscan frescos, and visit the "Red Room" where Mussolini's mistress stayed at the end of his political career. The German designed Villa Alba lets you take in Greek inspired architecture. It also serves as the Convention Centre for the city.

Gardone Riviera is one of the most breathtaking cities along Lake Garda's shore. Even if you don't make it your home from home on your Italian vacation, you should definately make plans to pay a visit.