This year for our anniversary we decided to forgo the gifts and trifles and opted instead to indulge in a weekend getaway. The soothing thermal waters and tranquil setting of Sirmione beckoned to us from the shores of Lake Garda. We packed our swimsuits and flip-flops and headed for the lake.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. There are dozens of villages that dot the shoreline of Lake Garda. Some of these villages have long and storied histories – Saló, Gardone Riviera, Bardolino and Limone sul Garda to the North. The list earmarking the charming and historic places to visit goes on and on, but no list would be complete without acknowledging the town of Sirmione.
Sirmione sits on a spit of land that juts out into the Southern part of the lake. Today it is home to dozens of hotels that cater to the tourists who come to enjoy the thermal waters of the Catullo “Terme” or spa. These baths have been a source of enjoyment and relaxation for centuries. As long ago as 1546 the monk Giorgio Iodoco Bergano sang the praises of Sirmione’s thermal waters in the poem Benacus.
As you enter the town, the Sirmione Castle (Rocca Scaligera) greets you. A drawbridge and turrets add to the storybook quality of this fortified city.
If you plan on arriving by car, you can park outside of the Castle’s drawbridge. However, if you are booked into one of the hotels in the city center, you can drive through – provided that you first check-in with the “vigili” (Police) located at the traffic light just before the drawbridge to the city. Somehow we neglected to see the guardhouse when we arrived and we tried to drive to our hotel without first showing our reservation to the officer. The young policewoman on duty blew her whistle and pulled us over. We hadn’t seen her due to the throngs of people walking along the street. We showed our Hotel confirmation and she waved us into the center of Sirmione.
Hotel Sirmione is a well-run 4-star hotel that sits on the shore of Lake Garda just across the piazza from the iconic castle. It also shares the natural thermal waters which feed the much larger Catullo Terme located at the other end of town.
The Hotel’s small but well maintained thermal pool is ideal for soaking and sunbathing. The pool – and a generous breakfast are included in the cost of the room. If you want, the hotel will book you an entrance to the “Aquaria” at the Catullo Terme. The entrance fee is around 40 euro per person for the day. At The Aquaria, it is possible to book all types of spa treatments. They offer everything from facials to mud baths and personalized physical therapy. Before arriving at the Aquaria, we suggest that you telephone in advance and inquire about specific treatments. However, we found the Hotel’s pool to be all that we needed and we enjoyed hours of relaxation in the mineral rich waters.
Our Anniversary happened to coincide with the World Cup Match between Italy and Paraguay. As we meandered through the Jasmine scented streets of Sirmione we were drawn to a rousing rendition of the Italian National Anthem. We followed the sound and discovered the source of this outburst of nationalism. A group of waiters were in full-throated song in a bar in Piazza Carducci. The Piazza is full of cafes and trattorias – all of which were broadcasting that night’s World Cup match.
We chose a restaurant adjacent to the bar for our dinner. Everyone was in a happy and excited mood as we all awaited the beginning of the match. During the course of our meal sporadic and spontaneous outbursts of applause greeted every good play by the Italian squad… and sharp intakes of breath and sighs of relief met Paraguay’s near goals. When the Italian team scored the tying goal the entire Piazza erupted in wild celebration. Everyone cheered and toasted. We did too…both to our Anniversary and to the goal scored by the Italian team.
Sirmione, with its relaxing cobblestone walkways, storybook castle and melt-your-trouble –away thermal waters is the picture perfect way for “get away from it all” weekend. Oh, did we mention there are a myriad of good pizza restaurants and to die for gelato shops? What are you waiting for? Let’s Go Sirmione!
Check out a great Video Guide to Sirmione by clicking on the image below:
Photos by Luke Wynne (All rights Reserved)
This guest post was written by Luke & Barbara at POVitaly, a great blog about travelling in Italy.