Would you suggest quick trip to Lake Garda at the end of March and if so, which town?
I thank you for your site - I have read nearly every inch of it! I will be travelling to Verona and then on to Rome with a very dear friend for a bit of a girls holiday and have been doing some serious research about Lake Garda. I am writing with some detailed questions as I try to decide where to book our accommodations. As I mentioned, we will be travelling with the primary desire to catch up in a beautiful locale. I am torn as to where to stay and the timing of our trip. We arrive on March 30th (yes, it's an impromptu & last minute trip) and I was thinking we'd head straight from the airport to the Lake, spend a night (or two?) and then head into Verona for a couple nights.
Here is my concern: I visited Cinque Terre when it was low season and while the landscape was beautiful, I really wasn't crazy about Vernazza and was ready to leave pretty quickly (we ended up heading to Lucca early). Is it likely I'll have a similar response to Lake Garda? I should mention, I've visited the Amalfi Coast in both high and low season and always love it - particularly when I'm enjoying a good meal or drink from a terrace with a grand view. Is Lake Garda going to be more like Sorrento than Cinque Terra (relaxation versus sports/activity?) We'll be too early to appreciate water sports so if that's the case, should we spend a night in Bolzano instead for good views and relaxation?
Additionally, where to stay - I am drawn to the north b/c of the mountains and views and have looked extensively in Malcesine - it seems to be quite popular but also gets reviews of being rather loud in the town center. With timing, most of the available hotels are in the center and since we'll be traveling without a car, this seems like where we'd end up. How busy is Malcesine and the lake in general at the end of March/beginning of April? Will we be able to just relax over a glass of wine? (My concern is again having a Vernazza response - the town was cute, the views were pretty but it wasn't super charming). Sirmione seems more practical b/c it's closer to get to but I am concerned about the surrounding views and the "party" atmosphere I've read about it in the evenings. With the winter schedule, it seems we'd spend more time traveling than enjoying the norther towns if we stayed in Sirmione and took the ferry north for the day (doesn't seem practical with the timing). If I'm really interested in spectacular and mountainous views, will I be satisfied with Sirmione or am I overlooking the beauty and views of the south?
If we only have one night, are we rushing the experience? I don't want to spend the whole trip commuting but am also willing to travel if we'll be able to take it all in and relax once we arrive. Would one night be too rushed? Should we consider two? Would arriving a few days later (by staying in Verona and Padua first) make a difference to the overall feel of the trip? It seems many desirable hotels don't open until early April...will we feel like we're in a ghost town or is it close enough that it'll be enjoyably quiet?
Thanks again for your site and I look forward to your response to my many questions!
Firstly the end of March should be a nice time to visit Lake Garda. Whilst the weather can be a little less predictable at this time of year, recently it has been mid to high teens (celsius), so it can be pretty mild. It should also be quiet with low volume of tourists, so I don't envisage it being too loud or the traffic too busy. However it should still be pleasant with plenty to do.
In terms of the ideal location, this is the ten million dollar question and one which is difficult to answer! There are so many great towns here, deciding which one is tough. However as a general guide the most northern tip of the lake is where the vast majority of the water sport activity will take place. The north is definitely more spectacular with the dramatic mountains surrounding it.
The lake changes from being mountainous to flatter with gentle hill, just below the point where the lake fans out from the long thin shape in the north, to the wider section in the south. Basically if you draw a line from east to west across the lake, from the town of Garda, this would give you a good guide as to approximately where it changes.
If you are not sure which end of the lake to go for, towns such as Garda or Salo, which are located in areas where the real mountains start, have a lot to offer. You get a good central location, both are really nice towns and you have lots of options using the ferries from here. These locations are also relatively quick to get from the south, which is a real consideration for such a short trip.
If you want something quieter than Malcesine, but still in a spectacular location, then Limone would be worth looking at. It is a very charming place and the almost shear mountains behind, meaning traffic is more limited and laregly kept away from the lakefront area.
There are many other smaller places which are great too. I don't think you'll be disappointed where ever you choose to go! You'll find loads of charming places, great shops and lots of tasty restaurants in great locations!
In terms of the time to stay here, I feel one night would hardly do it justice! There is so much to see around Lake Garda, you could spend a month and still not see all of it! The extra day would give you a great chance to see other towns and explore. However you have to weigh up your overall itinery, so it is a decision ultimately only you can make.
I hope this helps. Have a fantastic trip!!
Marcus & Sylvia
P.S. If anyone else wants to make some suggestions for Elizabeth, please go ahead.