Sirmione, Lake Garda – Your 2022 Complete Guide (+ Map & Tips!)

If you’ve seen a brochure or website for Lake Garda, chances are you’ve seen a photo of Sirmione, a picturesque town with a castle jutting out of the lake waters. 

Not only is Sirmione known for its castle (Scaliger Castle, or Castello Scaligero), it’s also worth visiting for its:

  • unique view of Lake Garda
  • healing thermal baths
  • charming medieval center
  • beautiful beaches with crystal clear water
  • Roman ruins (Grotte di Catullo)

All of these make Sirmione worth a visit.  Our family loves Sirmione and we think you will too!  

Who Will Love Sirmione

View of the Sirmione peninsula from Scaligero Castle on Lake Garda, Italy.
View of Sirmione from Castello Scaligero

Sirmione is an excellent stop on Lake Garda for groups with diverse interests.  Gardaland isn’t for everyone, beaches aren’t for everyone, but everyone in your group will find something fun or interesting in Sirmione:

  • Families – Scaliger Castle, beaches
  • Photographers – beaches, Grotte di Catullo, Scaliger Castle, medieval center
  • Cinema Fans – Grotte di Catullo
  • Spa Lovers – thermal baths
  • History and Architecture Buffs – Grotte di Catullo, Sirmione medieval center, Scaliger Castle
  • Nature Lovers – Sirmione’s parks, bird life

Where is Sirmione?

Sirmione is on the southern shore of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake.  It’s in the province of Brescia and the region of Lombardy in Northern Italy.  Sirmione is 130 km from Milan, 150 km from Venice, and 40 km from Verona.

When to Visit Sirmione

The ideal times to visit Sirmione are:

  • May through early June
  • September through October
  • Winter months of November through March (to visit the quiet town and thermal baths)

Sirmione is a popular day trip destination in the summer, especially mid-June through August.  In these busy times, it’s nice to arrive early in the morning or spend the night and have the evenings in a much less crowded town.

Good To Know:  If you visit in the busy summer months, know that once you make your way through the extremely crowded town center (just after crossing the drawbridge), you will be able to find space in the rest of the peninsula. 

How Much Time to Spend in Sirmione, Lake Garda

Our family has found a full day to be the perfect amount of time to spend in Sirmione if you want to visit the main attractions of the town. 

If you’re okay with just visiting a couple of things in town (for example, wandering the medieval town center and climbing the castle’s tower), you could plan a half-day visit.

If you’d like to spend time at the thermal baths, plan on spending at least one night.

Our Favorite Things to Do in Sirmione

Sirmione looks small on the map, but there are many things to keep you busy on the tiny peninsula:

Visit Scaliger Castle (Castello Scaligero)

Upon entering Sirmione, you’re greeted with the majestic 13th-century lakeside castle built by the della Scala family.  It was later controlled by the Duke of Milan, the Republic of Venice, the French, the Austrians, and the Kingdom of Italy. 

What makes Castello Scaligero so special?  Its setting is spectacular!  Where else do you see a castle with a lake for a moat? 

To get the best views of Sirmione and Lake Garda, be sure to climb to the top of the castle walls or even higher, to the top of its tower (about 150 steps total).  After purchasing your ticket, start climbing! 

Your first stop is at the top of the tower walls.  Catch your breath, take in the gorgeous vistas, and then, keep climbing!  Just before arriving at the top, there are two separate staircases that are very steep (almost ladder-like).  Step carefully and watch your head!

At the top, walk around the tower and soak up the views of the Sirmione peninsula, Lake Garda, and the castle walls below. 

Good To Know:  If you have a fear of heights, stop and assess the situation at the top of the castle walls.  If you’re not comfortable with the view below (you can see down into the courtyard through the internal iron railings), don’t continue up to the top of the tower.  You can stay inside smaller corner towers and still get amazing views of Sirmione and the lake!

Good To Know:  For another viewpoint, take a lake cruise to see the castle from the water. 

Fun ‘Fact’:  Do you believe in ghosts?  Local legend says the castle is haunted.  Long, long ago, a young, happy couple lived in the castle – Ebengardo and his bellissima wife Arice.  One stormy evening, a knight from Venice (Elalberto) knocked on the castle door seeking shelter from the storm.  The couple agreed to let him stay the night, but Elalberto wasn’t happy with just a room.  He was entranced by Arice and pursued her, but she rejected him.  Her screams brought Ebengardo to save her, but he was too late – Elalberto had stabbed her to death.  In his rage, Ebengardo killed his wife’s murderer, and his ghost can still be seen wandering the castle looking for his beautiful Arice.

Wander the Town Streets

Boy walking on the streets of Sirmione, Italy on Lake Garda.

Sirmione’s narrow medieval streets are full of cafes, shops, and restaurants.  Have a coffee or aperitivo in a small piazza, shop for trinkets or ceramics, or relax lakeside and take a break from the sun (and crowds). 

Good To Know:  The town isn’t completely traffic-free, so be aware as you’re walking the narrow streets.

See the Grotte di Catullo

Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione, Italy.

The ruins at the end of Sirmione’s peninsula have a spectacular view and they’re worth a wander.  The visit takes about an hour, and you can see the ruins of the ancient Roman villa with thermal baths.

Unfortunately, many of the buildings’ stones were plundered before the site was preserved.  But, you can use your imagination (and see some of the recovered items in the small museum at the entrance) and enjoy the views.   

Good To Know:  The famous Roman poet Catullo never lived here, but the villa has come to be associated with him because his family had a home in the area.  The villa belonged to a rich Roman family.

Fun Fact:  The site isn’t actually a grotto, or a cave.  It gets its name from the 1400s when these ancient sites and structures were underground.

Good To Know:  You can walk down to Jamaica Beach (see below) directly from the Grotte di Catullo ruins.

Swim and Relax at the Beaches of Sirmione

Clear waters of Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde in Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy.

Sirmione has some of Lake Garda’s most beautiful beaches, including:

  • Spiaggia Jamaica (Jamaica Beach) – Very popular, and for good reason!  Clean, clear, shallow waters.  From a distance, it looks like a white sand tropical beach, but the white ‘sand’ is actually slabs of rock.  The beach is located on the tip of the peninsula and has a bar, toilets, free beach space, and rentals available (chairs, umbrellas, mini changing rooms). 
  • Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde – We love this beach too.  It also has gorgeous clear, shallow water but it’s made up of large pebbles with some stony slabs scattered about.  There is a restaurant, toilets (€0.50), free beach space, and rentals.
  • Spiaggia Grifone – A tiny beach next to Castello Scaligero.  Not a place to spend all day, but if you don’t feel like making your way down to the end of the peninsula and you want to sit by the lake or dip your toes in the water, this is the place for you.  You can see it from the top of the castle.
  • Spiaggia del Prete – Not far from Spiaggia Grifone, but much bigger and with the same beautiful castle views.  Small stone beach, toilets available (€0.50), free beach space, rentals available, cafes nearby.  It’s located on the lakeside path.
  • Spiaggia Brema – A rare grassy area and stony beach.  The water is almost always clear, and it’s shallow for quite a ways out.  It can get really crowded, especially on weekends and at sunset.  Toilets are available, and there’s a small bar nearby.  You can also find some shade. 
  • Spiaggia Galeazzi – The perfect spot for watersports like pedal boating and windsurfing.  Free beach and rentals available.  Toilets and showers.  Nice grassy area and there are shady spots available.  Not the best beach for swimming because you have to enter the water with ladders or steps – there’s no gradual entry.

Soak in the Thermal Waters of Sirmione

Entrance to thermal baths in Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy.  There is a small fountain and people are putting their hands in the warm water.
No time for a full soak? Test the waters at the entrance to the Terme.

The Terme di Sirmione are worth a visit if you have the time (but I don’t think they’re the highlight of Sirmione, so don’t feel bad if you skip them).  Relax and soak like the Romans did in one of Sirmione’s spas.  

The 69°C water contains sulfur, bromide, and iodine and is believed to help with respiratory and circulatory problems, skin issues, arthritis, and more. 

The main spas in Sirmione are:

  • Aquaria Thermal SPA (recommended)
  • Terme di Catullo
  • Terme di Virgilio (in nearby Colombare)
  • Hotel Spas (Grand Hotel Terme, Hotel Sermione e Promessi Sposi, Hotel Acquaviva del Garda, Hotel Fonte Boiola)

Sip Local Wines

Take a break at a beachfront cafe or in a little piazza in Sirmione’s old town to sample some of the local wines:

  • Bardolino – light red wine
  • Chiaretto – rosé wine
  • Lugana DOC – white wine
  • Garda DOC – sparkling wine

See Where a Scene from Call Me By Your Name Was Filmed

Fans of the 2017 romantic drama film starring Timothée Chalamet will enjoy seeing where the film’s archaeological dig scene was filmed – in the Grotte di Catullo ruins. 

Go For a Lakeside Stroll

Like most towns on Lake Garda, Sirmione has a well-maintained path along the lake.  Just north of the Scaliger Castle, walk on the paved Lungolago Sirmione.  Along the way, stop for a swim, have an aperitivo (cin cin!), relax on the lawn, or just enjoy the views of Lago di Garda.

Another area that’s nice for a walk is on the rocky path that leads north from the Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde. 

Visit Isola del Garda

Take a boat trip to the privately owned island and tour its villa (a few of the rooms) and gardens with one of the Cavazzi family members.  It takes around 30 minutes to get to the island and the visit lasts for around 2 hours.

If you like visiting Isola del Garda, you should check out Isola Bella near Stresa on Lake Maggiore!

Ride Bikes along the Lake

Lake Garda is an excellent place to explore on two wheels.  The best cycling in Sirmione is south of town in the vineyards.  Cycle the loop from Sirmione to San Martino della Battaglia, Pozzolengo, and back. 

Good To Know:  The 140km cycling path around the lake is set to be completed by 2026.   

Visiting Sirmione With Kids

Two boys checking out the view of Sirmione from Scaliger Castle's tower on Lake Garda, Italy.

Sirmione is an easy and fun place to visit with little ones

Check out our 14 Tips for Visiting Sirmione with Kids!

The town is easy to explore with a stroller, and you can even take a little train if you get tired!

If you’re visiting Sirmione, it’s best to have a plan for what you’d like to see, as the things to do/see are a bit spread out. 

A relaxed itinerary for a full day in Sirmione with kids:

  • Arrive in town and climb the Scaligero Castle tower.  Make sure you check out the well and see the ducks in the moat!
  • Take a quick peek at the town center and grab a snack if you need one.
  • Visit the nice playground with plenty of shade in the northern part of the town center. 
  • Otherwise, head to the Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde or Jamaica Beach.  Jamaica beach is slightly more picturesque, but the rock slabs can be slippery for little ones.  Lido delle Bionde has pebbles and is clear and shallow for quite a ways out.  Kids will love looking for the small fish.  And, you can rent pedal boats (with slides!) or kayaks.  There’s also a small restaurant, toilets, and plenty of shade in the olive groves.
  • Head back to Piazza Carducci and take the ferry back to the town you’re staying in (or walk back to your car for the drive back). Our Italian coloring pages are perfect for the ferry ride.

Good To Know:  Visit the Grotte di Catullo ruins if you have older children or teens who are interested in Roman ruins.  They’re not worth a visit with small kids.

Helpful Tip:  Pre-visit, visit a grocery store or market and pack a lunch or purchase a sandwich and chips and have a picnic in one of Sirmione’s many green spaces or at the beach. 

How to Get to Sirmione on Lake Garda

Ferry arriving at the Sirmione dock on Lake Garda, Italy.

Train

The closest train stations are in Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano del Garda, both around 10 km from Sirmione.   You can then take a local bus or a taxi to get to Sirmione.  If you take the local bus, it will drop you off on the southern part of the peninsula, and you’ll need to take a smaller bus (navetta) to the historic center or Sirmione (using the same ticket).

Car

It’s easy to arrive in Sirmione by car.  Make sure you head to the centro storico (historic center), and not the modern part of Sirmione.  Parking is available just outside the center.  It can be difficult to find parking, especially during the busy summer months, so if you can, arrive in the morning.  Pay at the machines and display the ticket on your dash.

If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy

International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License

Plane

The nearest airport is Verona Catullo (VRN) – 35 km, 30 min.  Once you land in Verona, you’ll need to take a taxi to Sirmione or take a bus to the Verona train station and then to Sirmione.

You can also fly into the following airports:

  • Milan Bergamo / Orio al Serio (BGY) – 85 km (budget airlines, within Europe)
  • Milan Linate (LIN) – 135 km
  • Venice Marco Polo (VCE) – 160 km
  • Treviso Sant’Angelo (TSF) – 165 km (budget airlines)
  • Milan Malpensa (MXP) – 175 km

Bus

If you’re already in the area, use Arriva Bus (arriva.it/en) to get to Sirmione.  Otherwise, check schedules on FlixBus.

Ferry

We think this is the best way to arrive (and/or depart), but the schedules are limited, so plan your day accordingly.  Navigazione Laghi has public ferry info, or you can schedule a private charter.

Getting Around Sirmione

Maria Callas park in Sirmione, Italy.

The best way to get around Sirmione is by foot.  If you get tired, you can also take the small train, a taxi, or even a boat! 

Where to Stay in Sirmione

  • Villa Cortine Palace – 5* Villa with prime views of Lake Garda.  Private beach and thermal baths access.
  • Hotel Eden Sirmione – 4* Hotel with lakefront terrace and beautiful views.

Or stay in a nearby town and visit Sirmione for the day.  For casual accommodations with kids, stay in one of the area’s family-focused campgrounds or villages (for example, Bella Italia in Peschiera del Garda).

What and Where to Eat in Sirmione

Sirmione Restaurants

  • La Rucola 2.0 – Michelin-starred creative cuisine next to the Scaliger Castle.
  • Tavarnetta Maria Callas – Traditional Italian cooking in the medieval center; try to snag one of the few outdoor tables.
  • Caffè Grand Italia – Have aperitivo or a coffee and enjoy the people watching on Piazza Carducci.  Perfect shady spot to relax before taking the ferry from the port at the end of the piazza.

Check out our popular post on Tipping in Italy!

Dishes to Try in Sirmione

  • Bigoli pasta with sarde – homemade egg pasta with lake sardines
  • Risotto alla tincarisotto (rice) with tench fish

Near Sirmione (Attractions and Towns to Visit)

People waiting to enter Gardaland theme park in Italy.
Town/AttractionDistance (Time) by CarWhy Visit
Bergamo90 km (1 hr 10 min)Venetian walls
Verona40 km (45 min)Opera, Juliet’s balcony, romance
Parco Giardino Sirgurtà25 km (35 min)Gardens, trails, labyrinth
Gardaland15 km (30 min)Roller coasters, shows, LEGOLAND Water Park
Garda (town)30 km (45 min)Punta San Vigilio
Salò30 km (45 min)Lakeside promenade
Riva del Garda80 km (1 hr 20 min)Town center; water and mountain sports
Limone sul Garda65 km (1 hr 20 min)Cycling path; town center

Tips For a Visit to Sirmione, Italy

  • Arrive or depart by ferry, or take a boat excursion to see Sirmione from the water. 
  • When you arrive, walk quickly through the crowded town center.  It’s very crowded and easy to get ‘stuck’ in the few small streets.  Once you walk through the center, Sirmione opens up and there is much more space, greenery, and other gorgeous parts of the town.
  • If the castle line is long, see it later in the day when the crowds have diminished.  You’ll enjoy your visit if the walkways aren’t jam-packed.
  • Plan on spending a full day in Sirmione.  Yes, it looks tiny, but there are plenty of things to see and do in Sirmione and you’ll enjoy your visit if you don’t feel rushed. 
  • Skip the gelato.  Sirmione is full of gelaterie with colorful, high mountains of gelato – both signs low-quality gelato
  • Skip the Friday market unless you want to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables.  If you’re looking for a charming Italian market with beautiful products and souvenirs, this isn’t the market for you.
  • There are plenty of public water fountains around Sirmione, so you can refill your water bottle.

Read our 200+ Essential Italy Travel Tips for Your First (or 10th!) Visit

FAQ

Where in Sirmione did they film scenes for Call Me By Your Name?`
The archaeological dig scenes were filmed in the 1st Century B.C. Roman villa ruins of Le Grotte di Catullo.

Is Sirmione closed up in the winter?
Sirmione doesn’t ‘close’ for winter, but not all shops are open and it’s very quiet.  You also won’t be able to swim in the chilly lake.  However, it’s the perfect time to visit the thermal spas, soak up the views without the crowds, and have the tiny streets (almost) to yourself.

Does Sirmione have a beach?
Sirmione has multiple beaches! The most well-known beach in Sirmione is Jamaica Beach, with its turquoise waters and white rock slabs that are reminiscent of – you guessed it – Jamaican beaches. The beach at Lido delle Bionde is also very picturesque and has gorgeous, clear waters.

How do you pronounce Sirmione?
Sirmione is pronounced seer-me-OH-nay.