Hugging the top of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, Riva del Garda has long been a favoured spot for tourists. Sandwiched between lake and mountains, and packed with history and architecture, Riva is perfect for a day trip from Verona or Trento, or as a base for exploring the lake and the wider region.
Why Visit Riva Del Garda?
Riva del Garda has everything that a visitor could want. It is a typical Italian town with a long history, picturesque centre, and more bars and restaurants than you could visit in a short trip. It also has a distinctive character of its own, having been a part of Austria until 1918. (You may spot street signs in German, and Austrian style food in some restaurants, and you will certainly encounter many German-speaking tourists.)
There is plenty to see and do in Riva itself. However if you stay for more than a few days you will want to take the opportunity to visit some of the other towns of Lake Garda, and perhaps to venture further afield.
What To See And Do In Riva
You’ll want to spend some time just wandering around the narrow streets of the old town and promenading along the lakeside. However there is also plenty of history to explore, as well as hiking and water-based activities.
Riva’s location at the head of Lake Garda and in the north of Italy means that, historically, it held a strategic position and was always vulnerable to invaders. So it is not surprising that one of the town’s most important sights is the impressive Rocca Fortress.
Built on the side of the lake in 1124, the castle survived many rebuilds and changes of ownership. Once occupied by the powerful Scaligeri family, it later became an Austrian barracks, and now houses the town museum.
What you see today is a square, turreted structure surrounded by a moat. Climb to the top for views across the lake. And visit the museum for its artworks and exhibitions of the history and archaeology of the area.
A short distance from the Rocca is the Torre Apponale, a stone tower built in the 13th century, and extended in 1555. It was originally a lookout point, but doubled up as a belfry and clocktower.
Climb the tower’s 165 steps for views of the lake, mountains and historic town centre.
Other Historic Sites In Riva
Leaving the Torre Apponale you come to the grand buildings of Palazzo Pretorio and the Palazzo Vecchio, and into the old town. Although nothing now remains of the medieval walls, you can still see some of the original gates into the town. Beyond the Porta di San Michele is the Terme Romane, the remains of the Roman baths.
The 16th century Bastione is a grey stone fortress overlooking the town from Monte Rocchetta. It takes about half an hour to walk there, or you can take the Panoramic Lift from Via Monte Oro. Either way, enjoy the views as you go.
Hiking And Water Sports
There are lots of options for hiking, from gentle strolls to more demanding mountain walks. To the east of Riva is Monte Brione where a trail takes you past several fortifications from World War I. Or follow the historic Strada del Ponale towards the Valle di Ledro.
Water sports enthusiasts are well catered for in Riva del Garda. Choose from sailing, swimming, windsurfing and more.
Riva As A Base
Boats run to most towns on Lake Garda. From Riva you can take a “fast boat” to Desenzano and Sirmione at the other end of the lake (about 2½ hours), or take the stopping service to nearer towns such as Limone or Malcesine.
There are direct buses to Verona, Trento and Brescia, as well as to the railway station at Rovereto. In the summer months buses also go to Venice. And if you choose to hire a car you will have the whole lake and the Dolomite mountain region to explore. Organised excursions are also available.
Practical Information For Your Visit To Riva Del Garda
- The nearest international airport is at Verona. From here you can either hire a car or take the bus from Verona station.
- The nearest railway station is at Rovereto. A shuttle bus runs to Riva del Garda from here (about 40 minutes).
- There is a wide choice of hotels and other accommodation in Riva. However, remember that the town extends a long way inland, so make sure to check the location if you want to be near the lake.