Sirmione is a town situated on a narrow peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda, in a scenic location that has attracted visitors since ancient Roman times. The peninsula is only about 100 metres wide and almost 4 kilometres long.
The historical center is in a very picturesque setting (although Sirmione has not benefitted from the large amount of tourist development now found around the town).
On arriving by car, cross the bridge to reach the peninsula with the most important historical part of Sirmione and also the Grotto of catallus - the highlight of a visit, and originally made famous (and named after) the renowned Latin poet Catullus.
The picture-postcard turreted 13th century Scaliger Castle that you pass to reach the northern part of the peninsula.
It is in a beautifully romantic setting on the edge of the lake and was built by the Scaligero family in the 13th century to defend the southern shores of Lake Garda.
There is a charge if you want to enter the castle and go up the tower, but you get excellent views from the top.
If you are staying nearby be sure to try and see the sunrise across the lake and castle from here (although it will mean getting up rather early in summer!)
The Grotto of Catallus, at the northern point of the peninsula, is a an extraordinary architectural work, a villa with a succession of corridors and porticoes.
Parts of the complex are dug deep in the rock and date back to the first century BC. There are ruins to explore set in the beautiful landscape, along with a museum containing interesting Roman artefacts.
Note: it seems that the villa actually predates Catallus by at least a century so the connection is rather tenuous although Catallus did live here for a while.
There is more to Sirmione than just the Grotto, with several Roman and medieval sites of interest, including an ancient Benedictine convent built for Ansa, the wife of King Desire; and also the Church of "San Pietro in Mavino" (14th century) which has an 11th century belltower and frescoes from the medieval period.
Of course, simply exploring the streets, window shopping, and sampling the local ice-cream, is a large part of the pleasure of a visit!
Note: in the height of summer Sirmione can become rather opressively crowded so we suggest you visit in the morning if possible.
There are a couple of small beaches on the peninsula itself. Bathers and sun-seekers should head for the lido at Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde for a chance to swim in the lake.
A ferry port in the town allows access to other resorts around the shores of Lake Garda, and arriving here by boat also gives you a very nice view of Sirmione and its castle.