Gardone, often also called Gardone Riviera, once had a reputation for being the most sophisticated resort on Lake Garda. While that era might have passed it still continues to have a significant charm as well as a couple of interesting highlights including the magnificent Il Vittoriale which is perhaps the most fascinating historic monument to be found anywhere around the lake.
The resort is also well placed for taking boat trips across Garda to some of the other towns around the shores of the lake.
Arriving at Gardone from Salo (slightly to the south) your journey passes through villas, palms and olive plantations to reach 'Gardone Riviera'. The town is very pleasant, and pretty much dedicated to tourism, with cafes and restaurants along the lake shore, and the chance to enjoy a very pleasant promenade on a warm summer evening.
Behind the lake frontage there is also a small historic centre to Gardone which is also nice to explore and where you can find Gardone Tourist Office on a cobbled street.
The most interesting attraction here is the "Il Vittoriale", the Art Deco estate of the poet and extreme Italian nationalist Gabriele D'Annunzio. Il Vittoriale is a fascinating monument to an unusual and flamboyant character and adventurer, and is exceptionally popular with visitors to Lake Garda (arrive early to avoid large queues).
There is a great deal to enjoy whether you take the guided tour of the substantial house or if you simply visit the grounds around the villa. You will also see the amphitheatre, based on Ancient Roman theatres and still used for performances today.
The house itself contains numerous works of art, books, furnishings and other interesting objects, many of them directly related to the eccentric life of Gabriele D'Annunzio, making it half house and half museum, and several of the rooms have ornately painted walls and ceilings.
Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938) was a very popular writer and poet in the decades around 1900 before starting a life in politics. During the First World War he became a popular war hero, with several heroic actions attributed to him.
After the war finished he spent several years more in politics, leading a party based on Nationalism, Anarchy and Fascism - although he did not support the growth of the subsequent fascist movement under Mussolini.
Hruska botanical gardens - the Heller Gardens
The other highlight of Gardone Riviera is the botanical gardens (Giardino Botanico Hruska or Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller). These extensive gardens include a very wide selection of plants that benefit from the protected climate here on the lake, and a great deal of imaginative planting.
There are also a good number of interesting modern works of art to be found among the gardens including some by famous 20th century artists such as Roy Liechtenstein and Keith Haring.
Why Hruska Gardens? Arthur Hruska was famously the dentist to the last Tsar of Russia before moving here to buy a villa and start planning his his gardens after 1921.
One popular attraction close to Gardone is the small village of San Michele, on the mountain behind the town. We took the bus to San Michele but then walked back down to enjoy the views.
There are many places to explore and beautiful scenery to enjoy around the shores of the lake and the surrounding region - see Lake Garda guide for details of the most popular towns, villages and attractions.
Where is Gardone Riviera?
The town is situated on the south-western coast of Lake Garda in the Lombardy region of northern Italy.
Map of Gardone and places to visit
Gardone places to visit
See more places nearby in the Lombardy guide