Visit Gardone Riviera
The town of Gardone Riviera is on the south-west coast of Lake Garda in the Lombardy region of Italy. The resort once had a reputation for being the most sophisticated resort on Lake Garda, and it is mostly the heritage from that epoch that still attracts visitors here today, even if the appeal of the town is now surpassed by several other resorts around the lake.
Explore Gardone Riviera
Italy This Way comment: Gardone resort was not a place that appealed to us very much: it was pleasant but not very interesting, and a significant part of the lakefront is only accessible if you are staying in one of the luxury hotels next to Lake Garda. A busy road behind these hotels and villas distracts from the pleasure of admiring the architecture...so we would visit to see the small old town, Il Vittoriale or the gardens, but we would not stay in Gardone.
Start a visit to Gardone Riviera on the lake front: there is a promenade along part of the lakeside with cafes and restaurants which is a pleasant place for a stroll. Behind the promenade there is a small historic centre to Gardone where you can find Gardone tourist office on a cobbled street.
A quite separate part to Gardone is about 15 minutes walk up the hill near the entrance to Il Vittoriale, where there is a traditional historic centre to the village which is very small but also very pretty.
Il Vittoriale degle Italiani
The most interesting in Gardone Riviera 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).
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 more years 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.
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. During your visit you will also see the amphitheatre, based on Ancient Roman theatres and still used for performances today, gardens filled with curious statues, and a very eclectic range of objects.
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.
Hruska botanical gardens - the Heller Gardens
The other highlight in 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 Riviera 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.
The resort is well placed for taking boat trips across Lake Garda to some of the other towns around the shores of the lake: there are many places to explore and beautiful scenery to enjoy around the lake and in the surrounding region. See Lake Garda guide for details of the most popular towns, villages and attractions.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Lombardy guide.