Here is everything you need to know about visiting Italy’s first free commune and its surroundings!
In the province of Verona, Lazise is the perfect destination for a “touch and go” style trip to Lake Garda or to be the base for a weekend discovering the wonders in the surrounding area. In less than an hour and a half from Lazise, you can reach all the most popular destinations on Lake Garda.
Despite being a small municipality, this does not mean that it is devoid of stories to tell, first and foremost that of its freedom: it was in fact the first case in which an emperor of the Holy Roman Empire granted the fortification of a city and its independence. Today, historians say that the reasons for this choice were political-strategic, but who can assure us that it was not to protect the beauty of this place?
Strolling through the streets of this medieval village, you will come to the small harbour, a suggestive glimpse of the “sea” set in the earth. And who knows, may it inspire you as it did for Goethe, as he rewrote in verse some theatrical scenes from ancient Greece.
The charm of Lazise has been, in some way, a creator of innovations and benefits, and now all you have to do is come and savour it. Savour it yes, you got it right; because in addition to history, postcard-perfect landscapes and art, this amazing town also offers a gastronomic tradition worth trying.
Whether you only have a day or a whole weekend at your disposal, visiting Lazise is in any case one of the best choices for a trip to Northern Italy: whether short or long. So what are you waiting for? Let’s create together the perfect itinerary for you to discover Lazise and its surroundings!
Getting there and around
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To tell you what to see in Lazise, I have decided to start with your arrival here. In case you choose to travel by car, you will find various car parks at your disposal. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that municipal parking spaces are free from November to about March, depending on when Easter is. Should your visit not fall during this period, I would remind you that in Lazise it is possible to pay for parking through an app, so that you can extend your stay without having to return to your car.
The closest pay car park to the centre, and also the largest, is the Marra car park, followed by the San Martino and Barum car parks.
On the other hand, if you decide to get around using public transport, the city is connected directly to Verona by bus number 164. This same line also passes through Peschiera del Garda station, which is also useful for those who decide to arrive by train. Here too, the transport company provides an app, thanks to which you can buy a ticket from your mobile phone.
And finally, for those further afield, the nearest airports in the area are Valerio Catullo airport in Caselle di Sommacampagna (Verona) and Gabriele D’Annunzio airport in Brescia.
So, once you arrive, you can start visiting the historic centre and the lakefront on foot. I recommend you also consider using public boat services, which will allow you to reach all points of interest on Lake Garda.
What to see in Lazise? A day trip itinerary
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As you may have guessed, the main tourist attractions are all gathered within the village or in its immediate vicinity. Accompany me on our walk through water, history and culture.
1. Walls and gates
The undisputed symbol of Italy’s first municipality is undoubtedly its entrance gate, Porta San Zeno, which was once the only one used as the actual access to the fortification. Today it stands right in front of the San Martino car park and is the best place to start our day together.
Along the walls, there are also two other gates, Porta Lion and Porta Nuova. But, the former presents a peculiarity. If you look closely, you will notice that it is lower than the side walls to which it is connected. When they say: “as well as the harm, there is also the mockery”, in this case it is really true; because here, the Visconti defeated the Venetians and to demonstrate their superiority, they lowered the gate built by the latter.
2. The Scaliger Castle
Inside the fortified town, beyond the walls, stands the Scaliger Castle. It was founded in medieval times and passed into private hands in the 19th century. The Bernini family took advantage of this to create the Bruni-Bernini park, where it is possible to partially visit the castle and walk through the gardens. The walk through the walls is accompanied by the scent of the flowers typical of this area in spring: it is worth returning, if you have already been there in winter.
3. Vittorio Emanuele Square
Just behind the fortification, you will find Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, recognisable by its characteristic chequered paving. Here you will find the seat of the municipality, as well as many bars and shops where you can enjoy a splendid aperitif, perhaps savouring one of the renowned wines of the nearby Valpolicella.
4. Porto Vecchio and the old Venetian Customs House
The old port, or “porticciolo” due to its small size, opens up from the town’s main square, creating what is undoubtedly the most typical view over the village. Imagine walking alongside the boats still used today to fish for pike, whitefish and whitefish, fish that are the basis of Lazise’s lake cuisine and gastronomic tradition. Don’t miss the opportunity to take the perfect photo for your Instagram account from one of these piers.
Looking towards the lake you will notice, on the left, a building with very wide arches: this is the old Venetian Customs House and those arches allowed the entrance to the canals. Its function has changed several times over the centuries: from artillery warehouse, to commercial frontier, to cotton spinning factory. Today it is one of the most exclusive locations in the whole of Lazise, reserved for corporate events, conventions and even weddings.
5. Romanesque parish church of San Nicolò
Just before the Customs House, you can visit the Romanesque-style church of St Nicholas, the protector of fishermen and sailors.
The parish church suffered a complicated history that led to the replacement of the bell tower and the loss of the original apse and its frescoes. Thanks to the restoration, in honour of those who died in World War II, it can now be admired in its newfound splendour.
It originally had a small atrium, under which goods arriving at the port below were blessed. This last image conveys the essence of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, a lively meeting point of vital importance to the Lazise community.
6. Church of Saints Zenone and Martino
After returning to the village streets, my advice is to head for the neoclassical Church of Saints Zenone and Martino, near Porta Zeno. Pay attention to the two crosses on either side of the entrance door, without which it might look like an ancient building of Greek or Roman origin. Or why not fantasise about going back in time for a few seconds?
Initially founded as a chapel subject to the church of San Martino, formerly located outside the walls, it was enlarged and renovated after the abandonment of the mother church, encountering not a few difficulties. In fact, after several interruptions, today the two previous altars, inserted into the sides of the building, can be found inside. The ruins are a gift, and architect Francesco Ronzani was able to incorporate their original beauty into the nascent church, where today, old and new merge.
To conclude your day spent visiting Lazise, all you have to do is stroll along the Lungolago Marconi. Starting from the Porto Vecchio, it connects the village with the neighbouring towns of Bardolino and Garda. It is impossible not to find it, since the comb-like arrangement of the town’s streets originates from this promenade.
Its particular paving, which recalls the wave-like motion of the water, is nothing other than a symbol of the relationship between the town and the lake. This crept up to the inside of the streets, creating a small lake Venice and providing protection for its former inhabitants.
On the banks of this promenade, you will come across the popular legend of the mermaids, sighted several times according to the fishermen of the lake. The municipality has decided to pay homage to this belief with a bronze statue in the shape of a mermaid, located on a rock and appearing to jump out of the water to sunbathe.
Here’s what to do in Lazise!
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In this ancient village, where nature and civilisation have always been united, you can enjoy urban comforts while surrounded by natural beauty. In this respect, I highly recommend the beaches of Lazise, such as the rocky one in the centre, known as “delle rose” beach, and the one further south, in front of the Marra car park, where you can rent kayaks and pedal boats.
In fact, Lake Garda offers a whole range of sporting activities, from the most extreme such as paragliding and diving, to peaceful walks along its many trekking routes
Furthermore, if you are a cycling enthusiast, this is just the place for you. Lazise and its surroundings offer a wide choice of slow and mountain bike trails, which will take you up the slopes of nearby Monte Baldo.
Travelling with children? Then don’t worry because this corner of Veneto is like an endless amusement park. Here you will find the Caneva Aquapark, the world-famous Gardaland and the Parco Natura viva: you and your family can enjoy adrenaline-filled days on the rides and be enthralled by the safari experience.
For garden lovers, I recommend the Sigurtà Park, located 20 km from Lazise. Considering a spring trip, here you can admire the various blooms, first and foremost the tulips.
Taste local food and wine in Lazise & surroundings
And now, what you may be asking yourself: “but what do you eat?”.
This village is located in an exceptional geographical area, where the extra virgin olive oil DOP, the liquid gold of Veneto, meets the fine wines of the area such as Lugana DOC and Bardolino DOC. It will therefore be very easy for you to encounter opportunities for oil and wine tourism.
Exploring the surrounding countryside, you can head to Monte Baldo to discover the “Birra Monte Baldo” craft brewery and try the different types dedicated to the mountain peaks.
You will also have the opportunity to taste the renowned Lake Garda cuisine, based on fish. Dishes such as grilled lavaret, dressed with Garda PDO olive oil, represent the gastronomic union of fishermen’s and farmers’ traditions.
You absolutely cannot leave without trying sarde del Garda in saor, a technique of preserving fried fish that the Serenissima brought to the present day and made a “must” of any trip to Veneto.
For a relaxing holiday…
I suggest the thermal park of Villa dei Cedri, in Colà di Lazise, one of the most beautiful natural spas in Italy. Inside this 13-hectare park, there are pools, waterfalls, and caves fed by two natural thermal water springs that gush out at more than thirty degrees.
But I want to tell you more, these beautiful spas stay open until midnight on Saturday nights, so you can enjoy their romantic atmosphere.
And if you are still uncertain about what to do in Lazise, here is a list of some folk events:
- The “Festa dell’ospite“, which takes place right on the lakeside in the town’s heyday: the third week of August. On this occasion where “guests” (or tourists, as we would call them nowadays) are celebrated, the promenade is filled with stalls, music and entertainment. It is on this occasion that you can best savour the tastes and vitality of this land.
- The “honey days” international fair, which takes place in October. It is a perfect opportunity to learn all about the world of Italian and European beekeeping. During these days, the splendid Dogana Veneta palace becomes the theatre for numerous conferences of experts in the sector.
- The historical re-enactment held in early May will allow you to learn about the true history of the first Italian municipality. It will make you relive the arrival of Otto II in the town to officially hand over the town’s independence. During these days, the entire village is populated by medieval costumes and demonstrations of ancient production techniques, with which the people of Lazise used to procure everything necessary for the survival of their small municipality.
And now that I have told you everything you need to visit Lazise, what are you waiting for to set off on a wonderful trip to Veneto? 🧳