If you are looking for a resort that embraces the charm of Lake Garda and the view of the Dolomites, Riva del Garda is just the place for you!
Riva del Garda is located on the northern coast of Lake Garda, with the Brenta Dolomites behind it. This town is part of the autonomous province of Trento and has a population of about 18,000 inhabitants.
As a renowned tourist resort and important commercial location, Riva del Garda is very popular among sports enthusiasts thanks to the many activities it offers. However, there is no lack of history, art, culture, natural landscapes of rare beauty thanks to the views and panoramas overlooking the lake Garda.
The history of Riva del Garda begins in the Neolithic period, during the Bronze and Iron Ages. In the pre-Roman period, the area was certainly inhabited, but there is not enough evidence to confirm the origin of the inhabitants. Later Riva del Garda was inhabited by the Romans, for whom it represented a very strategic trading post. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Riva del Garda passed into the hands of the Goths, Lombards and Franks. In the centuries to come the Visconti of Milan, the Principality of Venice, Napoleon and the Kingdom of Bavaria were important. Riva del Garda became part of the Napoleonic territories of the Kingdom of Italy in 1810. In 1814 it returned under Austrian imperial control to become the seat of the District Court, Commissariat and Pretura and the seat of the District Captaincy in 1868. Riva del Garda was admitted to the Kingdom of Italy in 1923.
Riva del Garda is very important not only for its history, but also for its art and culture. Many works of art and places of interest are a reflection and testimony of the many cultures and influences left over the centuries by those who have ruled and inhabited this town. Unlike art and culture, however, it is the landscapes that have always characterised Riva del Garda. The best time to enjoy these unique views is from spring to early summer, from mid-April to mid-June. September is also a great time to visit this fantastic location without too many crowds, although the possibility of rain or bad weather must be taken into consideration.
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Let’s find out together what to see and do 2 days in Riva del Garda, if your stay is not very long, or what to visit if you have more days available. Let’s go! 👇
What to see in Riva del Garda?
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This rock-climbing, Baroque-style town has a small, picturesque historic centre, enriched by countless tourist attractions. The town is not very large, so visiting it will only take you a few hours. The best way to get around is on foot or by bicycle, taking advantage of the many cycle paths in the town. Here is a foretaste of what you can admire and visit in this fantastic place!
1. HISTORIC CENTRE
The historic centre of Riva del Garda is full of shops and bars, but also of history and culture. Here you can admire historically important places such as Piazza III Novembre, which, surrounded by arcades, merchants’ exhibitions, currency exchange counters, and shops of all kinds, represented the mercantile and economic centre of the town in the past. Piazza III Novembre will seem to be guarded by Torre Apponale, a monument with a defensive and surveillance function over the city. Torre Apponale overlooks Piazza III Novembre, thanks to its 34 metre height and 165 steps.
At one end of Via Roma, which leads to the Church of Santa Maria Inviolata, you will find the Porta di San Michele. Closed for a long time during periods of plague, it was reopened in 1796 and restored in the second half of the 19th century. The characteristic elements of that time introduced with the restoration are still visible today. Behind the town hall, you will find Piazza San Rocco with its church of the same name, which was destroyed and rebuilt following the bombing of World War I. Near the old town centre, take a tour of Porto San Nicolò, a tourist spot and mooring for more than 150 boats where you can relax with a leisurely stroll just a few steps from the water of the lake. The harbour is guarded by Fort San Nicolò, built between 1860 and 1861.
2. MOROCCO DISTRICT
This district, one of the most famous of Riva del Garda, is characterised by narrow alleys and streets with houses that preserve and display the popular and artisan imprint of the past. The name of this district derives from the dialect term “maroc”, which means “heaps of landslide“. The reference is to the heaps of rock that have collapsed from the rock face of the mountain above and from which these houses were built. The landslide mounds were in fact used to build the walls of many houses in the neighbourhood. Here you can admire the Bishop’s Palace and, in the upper square, a votive shrine dedicated to San Rocco and an old wash house.
3. THE BASTION OF RIVA AND PANORAMIC LIFT
The Bastion is a military fortress erected in the 16th century by the Republic of Venice. The name derives from the main tower, built entirely of white limestone blocks. The structure overlooks Riva del Garda and here you can enjoy a truly breathtaking view. To reach the fortress, the new inclined panoramic lift was recently inaugurated. Due to come into operation in July 2020, this new infrastructure allows tourists and visitors to reach the Venetian tower effortlessly and enjoy a panoramic view over the historic centre of Riva del Garda and Lake Garda in all their splendour. This unforgettable experience will last about three minutes. The difference in height is 130 metres and the overall length is 208 metres.
4. LAKEFRONT OF RIVA DEL GARDA
Riva del Garda offers its visitors a panoramic lakeside promenade with a wonderful view and a relaxing effect. Towards the east, the shore begins to lower and it is here that the first beaches of Riva del Garda begin to emerge. The two main beaches are: Spiaggia dei Sabbioni, equipped with sun loungers, deckchairs, canoes, basketball and volleyball courts, and much more; and Spiaggia dei Pini, much loved by young people thanks to its small kiosk in the middle of the greenery where you can relax and have fun with friends over a refreshing aperitif.
5. CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA INVIOLATA
Built between 1603 and 1636, this Baroque-style Catholic place of worship in Largo Guglielmo Marconi is the most important architectural monument in Riva del Garda. With a square interior plan, the church is a place of pilgrimage housing an important miraculous tabernacle. On the outside, it is octagonal in shape and has three separate entrances. Its appearance is austere and dominated by highly defined rectilinear geometric lines.
6. THE ROCCA DI RIVA AND THE CIVIC MUSEUM
The Rocca di Riva is a military fortress located on an artificial island on the shore of the lake. The year of its origin is uncertain, but a first testimony dates back to 1124. This fortress dates its construction to that year or earlier. Its present appearance was given by a radical restoration in the mid-19th century. The walls are of stone and mortar and it has four towers and an entrance bridge. Today it houses the MAG, Museo Alto Garda (Civic Museum). The museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions with themes ranging from history, art, sculpture and archaeology.
7. REPTILAND MUSEUM
The Reptiland Museum is the ideal place for little explorers and nature lovers. Intended for children as well as adults, here you will find a reptile house with some of the most beautiful and important species. Cobras, green mambas, rattlesnakes, red-kneed spiders, emperor scorpions, butterflies and rare insects are just some of the animals here. Founded in 1989, the museum was designed to meet the expectations of those who want to get closer to natural science. The museum’s philosophy is to be accessible to everyone, from natural scientists to simple enthusiasts. The ultimate aim is always and in any case to raise awareness towards the protection of the planet, today more than ever a fundamental and very important issue.
Visit Riva del Garda and surroundings
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If you are on holiday in this area, Riva del Garda and its surroundings are the ideal places to visit, if you have enough time! Near Riva del Garda, in fact, there are many places that are absolutely worth getting to know before you leave. Let’s discover them together!
Monte Stivo and Monte Velo are just a few minutes’ drive from Riva del Garda. These are places with breathtaking views and trekking routes with refuges along the way such as Rifugio Marchetti, on Monte Stivo. Then there is the town of Arco with its stupendous castle, which can be reached by taking a walk among olive trees and cypresses. Then there is Torbole with its lakefront where you can go sailing or windsurfing and the Busatte Adventure Park. With aerial passages ranging from 2 metres to 15 metres, it is an ideal place to get in touch with nature and put yourself to the test!
On state road 21 in the direction of Ponte Arche, you can visit the Varone Waterfall Cave Park. Here you can admire the beauty of a stunning waterfall plunging into a deep gorge carved into the rock. Outside, there is a large botanical park with facilities and organisation for every need. Above the Alto Garda plain, you will find an archaeological area that came to light thanks to research that began in 1969, with the aim of finding a legendary treasure hidden in these lands.
To visit the cleanest fresh water in Italy, visit Lake Tenno. You will find in front of you a real natural jewel situated at an altitude of 570 metres on the slopes of Mount Misone. A stone’s throw from here you can also visit Canale di Tenno, an authentic medieval village dating back to around 1200, where everything revolves around the main square.
Lake Ledro has a 10 km perimeter, along which you can take a walk or a bike ride. The waters here reach 24°C in summer, making it perfect for water activities such as canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, swimming or fishing. You can also visit the Lake Ledro Pile-Dwelling Museum, taking a step back in history over 4000 years! In the pine forest of Pur, one of the green lungs of the Ledro Valley, art and nature lovers will be able to admire the beauty of the naturalistic works of art offered by Ledro Land Art. The materials of the works are completely or predominantly natural, and the peculiarity of this exhibition is that the works themselves are totally exposed to the elements.
Another interesting activity near Riva del Garda is the Defensionmaurer rock walk. The latter corresponds to a defence wall erected before the Great War in the locality of Sperone, with the aim of defending the territory from armed attacks. Today it is possible to retrace it, but it is only recommended for those with a good workout or who are not afraid of adversity, since the route offers many of them immediately after passing a stretch considered easier.
Finally, remember that Riva del Garda is in a very strategic position. From here you can easily reach some of the major towns in Trentino such as Rovereto, Trento, the Brescian shores of Lake Garda such as Limone sul Garda, but also those of Verona and Valpolicella. Take advantage of it!
What to do in Riva del Garda?
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In addition to the many cultural, natural and artistic attractions you have just discovered, Riva del Garda has much more to offer, especially when it comes to sports and adventure–focused activities. However, there is no lack of local food and wine and important events, but let’s deal with one thing at a time. In the historic centre, you can go shopping for the best local products or souvenirs from local handicrafts to take back to your loved ones.
Alternatively, you can visit clothes shops and, in this respect, the Blue Garden shopping centre, the only one in the area, comes to your aid with its more than forty shops. On the terrace of the shopping centre, there is also a skate park to entertain the young and the young at heart.
Everyone’s needs and passions are really taken care of in Riva del Garda! In addition to all the points of interest already described, there are some such as the Hydroelectric Power Station that are worth a visit. Architecture and engineering welcome water with the aim of creating electricity in a totally green and therefore environmentally friendly way. The Riva del Garda Hydroelectric Power Station was built in the 1920s from a design by D’Annunzio’s architect Giancarlo Maroni. The visit will be unexpectedly engaging, thanks to the original multimedia installations you will encounter along the way. It is truly a unique opportunity for young and old alike to discover how energy can be created from water. This example of architecture and engineering awaits you in all its majesty and grandeur to reveal its every secret.
Photography lovers, on the other hand, will be able to indulge in their art thanks to the thousands of landscapes this area offers. In fact, there is no shortage of scenic spots!
Local Food & Wine
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You are in an area with a very rich food and wine culture. Aperitifs and excellent ice cream, as well as trattorias with a menu of typical dishes, are not lacking. One of the most popular local dishes is carne salada, made from marinated and flavoured rump of beef. The dish can be eaten either raw accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil, even better if Garda olive oil PDO, or cooked accompanied by beans. Also typical of the area is broccoli from Torbole, a Slow Food Presidium that is very rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.
Lake fish is another symbol of the culinary identity of this area. Its purity is due to the low level of pollution of the waters of Lake Garda and this is what makes it particularly valuable from an organoleptic point of view compared to a common, controlled sea fish. The most characteristic wines of the area are: Nosiola DOC, Trento DOC, Müller Thurgau DOC and Trentino Marzemino DOC.
Sport and adventure
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Riva del Garda offers countless sports and adventure activities to please everyone. Here you can go trekking on many paths. Among the many, the most beautiful and suggestive are the Sentiero del Ponale (Ponale Path), the Sentiero della Pace (Path of Peace), the path leading to the San Pietro Refuge on Mount Misone, the Via Ferrata Fausto Susatti, the Sentiero Bussatte Tempesta (Path of the Storm Knockers), and the Ferrata Signora delle Acque Busa dei Capitani (Lady of the Waters Busa dei Capitani). You can reach scenic spots such as Punta Larici, Cascate Varone or Cascate del Ponale.
For cycling enthusiasts, there are also many routes in the area. The most beautiful are the one connecting Riva del Garda to Castello Tenno, the one leading to the view from Arco Castle, the ring-route connecting Vezzano to Castello Tenno, and the Torbole route connecting Riva del Garda to Porto San Nicolò.
For water sports lovers, Riva del Garda offers sailing, windsurfing, canyoning along streams, surfing, canoeing and stand-up paddle. In all this, however, don’t miss a relaxing boat trip to discover Lake Garda. It is indeed the best way to discover this land from a different point of view than usual, being on the water instead of on land. There are many boat tours you can choose from. Once back on land, to complete this relaxing moment, you can also enjoy some sun and relaxation on Spiaggia Sabbioni or Spiaggia dei Pini!
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Throughout the year, Riva del Garda comes alive with festivals and events. Among the many, the most important and popular ones are the Garda Jazz Festival, the Traubenkur and the Carne Salada in Festa.
The former is generally celebrated during the summer season. The Garda Jazz Festival presents itself as an immersive journey into the evolution of jazz, which, from more classical sounds, moves towards modernity, while remaining in balance with traditions.
The second is a festival with very ancient origins. In the past, in fact, once autumn arrived, a time when this very event was celebrated, all the nobles would meet at the Habsburg Court to celebrate the arrival of the new season and detoxify themselves from their “labours”. Today, this festival involves the use of typical food products that lead those who use them to simultaneously take care of themselves thanks to the benefits of the products themselves. There are wine and grape tastings, cycling in the vineyards on harvest days, historical re-enactments and traditional Hapsburg recipes.
The last festival mentioned is instead dedicated to one of the area’s tastiest and most appreciated typical products. During the Carne Salada in Festa, in addition to paying homage to the dish of the same name, there are workshops and various Slow Food initiatives dedicated to children. The aim of the festival is also to celebrate, in a more general way, the traditional cuisine of these magnificent places.
During the Christmas period, you can also breathe in the magic in the air. For Christmas, Riva del Garda gets into the festive spirit with its Father Christmas House, located in the ancient Rocca di Riva. Children will even be able to browse through Santa’s wardrobe and admire his magical bed, the magical Elves’ Workshop, enjoy a delicious snack in the Court of Good Things, and eat together with Father Christmas. There is also no shortage of beautiful Christmas markets around the city.
How to get to and around Riva del Garda
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To get to Riva del Garda, take the A22 motorway and exit at the Rovereto Sud – Lago di Garda Nord exit. Be careful when you arrive at the town centre because it is a restricted traffic zone! Once you have arrived, you can leave your car in one of the many pay car parks that the municipality provides for tourists.
Alternatively, you can arrive here by plane, landing at Verona’s Valerio Catullo Airport. If travelling by train, get off at Rovereto station. Riva del Garda can also be reached by bus via the Trentino Trasporti lines or the Azienda Trasporti Verona line for Lake Garda. In Riva del Garda, you can also get around comfortably on foot, by bike, or by city and suburban buses provided by Trentino Trasporti.
Now that you know what to see in Riva del Garda and its surroundings, what are you waiting for to organise your tailor-made trip? Italia Delight is the first marketplace that allows you to book tailor-made food and wine experiences and trips directly with Italy’s top Food Experts!
Cover photo: Pixabay, Tommy Rau
Featured photo: Unsplash, Marina T Alamanou