There are so many reasons to visit Lake Garda, nestled in northern Italy between the beautiful cities of Milan and Verona. Whether you’re drawn there by the stunning mountainous landscape of the northern section of the lake or by the undulating hills and Mediterranean climate of the south, it is a wonderful holiday destination.
But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that there is so much more to Italy’s largest lake than historic towns, beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants and luxurious hotels that overlook the crystal waters. Here are a few of my favourite locations for enjoying some much-needed pampering and peace during your lakeside holiday.
Last time I visited Garda, I came with a purpose: having complained once too often to a friend about a nagging back pain, I decided to try the restorative thermal spas at Sirmione.
Of course, I’d visited the beautiful town of Sirmione with its prehistoric settlement, impressive Roman ruins and medieval buildings on previous trips to Lake Garda, but I had no idea that the peninsula on which the town stands is famous for thermal springs as well. When I researched it, I discovered that the Terme di Sirmione is one of Europe’s most important thermal spas, which contains a natural spring of sulphurous water with a near-perfect combination of sodium chloride, bromine, and iodine.
Near the Roman villa of Catullo, the spa’s water reaches the surface at a spring called Boiola. It receives its healing mineral content from the journey it takes through the rocks of Mount Balso. Starting its journey 800 metres above the lake, the water travels all the way down to 20 metres below sea level before being forced back up through the Boiola spring. When the water finally resurfaces, it has reached a temperature of approximately 32 degrees Celsius, and has been enriched with the mineral properties of the rocks over which it has travelled.
If you want to enjoy the waters in the historic town of Catullo itself, be sure to visit the Catullo Spa. Alternatively, you can explore the Virgilio Spa on the road from Brescia to Verona, which is perfect if you prefer a more secluded setting.
Aquaria Thermal Wellness Centre
The Aquaria Thermal spa is one of the best places to visit if you’d like to enjoy the health and relaxation benefits of Sirmione’s wonderful waters. Situated in the heart of a beautiful 10,000-square-metre park that overlooks the lake, the Aquaria makes use of the Terme di Sirmione’s waters in a range of spa offerings, covering everything from beauty to healing treatments.
The facility, which includes 700 square metres of thermal water pools, whirlpools, effervescent beds, aroma-chromatic showers and vascular paths, offers all the latest treatment innovations, and is run by experienced and friendly employees.
Garda Thermal Park
Luckily, Sirmione is not the only thermal spa for you to explore. After a thoroughly relaxing soak in its warm waters, I travelled a short way up Lake Garda’s eastern shore to the Garda Thermal Park, which is located in the stunning surroundings of the Villa Dei Cedri.
There are two sources of water here, which are 160 and 200 metres below sea level. Both work their way up to two picturesque outdoor thermal lakes, which are perfect for bathing. The bigger lake has an average temperature of 33 to 34 degrees Celsius, and is equipped with a range of hydro-massage elements, including hot tubs, jets, waterfalls, geysers and cascades. The smaller lake has an average temperature of ca. 29 to 30 degrees Celsius.
If you enter the park’s Wellness Centre, you’ll find a range of therapeutic treatments on offer, many of which make use of the spa’s thermal waters. For a really indulgent pampering experience, you can even stay at the beautiful nineteenth-century Hotel Villa Dei Cedri. All of its rooms have private hot tubs, which allow you to bathe in thermal waters from the spring.
How to Get to Lake Garda
There are two airports from which you can easily reach Lake Garda: you can either travel from Venice Marco Polo Airport in the east or from Milan Malpensa MXP in the west, as both airports offer good flight connections to and from the UK. By car, the travel time from Venice to Sirmione is around one and a half hours, while it takes around two hours from Milan.
The most convenient and comfortable way of getting from either airport to your accommodation is to book a private airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. That way, a driver will meet you at the airport and drive you directly to your destination, and you can start your soothing spa holiday as soon as possible.
Where to Stay
Hotel Smeraldo – You’ll be very close to the spas of Sirmione at the Hotel Smeraldo. Set on the spa’s peninsula, this is a lovely three-star hotel that has access to its own private beach, a restaurant overlooking the lake, and that is within walking distance of both the spa and the old town.
Hotel Arena – Enjoy lakeside living at the Hotel Arena. Just 100 yards from the lake, guests can choose to relax in the hotel’s tranquil garden or enjoy the views and swimming pool of the glorious roof-top terrace.
Yachting Hotel Mistral – The beautiful gardens of the Yachting Hotel Mistral run right down to the water’s edge, where there’s a marina with remarkable views of Lake Garda. The sun terrace and swimming pool also add to the appeal of this lovely three-star hotel.
About Shuttle Direct
There’s no sense in organising a wonderful spa holiday if planning your airport transfer sends your blood pressure soaring and you arrive completely frazzled. With Shuttle Direct, a leading provider of private and group transfers in Europe and North Africa, you can pre-book a private vehicle online from the comfort of your own home, and know that an executive car will be waiting to whisk you off to your luxury spa when you arrive at the airport.