Lake Garda is the biggest expanse of inland water in the whole of Italy and is fully 54 kilometres in length, and varying from just 3 to 18 kilometres wide. This means it is suitable for serious boating of all kinds, whether you are interested in watching or in taking part in regattas, passenger boat trips, wind surfing, speed boating, rowing or jet-skiing. The high alpine and narrow northern half of the lake ensures that the influences of mountain air and lake temperatures generate their own winds that you can in the north set your watch by. Such northern towns as Torbole are thus home to major regattas and international windsurfing events as the northerly “Pelèr “ breeze is guaranteed to blow in the early morning, while the brisk “Ora” is assured to sweep the lake from south to north from noon onwards. No doldrums here. Amateurs and holidaymakers will also find an abundance of sail boat and windsurfing schools and rental facilities all over the lake, so you can have lessons or just take off where and when you wish.
The southern end of the lake, set in the regions of the Veneto and Lombardy provides a whole range of boat trips that criss-cross the lake, making it possible from wherever you are to visit such lovely towns as Sirmione, Salò or Lazise and Peschiera, and then back to base the same day. Even on the hottest, busiest days the air is cool on the lake, there is no traffic, and only the noise that of the boat ploughing through deep blue water. If you want to also hear the chink of wine glasses and cutlery you might consider taking a slow-boat along the whole length from the south to Riva in the Trentino region. These trips necessarily take all day and offer meals and superb views of the varied geography of the lake. Make sure you get back on board after a stop or you might find you have to book a different hotel, you wouldn’t be the first. The only alternative might be a 60 kilometre bus or taxi drive along the slow moving lakeside “Gardesana” road. As for timetables if you are not in your element with astrophysics it is as well to ask the man in the nearest ticket office for information and for a ticket rather than working out timetables that straddle three Italian regions and innumerable journey permutations.
The perspectives you get from the middle of the lake are quite different from the views from the shores, and give a real sense of scale of this inland sea and spectacular views can be had from the boat’s fresh upper decks of the hills, mountains and villages that enclose its waters.
Motorboats and rubber dinghies offer real freedom to travel from town to town, beach to beach and to visit some of the beautiful islands scattered around particularly the areas close to Desenzano and Salò. Motor boats can be hired in many villages and may sometimes be quite expensive, though definitely worth considering if you are in a group. If you take a 40 HP vessel, for example, no kind of licence is required. You may wish to visit for example the small Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island) with its mooring points and quiet beaches
The “Bisse” boat races are run in one or other of the lake’s villages every summer weekend and offer a real spectacle that reflects the history of the lake. Lake Garda was in fact for centuries a part of Venice’s Serenissma, or most serene republic, with the result that each boat’s four rowers stand, like gondoliers, and row in skilful harmony and at considerable speed in their very serious effort to win the coveted prize of best rowers. The finals of the races are at the end of the summer.
All this just skims the surface of Lake Garda and its boating possibilities. Mention must last be made of the opportunities taken by many of floating in desultory fashion, taking in a few rays, a swim and a picnic on the quiet offshore areas of the lake. Lastly keep one eye on the blue skies that can suddenly cover over with hot storms being whipped up. Be ready to head back fast if you hear distant thunder or feel a sudden change in the wind.
Holidays, With the school holidays rapidly approaching time is running out for you to grab a bargain! Not to worry there are still some great deals available although the longer you leave it the less choice you will have when it comes to choosing a town at lake Garda. Desenzano, Bardolino and Malcesine seem to be more expensive than many other towns so you could save some good money choosing to stay at some of the less commercial towns which if you ask me would be your best best considering July and August can get very busy. As I have lived at Lake Garda for 14 years i would recommend either Limone sul Garda on the west side of the lake or brenzone which is on the north east side. Both are equally beautiful with plenty of Hotels and activities.