Day Trips in Italy Emilia-Romagna Lake Garda

5 Easy Ways to Travel from Bologna to Lake Garda in Italy

Colourful boats in the small harbour - Castelletto sul Garda, Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

This is a comprehensive guide on how to travel from Bologna to Lake Garda in Italy. It covers five easy ways to do it by different types of transport. It includes detailed travel information and lots of helpful tips.

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Travelling from Bologna to Lake Garda is easy and there are five ways to do it.

Lago di Garda is Italy’s largest lake and a great destination for a day trip, a weekend break or a longer holiday.

Bologna is the capital of the Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and the seventh-largest city in Italy in terms of its population. Famous for its food, long porticoes, and the world’s oldest University, Bologna is also under an hour and a half away by high-speed train from two of the most important towns on Lake Garda. It also has excellent connections by road/railway and ferry to many of the other lakefront towns.

View of Lake Garda with boats and a lighthouse - Desenzano del Garda - Lombardy, Italy - rossiwrites.com

If you have ever asked yourself ‘How to get from Bologna to Lake Garda?’, fear not. In this blog post today, I will give you extensive and first-hand tried and tested information on reaching Italy’s largest lake from Italy’s food capital Bologna. It’s easy, straightforward, doesn’t have to cost the earth, and will give you a chance to see two of Italy’s most famous destinations during the same Italian holiday.

First, I will cover how to travel from Bologna to the towns on Lake Garda by train and by car. Then, I will tell you about getting there by train and bus, train and ferry, and car and ferry. I will also provide information on organised day trips around Lake Garda. Finally, I will give you useful details about the airport and the train station serving Bologna so that you can plan your trip depending on your specific point of departure in this large Italian city. There is a short section on accommodation, too, in case you decide to spend several days on Lake Garda.

Everything is structured in a way to make your travel planning as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Once you have all the details, it is then much easier to decide how you want to travel from Bologna to Lake Garda, how long do you want to spend visiting Italy’s largest lake, and if you want to book a guided tour for the time you will be there or organise it all yourself.

View of the historic harbour of the village of Cassone on Lake Garda - Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

There are many beautiful and wonderful things to see around Lake Garda in a day or two or over a longer period. Knowing how to reach Italy’s largest lake from Bologna and how to smoothly navigate around it will make your trip so much more enjoyable. It will also free up more time for sightseeing, exciting activities, and relaxation.  

Lake Garda has a perimeter of almost 160 km. Dozens of picturesque towns and exciting sights dot its shores. If you are wondering which one(s) of them to visit from Bologna for a day trip or a longer stay, have a look at these two blog posts:

They will give you lots of ideas as to how to structure your time at Lake Garda and what to see and do there. And this blog post will tell you how to get there specifically from Bologna.

Have a look!

Five Easy Ways to Travel from Bologna to Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

5 Easy Ways to Travel from Bologna to Lake Garda in Italy

I. Bologna to Lake Garda by Train

Panoramic view of the town of Toscolano on Lake Garda - Lombardy, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Bologna to Lake Garda by train is very easy and straightforward. In many ways, this is the most convenient way to get from Italy’s food capital to Italy’s largest lake. Especially, if you are going to Lake Garda just for the day.

Two of the towns on Lake Garda have train stations. These are:

  • Desenzano del Garda – this is the largest town on Lake Garda. It has a cute historic centre, a Roman villa with well-preserved beautiful mosaics, a medieval castle, and a rich programme of events. It also provides easy access to many more lakefront towns, most notably the absolutely beautiful and very popular town of Sirmione.
  • Peschiera del Garda – this is a fortified town built on five small islands which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It provides easy access to many lakefront towns. For example, Lazise, Bardolino, and Garda Town. It’s also next door to many of the large amusement parks on the shores of Lake Garda. Most notably, GardalandCaneva Waterpark, and Movieland Park.

Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda are only about 15 km away from each other. Both are on the southern shore of the lake.

Bologna’s main train station – Bologna Centrale – enjoys good connections by high-speed and regional trains to the train stations in Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda. Here are the relevant travel times:

  • Bologna Centrale to Peschiera del Garda – about 1 h 19 mins by high-speed train; from 1 h 48 mins by regional train.
  • Bologna Centrale to Desenzano del Garda – about 1 h 28 mins by high-speed train; from 1 h 58 mins by regional train.

Depending on which high-speed railway company you use, you may need to change trains in Verona. If you travel by regional train, you will have to change trains in Verona. You may also travel by high-speed train from Bologna to Verona and then take a regional train to the towns on Lake Garda. Or vice-versa. There are many options depending on the specific day and time of travel.

Helpful Tips:

Italian high-speed trains are wonderful, however, they cost on average two and a half to three times more than the slower regional trains. Keep in mind that the prices for the high-speed trains increase the closer it gets to the day of travel. So, it really pays to buy your tickets in advance. The prices for the regional trains don’t fluctuate and you can easily buy a ticket on the day of travel.

In any case, make sure that you arrive at the train station in Bologna with plenty of time to spare. Bologna Centrale can get very busy and navigating to your platform through the throngs of people can be surprisingly time-consuming. This is, after all, Italy’s fifth-busiest train station. It serves 58 million passengers per year and 800 trains arrive at and depart from it every day.

If you travel by train from Bologna to Lake Garda in Italy, then I suggest that you check train times and ticket prices in advance on Omio. This is my favourite search engine to research and book tickets for trains in Italy. Omio pulls up a page with results from Italy’s railway companies and covers different types of trains. This way, you can see immediately who offers the cheapest prices and the shortest times and you can book your tickets on the spot. It really makes travel planning so much quicker and easier.

II. Bologna to Lake Garda by Car

The historic harbour of the town of Lazise on Lake Garda - Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Bologna to Lake Garda by car is easy and convenient, especially to the southern shores of Italy’s largest lake. Unless you hit rush hour, travelling times can be very manageable. Most of your driving time to the towns on the southern shores will be spent on modern, high-speed toll highways. This helpful website will give you an estimate of how much the tolls are going to cost depending on the specific itinerary you want to follow.

These important lakefront towns are the quickest to reach by toll road from Bologna:

  • Bologna to Peschiera del Garda – 158 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 25 mins to 2 h 20 mins.
  • Bologna to Lazise – 159 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 30 mins to 2 h 20 mins.
  • Bologna to Bardolino – 169 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 30 mins to 2 h 30 mins.
  • Bologna to Desenzano del Garda – 173 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 30 mins to 2 h 30 mins.

These travelling times are calculated starting from Bologna’s main train station – Bologna Centrale. You will need to adjust them depending on where in Bologna you will begin your car journey from. Italy’s food capital is a large city, so your travelling time may get longer or shorter depending on your specific point of departure.

Once at Lake Garda, you can then circumvent the whole lake by following the two branches of the lakefront ring road:

  • Gardesana Orientale – which follows the western shores; and
  • Gardesana Ocidentale – which follows the eastern shores.   

In general, you can reach any point around Lake Garda from Bologna in about 1 h 25 mins to 3 h 50 mins. More often than not and if you don’t hit traffic, you can expect to travel around 1 h 30 mins (to the nearest to Bologna lakefront towns) and 2 h 30 mins (to the farthest from Bologna lakefront towns like Riva del Garda and Limone sul Garda).

For your interest, here are some more average distances from Bologna to the most beautiful and interesting towns on Lake Garda:

  • Bologna to Garda Town – 170 km (southeastern shore);
  • Bologna to Sirmione – 172 km (southern shore)
  • Bologna to Torri del Benaco – 177 km (eastern shore);
  • Bologna to Salo’ – 191 km (western shore);
  • Bologna to Malcesine – 198 km (eastern shore);
  • Bologna to Gargnano – 208 km (western shore);
  • Bologna to Torbole – 213 km (northern shore);
  • Bologna to Riva del Garda – 218 km (northern shore);
  • Bologna to Toscolano-Maderno – 200 km (western shore);
  • Bologna to Limone sul Garda – 229 km (western shore).

Helpful Tips:

If you need to hire a car for your trip from Bologna to Lake Garda, click here to check car rental prices.

Having a car at your disposal for your trip to Lake Garda is very convenient. It will give you a chance to access hidden gems, less busy beaches, and many other corners off the beaten path here. At the same time, during the high season, it may be difficult to find a parking space in the more popular lakefront towns.

Also, bear in mind that the travelling times from Bologna to Lake Garda may vary widely depending on the day and the season. As there is only one road which circumnavigates the whole lake, traffic jams can happen, especially during the high season and on weekends. For advice about dealing with parking, rush hours, traffic jams, and driving styles at Italy’s largest lake have a look at point 1 in this blog post:

III. Bologna to Lake Garda by Train and Bus

View of the small village of Cassone on Lake Garda - Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

It is possible to travel by bus from Bologna to Lake Garda. However, in general, the journey may last longer than getting there by train and some bus lines may be operational either only during the high season or during very specific times of the day. When you add it all, the price is not really that much cheaper, too.

A better way to do it is to make sure that you travel by train from Bologna as close to Lake Garda as possible and then continue your journey on the local bus. In a nutshell, there are three ways to do it, depending on your final destination on the shores of Italy’s largest lake. Here they are:

1. Train from Bologna to either Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda and then bus onwards
2. Train from Bologna to Verona and then bus onwards
3. Train from Bologna to Rovereto and then bus onwards

Let’s look into them in detail!

1. Train from Bologna to either Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda and then bus onwards

Proceed as per section I above. Simply take the train from Bologna Centrale and travel to one of the two towns on Lake Garda with a train station.

Once you reach Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda by train from Bologna, you can then quickly and easily travel by bus to many of the other towns on the southern, northern, western, and eastern shores of Lake Garda.

Click here to consult the current timetables of the bus lines that you can use in your explorations of Lake Garda.

2. Train from Bologna to Verona and then bus onwards

The train journey from Bologna Centrale to Verona Porta Nuova (the main train station of the city of Verona) lasts 52 mins by high-speed train and 1 h 25 mins by regional train. Once you arrive in Verona, there are many direct bus lines that connect the City of Romeo and Juliet to many towns on the shores of Lake Garda.

Here are a couple for your interest: 

The buses for Lake Garda stop right opposite the Verona Porta Nuova train station. This way, you won’t lose any time in transfer.

Once at Lake Garda, you can then take a different bus line to a different lakefront town. For example, bus line 484 can take you from Garda Town to Torri del Benaco, Malcesine, and Riva del Garda.

3. Train from Bologna to Rovereto and then bus onwards

This is the perfect travel option if you want to reach the northern extremity of Lake Garda from Bologna.

Take a train from Bologna Centrale to Rovereto – a charming city in the Autonomous Italian province of Trentino. The travel time is around 1 h 45 mins by high-speed train. Bear in mind that regional trains take significantly longer and you may need to change trains in Verona. Once in Rovereto, you can get bus 332 to Riva del Garda and other northern lakefront towns. Click here to consult the timetable of bus line 332 for specific times of departure and arrival.

Helpful Tip:

No matter which of the above options you choose, always make sure that you check the bus timetables for Lake Garda carefully. These may vary according to the season and the day of the week. 

IV. Bologna to Lake Garda by Train and Ferry or Car and Ferry

Ferry boat at the dock - Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Ferries crisscross the waters of Lake Garda and connect the many lakefront towns all throughout the day. Seeing the shores of Italy’s largest lake from the water is a very scenic experience. No matter if you are spending only a day at Lake Garda or have multiple days to spare for it, make sure that you catch a ferry to enjoy its beauty fully.

Here is how it works:

1. Train from Bologna to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda and then ferry onwards

If you travel by train from Bologna to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda, you can then continue your exploration of Italy’s largest lake by ferry. The easiest way to do it is to catch the ferry from Desenzano del Garda across to the strikingly beautiful town of Sirmione which is famous for its Roman ruins, medieval castle, and spa facilities. The crossing lasts only 20 mins or so.

Alternatively, you can catch the ferry from Peschiera del Garda to Lazise, Bardolino, and Garda Town. This will give you a chance to admire the beauty of the whole southern shore of Lake Garda from the water.

Click here to check the different ferry routes on Lake Garda and their respective stops, travel times, and ticket prices. Bear in mind that some of the ferry routes are only operational during the high season.

2. Car from Bologna to Any Town on Lake Garda and Then Ferry Onwards

Having a car at your disposal gives you a chance to reach any and all towns on Lake Garda as and when you want. Still, don’t miss the chance to experience the beauty of Italy’s largest lake from the water. You can simply park your car in one of the lakefront towns and then explore a number of other picturesque towns by ferry. This will save you driving up and down the lake and searching for a place to park time and time again. At the same time, it will allow you to enjoy some truly unforgettable panoramic views of Lake Garda and the proud mountains that surround it.

Use the official website of Navigazione Laghi to check current ferry timetables and ticket prices. Alternatively, here are some more options to consider:

V. Bologna to Lake Garda with an Organised Day Trip

Beautiful house - Sirmione, Garda Lake, Italy - rossiwrites.com

In the above sections, I gave you lots of details on how to reach Lake Garda from Bologna. In case you prefer to have the sightseeing portion of your trip organised for you, in this section I have included information about day trips to Italy’s largest lake coordinated by professional tour operators.

Organised tours are a great way to travel if you enjoy a more structured approach and would like to see the maximum in a short amount of time. Professional guides will introduce you to the culture and history of this corner of Italy and will show you hidden gems that are not always easy to discover by yourself. Often, the price of an organised tour may exceed what you would pay if you book it all by yourself. Still, it is very reasonable if you want to have it all done for you and if you enjoy a knowledgeable service and a personal approach.

You will still need to make your own way from Bologna to either Verona or Lake Garda. With the information provided above, this is not difficult at all! Once there, here are some of the best options:

Practical Tips about Travelling from Bologna to Lake Garda

Bologna Airport

Piazza III Novembre with the Torre Aponale - Riva del Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Official Name: Airport Guglielmo Marconi Bologna
Airport Code: BLQ
Official website: Bologna Airport

Description: This is a compact airport which is nicely appointed and very easy to orient yourself in. Bologna Airport is one of the top ten busiest international airports in Italy. Still, it lacks the stress factor of large airports and it offers good shopping and food options. Bologna Airport is a very good but often overlooked choice to travel to Lake Garda, especially, for quick access to the southern shores of Italy’s largest lake.

Location: Bologna Airport is about 9 km away from the city of Bologna in the Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna

Public Transport Options: A monorail train – the Marconi Express – connects Bologna Airport to Bologna Centrale train station. Travel time between the two is only seven minutes! Once there, you can take a high-speed or a fast regional train to your final destination on the shores of Lake Garda.  

Bologna Train Station

Posterna Beach with views of Lake Garda - Malcesine, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Bologna Centrale is the main train station of the city of Bologna in Italy. It is a busy railway hub that deals with 800 trains a day and 58 million passengers per year.

As described in this blog post, you can use Omio to check train times and prices and to purchase in advance train tickets from Bologna Centrale to either Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda on Lake Garda or to Verona and Rovereto.

Accommodation at Lake Garda

The historic centre - Malcesine, Italy - rossiwrites.com

You can find all sorts and types of accommodation on Lake Garda, Italy to suit any budget. From fabulous hotels with spa facilities and swimming pools to cozy B&B’s in historic buildings and campsites surrounded by olive groves, there is something for everyone.

For ideas about the types of accommodation available around Lake Garda in particular and Italy in general, have a look at this blog post:

I usually prefer to book all my accommodation through Booking.com. It gives me many different options in terms of budget and location and I can also read and compare reviews left by real people. Click to see all available places to stay around Lake Garda, Italy.

If you need some visual help in terms of precise location and price range, have a look at this map. It gives you a quick idea of the prices and whereabouts of the many hotels and other forms of accommodation you can book for your stay at Lake Garda, Italy. You can zoom in and out in order to search for a place. You can also click on the option that interests you to find out more details or to make a booking directly.

In addition, if you click on ‘Accommodation’ in the top right corner of the map and select ‘Experiences’ from the drop-down menu, then you can see some truly exciting experiences at Lake Garda, Italy that you can book directly:

In Conclusion

The marina of Garda Town on Lake Garda - Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Bologna to Lake Garda in Italy for a day trip, a weekend break or a longer holiday is a great idea. In general, there are five ways to do it: by train, by car, by train and bus, by train/car and ferry, and by organised tour.

In the above blog post, I give you detailed and first-hand tried and tested information about how to reach Italy’s largest lake from Italy’s food capital.

Packed with useful tips, I hope that my blog post will come in handy during the planning stages of your Italian holiday.

Enjoy your trip from Bologna to Lake Garda!

Now, get ready quick for your visit to Lake Garda, Italy!

 

 

More Helpful Lake Garda Info for You

Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best TownsRiva del GardaMalcesineTorri del BenacoPunta di San VigilioCampo di Brenzone
Lake Garda Hiking: Tibetan BridgeRocca di GardaPark of the Waterfalls
Visiting Lake Garda: 
Lake Garda with Kids8 Best AirportsTravel Around Lake Garda, Venice to Lake GardaVerona to Lake Garda, Milan to Lake Garda
Lake Garda Beaches: 16 Top Tips3 Unmissable Beaches
Lake Garda Sights: Shortest River in Italy, Sanctuary of Madonna della CoronaLake Garda Castles

More Helpful Italy Info for You

Best of Italy: Italian PiazzasItalian FoodItalian MarketsItalian Coffee CultureRules of Italian BreakfastItalian Breakfast Foods
Northern Italy: 18 Best Cities to Visit11 Major Airports
Day Trips in Italy: 
Bologna to Venice, Venice to MilanVerona to MilanMilan to VeronaVenice to VeronaMilan to VeniceFlorence to VeniceVerona to VeniceVenice to Padua
Lake Como: Things to SeeNesso
Lombardy: Best Cities and Towns
Friuli Venezia Giulia: VenzoneMost Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: BolognaRavennaComacchioMost Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to VisitGradaraFrasassi CavesTemple of Valadier
Trentino: Best Cities and TownsBeautiful LakesLake CaldonazzoViolins’ Forest
Veneto: Best Cities to VisitPrettiest Small TownsMost Beautiful VillagesTop 15 Places30 Adventures15 Most Colourful PlacesBeautiful Lakes
Venice: Major LandmarksEssential TipsHidden GemsOne Day Itinerary for Art LoversBest AirportsBoats in VeniceHaunted VeniceDay Trips from Venice
Verona: Things to Do in One DayVerona Opera FestivalDay Trips from VeronaRomeo and Juliet Itinerary
Padua: Things to Do in One Day101 Facts About Padua10 Reasons to Visit PaduaDay Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to DoDay Trips from VicenzaBest Museums

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