Here are the best things to do in Riva del Garda – the second-largest town on Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda.
With a beautiful historic centre where Austrian and Italian influences meet and mix, several sprawling beaches, and a year-round programme of events, Riva del Garda is an elegant destination that offers the best of Italian lake life.
Surrounded by tall jagged mountains and right on the edge of the sparkling blue lake, Riva del Garda is a must-see in Northern Italy. The town is part of the Autonomous Province of Trentino. It enjoys a mild microclimate and it’s a haven for people who like to keep active. Hiking, sailing, and windsurfing are the order of the day here.
At the same time, Riva del Garda has several landmarks to keep you busy sightseeing over a couple of days. Its streets are dotted with eateries serving both Italian and Tyrolean dishes and desserts. Town-wide festivals and markets add to the lively spirit of the place.
I loved spending time in Riva del Garda during my six years of living in Italy. It was always with great emotion that we headed to the northern extremity of Lake Garda on a day trip or for a longer stay in this elegant town with so much to do and see. I never tired of visiting and re-discovering Riva del Garda in any weather and in any season. Its colourful facades and its pretty squares always looked so inviting and buzzing with life.
So, in this blog post, I share with you everything that I have learned first-hand about this beautiful town on Lake Garda – from the best local sights to the best local foods and hikes. Right after the list with the 23 best things to do in Riva del Garda, I have also included a section with lots of practical tips. When is the best time to visit Riva del Garda, how to find the best accommodation there for your budget and needs, all sorts of details are covered in logically organised chunks of text.
I hope that the information provided herewith will come in handy when you are planning your own trip to Lake Garda in Italy. Riva del Garda is known as the pearl of the lake. So, make sure that you put this pretty town on top of your Lake Garda travel list.
Here is why!
23 Best Things to Do in Riva del Garda on Italy’s Lake Garda
1. Visit Rocca di Riva and Explore MAG in Riva del Garda, Italy
Rocca di Riva is one of the most important sights in Riva del Garda. This is a medieval fortress that stands on a small artificial island in the historic centre. The fortress is surrounded by water on all sides and a small bridge leads to its entrance.
Rocca di Riva was built in 1124 in order to protect the town’s important port. When Riva del Garda was taken over by the Scaliger dynasty of Verona in the 14th century, the fortress was enlarged and a deep moat was excavated around it. In the 15th century, Riva del Garda was annexed to the territories of the Republic of Venice. The town and its fortress bore witness to the battles between Venice and the Duchy of Milan.
By the 16th century, Rocca di Riva had changed completely its purpose and had become a residence. First, it hosted the Prince-Bishops of Trento and then private individuals. Three centuries later, the fortress was turned into army barracks.
Nowadays, Rocca di Riva houses the Museum of Upper Garda. It has interesting archaeological, historical, and art sections introducing you to the history and the traditions of Trentino – the autonomous Northern Italian province of which Riva del Garda is part.
Walking through the historic centre of Riva del Garda, soon you will find yourself in front of the town’s centuries-old fortress. It enjoys a central lakefront position. Palm trees and fountains are strategically placed around its moat. All in all, Rocca di Riva is a must-see on the northern tip of Lake Garda in Italy.
2. Go for a Walk Through the Historic Centre of Riva del Garda, Italy
Riva del Garda has an elegant historic centre where Italian and Austrian influences meet and mix. Throughout history, the town has been ruled by many different powers – from the Scaligers of Verona and then the Republic of Venice to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As you can imagine, this has created a melting pot of architectural styles. The historic centre of Riva del Garda is the best place to see how it all has come together organically.
Surrounded by tall, jagged mountains and with streets flanked by multi-storey houses painted in yellow, ochre, and green, the historic centre here is a lively place. As you walk around, little details stand out. A historic coat of arms attached to a centuries-old wall, a frescoed top floor of a building, a balcony with countless pots of plants and flowering shrubs. The mountain tops peek at the end of each street. Water trickles and gushes from the town’s many fountains. The hubbub of people is never-ending. Locals and visitors pop in and out of the many shops and eateries, cross the large sunlit squares, head to the nearby beaches.
It’s all so beautiful. Quite idyllic, really. Especially on a sunny day!
Here are some of the most interesting sights and places to see in the historic centre of Riva del Garda:
- Terme Romane – excavated remnants of the thermal baths that the Romans had built here in the 1st century AD.
- Quartiere del Marocco – this is the oldest preserved part of the historic centre of Riva del Garda. It dates back to the Middle Ages. The large houses here stand against the slopes of Mount Rocchetta. The name – Marocco – comes from the local word for pebble, stone or rock.
- Palazzo Municipale – built towards the end of the 15th century, this has been Riva del Garda’s civic assembly hall since 1492. You will find this large and imposing historic building on the main Piazza III Novembre. Fragments of the frescoes that once decorated the exterior of the palazzo can still be seen on its facade today.
- Hydroelectrical Power Plant – open for guided visits, this is an enormous facility housed in a monumental building. Erected in the 1920s, it flanks the town’s historic harbour and it is one of the very first things that you see as you drive into Riva del Garda from the nearby town of Limone sul Garda.
3. Spend Time at the Pretty Squares of Riva del Garda, Italy
Riva del Garda is dotted with pretty squares that are at the centre of the town’s social life. They are surrounded by historic buildings and lively eateries, buzzing with people and activity all throughout the day.
Sitting for a coffee or a meal at one of Riva del Garda’s squares is a very pleasant thing to do. You can engage in some people-watching, admire the surrounding architecture, relax, and enjoy the town’s verve.
Here are some of the most beautiful squares here to see for yourself:
- Piazza III Novembre – a beautiful sunlit square in the heart of the historic centre. Surrounded by lavish hotels, historic buildings, and busy restaurants, it’s a lovely place to sit and take it all in. In the past, this is where the town’s fairs were held four times a year. The 34 meters high Torre Aponale dominates the square. Opposite it, you will see the historic Palazzo Municipale.
- Piazza delle Erbe – a large and beautiful square in the style of the Italian Renaissance piazzas. It has a circular fountain at its heart. The square was built after the First World War. It replaced a group of houses that had been heavily bombed and had to be completely demolished.
- Piazza Marocco – this ancient square stands in the heart of the oldest part of the historic centre of Riva del Garda. It is thought that a castle or a fortification must have existed here in the early Middle Ages. Look around to see fragments of the town’s ancient defensive walls that nowadays have been incorporated into the facades of the local houses.
- Piazza Cavour – a large square next to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. In the past, it was used for civic assemblies and hosted the town’s market.
- Piazza Catena – this rectangular square flanks Riva del Garda’s historic harbour. Head to it if you want to take the ferry to a nearby lakefront town.
4. Visit the Churches in Riva del Garda, Italy
There are several interesting from a historic and architectural point of view churches in Riva del Garda. Visiting them will give you a better understanding of the history of this pretty town. Inside, you can also see important works by local artists.
Here are some of the most beautiful churches in Riva del Garda:
- Church of Santa Maria Inviolata – built in 1603, this is considered to be the most important Baroque church in the whole of Trentino. Its frescoed and stuccoed vault is a sight to behold. The altarpieces are by Palma the Younger – one of the most famous exponents of the Venetian School.
- Church of Santa Maria Assunta – an imposing Baroque church built in 1728 on the site of a medieval church in the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
- Church of St. Roch – this church was built in the 16th century. It fulfilled an oath made by the inhabitants of Riva del Garda during a devastating bout of the plague in 1512. Richly stuccoed and decorated, the nave of the church was hit by a bomb during the First World War. Nowadays only its apse survives.
5. See the Historic Gates of Riva del Garda, Italy
Centuries ago, a strong defensive wall used to surround Riva del Garda. Walking around the town’s historic centre, you will see surviving fragments from it and several tall and sturdy gates.
These are their names and the stories behind them:
- Porta Bruciata – this is a vault that connects Piazza San Rocco with Piazza III Novembre. Originally, it was a gate in the ancient defensive wall. In 1475, the gate was incorporated into the building that joins the Palazzo Municipale and the Palazzo Pretorio. Its name – the Burned Gate – references a fire of which not much else is known.
- Porta di San Marco – originally built during the Scaliger dynasty’s dominion of Riva del Garda, this large and imposing gate was then modified during the Venetian rule of the area.
- Porta di San Michele – it stands at the end of the large Via Roma which connects the Church of Santa Maria Inviolata to Riva del Garda’s historic centre. Back in the 13th century, this gate was known as Porta d’Arco, as it’s orientated towards the nearby town of Arco. In the 19th century, it was subjected to a significant reconstruction by the then-mayor of the town.
- Porta di San Giuseppe – this was once one of the oldest churches in town. The Church of San Giuseppe (also known as the Church of Disciplini) was erected in the 16th century at the spot where a hermit had lived in the 13th century. It had marble altars and many works of art. In recent times, the church was deconsecrated and hollowed. Nowadays, it serves as a pedestrian crossing – a sort of tunnel on a crossroads in the historic centre of Riva del Garda. Its facade is preserved and inside you can see the church’s original pillars and a small, quite damaged fresco.
6. Go for a Walk around the Two Harbours of Riva del Garda, Italy
Centuries ago, Riva del Garda had one of the most important harbours on Lake Garda. A constant stream of boats brought goods and wares from the towns of Desenzano, Torbole, and Lazise. Wool, wood, cereals, ceramics, and even cattle. For hundreds of years, the flow of goods never stopped.
The harbour stands adjacent to the historic centre of Riva del Garda. Nowadays, it’s a great place to go for a walk, to catch the ferry to another lakefront town, and to hire a pedalo.
Further away from the historic centre and just past Riva del Garda’s beaches, you can also visit Porto San Nicolo’. Dozens of sailing boats moor here. If you want to rent a boat or a yacht for the day, this is the place to head to.
7. Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Riva del Garda, Italy
If you are after bird’s-eye views, Riva del Garda more than delivers. There are several spots in and around town offering breathtaking panoramas from above. Here they are:
- Torre Apponale – this is the 13th-century clocktower that dominates the skyline of Riva del Garda. Scale its 165 steps to admire panoramic views of the town and the lake from a height of 34 m.
- Bastione and Funicular – the Bastione is an early-16th century fort that stands above Riva del Garda on the slopes of Mount Rocchetta. A brand new panoramic lift transports you from the town’s historic centre up to the fort. The views are breathtaking and you can continue to enjoy them from the bar and restaurant which nowadays operate inside the Bastione.
- Mount Brione – this is the rocky hill that separates Riva del Garda from the neighbouring town of Torbole. A hiking path leads from Riva del Garda to the summit of Mount Brione. Up there you can enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Lake Garda.
- Chapel of Santa Barbara – this is a tiny chapel built in 1925 at a height of 620 m. You can glimpse it from the historic centre. It’s like a dot on the lush slopes of Mount Rocchetta. You can hike to it, too in about an hour. The path first goes up to Bastione. So, if you prefer, you can take the funicular up to it and save yourself some of the uphill walking.
8. Go to the Beach in Riva del Garda, Italy
Lake Garda is a great place to go to the beach on a hot summer day. Riva del Garda is home to some of the nicest lake beaches for you to top your tan at.
Here are some of the most popular beaches in and around this lovely lakefront town:
- Spiaggia dei Sabbioni – this is a free beach with grassy and pebbly areas. It has a kids’ playground and a large park next to it. There are bars, a restaurant, showers, and toilets.
- Spiaggia dei Pini – this is a very popular local beach that attracts the young and hip crowd.
- Spiaggia di Navene – this is one of my most favourite beaches on Lake Garda. It’s about 13 km away down the road from Riva del Garda. This is a pebbly beach next to the large sailing club Fraglia Vela Malcesine. It has a small olive grove right next to it, a playground for the kids to run around, a couple of benches and picnic tables, a swim raft challenging you to swim across to it, a pair of resident swans and a gaggle of ducks.
Most beaches around Lake Garda are covered in pebbles. Suitable beach shoes both in and out of the water are recommended. Also, please, exercise caution when swimming here. As with every lake and body of water, it’s important to be careful and use common sense. Especially, as the water can get very deep very quickly at Lake Garda’s beaches.
Have a look at these two blog posts for more information about the beaches at Lake Garda and how to spend a great beach day at Italy’s largest lake:
- Lake Garda Beaches – 16 Top Tips for a Great Day at the Beach at Italy’s Largest Lake
- 3 Unmissable Lake Garda Beaches to Sun Yourself On This Summer in Italy
9. Have Fun in and around Riva del Garda, Italy
Riva del Garda is a great place to visit if you want to experience fun and lively Italian events and festivals. This elegant town on the shores of Lake Garda has a rich calendar of happenings that take place all throughout the year.
Here are some of the most important ones:
- Jump in the Canal – a lively festival held over two or three dates in summer. People flock to the small park next to the Rocca di Riva to listen to music, dance, and jump in the canal.
- Garda Jazz Festival – a famous jazz festival held in the first half of August at different locations around the northern extremity of Lake Garda.
- Notte di Fiaba – a weekend in August dedicated to the most favourite stories and fairytales for children. Expect theatrical performances, creative workshops, and a large fireworks display.
- Sailing Events – Riva del Garda hosts several sailing events each summer. Among them stand out the Riva Cup and Melges 24.
- Garda con Gusto – a gourmet experience held over three days in November. Come to taste exquisite food and wine from local producers and celebrated chefs.
Christmas is an especially beautiful period to visit Riva del Garda, Italy. This is when a large Christmas market takes over the town’s historic centre and many events are staged. Most importantly, Santa Claus takes residency in his house on Lake Garda!
Near Riva del Garda, you can also visit some of Italy’s largest and most popular amusement and adventure parks. Click on the links below for further details and to purchase tickets:
- Amusement parks: Gardaland, Gardaland Sea Life Aquarium, Caneva Movieland, Leolandia
- Water parks: Caneva Aquapark, Cavour Aquapark, Garda Thermal Park, La Cavallina Waterpark
- Other parks: Parco Natura Viva, Parco Giardino Sigurta’
- Adventure parks: Busatte Adventure, Jungle Adventure Park.
10. Visit Reptiland in Riva del Garda, Italy
Reptiland is a permanent exhibition of reptiles from all around the world. It is housed in a splendid historic building opposite Rocca di Riva in the town’s historic centre.
If herpetology is among your interests, Reptiland is a great place to visit. Personally, my interests don’t stretch that far. My family volunteered to visit Reptiland without me. They spent about an hour there and told me it was interesting to see the reptiles that are native to Trentino.
11. Marvel at the Waterfall in a Cave Near Riva del Garda, Italy
On the outskirts of Riva del Garda, you can visit the Varone Waterfall. Famously, this is a waterfall inside a cave! In other words, this is a mass of water that falls with great thunder through a 98-m high canyon.
You start your visit by walking inside the Lower Cave. A sinuous boardwalk is affixed to the rough rocky walls. Tiny droplets mist up the air. If you stand close to the railings, the water splashes you. For added effect, coloured lights tinge the constant stream in different shades.
The next stage of the experience is to walk up to the Upper Cave. A wide paved path snakes up the face of the hill taking you higher and higher above the valley below. Tall rugged mountains line up the horizon. The blue waters of Lake Garda glisten in the sun. The stunning views are complemented by the dozens of flowers, shrubs, and trees that have been planted along the path. It’s a veritable botanical garden!
At the end of the path is the much smaller Upper Cave. Inside it, there is a small platform. Standing on it, you can watch the waterfall thunder through the mountain. A local legend talks about a black horse that seems to surge forward from the waterfall. It sounds mad but just as my eyes adjusted from the bright light outside to the eternally dim atmosphere of the cave, I saw the well-defined head of a black horse appear in the sheet of water and rush towards me. Call it an optical illusion, if you like. I didn’t stop to have a good look or think it through. I just ran outside back into the light.
The Varone Waterfall is also close to the town of Arco, Lake Tenno, the medieval village of Canale’ di Tenno, and the archaeological site on Mount San Martino. You can visit them all in a day. Alternatively, you can drive to Lake Ledro after your visit to the waterfall.
12. Take the Ferry Across Lake Garda from Riva del Garda, Italy
Crisscrossing Lake Garda on the board of a ferry is a pleasure like no other. Luckily, Riva del Garda is one of the main points of departure for ferry trips on the lake.
Seeing the lake and the lakefront towns from the water is a very photogenic experience. From the deck, you can spot lakefront promenades, road tunnels carved in the mountains, pastel houses, pebbly beaches, little coves, centuries-old citrus gardens.
Have a look at point 2 in this blog post for more information about travelling by ferry on Lake Garda:
Alternatively, you can book an organised ferry trip taking you from Riva del Garda to a couple of nearby lakefront towns and then back again. In each port, there is plenty of time for sightseeing. Have a look here for further details:
- Round ferry trip from Riva del Garda to Malcesine to Limone sul Garda and back to Riva del Garda
- Round ferry trip from Riva del Garda to Torbole to Limone sul Garda and back to Riva del Garda
13. Go for a Hike in the Beautiful Surroundings of Riva del Garda, Italy
Riva del Garda is a great starting point for many exciting hikes around Lake Garda, Italy. Here, there are many trails to suit all abilities – from flat paths that still afford beautiful panoramic views to Via Ferrata routes that require stamina and concentration.
Here are some picturesque paths and hiking experiences around Riva del Garda:
- Strada del Ponale – a beautiful historic road that connects Riva del Garda to the nearby Lake Ledro. Ten km long, in the past it was the only way to reach the Valle di Ledro. Nowadays, it’s closed to cars and motor traffic. It is very popular with walkers and cyclists for the amazing views it opens over Lake Garda.
- Busatte-Tempesta Trail – one of the most popular hikes around Lake Garda. It takes you high above the lake. Iron staircases with more than 400 steps in total are part of the trail. Affixed to steep rocky slopes, going up and down them gives you stunning bird’s-eye views of the water below and the mountains around you.
- Mount Brione – this is the rocky hill that separates Riva del Garda from the neighbouring town of Torbole. We always joked that Mount Brione looked like someone had dropped a whole cake or a massive Oreo biscuit there and it half sunk into the lake while the other half got stuck almost upright in the air. A hiking path leads from Riva del Garda to the summit of Mount Brione. Up there you can enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Lake Garda and also see the forts that were built there between 1860 and the First World War.
Alternatively, you can join an organised hike and explore the beautiful surroundings of Riva del Garda as part of a group led by an experienced local guide. Here are some starting points:
I have also mentioned several other hiking trails and destinations in the other entries on this list of the best things to do in Riva del Garda, Italy. In addition to hiking, the area around Riva del Garda and Lake Garda is also great for mountain biking, climbing, paragliding, canyoning, and nordic walking. So, it’s the perfect destination for lovers of nature and/or high-adrenaline sports.
14. Eat Local Food in and around Riva del Garda, Italy
Thanks to its location, Lake Garda enjoys a mild Mediterranean-style microclimate. This favours the local cultivation of olive and citrus trees. In addition, Riva del Garda and Trentino were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for just over a century between 1815 and 1918. This combination of geography and history has resulted in some truly delicious local dishes and foods.
Here are some traditional for Lake Garda foodstuffs and some traditional for Riva del Garda dishes and desserts to taste:
- extra virgin olive oil – Lake Garda’s microclimate has favoured the cultivation of olive trees since ancient times. Nowadays, some of Italy’s best olive oils are produced here.
- fresh fish from Lake Garda – the lake waters team with fish – from common carps and eels to brown trouts and even pikes. The local restaurants serve a large variety of fish dishes. Sample as many as you can if fish is something you love to eat.
- black truffles – found on the slopes of Monte Baldo, you can see stalls selling these fragrant tubers at local events and Christmas markets around Lake Garda.
- peaches – Lake Garda is famous for its peach orchards which thrive thanks to the lake’s mild microclimate.
- kiwi – the kiwis grown around Lake Garda help Italy maintain its position as the world’s second-largest producer of kiwi fruit.
- citrus fruit – citrus trees were introduced around Lake Garda in the 14th century by the Franciscan monks. Nowadays, large citrus fruit gardens – called limonaia – flourish on the lake shores. Don’t miss a chance to sample the locally grown lemons and oranges.
- chestnuts – the famous chestnuts of the town of San Zeno di Montagna (about an hour away from Riva del Garda) are particularly tasty and enjoy a Protected Designation of Origin status. They are the fruit of centuries-old forests that grow around this little town on the slopes above Lake Garda.
- goulash trentino – the local version of the traditional Hungarian goulash. It is customarily served with canederli – bread dumplings often made with speck and cheese.
- Luganega sausage – long pork sausage which is often served split open and grilled with a side of potatoes or chips, polenta, and forest mushrooms.
- kaiserschmarrn – thick pancakes studded with raisins and sprinkled with sugar.
- strudel – very popular in the area and sold in every self-respecting bakery and patisserie.
15. Explore Beautiful Lakefront Towns Starting from Riva del Garda, Italy
Riva del Garda is one of a number of beautiful towns dotted on the shores of Italy’s Lake Garda. If you are spending more than a day in the area, then Riva del Garda is a great point of departure to visit as many of them as possible. Rich in history, culture, and nature, Lake Garda’s towns are a delight to discover one by one.
Here are the ones you can easily reach by car, ferry or public transport from Riva del Garda:
- Nago-Torbole – less than 10 mins down the road from Riva del Garda. These two towns – Nago in the hills and Torbole on the lakefront – are heaven for hikers and surfers. To learn more about Nago-Torbole, have a look at point 8 in this blog post: 10 Cities and Towns to Visit in Trentino, Italy (With Map, Photos, and Insider Tips).
- Limone sul Garda – 15 mins down the road from Riva del Garda. Head to Limone to see its centuries-old citrus gardens. If you are travelling by car, make sure that you visit the nearby Tremosine sul Garda and Sanctuary of Montecastello. The former is one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and the latter is a large sanctuary built high above Lake Garda. Take the Strada della Forra – one of the most scenic roads in the world which was also featured in the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. To learn more about Limone sul Garda, have a look at point 8 in this blog post: 15 Must-See Cities and Towns in Lombardy, Italy (With Map, Photos, and Insider Tips)
- Malcesine – 25 mins down the road from Riva del Garda. For me, this is easily the most beautiful town on Lake Garda. For full information on what to see there, have a look at this blog post: 19 Things to Do in Malcesine on Italy’s Lake Garda.
- Brenzone sul Garda and Castelletto sul Garda – about 35 mins down the road from Riva del Garda. These are two cute as a button small lakefront towns. With many beaches, bars, and restaurants in addition to several hiking paths and medieval villages in the hills above them, they are a great destination no matter if you want to relax or keep active.
- Torri del Benaco – less than 50 mins down the road from Riva del Garda. Come here for the majestic medieval castle, its centuries-old citrus garden, the lovely historic centre, and the beaches around town. For full information on what to see there, have a look at this blog post: 15 Best Things to Do in Torri del Benaco, Italy.
- Garda Town – just under an hour down the road from Riva del Garda. This is a beautiful lakefront town with a picturesque historic centre where many large-scale events take place throughout the year. The Christmas market is especially lovely!
- Bardolino – about 1 h down the road from Riva del Garda. This is a lakefront town with a rich history, a cute historic centre, several churches dating back to the 11th-12th centuries, and 12th-century defensive walls. Plus, the local claret wine is especially famous!
Please, note that all travel times are approximate, by car, and start from the historic centre of Riva del Garda. If you are travelling by public transport, bus 484 connects Riva del Garda to Nago-Torbole, Malcesine, Brenzone, Castelletto, Torri del Benaco, and Garda Town going south. To reach Bardolino, you can take a bus from Garda Town or walk on the lovely lakefront promenade between the two towns.
Have a look at this blog post for more ideas about beautiful towns to visit around Lake Garda:
16. Discover Charming Medieval Villages Near Riva del Garda, Italy
Don’t limit yourself to exploring just the towns on Lake Garda. Near Riva del Garda, you will also find a large number of ancient villages. Pretty as a picture with their cobbled streets and centuries-old houses, they offer quick access to beautiful corners of nature, surprising historic facts, and rich local heritage.
Here are some of the best villages to see for yourself in the vicinity of Riva del Garda:
- Canale’ di Tenno – about 15 mins away up the road from Riva del Garda. This is a beautiful medieval village with a thriving art community. Plus, Canale’ di Tenno is close to the striking Lake Tenno. Famous for its turquoise waters, you can easily hike around it in about an hour or so.
- Campi di Riva del Garda – less than 20 mins away by car, this is a tiny village in the lush mountains above Riva del Garda. Near the village, you can visit the archaeological site on Mount San Martino (to learn more about it, have a look at point 9 in this list of 15 amazing places in Trentino, Italy).
- Campo di Brenzone – this is a 1,000-year-old medieval village in the lush hills above Lake Garda. To reach it, you need to park your car in Marniga – a small lakeside community about 35 mins away from Riva del Garda. Then, you need to hike for 30 to 40 minutes following centuries-old mule tracks that weave through olive groves higher and higher above the lake. Have a look at this blog post for information on how to do this hike: Campo di Brenzone – A Great Day Trip to a Medieval Village in the Hills Above Lake Garda, Italy.
- Crero (also known as Crer) – less than 50 minutes down the road from Riva del Garda. Come here to see the prehistoric rock carvings that were chiselled several millennia ago on slickensides – rocks smoothly polished by ancient glaciers. Crero is also a starting point for the hike to Lake Garda’s Tibetan Bridge.
Please, note that all travel times are approximate, by car, and start from the historic centre of Riva del Garda.
17. Practice Water Sports on Lake Garda around Riva del Garda, Italy
Lake Garda offers many opportunities for water sports. You can surf, kitesurf, water ski, dive, paddleboard, even practice canyoning and canoeing here. You don’t have to be an expert either. Many water sports companies around the lake offer tasters, individual and group training, and guided practice. So, if you have ever wanted to try sailing, for example, you can do it in and around Riva del Garda.
Fraglia Vela Riva is a well-established sailing school and regatta organiser. You will find it on the waterfront right past Rocca di Riva.
Fraglia Vela Malcesine is another popular sailing school here. It also has a large yacht club and organises regattas and events. Its impressive marina is right past the beach at Navene – about 16 km down the road from Riva del Garda.
18. Drive to Three More Lakes from Riva del Garda, Italy
As its name clearly shows, Riva del Garda is on the shores of Lake Garda. Yet, the town is also very conveniently located for easy trips to three more lakes nearby! Two of these lakes are only around a quarter of an hour away from Riva del Garda and the third is less than an hour away.
Here they are:
- Lake Tenno – a small lake with turquoise waters. You can hike around it in about an hour and then visit the nearby medieval village of Canale’ di Tenno. Lake Tenno is only about 15 mins away by car from Riva del Garda and is within the Autonomous Province of Trentino.
- Lake Ledro – a very beautiful and peaceful lake. Millennia ago, pre-historic human civilisations flourished here. The remains of many stilt houses have been discovered in and around the lake. Nowadays, a small yet incredibly well-curated museum tells their story. Lake Ledro is only about 16 mins away by car from Riva del Garda and is within the Autonomous Province of Trentino.
- Lake Idro – a thin and long lake where allegedly the legendary monster Idra lives. Lake Idro is less than 50 mins away by car from Riva del Garda and is within the Northern Italian region of Lombardy.
For more information about lakes in Trentino that you can easily visit from Riva del Garda, have a look at this blog post:
19. Visit Some of Italy’s Most Stunning Sanctuaries from Riva del Garda, Italy
As luck would have it, three of Italy’s most spectacular in terms of their location Christian sanctuaries are within an easy journey by car from Riva del Garda. Each one of them is in a different Italian region, thus giving you a chance to explore as much of Italy as possible simply by visiting them.
Here they are:
- Sanctuary of Montecastello – with its location on a steep mountain top, this recently restored sanctuary provides breathtaking views of Lake Garda. You can visit it by driving on one of the most scenic roads in the world – the Strada della Forra. This sanctuary is in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy and you can reach it from Riva del Garda in just over 40 mins.
- Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona – half-hewn into the rocks at a height of 774 m, this is a centuries-old sanctuary in the Northern Italian region of Veneto. Lately, it has been attracting a lot of attention on social media on account of its dramatic location. For information about how to visit and what to see there, have a look at this blog post: Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona – Visiting Italy’s Church Suspended Between Heaven and Earth. You can reach this sanctuary from Riva del Garda in just over 1 h 10 mins.
- Sanctuary of St. Romedius – this is a beautiful sanctuary with an interesting story and splendid location in Trentino’s Val di Non. It’s built on top of a tall rocky outcrop which is where St. Romedius lived as a hermit for many years with only a bear to keep him company. You can reach this sanctuary from Riva del Garda in about 1 h 20 mins.
20. Take the Cable Car to the Top of Monte Baldo near Riva del Garda, Italy
Monte Baldo is an Alpine mountain chain that shelters the eastern shores of Lake Garda. Known as the Garden of Europe for its remarkable botanical diversity, the mountain is crisscrossed by hiking paths and it is a delight to explore.
The Funivia Monte Baldo gives you a chance to quickly get to the top of the mountain. This is a rotating cable car the ground station of which is less than 25 mins away from Riva del Garda. It stands right next to the lakefront town of Malcesine and it has a spacious car park adjacent to it. The ride is truly spectacular as it opens panoramic views over the whole northern half of Lake Garda.
Taking the cable car is one of the very best things to do around the lake. It’s a very emotional experience that leaves you with impressions to last you a lifetime. Once up there, you can spend some time just taking it all in, you can go for a hike, or – in winter – you can ski and snowboard, too!
Bear in mind that Monte Baldo’s cable car is a very popular attraction. During the high season, long queues tend to form. If you only have a limited amount of time to spend at Lake Garda, either buy your ticket online in advance or head to the ticket office as soon as possible to book your time slot.
The journey to the top of Monte Baldo is split in two. The first cable car takes you to the station of San Michele at a height of 560 m. The views of the town of Malcesine as the cable car smoothly glides uphill are soul-inspiring. You feel like you are flying over the red rooftops which slowly grow smaller and smaller and the enormous expanse of Lake Garda fills the panorama with its sparkling blue colours.
At San Michele, you take a second cable car that is bigger and even swisher than the first. While you wait, an open-air platform provides even more stunning views. Board the second cable car and don’t worry about trying to bag the best spot inside for panoramic views and pictures. The cable car slowly swivels around its axe providing a 360 degrees view thus giving everyone on board the chance to enjoy it from all possible angles.
After a short but exhilarating ascent, the cable car stops at a modern terminal at a height of 1760 m. In summer, people go there to practice sports – hiking, paragliding, Nordic walking, and mountain biking – or simply to take in the beautiful views. In winter, you can ski, snowboard or sledge.
21. See Italy’s Shortest River Just Down the Road from Riva del Garda, Italy
Half an hour down the road from Riva del Garda, you can see Aril – officially, Italy’s shortest river. Only 175 m long, Aril runs through the small village of Cassone before flowing into Lake Garda – officially, Italy’s largest lake.
Visiting Aril is a great experience. The river runs fast and furious from its freshwater springs down to the lake. Along the way, it navigates a small weir and three bridges. The village of Cassone itself is pretty as a picture. It was actually painted by one of the most famous symbolist artists – Gustav Klimt (of ‘The Kiss’ fame). His painting of Cassone was sold a few years ago for almost 27 million GBP!
Apart from the River Aril, in Cassone, you can also see the Museum of the Lake. It preserves the memory of the local fishing traditions. The museum has two water reservoirs where you can see the typical for Lake Garda trouts, carps, and eels.
Have a look at this blog post for more information about the River Aril, Cassone, and what to do and see in their vicinity:
22. Fall in Love with Lake Garda’s Most Romantic Corner Just Down the Road from Riva del Garda, Italy
Punta di San Vigilio is a small promontory that juts deep into Lake Garda. It separates the wide southern end from the elongated northern half of Italy’s largest lake.
Often referred to as the most romantic and the most charming corner of Lake Garda, Punta di San Vigilio is less than 45 km away from Riva del Garda. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore it! You can get there either by car or by taking bus 484.
The promontory is a truly lovely place steeped in legends. It has one of the best beaches on Lake Garda. It has a medieval hamlet that nowadays functions as a luxury resort. It offers gorgeous views across Lake Garda. Plus, a gulp of cormorants nests on a tiny islet just off its shores. Many celebrities and even royalty have holidayed at Punta di San Vigilio over the years.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Punta di San Vigilio is to see the promontory from the water. This sailing tour takes you around Lake Garda’s most romantic corner. It also gives you a chance to admire waterside views of other beautiful lakefront sights.
Have a look at this blog post for more information about Punta di San Vigilio at Lake Garda and what to do and see there:
23. Take a Day Trip from Riva del Garda to Some of Italy’s Most Beautiful Cities
Riva del Garda is an easy distance away from some of the most beautiful and rich in art and history Italian cities and towns. If you are spending a longer holiday based in this pretty town on Lake Garda, pencil a day trip to one or more of them.
Here are some of the best destinations:
- Arco – this small town with Austrian heritage is a must-see just off the northernmost tip of Lake Garda. With a picturesque ruined hilltop castle and a cute historic centre, Arco is a great destination for a day trip from Riva del Garda. Plus, the surrounding area is perfect for hiking. You can also stop here on the way to Canale’ di Tenno and Lake Tenno. It will take you around 20 mins to reach Arco from Riva del Garda.
- Rovereto – this is a little-known by the mass tourist yet stunningly beautiful city in Trentino. A curious mix of Austrian and Italian architecture and traditions, Rovereto is a delight to explore. Typically, it will take you between 30 mins and 40 mins to reach Rovereto from Riva del Garda. Have a look at this blog post for more information about the things you can see and do in Rovereto in a day: 20 Photos to Make You Fall in Love with Rovereto in the Italian Alps.
- Trento – the capital of the Autonomous Italian province of Trentino, Trento is a lovely city surrounded by mountains. This is where the Council of Trent was held in the 16th century. Nowadays, Trento has a long list of historic sights and some of the prettiest streets and squares on this side of Italy. It will take you about 50 mins to reach Trento from Riva del Garda. For more information about the things you can see and do in Trento in a day, please, read the Trento entry in this blog post: 10 Cities and Towns to Visit in Trentino, Italy.
- Verona – universally known as the City of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a great place with a multilayered history and dozens of sights to explore. On a good day, it will take you around 1 h 10 mins to reach Verona from Riva del Garda. Have a look at this blog post for detailed information about all the unmissable things to tick off in Verona in a day: 20 Best Things to Do in Verona, Italy in One Day – The Ultimate Itinerary with Photos and Tips.
Please, note that all travel times are approximate, by car, and start from the historic centre of Riva del Garda. Have a look at this blog post for detailed information and tips about driving around Lake Garda:
This blog post will give you further ideas about pretty towns and cities to visit in Trentino – the Autonomous Northern Italian province of which Riva del Garda is part:
Browse through this extensive blog post for more ideas about beautiful historic cities to explore in Northern Italy:
Practical Information about Visiting Riva del Garda on Lake Garda in Italy
Where is Riva del Garda, Italy?
You will find Riva del Garda on the northernmost extremity of Lake Garda. Elegant and picturesque, this is one of the most important towns in the autonomous Italian province of Trentino (which is part of the autonomous Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige).
Riva del Garda is about 40 km away from the provincial capital Trento and about 24 km away from Trentino’s second-largest city – Rovereto. The town is also an easy distance away from the well-known Italian city of Verona. By car, you can cover the 80 km to Riva del Garda from Verona in just over an hour provided there is no heavy traffic.
Torbole to the east and Limone sul Garda to the west are the two lakefront towns that are nearest to Riva del Garda.
How to Reach Riva del Garda, Italy?
Thanks to its size and important position on the shores of Lake Garda, Riva del Garda is easy to reach either by car, bus, train, ferry or a combination of them from all towns around the lake as well as from larger cities like Trento, Rovereto, Verona, and Brescia.
- By car – the lakefront road Strada Gardesana connects Riva del Garda to the other towns on Lake Garda. The road has two branches. – Gardesana Occidentale hugs the western shores of the lake. Gardesana Orientale follows the eastern shores of the lake. During rush hours and the high season, expect heavy traffic and delays. Otherwise, there are good road connections between Riva del Garda and the nearby large cities as pointed above. When travelling by car around Lake Garda, always use your GPS app which may suggest alternative routes to help you avoid getting stuck in traffic, especially during the high season.
- By bus – a well-developed network of local buses connects Riva del Garda to the other lakefront towns and to the nearby larger cities. Bus 332 will take you from Riva del Garda to the nearby town of Arco and then to the city of Rovereto where you can take a train to either Trento or Verona. Bus 484 will take you from Riva del Garda down the lake’s eastern shores to Garda Town where you can take a bus to Verona. Bus 27 will take you from Riva del Garda down the lake’s western shores to Desenzano del Garda where you can take a train to large cities like Milan, Brescia, Verona, Padua, and Venice. Bus s202 will take you from Riva del Garda down the lake’s western shores and then all the way to the city of Brescia.
- By train – Riva del Garda doesn’t have its own train station. Depending on where you are arriving from or where you want to head to, you can use one of four train stations which are within a manageable distance from Riva del Garda. The closest one is in the city of Rovereto. Then you have the train stations in Desenzano del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, and Verona.
- By ferry – from Riva del Garda you can reach by ferry the town of Torbole in 15 mins, the town of Limone sul Garda in 45 mins, and the town of Malcesine is just over an hour.
- By private transfer – you can book in advance a private transfer from Verona to Riva del Garda here and here.
Have a look at these blog posts. They will provide you with extensive information about travelling around Lake Garda and reaching the lakefront towns from the nearby Italian cities and major airports:
- 8 Best Airports for Lake Garda or How to Quickly Reach by Plane Italy’s Largest Lake
- Getting around Lake Garda – 8 Best Ways to Travel around Italy’s Largest Lake
- 3 Easy Ways to Travel from Verona to Lake Garda, Italy
- 3 Easy Ways to Travel from Venice to Lake Garda in Italy
- 3 Easy Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy
When is the Best Time to Visit Riva del Garda, Italy?
Lake Garda has a lovely Mediterranean-style microclimate. Winters are rarely freezing. In summer, a nice refreshing breeze brings a welcome respite even on a scorcher of a day.
When to visit Riva del Garda and Lake Garda in Italy depends entirely on what you want to do and see here. If it is beautiful views, great hiking, amazing food, and historic towns, feel free to come at any time of the year. The lake is gorgeous in any season. There are many events that take place on its shores all throughout the year. From Christmas events in winter to town-wide celebrations in summer, there is always something to do and see here.
Late autumn, winter, and early spring are mostly crowd-free and offer many different types of local entertainment like Christmas and craft markets, food and wine festivals. Plus, skiing and snowboarding on Monte Baldo!
When the weather gets warm, visitors start flocking to Lake Garda. In July and August, the streets are densely packed, restaurants are abuzz with people, and taking a dip in the clear lake waters to cool off is a pleasure like no other.
In August, temperatures in Riva del Garda reach on average 30 degrees Celsius. The shoulder season is especially pleasant here. April and May and then September and October bring temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. However, there is also a slightly bigger chance of rain.
Where to Stay in Riva del Garda, Italy?
You can find all sorts and types of accommodation in and around Riva del Garda to suit any budget. From five-star hotels to value camping sites, there is something for everyone.
No matter where you choose to stay, make sure that you book well in advance. The lake and the lakefront towns are very popular tourist destinations. Prices can rise steeply depending on the season and how little time there is between now and your visit.
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 in Riva del Garda on Lake Garda, Italy.
You can zoom in and out in order to search for a place to stay. 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 you can book directly in the area around Riva del Garda, Italy:
What to pack for Riva del Garda, Italy?
In summer, don’t forget the suncream and your swimsuit. The shoulder season calls also for a light waterproof jacket. Hiking boots are a must in any season if you want to spend time exploring the local hiking paths.
What are some great tours and activities to book at Lake Garda, Italy?
There are many wonderful tours and activities that you can book to enjoy during your stay at Lake Garda in Italy. Click here to see a long list with some great suggestions – from sport and adventure experiences around the lake to food and wine tastings.
If you are staying in Riva del Garda, here are some of the exciting experiences you can book in advance:
- Tour of Lake Garda by coach and ferry
- Full-Day Self-Guided Tour of Lake Garda by Scooter
- Full day tour of Lake Garda
- Vespa tour of Lake Garda
If you are staying in Verona and want to book a day trip to Lake Garda, have a look at these tours. They are a recipe for maximum sightseeing with minimum hassle. Some include a boat trip on the lake, a food and wine tasting, or even a tricycle hire.
Joining an activity or booking a day trip to Lake Garda is a great way to get to do and see things in an organised manner. This way you won’t waste time nor worry about getting lost or missing an important landmark. Picking one or more tours and experiences can also help streamline your sightseeing plans for Riva del Garda and Lake Garda in Italy. Especially, if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
Alternatively, head to some of Italy’s largest and best amusement and water parks. They are within easy reach of Riva del Garda. Click on the links below for further details and to purchase tickets:
- Amusement parks: Gardaland, Gardaland Sea Life Aquarium, Caneva Movieland, Leolandia
- Water parks: Caneva Aquapark, Cavour Aquapark, Garda Thermal Park, La Cavallina Waterpark
- Other parks: Parco Natura Viva, Parco Giardino Sigurta’
- Adventure parks: Busatte Adventure, Jungle Adventure Park
Riva del Garda is one of the most beautiful towns on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy. It is known as the pearl of the lake!
It is the second-largest lakefront town and it is part of the Autonomous Northern Italian province of Trentino. Riva del Garda is the perfect place to visit if you like pretty settings, colourful facades, good food, and lots of opportunities for hiking, exploring, sailing, and keeping active.
From Roman ruins and medieval defensive walls to large sunlit squares and sprawling beaches, Riva del Garda really has it all. Surrounded by tall jagged mountains, the town is a delight to explore. It also offers many options for day trips into three Northern Italian regions – Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardy, and Veneto. Spending a day, a weekend or a longer holiday in Riva del Garda is a great way to have an authentic Italian adventure off the beaten track.
In the above blog post, I shared with you the 23 best things to do in Riva del Garda, Italy. From local sightseeing to local hikes, from local food to local points of interest, everything is covered to give you lots of details to plan your trip in the best possible way.
I hope that the information provided will galvanise you to experience this must-see town on Lake Garda for yourself!
Have a wonderful time in Riva del Garda, Italy!
More Helpful Lake Garda Info for You
Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best Towns, Malcesine, Torri del Benaco, Punta di San Vigilio, Campo di Brenzone
Lake Garda Hiking: Tibetan Bridge, Rocca di Garda, Park of the Waterfalls
Visiting Lake Garda: Lake Garda with Kids, 8 Best Airports, 3 Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda, 3 Ways to Travel from Venice to Lake Garda, 3 Ways to Travel from Verona to Lake Garda, 8 Ways to Travel Around Lake Garda
Lake Garda Beaches: 16 Top Tips, 3 Unmissable Beaches
Lake Garda Sights: Shortest River in Italy, Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona, Lake Garda Castles
More Helpful Italy Info for You
Best of Italy: Italian Piazzas, Italian Food, Italian Markets, Italian Coffee Culture, Rules of Italian Breakfast, Italian Breakfast Foods
Northern Italy: 18 Best Cities to Visit, 11 Major Airports
Day Trips in Italy: Bologna to Venice, Milan to Verona, Venice to Verona, Milan to Venice, Florence to Venice, Verona to Venice, Venice to Padua
Lake Como: Things to See, Nesso
Veneto: Best Cities to Visit, Top 15 Places, 30 Adventures, 15 Most Colourful Places, Beautiful Lakes
Lombardy: Best Cities and Towns
Friuli Venezia Giulia: Venzone, Most Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: Bologna, Ravenna, Comacchio, Most Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to Visit, Gradara, Frasassi Caves, Temple of Valadier
Trentino: Best Cities and Towns, Beautiful Lakes, Lake Caldonazzo, Violins’ Forest
Venice: Essential Tips, Hidden Gems, Best Airports, Boats in Venice, Haunted Venice, Day Trips from Venice, Arco del Paradiso
Verona: Things to Do in One Day, Verona Opera Festival, Day Trips from Verona
Padua: Things to Do in One Day, 101 Facts About Padua, 10 Reasons to Visit Padua, Day Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to Do, Day Trips from Vicenza
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