Malcesine is a beautiful town on the shores of Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda.
It’s perched on a small promontory crowned by a medieval castle. Behind it stands Monte Baldo – a tall solid mountain where rare flowers bloom. In front of it stretch the lake’s sparkling blue waters.
Malcesine is picture-perfect! Its streets – narrow, cobbled, and curved – follow the promontory’s steep descent all the way down to the harbour where fishing boats sway back and front. Officially recognised as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and small towns, Malcesine is a great place to visit for its stunning views, deep layers of history, many opportunities for hiking and watersports, as well as for its authentic atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve been transported into a classic Italian film.
A great destination for a day trip or a longer holiday on the shores of Lake Garda, Malcesine has a lot to offer in terms of things to do and sights to see. The town is especially appealing to those seeking beauty, curious landmarks, and immersion in the Italian way to be.
With its unique location on the edge between a mountain and a lake, Malcesine is great to visit in any season. It’s a place where you can sail and kitesurf in summer and ski and snowboard in winter.
Malcesine was one of the first towns on Lake Garda that I had the chance to visit when we moved to Italy in 2014. Seeing its historic centre and its medieval castle from the board of the ferry that was taking us across the lake was one of the most cinematic experiences I had during the six years that we spent in Italy. After that first visit, I never missed an opportunity to return to Malcesine and fall in love with it again and again.
So, in this blog post today, I want to share with you 19 wonderful things to do in Malcesine, Italy. From historic sights to great local dishes, from a ride in a rotating cable car to finding a secluded beach in the heart of this small Italian town, I have collated lots of great tips to inspire you to visit Malcesine for yourself.
I have organised these 19 things to do in Malcesine according to their character and awesomeness! I understand that every traveller is unique and has his or her own expectations. Feel free to see as many or as few of the Malcesine landmarks listed herewith. Do it in any order that fits your plans and interests.
At the end of this blog post, I have also included lots of practical information to help you plan your visit to Malcesine, Italy. From how to get there to accommodation, I hope it all comes in very handy.
Have a look!
19 Things to Do in Malcesine on Italy’s Lake Garda
1. Visit the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine, Italy
There are many medieval castles dotted around Lake Garda in Italy. For me personally, the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine is the most beautiful of them all. It’s built on top of a rocky outcrop and it crowns the small promontory to which the houses of Malcesine’s historic centre cling. Its crenellated defensive walls seem to grow organically from the steep slopes.
The history of Malcesine’s Scaliger Castle dates back to the early Middle Ages. The Lombards first built a fort here to control the navigation on the lake. At the end of the 6th century, the fort was destroyed and then rebuilt by the Franks. In 1277, the fort became the property of Alberto della Scala – a member of the Scaliger dynasty of medieval rulers of Verona. He remodelled it into the castle we see nowadays.
Surrounded by cypresses, pomegranate and citrus trees, Malcesine’s Scaliger Castle is truly stunning. For many centuries, the town could only be accessed by water and the castle played an important role in protecting the territory and controlling the lake traffic. The Siresina Gate is the only point of entry to the castle and its grounds. A proud donjon protrudes above the different buildings and the courtyards are surrounded by sturdy walls.
Nowadays, the Casermetta – one of the castle’s main buildings – hosts the local Natural History Museum of Monte Baldo and Lake Garda.
In addition, in the Goethe Room of the castle, you can admire sketches of Lake Garda and Malcesine drawn by the famous German poet, playwright, and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Goethe visited Malcesine in September 1786 and busied himself sketching its Scaliger Castle. The locals thought that he was an Austrian spy and petitioned the mayor to arrest him. It was only through the advocacy of a local man who had spent years in the writer’s home city of Frankfurt, that it was established that Goethe was in fact, German. He was then allowed to continue free on his Italian journey.
Another curious thing to see in Malcesine’s Scaliger Castle are the remnants of Venetian ships from the first half of the 15th century. At the time, Lake Garda was more or less split between the Republic of Venice and the Duchy of Milan. They were in constant conflict with one another. Wanting to take their enemies by surprise, the Venetians had military boats transported from the Adriatic Sea to Lake Garda. The boats first navigated up the River Adige and then were carried overland for the last part of the journey. The overland transport of boats at the time was a daring engineering enterprise. The campaign became known as Galeas per montes (in English, Galleys over Mounts).
Malcesine’s Scaliger Castle is a great place to visit for its history and the panoramic views its hilltop position affords over the red rooftops of the historic centre, the blue waters of Lake Garda, and the mighty slopes of Monte Baldo. A must-see!
You can buy a ticket for Malcesine’s Scaliger Castle from the ticket office at its entrance and then explore the castle by yourself. Alternatively, click to book a visit led by an experienced local guide who will reveal many interesting and little-known details about the castle and its history.
2. Take the Cable Car to the Top of Monte Baldo Right Above Malcesine, 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.
As luck would have it, a rotating cable car connects Malcesine to the top of Monte Baldo. The ride is truly spectacular as it opens panoramic views over Malcesine and – the higher you go – the 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 time to spend in Malcesine, either buy your ticket online in advance or head to the ticket office as soon as you arrive in town 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 the lake 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 hike, paraglide, practice Nordic walking and mountain bike or simply to take in the mesmerising views. In winter, you can ski, snowboard or sledge.
3. Spend Time in the Lakefront Garden of the Palazzo dei Capitani in Malcesine, Italy
The Palazzo dei Capitani is a large historic building near Malcesine’s harbour. It has a beautiful garden that opens stunning views across Lake Garda. The building is in the Venetian Gothic style and has an interesting story. It was originally built between the 13th and the 14th centuries on top of Romans and Romanesque ruins. At the time, it served as one of the residences of the Scaliger dynasty – the medieval rulers of Verona and the lands around it.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the Republic of Venice took over large swathes of land around Lake Garda. By that point, the original building of the Palazzo dei Capitani had been almost entirely destroyed in either an earthquake or a fire. It was then re-built in the Venetian Gothic style and was used to house the Captain of the Lake. This was the local ruler who was in charge of the federation of ten lakefront municipalities and looked after the local interests of the Republic of Venice.
As you walk down Via Capitanato in the historic centre of Malcesine, you will spot the heavy gate of the Palazzo dei Capitani. If it’s open, don’t miss your chance to visit this beautiful place. As you step over the threshold, you will find yourself in a large, perennially dim salon with a frescoed ceiling. It depicts the emblems of the rulers who centuries ago commanded Malcesine. Look up and you will spot Malcesine Castle and the Winged Lion of St. Mark – the symbol of the Republic of Venice.
A large gate at the other end of the salon leads into the garden. It’s a beautiful place! In the past, the boats commanded by the Captain of the Lake used to be anchored just by the garden walls.
The palace has several floors. Nowadays, it houses Malcesine’s council and the local library. The ground floor and the garden are open for visits free of charge. The first floor is used for concerts, conferences, and as a wedding venue. Click to book a ticket for a classical music concert in Malcesine’s Palazzo dei Capitani. This will also give you a chance to see the frescoed rooms and halls of the palace which are usually closed to the public.
4. Take Photos of the Boats in Malcesine’s Harbour
Malcesine’s harbour is a beautiful spot. Tall buildings in yellow and ochre shades frame the basin where fishing boats sway side to side in the water. It’s picture-perfect!
Restaurants and cafes line up the harbour and the adjacent square. During the high season, it is a great place for people-watching. In the quieter months, it’s so nice being here on your own with your thoughts and the beautiful views across the lake.
This is also where the pedestrian ferries to some of the other towns on Lake Garda leave from. The crossing to Limone sul Garda – a charming town on the western shores – takes only about 20 minutes.
5. Walk Down to Posterna Beach in Malcesine, Italy
The Posterna Beach is a hidden gem in Malcesine. It is absolutely tiny and it’s surrounded by huge rocks and medieval fortified walls. After your visit to the Scaliger Castle here, follow the tiny cobbled street to the left of the castle all the way down to the beach. At the end of the short walk, there are a few long flights of irregular stone steps to navigate, too.
The effort is worth it! You will find yourself at one of the most picturesque spots on Lake Garda. Just bear in mind that the beach is tiny, so it’s not really perfect to actually spend time here sunbathing or relaxing. It’s more of a charming, hidden spot where you can stop for a few moments, drink in all that beauty around you, and just feel happy to be here now.
6. Explore the Historic Centre of Malcesine, Italy
One of the biggest delights about Malcesine is that there is no need to hurry here. You can take it really easy and just walk around, tick off a couple of sights, pop in and out of the local quirky shops, and spend hours enjoying a relaxed lunch.
The best way to do it is to simply follow without a plan nor a hurry the cobbled streets in the historic centre of the town. Flanked by tall houses with centuries-old facades, they reveal hidden tunnels, small alleys, faded frescoes, large wooden gates, blooming pomegranate trees, and verdant vines.
Every turn you take brings you another small surprise. It could be a steep cobbled street that rushes down to the waterfront where kids play on the small quay and swans glide past. It could be a stone tunnel that cuts through the ground floor of a tall building. It could be a tiny sunlit square. Or you can find yourself in front of a local ice cream parlour – or gelateria as they call it in Italian – where they sell gelato flavoured with herbs from Monte Baldo.
In a country famous for its historic town centres, Malcesine really stands out with its quirky, beautiful central part. Make sure that you put some time aside to just walk around and take its beauty in!
If you prefer a more structured approach or if you don’t have much time to spend ambling around Malcesine, then you can book this tour of the town’s historic centre led by an experienced local guide.
7. Shop in the Whimsical Shops and Boutiques of Malcesine, Italy
Malcesine has a great selection of small shops and boutiques. From pricey Italian fashion to pieces by talented local artists, you can come across some truly great finds here.
A special mention deserves the famous Al Osteria Baccala’. Although called an osteria, don’t expect to eat here. Instead, this tiny shop is full to the brim with bric-a-brac and other such treasures! Old clocks, birdcages, lanterns, nightlights, figurines, plaques and signs… Name it and you will find it here. Al Osteria Baccala’ is right around the corner from the Scaliger Castle. When the shop is open, a wonderful array of objects takes over the cobbled space in front of it. It’s a very whimsical spot in an already quirky and picturesque town.
Even if you are not into shopping that much, put a bit of time aside to explore the small shops and boutiques of Malcesine. You can pick delicious local food products in the town’s delis, some fancy items to decorate your home, or you can splurge on a beautiful piece of jewellery, a painting or something equally special to remind you of your time at Lake Garda for years to come.
8. Learn About Malcesine’s Green Gold
Olive trees dot the slopes around Malcesine, Italy. The area is famous for its olive oil. A fact you will quickly become aware of as you walk around the historic centre of the town. Everywhere you look, you will spot large millstones. Circular and heavy, in the past, they were used to press the olives to a pulp to extract the precious oil.
Thanks to Lake Garda’s mild microclimate, this is the northernmost corner of the world where olive oil is produced. The local olive oils are of extremely high quality and enjoy a protected designation of origin status.
The Olive Growers Consortium of Malcesine unites 550 local olive oil producers. On average, 400,000 kg of olives are picked by hand and processed each year here. This yields 70,000-80,000 kg of olive oil. You can buy some of it yourself in the consortium’s retail outlet in town. You can also join a guided tour of an old oil mill and learn first-hand about the olive oil traditions of Lake Garda.
Alternatively, following one of the many hiking paths around Malcesine is bound to take you through an olive grove or three. A particularly beautiful hike through the olive groves here is the one leading you to the medieval village of Campo di Brenzone.
9. See Italy’s Shortest River Just Down the Road from Malcesine, Italy
Five minutes down the road from Malcesine, 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. Cassone is part of the municipality of Malcesine. The distance between the two is just over 4 km. You can either drive there or walk on the lakefront promenade.
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:
10. Go for a Hike in the Beautiful Surroundings of Malcesine, Italy
Perched on a spot where steep slopes kiss the sparkling waters of the lake, Malcesine is a great starting point for many exciting hikes to suit all hiking abilities.
Here are some picturesque paths and experiences in the area:
- Madonna della Accoglienza – a circular path leading you to a panoramic terrace with a large statue of the Madonna.
- Tibetan Bridge – almost 40 m long, the Tibetan bridge hangs over the steep canyon of Val Valzana. Have a look at this blog post for information on how to do this hike: Lake Garda’s Tibetan Bridge – A High-Adrenaline Hiking Experience in the Veneto, Italy.
- Grotta Tanella – a beautiful cave located at the foot of Monte Baldo. It can be visited as part of a guided tour which follows an itinerary of about 400 m into the heart of the mountain.
- Rocca di Garda – this is a flat-top steep hill that overlooks two of Lake Garda’s most important towns – Bardolino and Garda Town. Have a look at this blog post for information on how to do this hike: Rocca di Garda – Hiking to the Best Panoramic Spot of Lake Garda, Italy.
Alternatively, you can join an organised hike and explore the beautiful surroundings of Malcesine as part of a group led by an experienced local guide. Here are some starting points:
In addition to hiking, the area around Malcesine 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.
11. Take the Ferry Across Lake Garda from Malcesine, Italy
Crisscrossing Lake Garda on the board of a ferry is a pleasure like no other. Luckily, Malcesine has two ferry terminals:
- Malcesine Centro – for pedestrians only. It’s operational year-round. You will find it at the harbour in the historic centre of the town. It’s perfect to catch the ferry to Limone sul Garda, Gargnano or Riva del Garda, for example.
- Malcesine Traghetto – for cars and pedestrians. It’s operational during the high season. You will find this ferry terminal just over one km up the road from Malcesine’s historic centre. If you travel by car and you don’t fancy driving around the lake, taking the ferry from here is very convenient, provided it’s the high season.
From Malcesine, the ferry boats take just 20 mins to reach the town of Limone sul Garda on the opposite shore of the lake. The journey is short but very beautiful. From the deck of the ferry, you can spot lakefront promenades, road tunnels carved in the mountains, pastel houses, pebbly beaches, little coves, centuries-old citrus gardens.
Don’t miss a chance to take the ferry from Malcesine across Lake Garda. The western and northern shores of Italy’s largest lake are dotted with lovely towns and a long list of sights for you to explore on a day trip or over a longer period of time.
Have a look at point 2 in this blog post for more information about travelling by ferry on Lake Garda:
If you are staying across the lake from Malcesine and are considering a day trip to this beautiful town, then look into booking one of these organised ferry trips:
- Round ferry trip from Riva del Garda to Malcesine to Limone sul Garda and back to Riva del Garda
- Round ferry trip from Gargnano to Malcesine to Limone sul Garda and back to Gargnano
12. Go to the Beach in Malcesine, Italy
Lake Garda is a great place to go to the beach on a hot summer day. Malcesine has some nice beaches for you to top your tan at.
I already mentioned the picturesque Posterna Beach under point 5 above. In addition, here are a few other beaches near Malcesine on Lake Garda (spiaggia in Italian means beach in English):
- Spiaggia di Paina – about 100-150 m away from the historic centre of Malcesine, this is a large beach with a swim raft, beach volleyball court, and a skateboard area.
- Lakefront of Malcesine – just after Malcesine’s harbour and before Val di Sogno, you can find another nice beach with lots of eateries and bars nearby.
- Baia di Val di Sogno – this is a very beautiful area with iconic views of Malcesine. The beach begins right after Malcesine’s hospital. There is a small beautiful island just off this beach. People swim to it and even walk to it when the water recedes.
- Spiaggia di Cassone – about 4 km down the road from Malcesine stands the small village of Cassone with Italy’s shortest river running through it. You will find a nice pebbly beach here, too.
- Spiaggia di Campagnola – about 3 km up the road from Malcesine, this is a large pebbly beach with a good choice of nearby eateries and cafes.
- Spiaggia di Navene – this is one of my most favourite beaches on Lake Garda. It’s about 4 km up the road from Malcesine. 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 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.
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
13. Fall in Love with Lake Garda’s Most Romantic Corner Just Down the Road from Malcesine, 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 only about half an hour down the road from Malcesine. 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 Italy’s largest lake. 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 decades.
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 and 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 here:
14. Explore Beautiful Lakefront Towns Starting from Malcesine, Italy
Malcesine 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 Malcesine 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 Malcesine:
- Brenzone sul Garda and Castelletto sul Garda – about 10 mins down the road from Malcesine. These are two cute as a button small lakefront towns. With many beaches and bars in addition to several hiking paths and medieval villages in the hills above them, they are a great destination no matter if you are after relaxation or want to keep active.
- Limone sul Garda – 20 mins across the lake from Malcesine. Take the ferry to Limone to see the 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.
- Nago-Torbole – less than 20 mins up the road from Malcesine. These two towns – Nago in the hills and Torbole on the lakefront – are heaven for hikers and surfers.
- Riva del Garda – less than 25 mins up the road from Malcesine. This is Lake Garda’s second-largest towns. Expect a stunning lakefront location, Austrian architecture, many unmissable sights, and an air of pure elegance.
- Torri del Benaco – less than 25 mins down the road from Malcesine. Come here for the majestic medieval castle, its centuries-old citrus garden, the lovely historic centre, and the beaches around town.
- Garda Town – half an hour down the road from Malcesine. 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 35 mins minutes down the road from Malcesine. 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 or ferry, and start from the historic centre of Malcesine. If you are travelling by public transport, bus 484 connects Malcesine to Brenzone, Castelletto, Torri del Benaco, and Garda Town going south and to Nago-Torbole and Riva del Garda going up north. 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:
15. Discover Charming Medieval Villages Near Malcesine, Italy
Don’t limit yourself to exploring just the towns on Lake Garda. Near Malcesine, 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 Malcesine:
- 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 15 mins away from Malcesine. 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 30 minutes down the road from Malcesine. 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.
- Canale’ di Tenno – about 40 mins away up the road from Malcesine. 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.
Please, note that all travel times are approximate, by car, and start from the historic centre of Malcesine.
Have a look at this blog post for more ideas about charming villages to explore in the Veneto (the Italian region to which Malcesine belongs):
16. Practice Water Sports on Lake Garda around Malcesine, Italy
Lake Garda offers many opportunities for water sports. You can surf, kitesurf, water ski, dive, paddleboard, even practice canyoning and canoeing. 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 Malcesine at Lake Garda.
Fraglia Vela Malcesine is particularly famous. This is a large yacht club and organiser of regattas and events. Their impressive marina is right at the back of the nice beach at Navene – just over 4 km up the road from Malcesine.
17. Eat Local Food in and around Malcesine, Italy
Thanks to its location between a lake and a mountain, Malcesine has some truly delicious local dishes and foods. Here are some traditional for Lake Garda foodstuffs 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. You can sample and buy the olive oils produced by the Olive Growers Consortium of Malcesine.
- 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. A particularly famous local dish is the so-called bigoli con le sarde. This is thick long pasta served with a delicious sauce of sardines caught in Lake Garda.
- 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 San Zeno di Montagna (about 30 mins away from Malcesine) 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.
In addition, enjoy the large variety of local cheeses and wines. The pink claret of Bardolino is particularly famous. Here are a couple of wine tastings you can enjoy during your stay at Italy’s Lake Garda:
For dessert, sample the gelato with herbs from Monte Baldo made by La Bottega del Buon Gelato in the historic centre of Malcesine. Alternatively, head from Malcesine to Riva del Garda and take full advantage of the local patisseries with Austrian influences.
As a nice edible souvenir, stop at Punta di San Vigilio (about half an hour down the road from Malcesine) and buy a bag of San Vigilini. These tasty biscuits were invented for the visit of the then-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Lake Garda.
18. Have Fun in and around Malcesine, Italy
Malcesine is a great place to visit if you want to experience traditional Italian events and festivals. This small 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:
- Malcesine in Fiore – an annual event held each May. This is when the historic squares of Malcesine host a huge flower and plant market.
- Feast of St. Anna – each year on 24th July the locals celebrate the feast day of Malcesine’s Patron Saint.
- Musica nelle Piazza – a summer festival with live music and performances on Malcesine’s squares.
- Ciottolando con Gusto – an annual event held each September. A food event with Malcesine’s restaurants and eateries serving specially developed dishes using zero km foods and local herbs.
Near Malcesine, 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
19. Take a Day Trip from Malcesine to Some of Italy’s Most Beautiful Cities
Malcesine 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 a city or town nearby.
Here are some of the best destinations:
- 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. It will take you from around 55 mins up to 1 h 20 mins to reach Verona from Malcesine. 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.
- 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. Plus, the surrounding area is perfect for hiking. You can stop here on the way to Canale’s di Tenno and Lake Tenno, too. It will take you around 30 mins to reach Arco from Malcesine.
- 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 35 mins and 45 mins to reach Rovereto from Malcesine. 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 this side of Italy. It will take you anything from 40 mins to an hour to reach Trento from Malcesine. 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.
Please, note that all travel times are approximate, by car and start from the historic centre of Malcesine. Have a look at this blog post for detailed information and tips about driving around Lake Garda:
Browse through this extensive blog post for more ideas about beautiful historic cities to explore in Northern Italy:
Practical Information about Visiting Malcesine on Lake Garda in Italy
Where is Malcesine on Lake Garda?
You will find Malcesine on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Small and picturesque, the town is about 60 km away from Verona and on the territory of the Northern Italian region of Veneto. It’s Veneto’s northernmost comune. It has a land border with the autonomous Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige and a water border with the Italian region of Lombardy.
A comune is an Italian territorial term which in English corresponds roughly to a municipality. The Comune of Malcesine comprises the town of Malcesine with its lakefront historic centre, the frazioni (divisions) of Cassone and Navene, and a number of localita’ (localities). Of the latter, Val di Sogno deserves a mention. This is a place with lots of hotels, a lakefront promenade, stunning views over Malcesine, and a popular pebbly beach.
How to Reach Malcesine on Lake Garda?
One of the main towns on the shores of Lake Garda, Malcesine is easy to reach by car, ferry, and bus. Here is how to do it:
- By car – depending on traffic, it will take you from 55 mins to about 1 h 20 mins to reach Malcesine from Verona.
- By ferry – it takes about 20 mins to reach Malcesine by ferry from Limone sul Garda in Lombardy on the western shore of Lake Garda. The ferry journey from Riva del Garda in Trentino is just over an hour.
- By bus – you can take a bus from Verona to Garda Town and once there, change to bus 484 which will take you up to Malcesine.
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 Malcesine on Lake Garda?
Protected by the slopes of Monte Baldo, Malcesine enjoys a mild Mediterranean-style microclimate. Winters are rarely freezing and in summer a lovely breeze brings a welcome respite even on a scorcher of a day.
When to visit Malcesine and Lake Garda 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.
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 July and August, temperatures in Malcesine reach on average 29-30 degrees Celsius. The shoulder season is especially pleasant here. April and May and then September and October bring temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius. However, there is also a slightly bigger chance of rain.
Where to Stay in Malcesine on Lake Garda?
You can find all sorts and types of accommodation around Malcesine and Lake 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 Malcesine 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 Malcesine, Italy:
What to pack for Malcesine on Lake Garda?
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 Malcesine, here are some of the exciting experiences you can book in advance:
- Tour of Lake Garda by coach and ferry
- Full day tour of Lake Garda
- Bike tour of Monte Baldo and Crero
- 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 Malcesine 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 Malcesine. 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
Malcesine is one of the most beautiful destinations on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy. This small town has it all – stunning location, historic sights, quirky shops, good food, and great opportunities to hike and practice sports.
If you are looking for a place in Northern Italy where you can be close to both history and nature, then Malcesine is a great place to explore. Plus, in summer you can sunbathe on the local beaches. And in winter you can ski and snowboard on top of Monte Baldo – the large mountain that provides Malcesine’s dramatic backdrop.
It doesn’t matter if you only have a day to spend in Malcesine or if you are planning a longer holiday here. There are lots of things to do and sights to see both in the town and the area around it. To help you plan your visit, in this blog post, I have listed in detail the 19 best things you can do in and around Malcesine in Italy.
I hope that the information provided herewith will galvanise you to see and experience this small town on Lake Garda for yourself!
Have a wonderful time in Malcesine, Italy!
More Helpful Lake Garda Info for You
Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best Towns, Riva del Garda, 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, Milan to Lake Garda, Venice to Lake Garda, Verona to Lake Garda, Travel Around Lake Garda
Lake Garda Beaches: 16 Top Tips, 3 Unmissable Beaches
Lake Garda Sights: Best Theme Parks, Best Castles, Shortest River in Italy, Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona
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
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
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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