Download the chapters of the audio guide
1 – Presentation – download
2 – Tips for a visit – download
3 – The church of St. Anna – download
4 – The castle – download
5 – The church of Santa Maria Maggiore – download
6 – From Santa Maria Maggiore to the Grotte of Catullo – download
7 – The “Grotte di Catullo” – download
8 – The church of San Pietro in Mavinas – download
9 – Thermal Baths of Sirmione – download
10 – Piazza Carducci – download
11 – Dining with olive oil, wine and pikes – download
12 – Other routes – download
Complete texts of audio guides
The peninsula of Sirmione stretches out for 4 km in the heart of Lake Garda.
Its favourable location and climate explain the presence of man in all ages of history, from the pile-dwelling settlements onwards.
Artists and poets have visited and written songs about this town , bearing witness to the fascination exerted in all ages.
The old town stands on a triangle of land a little over a mile long and about seven hundred metres wide, on which 3 hills rise less than three hundred metres above sea level: Cortine, San Pietro and the “Grotte di Catullo”.
2. Tips for a visit
The tour begins in Largo Goethe, at the entrance of the bridge leading to the historic center.
The route to follow is that of a slow walk, making it possible to see the remains of the past and the beauty of nature.
In this first part of the path, which looks mainly at the eastern side of the lake, one can admire the St. Anna’ s church, the Scaligero castle, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the remains of St. Salvatore’ s church ,until to get access to the archaeological park of the “Grotte di Catullo”.
From here begins the road back.
After having climbed the hill where you find the church of San Pietro in Mavinas, one descends on the western side of the peninsula, and find the Thermal Baths Establishment “Catullo”, Via Vittorio Emanuele and Piazza Carducci, where boats dock.
A few steps more and you are returned to the bridge, from which the visit had begun.
3. The church of St. Anna
Just past the bridge, on the left, you find the church of Santa Maria del Ponte, dating from the late 15th century, a small church with a nave attached to the castle complex.
It has always been called “Church of St. Anna” as the revered figure in a fresco fragment is identified with the Virgin mother. A little further on, in front, you can admire the imposing Scaligero castle.
4. The castle
The castle of Sirmione, one of the most complete and best preserved in Italy, was built by Mastino The First della Scala, lord of Verona, around 1259 and completed in two further phases.
The fort, completely surrounded by water to defend the village and control of the lake, was occupied by a garrison.
By crossing the drawbridge, you can stroll on walkways around the walls and go up 146 steps to the top of the east tower, about 30 m high, from where breathtaking views can be enjoyed.
There is a fee to visit the castle.
Beyond the castle, right along the wall of the moat, turn left and go uphill along Via Dante arriving to the southern wall of the Santa Maria Maggiore’ s church, following it and reaching the front of the church.
5. The church of Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Maggiore, also called Santa Maria della Neve, is the parish church of Sirmione. The building rests, on the northern side, on the walls of the medieval fortifications that enclosed the village in the north. Its construction dates from the late 15th century, as shown by the coloured murals, dating from the early ‘500. The interior has a nave and five altars. The entrance is a porch with five arches, once part of the cemetery adjoining the church: you can see five graves on the floor.
Often in the past, the oldest materials were reused for new construction. We can see here two examples. The last pillar of the entrance porch, on the left, is in fact a milestone dedicated to the emperor Giuliano L’Apostata, who lived in the 4th century after Christ. In the churchyard you can find a memorial stone dedicated to Jupiter, used today as a charity box.
6. From Santa Maria Maggiore to the Grotte of Catullo
Strolling along the northern wall of the church, along the churchyard, you arrive at a terrace from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the lake to the east of Mount Baldo. By going down the stairs and climbing down the side street of the Ansa dei Longobardi one reaches, by entering the park, on the left, the remains of the church of San Salvatore, dating back the 8th century. Returning to the public park in the pathway one goes left and then down to the right, taking a small, steep staircase leading to the lake shore, along the main streets of the Passeggiata delle Muse.
Turning left along the lake one reaches the Lido delle Bionde. After the thermal baths establishment, on the left, a steep path leads to via Catullo. Turn right at the end of the street and find the Orti Manara Square, from where you can visit the archaeological park of the “Grotte di Catullo”.
7. The “Grotte di Catullo”
Paeninsularum Sirmio insularumque ocelle… (Oh Sirmione, pearl of the islands and peninsulas …)
Il poeta Catullo (nato nell’87 e morto nel 54 avanti Cristo) sicuramente frequentÃ² Sirmione, ma le rovine a lui intitolate appartengono ad un edificio costruito quasi un secolo dopo. The poet Catullus (born in ’87 and died in 54 BC) certainly lived in Sirmione, but the ruins, dedicated after his death, belong to a building built almost a century later. This is a vast archaeological site of 20.000 m2, located on the end of the northern part of the peninsula, where the impressive Roman ruins emerge among the olive trees and the blue of the lake. In fact, very little remains of the building, because materials were looted and taken away over the centuries, . One can, however, admire the grandeur of the building, especially by visiting before entering, the “Antiquarium”, where a model that gives the idea of â€‹â€‹the whole structure can be admired. The Antiquarium, located at the entrance, contains a lot of exhibits belonging to different ages found during archaeological excavations in the villa, in the center of Sirmione and in some other locations of the Lake Garda. There is a fee for visiting the archeological park.
Once leaving the Grotte di Catullo, andretrace your steps,take the uphill, which leads to the church of San Pietro in Mavinas.
8. The church of San Pietro in Mavinas
The church of San Pietro in Mavinas (from the Latin “in summas vineas”, among the highest vineyards) dates back to the 8th century, while its bell tower was built between the 11th and 12th centuries. The murals of the three apses belong to the same period, while those along the walls were painted in 1320, when the church was partially rebuilt and raised. Even in mid-19th century, because of its remote location, a hermit lived on the premises. The surrounding area, formerly used as a cemetery, was built in the 19th century. Since 1955, in the churchyard, the bell called , “Julia,” recalls the fallen of two world wars with its severe strokes.
Beyond the church, along Via San Pietro in Mavinas, you reach the western side of the peninsula. At the bottom of the hill, you turn left, and arrive, after a few hundred metres ,to the thermal baths establishment “Catullo.”
9. Thermal Baths of Sirmione
The source Boiola, flowing at 400 metres from the shore of the peninsula, has been known since ancient times for its beneficial effects. Its precious sulphureous water, which feeds two thermal establishments, the “Catullo” of Sirmione and the “Virgilio” in Colombare, is effective in the treatment of respiratory, vascular and skin diseases.
Inhalation treatments, massages and mud therapy are practiced in the two spas. The Deafness Care Center of Sirmione is one of the most renowned in Europe, while the establishment of Colombare is an active center equipped in long treatment of Broncopneumologia. Since several years, the Thermal Baths “Catullo” have been enriched by “Aquaria”, the Wellness Spa Center that combines the latest technology in water and mud baths. Beyond the Catullo Thermal Baths you continue along Via Vittorio Emanuele until you reach Piazza Carducci, where you find the boat docking area.
10. Piazza Carducci
Piazza Carducci, the heart of the old town, was once a port called Gazzara. Here famous travelers arrived by boat from Desenzano, attracted by the fame of Sirmione, on the wings of the verses of Catullo,that soon spread beyond national borders. The “venusta Sirmio” fascinated, among others, Queen Margaret, Carducci, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and many others. In times less remote, from the second half of the 20th century, Sirmione became a popular destination for jet-setters. But the name of the peninsula is especially related to Maria Callas : “I so miss Sirmione” â€“ she confided to a friend, just before her death, in Paris, on 16th of September 1977.
The famous soprano, in fact spent long periods in her husband’s, Giovan Battista Meneghini, house here in Sirmione, where she rested from the stress of her intense artistic activities. A few more steps and you are back to the Castle square and then to the bridge, from which the visit had begun.
11. Dining with olive oil, wine and pikes
Food and wine of Lake Garda are worldwide known.
The key elements of tradition are three: the delicate oil, produced on the Riviera, white wine, called “Lugana” from the area south of the lake where it was born, and some types of fish such as pike, carp and perch.
The many popular restaurants in the area can suggest these specialties in elegant and tasty recipes.
12. Other routes
Sirmione celebrates a happy marriage between art and nature that you can admire by adapting to the slow rhythms of the waves and relaxing. A pedestrian promenade has been constructed that allows you to wander from the east coast, from Punta Gro, up to the rocks of the Lido delle Bionde under the ridge that supports the Roman villa. It is a journey of about 6 km, surrounded by the blue sky and water.
More romantic, however, on the west coast, the “Walk of poets,” which revolves around the “Staffalo”, tip in view of the old lighthouse that signals the reefs to mariners . To reach the Poets’ Walk, take the end of Via Vittorio Emanuele, along Via Punta Staffalo.