As if Verona wasn’t fabulous enough for a weekend trip, it’s also on the doorstep of another one of the Italian lakes. So after last year’s side trip from Milan to Lake Como, this year I was able to fit in a day trip to Sirmione, a small village nestled on a peninsular jutting into Lake Garda.

After a bit of online research we decided the easiest way to get to Sirmione from Verona was by bus. We picked up the no 26 in Corso Porta Nuova, just south of Piazza Bra. Its only 53 minutes on the schedule, but as we went on a Sunday we had to change onto a local shuttle bus just inside the peninsular, which added on some extra time. Sundays are busy on the roads and they don’t want to delay the long distance bus.

You get off just outside the village and walk into Sirmione across a narrow bridge, the only access point. Next to it is Rocca Scaligera, a wonderful turreted castle built in the 13th century and almost entirely surrounded by water. It’s a proper fairy-tale castle but with serious battlement walls that would no doubt have kept the territory safe.

Its free to go in on Sundays (4 Euros otherwise) and you can wander around the walls, climb the square towers, admire the enclosed harbour and look at the gorgeous views of Lake Garda and the Sirmione rooftops.

Once you’re into the village’s narrow streets it immediately feels crowded as its a popular spot in the summer months. But we were ready for lunch, so started to wander down towards the lakefront and quickly found Ristorante Caruso at the end of Via Romagnoli.

A modern Italian in a lovely position right on the lake it was the perfect spot to eat pizza and drink wine away from the busy village centre. In fact we found it so relaxing we stayed for another drink!

After lunch we headed back to the main street Via Vittorio Emanuele and found there were plenty of small shops to browse and some gorgeous bougainvillea covered buildings.

We walked on to the end of the street and Piazza Piatti. By now the crowds had thinned significantly as not everyone bothers to explore the top end of the Sirmione peninsular. In my opinion they are missing the best bit as that’s where the fabulous Grotte di Catullo sits high above the lake.

To get there you can pick up an electric train in Piazza Piatti, but its less than half a mile so we walked. On route we detoured through the olive groves to look down at Lido delle Bionde beach where you can pay to sunbathe and swim in the lake.

The grotto is the open-air remains of a large Roman villa. It has a small museum with artefacts and fragments of mosaics and then you can wander for as long as you like in the archaeological area. Amazingly it was also free to enter that day as it was the first Sunday of the month.

There are maps and boards explaining the different areas of the house which aren’t always clear, but it doesn’t really matter. Just moving between the ruins of the rooms you can get the sense of what an amazing home this once must have been. And the views of the lake, being right on the tip of Sirmione peninsular, are to die for.

Walking back to the village we took Via Giuseppe Piana the parallel street to Vittorio Emanuele and found it was much quieter with some lovely houses, perhaps where the locals live or maybe for rent to visitors. I can imagine Sirmione feels quite different once the day trippers have left.

But being day trippers ourselves we embraced the opportunity for a bit of shopping and then eventually decided which of the many geletaria to choose for buying our inevitable ice cream. There were also more gelataria in Sirmione than I think I’ve seen in such a concentrated area, even in Italy!

We could have also taken a boat trip on the lake and there are also plenty of ferries that take you to other destinations around its edges. But we were quite happy with our trip to Sirmione which although busy is well worth a visit, especially if you get away from the crowds and see everything it has to offer.

Click on an image below to scroll through the gallery and read about Verona in my previous blog post. There are also lots of other ideas for weekend breaks in the Europe section of my blog.