On the western coast of Lake Garda, close to Salò and its natural continuation, is the splendid town of Gardone Riviera, an excellent place, considered to be a real and proper botanical garden and indissolubly related to the historical figure of Gabriele D’Annunzio.
Among luxurious vegetation and wellbeing oases
Gardone Riviera is a famous tourist destination and vacation area on the coast of the Garda lake. It is only 37km from Brescia and at the beginning of the “Riviera dei Limoni” (the lemon coast), where numerous parks and gardens neighbour the lake’s shores and are alternated with historical villas like Villa Alba.
Gardone Riviera’s position allows its visitors to enjoy a special microclimate with luxurious vegetation and an elegant atmosphere, as well as the evocative lakefront boardwalk where various musical and cultural events are held in the summer.
Also known for its beautiful beach recently awarded with the Bandiera Blu (Blue flag), from Gardone Riviera you can go discover nearby places of the splendid Lake Garda with pleasant boat trips.
From here you can easily reach the Western Gardesana, a road that skirts the lombard coast of Lake Garda and crosses fascinating lakefront towns until reaching Riva del Garda, a town that in recent years has become a small surfing paradise.
Bicycle lovers may bike on the bike path suspended above lake Garda that connects Limone del Garda to Capo Reamol, a small town two kilometers north. It is the most spectacular bike path in Europe, and offers breathtaking views while pedalling 50m above the water level.
The enogastronomic itinerary of the precious extra virgin olive oil of Garda begins in Gardone, but the town’s main attractions remain the park and museum-house of the Vittoriale of the Italians and the beautiful Hruska botanical gardens.
The tourist station of Luigi Wimmer
Gardone Riviera was founded by barbarians, and during the middle ages became the residence of the Ugoni family. After becoming part of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, in 1797 the town was occupied by troops of the Jacobin government of Brescia after the arrival of the French.
Near the end of the 1800’s the town started to become an important tourist station for Germans, who were convinced that the place had a positive influence on their health.
The austrian Luigi Zimmer in particular was fascinated by the place and moved here with his wife Emilie in 1874 and began the construction of different hotels. In a couple of years numerous hotels were born, like the Grand Hotel Gardone, the Grand Hotel Fasano, the Hotel Montebaldo, the Hotel Bellariva in Fasano (a hamlet of Gardone Riviera), and the constantly growing flux of german tourists contributed to a great boom in the tourism sector.
The Vittoriale of the Italians
In 1921 the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio arrived in Gardone Riviera. From this moment on the town’s destiny was closely tied to that of this great writer, who lived here until his death in 1938.
His bequest is portrayed by the monumental complex of the Vittoriale degli Italiani (Vittoriale of the Italians), that definitely deserves a visit. The Vittoriale was built for D’Annunzio and is a complex that not only houses the Vate’s (D’Annunzio’s nickname) living quarters, but also his grave, a museum, various relics, a library, an open theater, beautiful gardens, alleys, squares, and water streams.
Every corner of this place, visited every year by more than 250.000 people (258.555 in 2017, and 233.402 in 2016), is a true and proper surprise. At the peak of the Vittoriale is the mausoleum, an imposing funerary monument that stands out at the top of the complex and where D’Annunzio rests.
The Hruska Botanical Garden
Another place that absolutely must be visited during a field trip to Gardone Riviera is the Hruska Botanical Garden, today part of the André Heller Foundation.
The garden was created over a century ago by Arturo Hruska, a czech dentist. After visiting Gardone for the first time in 1905, Hruska fell in love with Lake Garda and decided to move here.
The man had a passion for botany and purchased land near the foot of the Lavino Mountain, where he dedicated a 10.000 square meter surface to realize his biggest dream: an immense botanical garden.
To resolve the irrigation problem he created numerous streams and between 1910 and 1971 he planted over 500 different plant species native to every corner of the planet, from the Alps to the Himalayas, from Mato Grosso to New Zealand, from Japan to Australia, from Canada to Africa.
In this wonderful botanical garden the typical vegetation of Lake Garda is alternated with plants from central Europe, the Mediterranean coasts and the Tropics.
The water streams form waterfalls and ponds that make the perfect habitat for water lilies, papyrus, and lilies. The jingle of the water walks the visitors through little woods and fields rich in colourful vegetation, conducting them to one of the biggest attractions in the garden: the section dedicated to the mountain area built to imitate the Dolomites.
The place’s greatest charm is how the scenery can completely change in a few meters. One may be walking in a tropical garden flourishing with colourful plants, then find themselves in a Japanese garden dominated by bamboo.
In 1989 it became property of André Heller, a composer, designer, and theater author, but the garden didn’t go through any changes botanically. It was however enriched, and among the trees, fields, and streams he added works of artists of international fame like Keith Haring, Mimmo Paladino, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Tours and recommended itineraries
This tour is composed of itinerary 1 plus the navigation through the renowned small town of Gardone Riviera.