The lake was formed from melted glaciers which came from the Alpine mountains which surround the northern side of the lake, and archeological discoveries show that the area was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age. In the late 5th century the Ostrogoths, a branch of the Goths, established a fortress on the Rocca south of the town of Garda. Rocca was invaded several times and finally was captured by the Venetians. There are several examples of Venetian architecture in the area.
Major communities on the shores of the Lake Garda include Malcesine which has a quaint historic center with meandering cobbled streets but is best known for the Castello Scalligero, a 13th century fort with a medieval tower. Within the castle the remains of an Etruscan tomb were uncovered. The community is framed by Monte Baldo which rises 2,218 meters behind it and visitors can take a cable car to the top for spectacular views and to visit the botanical gardens.
Sirmione has luxurious lakeside resorts,
thermal bath resorts and
hotels such as
gardaland but is largely known for its historic significance. There are Roman ruins in the town as well as a castle. Le Grotte di Catullo on the Sirmione peninsula is surrounded by olive groves and citrus trees, here the remains of the villa of Catulla was found which probably belonged to a wealthy Roman official.
In Gardone you can see beautifully preserved medieval and baroque buildings in the historic center as well as elegant villas from the early 20th century. Peschiera del Garda is a town encircled by 16th century walls and has a picturesque historic center.
Castle of Arco was the home of the Arco counts in the Middle Ages, the castle overlooks a small town and the castle has featured in many famous paintings including that of Albrecht Durer which is exhibited in the Louvre, Paris. The castle and the village are connected by a series of enclosing walls and the village has gateways where you can enter. The castle dates back to the 12th century and includes a cistern cut out of the rock which is filled by rainwater collected on the roofs
The Fortress of Nago was constructed in 1860, it has two levels the upper floor was used to accommodate troops and the lower level has an entrance which blocks the road. There used to be 6 cannons on the upper level and 2 on the lower. The fort has been restored and there is now a restaurant on the lower level.
Near to the village of Nago are the ruins of Penede Castle, the location changed hands many times including being fortified by the Romans, ruled by Austria and attacked by French and Spanish troops. In 1703 the castle was destroyed. The castle's elevated location on a rock outcrop offers panoramic views over the lake.
Tenno Castle is a large grand structure with battlements protecting a small fortified village, the castle is privately owned so cannot be visited.
The Mount Brione Fortress is another stunning piece of Lake Garda architecture, its construction began in 1862 and various other fortifications were added over the years.
Other historic structures in the region include Il Bastione at the bottom of Mount Rocchetta, it is made out of grey stone, dates back to the early 16th century and has recently been restored. The Apponale Tower in Riva del Garda was constructed in 1220, it rises 34 meters and has recently been renovated so that you can climb the 165 steps to the summit. Another famous tower is in the village of Pietramurata, Torre Guaita was built in the 16th century it is made with rough stone in a quadrangular shape. On the eastern shores of Lake Garda is Torri del Benaco, a fortified commune where you can see a 14th century castle, Scaliger Castle which faces a quaint Roman harbor. Today the castle is home to an Ethnographic Museum. Torri del Benaco is surrounded by pine trees and olive groves and is one of the most charming and most visited of the Lake Garda communities.
For those that want to take in a bit of history and culture there are plenty of historic towns around Lake Garda to walk around too. You need never be stuck for opportunities for a beautiful and enjoyable walk or for nature lovers there is beauty to catch your eye at every turn, from beautiful flowers to stunning wildlife and birds or if you are looking to combine a walking holiday with a beach holiday then day trips to Trentino would be perfect.