Desenzano is the main port by the lake. There are frequent connections to many places around Lake Garda.
The ferry port is located in the centre, near the tourist office. There's a small office by the seaside front where you buy your tickets, before boarding the boat. Going to places nearby, such as Sirmione costs 2,60 € for adults. The most common price is 5,50 € though. There are also special 1 day passes, one for the southern part of the lake which is 14,40 € and the northern part which is 12,40 €. The whole lake is 22 €. The website has lots more information.
Ma Kettle and I had plans on travelling the length of Garda Lake this past weekend by ferry, but found the service terminated, either by heavy fog or the season had ended. Couldn't seem to find out.
We took a Sita bus instead, and were most impressed by the comfort of these buses, the friendliness of the drivers, and the price. Most importantly, we liked the route. Tickets are purchased from the news vendor, and the Sita bus departs from a stop a minute to the right of the ferry dock. Price to the far end of the lake was approximately 9 euro (I have forgotten exactly, sorry). The driver does sell tickets, but expect to pay a premium.
We travelled from Desenzano, and hugged the coast line all the way to Riva at the upper end of the lake. The view from the bus is fantastic, just make sure you sit on the drivers right for an unobstructed panaramic viewing.
Ma Kettle kept eyeing these ferries everytime one pulled into the dock. I know that next visit we will be availing ourselves of their services, so we will update as required.
Update We visited Desenzano Oct 31/2005, and the ferry dock was closed. No signage indicating that it was closed for the season, but Lake Garda was fog covered. We travelled by bus to the far end, stopping along the way, and 95% of the hotels were closed.
These are valid for ordinary services (excluding fast services) with no limits as to distance or stops.
For 1 day on all passages (Desenzano-Riva or Peschiera-Riva)
ADULTS - 22,00 Euro
CHILDREN - (4 to 11) - 11,00 Euro
For 1 day south end of the lake (Desenzano-Gargnano or Peschiera-Gargnano)
ADULTS - 14,40 Euro
CHILDREN - (4 to 11) - 7,20 Euro
For 1 day north end of the lake (Riva-Malcesine)
ADULTS - 12,40 Euro
CHILDREN - (4 to 11) - 6,20 Euro
There are trains departing from Padova regularly to Lake Garda, but you must know where on Lake Garda you are going in order to buy a ticket. Pick Desenzano first, since this is the largest town on the lake.
The Regular train costs 5.73 euro per person, one way (2nd class). The price is very inexpensive, and the journey takes at most, one hour. The Intercity was 9.25 euro per person, one way (2nd Class)
The train station is located immediately at the top of Via Cavour, which you then follow down, along a gradually descending hill to Lake Garda, and the main shopping area (centro) Expect a 10 to 15 minute walk. (see the photo)
With luggage, this could be a bit of a hike, especially if you are walking 'back up' to catch your train. Take this into consideration when booking accomodation.
When travelling by train, after you have purchased your ticket, it must be validated.
This is done by inserting the ticket in to special machines located at various sites around the station.
The machine franks the tickets with the date you travel.
We didnt know this going to Venice, but the guard took pity on three Scottish travellers and signed it for us!!
From Desenzano there is a very regular train service to Venice.The jouney only takes about 2 hours. The station is within walking distance from the town centre,at the top a steep hill, so we took a taxi costing only a few euros.
The station has a large waiting room with easy to understand screens for arrivals and departures.
The trains arrived on time and left on time.They were clean and comfortable and we enjoyed a relaxed journey through the Italian countryside.
The train station is located in the southern part of Desenzano (i.e. the opposite of the lake). It's located on a hill, so a walk to the station can be exhausting! It took us about 15 min to walk from the tourist office. From the square behind the office, take via S. Angela Merici, then continue straight forward on Viale Cavour. We stayed in the western part of the city and it took us about 25 min to walk there. There's a bus stop nearby, but I don't know the number(s) of the busses going past. We took a taxi which cost us 7€. We didn't pay any extra charges, which are supposed to be common.
I noticed that it sometimes says that the name of the station is Desenzano Sirmione which really confused me at first. I thought we were stopping at Sirmione first and was really surprised when we suddenly came to Desenzano. There's no train station in Sirmione.
If you are travelling on the Milan-Venice train during the weekend, you can be sure that the train is usually very full! I experienced this when I was going to Mestre to fly home. Luckily, we had reserved seats. This costs 3 Euros extra per person. I would really recommend you to get this, unless you're going a shorter distance. But even if you have reserved seats, it doesn't neccessairly mean you will get them. The whole corridor was packed and it was tough to get through with our big suitcases! Luckily, we didn't have to walk far to find our seats. I'm a bit confused about the seat numbers though cause we had a low number but still found it in the middle of the train. You can check the reservation cards outside each compartment though.
To go by taxi between our residence and the train station cost us about 7, 50 €. It should cost less if you go to the more central parts. We didn't pay any extra fees which surprised me cause I had read that there're lots of them: extra for luggage, weekends, holidays, etc.
You have to phone for a taxi or go to a taxi station. There's one by the station and one outside the tourist office. So you can't stop one in the street.
There must be very attractive travelling around in such an car, although one might have a very huge parking problem with it especially in area of the Garda Lake.
You wont have big problems driving your car in Desenzano because the traffic inside the town area is very well organized. A kind of traffic jams you might expect during the weekends and in the evening hours when many youngs from nearby places come to the town.
Lago di Garda is rather small lake and you can across it side by side in a short time. In order to visit other places on the lake, I suggest you such a speed boats. There are also more bigger boats for touring around the lake, visiting most of the attractive places, such as Sirmione, Peschiera, Lazise, Bardolino, Malcesine, Garda or Salo.
Probably the most comfortable way to get to Desenzano is by train. By doing so, you'll avoid the usual traffic jams especially in the high summer season. There are very good and frequent train connections between Desenzano and most of the other Italian major towns. The Italian trains are in very good conditions, comfortable and clean.
Ma Kettle and I are convinced that Desenzano was created for the sole purpose of wandering, hand in hand, or arm in arm (after all, this IS Italy), along the narrow cobble stone streets, savouring life as it presents itself.
There is no feeling of time here, no pressure of any sort, and no real crush of like-minded tourists, such as you experience in Venice, Florence, and Rome.
In Desenzano, you stroll at your leisure, choosing the pace you desire, stopping to gaze at the beautiful blue waters of Lake Garda, and watch the graceful sails of countless pleasure craft skimming across the gentle waves.
We were here on May 1st, which is the start of the season, plus a holiday for the Italian people. The German people also consider Lake Garda area a popular destination, so crowds were to be expected.
During the day, we easily wandered about, always finding a spot on a bridge, or an opening along the breakwater from which to enjoy a photo op. So, the crowds we expected to find, were here, but because there is so much open space, we were never swept along through narrow corridors, or pushed aside by the crush of humanity. Every step was casual, and taken at our speed, never forced.
Every bar had space available outside to sit and enjoy a beverage (David Letterman), and bask in the sun, or hide in the shade, whichever, but done at your pleasure.
Desenzano is THE PLACE to come with your significant other.
To my surprise there are even bicycle paths and routes to be followed.
From what I heard, it is very pleasant to bicycle down such paths.
Just a matter of finding and following these signs I think, I might try next year.
Desenzano has a trainstation and is on the Venice-Milan-Turin railway line; a train leaves at about every hour.
When we travelled to Venice we bought rail tickets at the ticket-office, but we could probably as well have taken cards from the machine (at the right in the picture).