Riva del Garda is a nice town located on the northern coast of Lake Garda, surrounded by high mountains and steep cliffs. Riva has a small historic center with quaint streets and numerous shops and restaurants. It is also an excellent base both for experiencing the lake and for exploring the nearby mountains: there are trails to go along, boat trips to do on the lake, and also many trips to do in the surrounding area.
Best Things to do in Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda Historical Center
The visit of Riva del Garda can start from Piazza III Novembre, the main square that opens onto the small port. At the corner of the square is the Apponale tower, built to guard the port in the 16th century: 34 meters high, you can climb its 165 steps leading to the top and admire a beautiful view over the whole town. A small bronze angel is put on the top of the tower: it is called “Anzolim” and is the symbol of Riva del Garda.
The nearby Piazza Catena is the departure and arrival point of the lake navigation boats, whose name recalls the chain that every evening, many years ago, was lowered into the water with a winch to close the port.
From Piazza Catena there is a maze of alleys that stretches behind Piazza III Novembre: it is the historic center of the town, made up of many colorful houses.
Leaving the historic center through the San Marco gate begins the climb leading to the bastion, a tower dating back to 1508 which has become one of the symbols of Riva del Garda, as well as one of the main points of interest to visit. It can be reached with an easy path of about 20 minutes and from the top of the hill, you have a beautiful view over the whole of Riva and Lake Garda. From the bastion, the path would continue to the small church of Santa Barbara, a beautiful hike that offers a breathtaking view of the Trentino mountains.
MAG Alto Garda Museum
The fortress, one of the main monuments of the city, surrounded by water, is now home to the Alto Garda Museum (MAG). The museum is certainly one of the things to visit in Riva del Garda: it is divided into sections dedicated to archeology, paintings and life around the lake in the past, and there are entire sections dedicated to children.
From here, in a few minutes, you can reach the beautiful lakefront, full of gardens and beaches and with beautiful views of the lake. It is possible to continue walking along the entire lake from the city center until you reach San Niccolò Fortress, at the foot of Mount Brione, in about half an hour, even reaching Torbole. The lakefront is also the starting point of the cycle path that connects Riva del Garda, Torbole and Arco.
Riva del Garda Beaches
In summer, in Riva del Garda, it is also possible to swim in the lake. The best time to swim or spend time on the Riva del Garda beach is certainly in the morning, as it is generally less windy. In fact, in the afternoon, the famous Ora wind begins to blow from south to north. The best place where to swim is Sabbioni beach, not far from the center of Riva, otherwise at Porfina beach.
Sailing and Diving
Riva del Garda is also the ideal place to learn to sail or to go out on a sailing excursion around the lake, while nearby Torbole is one of the main points for kitesurfing and windsurfing throughout Europe, thanks to the winds of Lake Garda. If you prefer something more adventurous, you can try a real dive: the lake reaches 350 m depth and there are several points of interest in which to dive. One of these is certainly the “Silent Christ”, a three-meter statue of Jesus lying on the bottom of the lake.
Trekking around Riva Del Garda
The itinerary to discover Riva del Garda can continue by trekking. You can start from the center of Riva del Garda and walk along the Strada del Ponale, a panoramic path that reaches the Ponale waterfall at the entrance to Ledro Valley. The Ponale is a stream that originates from Lake Ledro and ends in Lake Garda with a water jump of about 30 meters. Few people know that a few meters from the busy Strada del Ponale there is a system of tunnels and positions, built by the Austrian army just before the First World War. With a guide, you go through tunnels, reach observation posts on the lake and overcome 180 steps, entering the heart of the mountain.
Canale di Teno
Another tourist itinerary is the one in the direction of Canale di Tenno, climbing through curves, olive trees, and spectacular views of Lake Garda. You can make a first stop at the Varone waterfall (admission fee). The waterfall is formed by the waters of the Magnone stream, which makes a jump of almost 100 meters. This spectacle of nature can be visited through walkways that lead to two viewpoints: the upper and the lower ones. The Varone waterfall is the most famous of all and certainly one of the things to see absolutely in Riva del Garda.
Canale di Tenno is a medieval village considered one of the most beautiful in Italy for its cobbled streets and the typical architecture that has survived almost intact to this day. Canale di Tenno is also the ideal starting point for excursions, such as the “Gardatrek”, an itinerary for multi-day shelters, or to Lake Tenno, which can be reached with a simple twenty-minute walk. The splendid waters of this lake invite to a pleasant stop.
Looking at the northern shore of Lake Garda, between Riva del Garda and Torbole, you can see a wedge-shaped mountain, which cuts the coast into two parts. This is Mount Brione, on which there are numerous fortifications dating back to the times of the First World War, which can be easily visited both on foot and by bicycle, with spectacular views of the lake.
The Busatte – Tempesta path is a path literally suspended on the side of the mountain. The path reaches Busatte, just above Torbole, and Tempesta, 4 km later. The best way to get to the trail from Riva is to take a bus (or walk) to Torbole and then just walk a short uphill walk to get to Busatte, where there is also an adventure park.
Via Ferrata Climbing
Another thing to do from Riva del Garda is to go up a via ferrata (translates as “the way of iron”), which are real paths that allow hikers to climb rock walls safely thanks to a system of cables, steps and ladders. The via ferratas were initially built by WWI soldiers to carry supplies up and down the trenches, and some of them still exist today. There are several via ferratas that can be easily reached from Riva del Garda; they are found mainly around Arco. An easy one is the one on Mount Colodri, perfect for beginners and for those with little experience of this sport. The via ferrata of Monte Colodri can also be done by children.
Trekking with donkeys
Another very special activity to do is trekking with donkeys. In fact, it is possible to go on excursions with donkeys in the Alps. Walking with a donkey is a real experience of returning to nature, which allows you to savor the slow times of nature. Furthermore, this is one of the things to do absolutely if you go to Riva del Garda with children: donkeys are very docile animals that are able to immediately establish a very strong relationship of empathy with children. With the donkeys you can reach Malga Zanga, a typical mountain hut located on Mount Velo about 11 km from Arco; it is an enchanting place, surrounded by larch and beech woods and with a breathtaking view of the Brenta Dolomites. At the Malga it is also possible to sleep or simply spend a few hours.
Riva del Garda Foods
A trip to Lake Garda cannot ignore the typical taste and flavors of its territory. Getting to know the culinary traditions and local recipes is in itself a fascinating experience. Furthermore, sitting at the table and having lunch in front of a panorama like that of Lake Garda is priceless. The cuisine of this area has a Mediterranean identity and as valuable ingredients, it has olive oil, citrus fruits, freshwater fish, vegetables, and lean meats, while the mountain tradition translates into dishes based on polenta, cheeses, cured meats, but also rabbit and Austro-Hungarian goulash.
Among the specialties we remember the cold dish with raw “salada” meat, served with a drizzle of Garda olive oil, the “Ciuiga del Banale”, cheeses from the Ledro Valley and Molche bread. Carne “salada” (salted meat) derived from an ancient need to preserve meat, which was salted and spiced, then cut very thin and served with pickles from the garden.
The “Ciuiga del Banale” is instead a kind of pork sausage with turnips. Once the peasants were poor and in the absence of meat they added turnips to sausages to make it appear richer. Every year this sausage is enhanced during the Ciuiga festival, in San Lorenzo in Banale, in Trentino.
Ledro Valley is full of mountain pastures where excellent cheeses are produced. Molche bread is also typical of the area, made by adding the remains of the milling of olives to the bread dough, making it very soft and tasty.
The first courses of Lake Garda are spinach “strangolapreti”, Trentino meat dumplings, “bigoli con le aole” and tagliolini with truffle from Mount Baldo. The most popular first courses have a clear Trentino origin, in fact we are talking about the “strangolapreti”, gnocchi of stale bread with spinach and their cousins, the “canederli”, also made with soaked bread and local cold cuts.
The “bigoli con le aole” are spaghetti with a special fish from the lake and fresh pasta dressed with a sprinkling of truffle from Mount Baldo.
Among the main courses to taste thera are the roasted polenta from Storo, made with a special red cob flour from the nearby Chiese Valley, together with trout “en saor”, that is marinated in vinegar, herbs and onions. Among the fish you can also taste the mountain char, the carpione and the pike, accompanied by broccoli of Torbole, a very special vegetable grown in the Torbole area.
Among the meats we have the aforementioned “salada” meat, in this case cooked and accompanied by boiled beans, but also roast rabbit with polenta, “luganeghe” (large sausages) with sauerkraut and spicy stew (goulash).
Finally, as regards the desserts, the typical one is the “strudel”, since many apples are grown in the area. But the strudel can also be made with a plum jam from Dro, a native species. At the end of summer, it is also traditional to make plum gnocchi, a dessert of Bohemian origin based on potato dumpling paste, wrapped in caramelized breadcrumbs with sugar, butter and cinnamon.
Finally, we also have Drena chestnuts with which to make the classic “castagnaccio” or more delicate desserts with mountain honey.
Of course, you can taste also local wines, paired with the typical dishes of the area. With Nosiola, a native vine of the Laghi Valley, extraordinary white wine and the Vino Santo Trentino, a sweet passito wine traditionally pressed during Holy Week are produced. This wine is ideal to end the meal. But if you love red wines, Merlot, Cabernet, Rebo and Pinot Nero are also produced in the area.
How to get to Riva del Garda
To get to Riva del Garda, the closest airport is Verona (about 1 hour by car), followed by Bergamo and Venice (about two hours). From there renting a car is by far the most convenient way to reach Riva del Garda. The closest motorway is the A22 – Brenner, which connects Verona to Austria and Germany. There are also two state roads: state road 249 and state road 45 bis that run along the two shores of the lake among scenic views.
For those wishing to use the train, the closest railway station to Riva del Garda is Rovereto, located on the railway line that connects Verona to Trento, Bolzano, Innsbruck, and Munich.
There are also buses that connect Riva del Garda to Trento and the Rovereto train station, or to other towns along the shores of Lake Garda. If instead, you plan to visit Riva del Garda from other lakeside towns, the ferry is by far the most scenic and easy way to get there.