I am looking for a city as base to explore Lake Garda, Lake Como, Lake Iseo + 1-2 day trip to Venezia.
I think that Sirmione will fit well in my itinerary, but maybe you have another ideas? Maybe it' better to stay in Brescia/Verona/Bergamo?
We will travel by train and buses, no car.
Sirmione is a beautiful place - it has the narrow alleys, a unique geography and the architecture one would want, along with views of the water and little piazzas where one could, in theory, comfortably drink an espresso or an aperol spritz.
Unfortunately - it is probably the most crowed tourist attraction I have seen in Italy outside of Venice. This is no joke - moving through the streets can at times be quite a chore, and I avoid the place during the high season because moving about with a four-year-old in tow is stressful.
Before you think I hate the place - I should add that I do go there several times a year, and enjoy the cafes, the ice cream and a walk around the ruins of a Roman villa at the back end of the peninsula - which is surprisingly quiet considering the chaos in the town below. (go to the Villa on Sunday - entrance is free then.)
I think staying there overnight could be a bit much. It will certainly cost a fortune, and since you plan on moving about, I really don't know how you'd move quickly, either with or without a car. It would add 30 minutes at least to any trip, anywhere. Excepting the water taxis, and ferries for the lake. These leave from a dock on the east side of the penensula, and are easy to reach, but are expensive, and are more of an outing than a real transportation alternative. (think 80 Euros p.P. for a round-robin trip on a ferry - much much more for a taxi.)
Verona is a great Italian city. There would be plenty to do there - but - it is still about 30 minutes by car from Lake Garda (at least - the far side of the lake is much further than that) and the connections by train are only so-so. Additionally - if you want to go to Comer See or Lake Iseo - its on the wrong side of Lake Garda!
Which brings me to an important point: Lake Como and Lake Iseo are not that far from each other....but they are a considerable distance from Lake Garda. If you only plan on spending one or two days "in the area" - then I'm afraid your trip will consist of mostly road or railway travel! You'll burn up most of your time travelling from one place to the other!
Lake Iseo is small - and good for a day trip - but not much more....but Lake Como and Lake Garda both have more than enough to keep anyone happy for weeks - perhaps even a lifetime! (I love these places!)
I can recommend staying in Como proper for Lake Como - a gorgeous town with good ferry connections for the rest of Lake Como - or at Bellagio - smaller and more centrally located.
Lake Garda has many little towns on its banks. The northern part of the lake is alpine, with high mountains and cute little spots. Riva del Garda is at the northern end, and is bigger, busy, and good - smaller would be Limone sul Garda on the west shore - with sharply dropping slopes to the water's edge.
On the opposite side, Malcesine fulfills most people's idea of an Italian village - with shopping and cafes and winding alleys.
Be aware that the northern end of Lake Garda especially, is more German than Italian. This is both due to the huge number of tourists from the north, as well as the fact that the region is still 50% German-Speaking. (the area was Austrian until after WWI)
The south of Lake Garda is decidedly more Mediterranean. I can recommend Garda as well as Brenzione and Lazise to stay....nice spots with water views and cafes.....
Have fun - but I recommend taking it slowly! Nobody ever found La dolce vita on a train - eh?
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Eugeny, I suggest you Desenzano del Garda, because there are bus station, train station and highway (if you want to use blablacar!
and it is a nice location. Enjoy!!