Traveling to any of the cities on the shores of Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), Italy's largest lake, is relatively straightforward, whether you're traveling by car or public transportation. A rental car or private driver in the most practical option for stopping off to explore the small towns along the lake. But there are also buses and, in the summertime, ferries connecting the lakeside towns.
On the southern end of the lake, Peschiera del Garda is the largest city and the main point of arrival from Milan, Venice or Bologna. At the lake's northern end, Riva del Garda is the biggest resort town, and can be reached from Trento, Bolzano, Innsbruck (Austria) or points within the Dolomite mountains.
No matter which end of the lake you choose to begin your exploration of the area, a private transfer is a good option for those who can afford it, and allows you to take in the stunning scenery along the way.
Getting to Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda, a stop on this 7-day tour of Milan and the Lakes Region, makes a good base for exploring the lake and is about equidistant between Milan and Venice.
The 87-mile (140 km) drive takes about 1 hour, 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Take the SR11 roadway out of Venice, and pick up the A57/Tangenziale di Mestre. The A57 merges into the A4 Torino - Trieste Autostrada, also signposted as the E70. You'll stay on the autostrada until you see the exit for Peschiera del Garda.
If you're traveling by train from Venice, both Trentialia currently offers 13 daily direct trains from Santa Lucia railway station, with a travel time of about 90 minutes. Italo, Italy's private rail service, also offers direct trains from Venice Santa Lucia or Venice Mestre, with about the same travel time.
Read more about getting to the Italian Lakes Region from Venice.
Driving from Milan, it's an 82-mile (135 km) trip to Peschiera – a straight shot along the A4 Autostrada until you reach the Peschiera exit. Travel time is about 90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
Both Trenitalia and Italo offer direct trains from Milano Centrale station to Peschiera. Travel time on Italo is 1 hour, while Trenitalia trains take either 1 hour or 90 minutes, depending on whether you travel on a fast Frecciarossa train or a slower (but much cheaper) Regionale.
Peschiera is about a 95-mile (152 km) drive, which takes between 90 minutes to 2 hours, 30 minutes, depending on traffic. There are no direct trains from Bologna to Peschiera. Travel on Trenitalia involves changing trains at Verona, while Italo's schedules involve a transfer at Milano Centrale.
Getting to Riva del Garda
Drivers from Trento, Bolzano, points north, and/or those entering Italy from the Austrian border at the Brenner Pass will take the A22/Autostrada del Brennero, also signposted E45, south to the Rovereto Sud/Lago di Garda North exit, then take the SS240 11 miles (17 km) on to Riva. From Trento, the 25-mile (41 km) drive takes less than 1 hour. It's 67 miles (107 km) from Bolzano, or about a 90-minute drive. Innsbruck, Austria is 140 miles (225 km) from Riva, or about a 3-hour drive.
By public transportation, Mori is the closest train station to Riva del Garda. Direct trains connect Bolzano and Trento to Mori. There are also more frequent Trenitalia and Italo trains to the nearby city of Rovereto, from where Trentino Trasporti buses offer transfers to Riva del Garda.