The waters of time: art on the lake banks
I hate and I love, wrote the poet Catullus, whose ancient caves are still perfectly within reach at the far end of the historic centre. Because it is this very contrast that gives rise to the most authentic beauty. And as if by magic, this happens in Sirmione every day.
The ruins from the Roman era lie close to the green plane trees and hundred-year poplars and finally sink into the blue waters of Garda Lake, which stretch calmly to the horizon and warm the air with a pleasant warmth even in the coldest season.
Sirmione is a gem containing an island and peninsula, a land of poets and the goal of many visitors, which emerges like a rough diamond from the lake waters and offers itself to view like a precious record of times gone by, in the memory of a glorious, history-rich past.
The Castle of Sirmione
Rocca Scaligera (Scaliger Castle), for example, is one of the best preserved castles in all of Italy: an architectural prodigy, bathed in soft light on all sides and used as a defensive position until a few centuries ago, to defend the inland from assaults by foreign conquerors.
Over the drawbridge, you continue to the inner courtyard of the castle, sheltered by the lookout towers, with a gaze towards the horizon and your back to the hills of Garda, whose gentle slopes whisper “comfort” and invite you to take a walk in the next few days.
The town of Garda, only a few minutes away, was in old times a favoured observation place, and even centuries later its function seems unchanged. Whether you visit in winter to enjoy its temperate climate, or in summer, with your arms caressed by a silken breeze, you will always have a vista that is unique among its kind, coloured with a green reflection of its breath-taking scenery on the waters of the lake.
Welcome to Garda's living room
Yesterday and today: there is no better definition of the town of Sirmione. A small city, with a population under eight thousands, strategically placed halfway between Brescia and Verona and ideal for outdoor day jaunts.
Sirmione is a unique place, a true treasure that, as such, belongs to you, even if you have never been there. Its lighted streets, the cobblestones on the old streets and the dovetail battlements that decorate the Castle towers are ready to welcome you to an amazingly intact historic centre resisting the passage of time, in which the varied aromas coming from the kitchens of the best restaurants compete to make your mouth water with the soft scent of spices.
The Grottoes of Catullus: an archaeological site you must visit
Near the end of the peninsula you see imposingly silhouetted the Catullo caves, in which it is thought that the poet Catullus lived about a half century before the birth of Christ.
Even now, on a sunny day, the caves can offer you a breath-taking view: that of an ancient villa whose borders extend for two hectares, where one can still visit the ruins of the indoor spas built in Roman times and discovered again only during excavations in the 1800s that unearthed the villa from the embrace of surrounding nature.
Goethe, Kafka and the celebrated Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio are only a few of the artists who in the past were enchanted by the unreal atmosphere, almost suspended in time, that encloses the entire archaeological complex.
One final motto that may be useful in prompting you to visit this picturesque village facing Garda Lake, and it is “Hic et Nunc”. Here and now, or the way that the Romans defined something that should happen as quickly as possible, without delay.
Even if you visited Sirmione in your youth, hand in hand with your country lover – as Ivano Fossati sang – but have not returned to it since. Perhaps you should go back now, along with the person you married and your children in the back seat, eager to see Gardaland.
Because, in Sirmione, more than the streets intersect. Here the past and the present live together in a magical time which you will not find anywhere else.
And the time to go, as you know by this time, is now.