Utterly charming is the only way to describe Malcesine, perhaps the best Lake Garda town. Many of the towns on the lake have that seaside feel, but for some reason I notice it more here.
The setting of Malcesine too is one of the loveliest of any Garda town located, as it is at the foot of Monte Baldo, with a 14th-century castle looming over the lake and town.
The azure waters of the lake provide a stunning backdrop to the town's colorful facades and picturesque harbor. Take a leisurely stroll along the lakeside promenade, bask in the warm sun, and soak in the serene ambiance. For those seeking an adventure, various water sports activities are on offer, allowing visitors to explore the lake's beauty from a different perspective.
The town is a mecca for sailors and windsurfers, but it offers something for every taste.
Good restaurants abound, the town is full of great shops, and if you visit in the summer, the Teatro Lacao, a natural arena situated at the foot of the castle, plays host to numerous concerts.
Malcesine is a lively, vibrant place full of color and laughter during most months of the year, and summers are superb here. It may be full of people, but that is somehow part of the attraction.
The bars, restaurants, and piazzas are buzzing and filled with the sound of laughter, the whispers of young lovers, and the shouts of noisy kids. I love it!
Wandering through Malcesine's charming streets is like stepping into a postcard-perfect Italian village. The town's historical center is a delightful maze of narrow alleyways, adorned with vibrant flowers and charming boutiques. Discover hidden squares and piazzas, where locals gather for leisurely conversations over aromatic coffee or gelato.
The lively atmosphere comes alive during the bustling Saturday market, held in the streets of the old town, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and sample delicious regional produce.
For an upmarket hotel in a splendid location you can’t go wrong with the Val di Sogno The location can only be described as idyllic and the view has to be seen to be believed.
A cheaper alternative is the Hotel Benacus. It's a small family run hotel and the owners, the De Massari family, are most helpful and friendly. Free parking, a swimming pool and a good restaurant are other good points.
The castle is the main attraction, it was built during the Scaligeri dynasty, a powerful ruling family in northern Italy during the Middle Ages. The castle was constructed in the 13th century as part of the Scaligeri's defensive network along the eastern shores of Lake Garda. Its strategic position allowed for control over the surrounding territory and facilitated the protection of the town and its inhabitants.
Throughout its history, the castle witnessed numerous battles and sieges. It was the subject of power struggles between rival factions, including the Visconti and the Venetian Republic.
One of the most notable events in the castle's history occurred in 1439 when the Venetian Republic successfully captured Malcesine from the Visconti family. This marked the end of a turbulent era and brought a period of stability and prosperity to the town.
Another claim to fame is that Goethe was arrested in the 18th century, as a spy, for drawing pictures of the castle. The drawings are now housed in the museum which is mostly dedicated to Lake Garda’s natural history.
And speaking of the museum, it holds its own allure. While primarily dedicated to Lake Garda's natural history, it offers a splendid glimpse into the region's rich heritage.
The town has a couple of 18th century churches though none of them are anything special – just my opinion. The captain's house that dates back to the Scaliger era is the other main tourist attraction.
On the edge of town Mount Baldo is a huge draw and a trip in the famous Monte Baldo cable car is really a must do – read more under our Mount Baldo Guide.
The Vecchia Malcesine Via Pisort is excellent, ideal for the special occasion. The restaurant is fairly expensive, so it is not really the sort of place to make your regular haunt, but it is an experience well worth having.
For a more affordable lunch or dinner, there are plenty of small, family-run restaurants, pizzerias, and trattorias in town to choose from. Two I like are the Al Marinaio and the Da Nonna Pina.
By far the best way to get here and to explore the surrounding countryside is to rent a car. Here is the best options when it comes to rates.
Directions: From the north or south, take the A22 motorway and exit at "Rovereto Sud - Lago di Garda Nord." From there, follow the signs to Malcesine. The scenic drive will lead you through winding roads, offering glimpses of the stunning Lake Garda along the way. Parking is available near the town center, allowing you to explore Malcesine at your own pace.