“What a pleasure, what a joy to see you again, ô Sirmio, the pearl of the islands and peninsulas of Neptune in the vast expanse of the two seas and lakes!”. It was in these words that the Latin writer Catullus sang the praises of Sirmione in his Poems, during the first century of our era. Today, the small Italian city of 8,000 inhabitants continues to arouse the same emotion. Calliopée takes you on a cultural trip to Sirmione.
Located at the tip of an arm of land that penetrates Lake Garda for more than four kilometers, Sirmione is a jewel of nature and history. From the neighborhood of Colombare, a road winds through the peninsula and sneaks between resort hotels and shady parks. Along the shore, a light breeze teases the reeds and imposes its rhythm on the crystal-clear waters. Only a few pontoons dare to advance on the largest lake in the country. In the distance, the snow-capped alpine mountains carve the horizon. The peaceful atmosphere in this month of November nevertheless allows to imagine the summer effervescence.
At the entrance to the old town, the Castello Scaligero welcomes the visitor to its full height. The building impresses with its massive crenelated walls surrounded by waters. Erected in the 13th century by Mastino I della Scala, lord of Verona, the imposing fortress defended the small port of Sirmione, very exposed to attacks. The access to the walkway allows to admire the old darse, rare example of lacustrine fortification in perfect state of conservation. The ascent of the main tower is rewarded by an incredible view of the vastness of Lake Garda. To contemplate from the summit the autumnal sunset under a clear sky is a mesmerizing spectacle reserved for a few lucky ones.
Immersed in the evening light, the small medieval village enchants the visitor. The rough stone houses alternate with the colorful facades of the shops. The silhouettes of tourists are lost in the narrow streets. Swans and ducks, mysterious inhabitants of the lake, take their place on the banks of this former fishing village. The picturesque squares are still filled with the scent of homemade ice cream. The freshness of autumn falls on Sirmione.
On this cultural trip, enjoy a Sunday morning for a winding walk among the coastal trees. The beauty of the surrounding landscape fascinates photography lovers. In November, a sparkling sun caresses the fine rocky mantle of Sirmione. Its rays reveal the shades of green and pink that colors the shoals polished by the waters. Some sulphurous hot springs from the volcanic basin even allow swimming.
In an exceptional panoramic position at the end of the peninsula, stand the remains of a 2000 year old Roman villa. This fascinating archaeological complex covers no less than twenty hectares and is spread over three floors. The villa – nicknamed “Grotte di Catullo” because of the collapsed rooms into which one could enter as in natural cavities – would have welcomed the poet Catullus during his travels in northern Italy. The majestic ruins mirror into the peaceful water of the lake. The olive gardens invite to reading or contemplative silence. Only the flight of a few gulls breaks the tranquility of the place. Loved and admired since Roman times, Sirmione always offers nice surprises. We would stay there much longer.