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Aboard A Classic Retro-Style Runabout Boat In The Heart of Italy

Enjoy A Lakescape On Water

Getting to know Italy’s great pearl of the lakes via boat is the best way to unearth the region’s rich history and find the most secluded spots. Whether you are north, south, east or west of the lake, a private pleasure boat is the best way to soak up the stunning scenery. 

There have been boats in Lake Garda for as long as there has been water. By hiring a boat, you can visit more locations and reach them faster than you would by car. The lake stretches 51km (31 miles), from Riva to Peschiera, and is up to 17km (10.5 miles) across at its widest point, from Lazise to Moniga. 

It’s worth noting that motorboats are not permitted on the lake’s north side, which is dedicated to sailing, thanks to the constant thermal winds that offer ideal sailing conditions. In the north expect to see kitesurfers, windsurfers, and sailors. In the morning, a north-facing wind from the Alps bows towards Lake Garda, and, at sunrise, the south wind blows towards the north. 

Bertoldi Boats: Sirmione Peninsula Luxury Tour

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Above: Aquilia 2.0 by I.C.Yachts. Emma Coady poised for a luxury tour of Sirmione with Bertoldi Boats. Image via Emma Coady.

Sirmione Peninsula marks the southernmost point of Lake Garda. The south feels open, leaf-green rolling hills home to olive groves and vineyards. 

We met our skipper Marco on the famous peninsula of Sirmione for a luxury tour with Bertoldi Boats. As it was peak season for tourism, Sirmione was heaving with tourists so we were quite happy to step aboard and get away from the tourist hustle and bustle. Our boat was a Virgilio, a new luxury boat model Aquilia 2.0 by I.C.Yachts. Virgilio takes cues from classic runabouts characterized by retro, sinuous lines, while embracing sharper angles and bolder styling to match the sporty and elegant character of Aquilia. 

Once we passed the marina we were able to get a quick getaway. At full throttle we topped 37 knots, passing grand terracotta and ochre-washed palazzos perched on the rolling shoreline. Sitting on the aft on a classic style boat, overlooking the sun-glittered water and medieval architecture, we felt as if we were in a Bond movie scene! 

Emma Coady on Aquilia 2.0 by I.C.Yachts

Above: Emma Coady on Aquilia 2.0 by I.C.Yachts. Image via Emma Coady.

Swim From A Motorboat

Jamaica Beach 

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Above: Jamaica Beach is completely unique: Image via Bertoldi Boats.

The first natural wonder we stopped at was Jamaican Beach, overlooking the Roman ruins of Grottoes of Catullus, a grand villa built over two thousand years ago. The contrast of emerald green crystal clear water surrounding the chalk-white rock slabs makes the beach unique. The view is better to enjoy by boat since the beach is crowded, and no shaded areas are available. Fortunately, our Aquila bimini top kept us well covered as the sunshine beat down on the boat, and we had the option to cool off in the cabin below deck, complete with a small kitchenette, but we were far too absorbed in the local scenery to do that! Unless you take swim shoes with you to the beach, the rocks are slippery and can be dangerous to walk on.

Boiola Sulfur Spring

Eighty feet or so from the shore, our tour guide Marco switched the boat engine off and pointed towards the water. What we saw next stunned us; thousands of large bubbles rose from the bottom of the lake to the water’s surface. We witnessed a natural thermal spring being channeled from the Terme di Catullo, which lies beneath the Grotte di Catullo Roman ruins. The thermal water of Sirmione is of meteoric origin and known for helping to prevent ailments. It is defined as hyperthermal water because it flows at a temperature of 69 degrees. Naturally, we stripped down to our swimsuits and dived off the boat to soak in the mineral-rich water. 

Scaliger Castle

Above: Scaliger Castle. Image credit: Bertoldi Boats.

Our last stop was Scaliger Castle, perched on the narrowest point of Sirmione’s peninsula. It is the largest Roman construction in northern Italy. Built over 700 years ago, the Scaligero Castle walls, towers, and a medieval port built on stilts will transport you to the medieval times. The castle is typical of Scaliger architecture, a signature style which can be seen in the open-gorged towers, a common architectural feature seen in castles on the Verona side of Lake Garda. 

North Of Lake Garda

It’s worthwhile taking a boat tour in the north of the lake too, since it has a completely different feel to it. Getting out on the water is the only way to discover coves and inlets that can not be reached from the road. Depart from Riva del Garda (Torbole) and take the boat to Limone and Malcesine. The north of the lake is a windsurfers’ mecca, and the colorful sails that dot across the water outnumber the fish beneath the water. Paddleboards and SUP’s also zip down the dramatic shoreline. The mountains at this end of the lake create a dramatic skyline, and it feels as if you are being swallowed up by the rocky cliffs. 

Classic Boats Galore

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Above: An antique Riva Junior from 1969 in Gargnano marina on Lake Garda. Image via Emma Coady.

Lake Garda is a haven for iconic classic runaround boats. If you know your Aquarama’s from your Tritone’s, you will enjoy boat spotting in Salo and Gargnano, where most of the classic boats can be found. You will struggle to find a marina that doesn’t have an Aprea Mare, or a restored antique Riva wooden boat berthed at the dock. These wooden runabouts are the envy of passers by, and the ultimate way to travel around the lake in style.

Classic boats are designed for the sole purpose of enjoying the boat and your surroundings, pausing for leisurely lunches and stopping for iceberg- sized scoops of gelato when you need a refreshment. One of most prestigious restaurants for boaters to lunch at is the famous Hotel Baia D’oro in Gargnano, which offers guests a private pier for the ultimate lakeside dining experience.

To find out more about the history of classic boats read our guide La Dolce Vita: Classic Italian Boats.

YachtWorld were invited for a luxury cruise around Sirmione in Lake Garda as a guest of Bertoldi Boats.

Written by Emma Coady

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.


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