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Grotte di Catullo, Sirmione

Piazzale Orti Manara/Via Catullo
Lake Garda
Tel: 39 030 916 157's insider take:

These first-century B.C. ruins in Sirmione are what's left of an ancient Roman private estate. The well-preserved complex, romantically overgrown with groves of olives, covers five acres of prime real estate at the very tip of the Sirmione peninsula. It's called "grottoes" not because of the caves welling with natural hot springs underneath but because the lower palace rooms seemed like underground caves to the 15th-century explorers who rediscovered them. You can tour these passageways (some of which retain decorative stuccos) with a guide, but it's also nice to wander the grounds at random, seeing how the low walls and bits of mosaic sketch out the ancient floor plan. Pack a picnic to enjoy lunch under the olives, with a view of the lake all around and birdsong carried on the ever-present breeze.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8:30 am to 7 pm March to October and Tuesdays through Sundays 8:30 am to 5 pm November to February.

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