A friend suggested that since I was in Verona for a couple of days, I take a side trip to Sirmione. And I am glad that I did. This historical community, which has a long history of human presence which dates as far back as the 6th millennia BCE, is situated on a peninsula on the southern shores of Lago di Garda in the Italian region of Veneto.
You know you’ve arrived at Sirmione when you are met by the imposing Castello Scaligero. The Scaliger Castle was built in the 13th century and is considered to be one of the finest examples of a medieval port fortification. The entire structure is surrounded by water and a second defense wall can be reached through a drawbridge.
Sirmione is a village of very narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways with vibrantly coloured buildings, and is surrounded on all sides but one by very inviting emerald green waters. It is a community where old and new coexist and where you can have a slice of pizza for 2 Euro – or spend an odd 780 Euro a nite in a very upmarket hotel.
After another very pleasant walk up yet another hill with beautiful vistas, you arrive at the Grotte di Catullo which are closed on Mondays – and I tell you this only because no one else does, not even the tourist office. These “grotte” measure some 167 x 105 meters and they are a striking example of a Roman private edifice. Why they are referred to as grottos is a little misleading as there are no grottos but rather what remains of some walls and columns, but well worth a visit.
Maybe it was the gale force winds sweeping in from the Lago di Garda, or maybe it was just walking where others had walked a millennium before, but it was like having a spiritual moment. Magnificent. Romans rock and I felt like howling at the wind. I sat atop a hill absorbing this magical splendor.
Unfortunately, altho some restoration is taking place, there is not much left of the original Grotte di Catullo. Go see them while you can.