Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Italy chapter on Lombardy and the Lakes has to say about Lago di Garda:
“A playground for Italians of all ages, Lago di Garda encompasses an immense 370 sq km. In the centre of the southern shore, on a sliver-like peninsula, is the impossibly quaint village of Sirmione.
Lago di Garda’s Ora (southerly) and Peler (northerly) winds make it a windsurfer’s haven. Once you’ve hit flower-filled Gardone Riviera, the lake rapidly narrows as the altitude climbs.
By the time you reach the hiking haven Riva del Garda, at the northern tip, craggy mountains tower over the lake, lending it a fjordlike air. Garda is the most (over)developed of the lakes.”
Western Shore - Gardone Riviera – Limone – Riva del Garda
“Heading north on Garda’s western shore brings you to Salò, a pretty village on the gulf which gave its name to Mussolini’s pup¬pet republic in 1943, after the dictator was rescued from the south by the Nazis.
Further north, at the head of a small inlet, is Gardone Riviera, once one of the lake’s most elegant holiday spots. Mountains rise up around the village, whose gardens are filled with palms, magnolias, jasmine blossoms and age-old cedar and cypress trees.
About 12km north of Gardone, just past the car ferry port at Toscolano-Maderno, is Gargnano, a charming harbour where Mussolini based himself during the short life of his Repubblica Sociale Italiana (or Repubblica di Salò).
Wedged between the towering rock face and the lake’s narrow northern rim, Riva del Garda lies across the border from Lombardy in the Alpine region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The main reason to visit the local-history exhibits at the Museo Civico is the waterfront castle, Rocca di Riva, dating from 1124, in which it’s housed. You can scale the adjoining Torre Apponale for a stunning panorama of the lake and mountains. The 13th-century square tower is topped by an angel-shaped weather vane.”
Eastern Shore - Malcesine
“On the lake’s eastern shore, the windsurfing centre of Malcesine has a pretty, cobbled village centre crowned by the Castello e Museo Scaligero. Inside there are a couple of natural history museums and a collection of books by Goethe, who immortalized the castle. The top of the tower has fabulous views.
More eagle-eye views of the lake unfold during the 10-minute ride on the Funivia Malcesine–Monte Baldo, a cable car with rotating glass cabins.”
Southern Shore – Sirmione
“Quaint Sirmione sits on an islet at the end of a slender peninsula on Lago di Garda’s southern shore. Even the tourists who pour into the village in their thousands don’t detract from the village’s charm or its wraparound lake views.
At the gateway to the islet, its square-cut castle was built by Verona’s ruling family, the Scaligeri, in 1250. Motorized vehicles are banned beyond this point, except for those with a hotel booking on the islet. Driving even the smallest car along the miniature, pedestrian-clogged main street isn’t fun, anyway.
At the northern tip of the peninsula is the maze of Roman ruins known as Grotte di Catullo. In fact it’s not a cave as the name suggests but was called this by explorers who saw the ruins overgrown with foliage on top and mistook them for grottoes. It’s actually the largest domestic Roman villa uncovered in northern Italy, dating to the late 1st century BC.”