The town of Garda became important - and probably gave its name to the lake - because of the important strategic position it occupied on the southeastern shores.
Long before that however the people of the late Bronze Age had left evidence of their existence in this area and graves and etchings have been discovered in the area of the town and surrounding hillsides.
The Ostrogoths were the first to build a fortification on the hill to the south of Garda, the "Rocca", and were followed by other invaders until the fortress and town below came under Venetian control and became the headquarters of the administration on the lake. Influences of the Venetians can still be seen in parts of the old town.
The Palazzo dei Capitano is a Gothic palace on the lake front and the square in front of the building was once the harbour before being filled in. Nowadays it is one of the busy squares full of tables for eating, drinking and people-watching.
Tourism in Garda began at the start of the 20th century but really took off in the 1950s, when the area on the eastern side of the lake became known as the "Riviera of Olives". In those days, the most important nation for tourism was the Netherlands - however they have long since been overtaken by the Germans.
Tourism hasn't been the only bread-winner however: the hinterlands are filled with olive groves and vineyards while the important summer festivals have much to do with the central place of fishing in the original culture.