From a tiny Lake Iseo, we ventured next to a giant Lake Garda on our weekend escape near Milan. Lake Garda is the largest lake of Italy and sits halfway between Brescia and Verona, which of course made it the perfect location to explore after we had driven to Brescia earlier on. So many of Y’s friends that have been here, have told us it’s beautiful, amazing, and I was really hoping to see that same beautiful charm that I had seen in Lake Como back in 2013. Lake Garda is clearly a lot larger, with many different towns – from roman ruins in Sirmione to a dead poet’s home in Gardone Riveria, to a bustling town and pebbly beaches in Bardolino. Plus Italy’s popular ski resort – Madonna di Campiglio is barely a 2 hours drive from the northern tip of Lake Garda.
Some of the typical scenery from Lake Garda roads.
B&B Loggia Marti Via Sole, 14, 25084 Gargnano BS, Italy, Tel: +39 0365 71605. 100 euros a night for La Cattedrale (Deluxe room)
Well, don’t think I am just about glamour and high end hotels, it’s not possible to sustain that in an almost 1 month long trip, if any of you think like me, this place is a real gem if you want to find a base to stay at while exploring Lake Garda. Located up the hill in the Gargnano region, I think the only thing I can bitch about is, the surrounding town looks rather unhappening as you are meandering up the windy hill, and you definitely need a car to get up here. It doesn’t have a full lake view although some rooms can see partial lake views. Go for the La Cattedrale room where you can get better views of the lake.
View from our room – La Cattedrale
Owned by an Italian lady – Alessandra, she operates this little B&B which she calls home. She told us she used to be in advertising in Milan but gave all that up for a more tranquil and quality life in Lake Garda. The house which is part of a 17th century building has been lovingly refurbished and decorated tastefully to showcase the old and the new together. One would still find the old wooden doors and wooden beams retained, retaining the stone arches from the basement where we have our breakfast. It’s kind of eclectic along with many artefacts, odd art here and there she uses to interject the blank walls and spaces. Everything together with her 2 favourite Dachshunds make this quite an inviting and homey place. Our breakfast is made up of simple Continental breakfast – simple hard boiled eggs, cured meats, yoghurt, toasts with jam and cereal, complete with coffee which she makes herself.
Having breakfast in the cosy dining area, and admiring views of the lake from room balcony.
Garden of Loggia Marti
One of the Dachshunds
For eats, unfortunately, I didn’t really have any amazing food here. I was hoping to discover some interesting local trattorias rather than going for any fine dining food but I wasn’t so lucky with my research. I did also check in with Alessandra on recommendations. My favourite of the whole trip was this very simple Trattoria San Martino (Via Roma, 33, Gargnano BS, Italy Tel:+39 0365 71436) which has an interesting vibe. Accessed via the alley of Via Roma, the restaurant faces the lake on the other side, and has an interesting cobbled arched walkway where customers can sit outside as well. Though it looks quaint, we opted for the more bright and modern interiors where we can at least see and enjoy our food properly. Many of the restaurants in Lake Garda serve lake fish, and similarly here, they are known for it. The plating of the dishes are quite modern like I loved how our hearty vegetable soup was served, and we tried their selection of lake fish which they recommended. I won’t say I enjoyed all the different fishes, maybe I wasn’t too used to the flavour of some. But the vongole pasta was done very well, simple but yummy! After lunch, you can take a stroll along the lake like what we did!
Checking out the lake view after lunch.
Vittoriale Degli Italiani Via Vittoriale, 12, 25083 Gardone Riviera BS, Italy, Tel: +39 0365 296511, Open 9 am – 5 pm
One of the most famous attractions in Gardone has to be the Vittoriale degli Italiani, the home of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio who lived here from 1922 – 1938. This attraction has an amphitheatre, a protected cruiser – Puglia – cut up and reassembled perches proudly on the hillside, a Mausoleum – a graveyard for the men who served D’Annunzio and died during the Fiume incident, and the Prioria which has a few rooms showing different memoribilia. The most interesting and my favourite highlight of the estate has to be his own home where he lived in , and it displays the utmost eccentricity and flamboyant taste he had in design and how he lived. Visits into his home are only by guided tours, and it can get pretty busy so do be prepared to wait. I think his home was quite an interesting eye-opener, and visual feast on all senses. Everything was over the top in his choice of decorations and furniture, and he seemed to like all types of religious artefacts, which you would see adorning his room in overabundance. I think it’s hard to describe it in words, a visit is a must. Tip is to ensure you book the guided tour to see his home when you pay for the ticket at the entrance and you can work your time around the estate especially if you have to wait for the tour.
At the amphitheatre.
Peekaboo – having some fun!
Outside his home
Below the arches
A vintage plane!
Puglia – the cruiser
Enjoying the lake views from the estate.
Cruise around the Lake
A great way to explore the lake other than driving around is to take one of the ferry services which allows you to even drive your car up. How convenient is that! We took the ferry from Toscolano – Maderno to Torri del Benaco, as we planned to explore quickly this east side of Lake Garda on our second day here. The lake is really huge and the cruise is a good way to enjoy the cool breeze and the charm of the the town observed from the boat. See here for timetable.
Views of the vast lake and Gardone Riveria in the distance.
Posing on the deck of the ferry.
Me and Y on the ferry enjoying the cool breeze.
Once you reach Torri Del Benaco, you can head to Bardolino town known for their local specialty wine – a blend of corvina, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese grapes. Otherwise, you can take a stroll along the boardwalk facing the lake, and there’s plenty of shops and restaurants to stop by if you wanna chill. This area can be quite crowded and feel rather touristy though. The only saving grace for me of this area is discovering wonderful gelato shop – Gelateria Biancaneve (Borgo Garibaldi, 26, 37011 Bardolino VR, Italy, Tel: +39 045 621 0078). Their selection of flavours are fantastic – try the Cioccolato Amarena if you love chocolate like me. And the texture is creamy and light!
My favourite shop – Gelateria Biancaneve. A must go!
Chilling in Bardolino.
Quite an interesting discovery was driving down past Torri Del Benaco, with the coastline on our left, and we found ourselves at some cobbly beaches in the area of Pai, where we saw some locals just sitting around with their legs dipped in the waters. We couldn’t resist also chilling here for a bit while waiting to catch the ferry back after exploring this side of Lake Garda.
Enjoying the waters after dipping my paws in them.
After a whirlwind 2 days in Lake Garda trying to explore as much as I could, I personally felt that I still like Lake Como a lot more. Although many of my friends have mentioned they like Lake Garda better, I prefer the charm and intimacy that Lake Como provides. It feels more upscale, has much more beautiful gardens compared to Lake Garda, and feels less touristy. Because Lake Como is smaller than Lake Garda, it also provides a better view of the dramatic landscape and lake views – it’s nice to be able to see across the lake at the opposite towns. I would return to Lake Como, but may not really do so for Lake Garda.