An ode to Lake Garda

18 March 2024
Written by
Germana Cabrelle

Forget Lake Como for a moment and focus on this marvellous Italian best kept secret

An analogue capture of Lake Garda

The grammar of music consists of three elements: melody, harmony and rhythm.

Melody has a horizontal course and develops in a succession of notes and chords; harmony expands in pitch, spreading the sounds as if in a great embrace, and rhythm is the interspersed succession of figures that differ from each other but belong to the same whole.

This is how Lake Garda is: a score of characteristic notes that, like a musical work, spread well-being and pleasure to body and mind, where the conductor is nature. At Lake Garda the melody is given by the temperate breeze that ripples its waters, attracting many surfers, and then rises in altitude to the point of providing a perfect microclimate for the cultivation of olive trees.

Sinuous relief reveals its harmony: barely hilly in the lower part along the Veneto and Lombardy shores; higher and soaring in Trentino. In this diverse ensemble of elements that make up Lake Garda, the rhythm is cadenced by the landscapes that follow one another, the vegetation that varies, the picturesque villages that alternate and the great historical, archaeological and architectural heritage that Italy’s largest lake possesses and reveals to attentive travellers.

Perhaps, or precisely because of this, it is the perfect destination for all seasons. Perhaps, or almost certainly, it is a constant destination for tourists because of the many and diverse experiences it offers: sporting, cultural, food and wine.

Wild in the upper part of Trentino, ‘Sorrento Style’ along the Veneto shore, elegant in the Lombardy portion, Lake Garda is the ideal mix for a tour to discover one of the most charming part of northern Italy.

Starting right from the north, the last offshoot of Lake Garda is Riva del Garda, where a wind that is called the Ora del Garda blows in the afternoon and contributes to the excellent yield of wines. The Garda Trentino doc, in fact, rhymes with Marzemino, but also has assonances with Nosiola, Rebo (a niche wine, almost unobtainable, that is disappearing) Merlot, Müller Thurgau, Pinot Nero and above all Vino Santo, so called because traditionally the pressing of the grapes takes place during Holy Week.

A boat sailing across the Lake
Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda is an authentic jewel set in the mountains: it has a pretty little harbour where historic hotels with pastel façades face each other, and if you take the brand new Bastione panoramic lift, in three minutes you can climb to the top where you can admire the magnificent panorama from above, distinguishing both shores of Lake Garda, as this is the narrowest, funnel-shaped part.

Descending into Veneto, Lake Garda widens its basin revealing equally spectacular villages such as Garda, refined and elegant with its ‘piazzetta’ pieds-dans-l’eau where one can enjoy excellent dishes of Lavarello or Coregone fish, the local specialities. From here one embarks towards what is called ‘the Portofino of Lake Garda’, the beautiful Punta San Vigilio, which enchants the eyes and heart with the romantic Baia delle Sirene.

The beauty of Lake Garda does not end here: it continues in nearby Bardolino, famous for its red wine, for wellness hotels and a very bizarre Carneval, where women and men dress like old ladies from the past. Neighbouring Lazise is known for its numerous thermal and amusement parks.

On the Venetian shore, the majestic Venetian fortress of Peschiera del Garda, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is worth a visit with a boat trip around its impregnable walls. Just a few more kilometres and you arrive in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Valeggio sul Mincio, known for its pretty watermills, its exquisite knot-shaped tortellini and the stupendous Parco della Sigurtà, one of the largest gardens in Europe. 

Would you like to know which is the largest town on Lake Garda? It is Desenzano del Garda, and it is famous for its enchanting lakeside promenade, with its small restaurants overlooking the lake and moored boats. Another unmissable place on Lake Garda is the Vittoriale degli Italiani in Gardone Riviera, the opulent residence of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio encompassed in a complex of buildings, streets, squares and an open-air theatre, with a ship resting in the huge garden.


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