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“A day on the lake!”
Review of Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda
Ranked #1 of 22 things to do in Salo
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed June 16, 2014

We took the train from Verona to Desenzano at the lower end of Lake Garda. We took the ferry which traveled to Sirmione, Bardolino, and Garda. There are other options available. it was a perfect day weather-wise and the scenery matched it. Sirmione is an island in the lower part of the lake and it is truly so picturesque you just keep taking photos. The ferry allows about 2 hours in each area and then comes in to pick you up for the next leg of the journey. There was a surprise full band playing in the town of Bardolino - from Holland - it was a terrific addition to the visit! The tour took most of the day - from about 10 - 5. A delightful jaunt!

4  Thank 24lorraineS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 9, 2014

The Magic of The Lakes.

High above us trees and shrubs cling to life, their roots eking out an existence from a few crumbs of soil lodged in crevices in the rock. The only other life on these sheer slopes is a pair of eagles constantly circling above us. Today the lake sits placid and calm, its still waters stretching south to a ruler hard horizon. Our lake steamer trembles its way across the mirror-like surface, while tiny brightly coloured yachts at anchor kiss their reflection. Massive shoulders of rock, an ever present threat, tower a thousand feet above us and plunge into the lake the same distance below.
As we sit in the shade on the car deck, the village of Limone draws closer, huddled under sheer brooding cliffs where occasionally tremors do loosen boulders. In fact the village had to be evacuated for several months while engineers inspected the rock face for faults.
Once away from the jetty, wandering through the steep cobbled streets, what you always thought of as Italy gradually appears. The narrow alleys are unbelievably steep, yet tiny Apes, (the word is pronounced ah-pays and is Italian for a bee), little three-wheeled open vans with motor bike engines, buzz frenetically, scowling drivers crouched over handlebars as they urge their loads of fruit and vegetables and dog riding shotgun, up impossible slopes. We sit at a little café half hidden among magnolia blossoms, their scent wafting down to combat the burnt two-stroke oil from the Ape. An elderly man sitting with his grappa nods at us and taps the side of his nose and winks involving us in some secret that he and the other locals know about but about which we are not privy to.
A few moments later we understand. The little screaming Piaggio engine hurtles the Ape downhill at breakneck speed scraping walls while the dog carelessly leans against the tailgate. The fumes pass and the magnolia takes over. This natural magnolia with blossoms the size of plates flowers only in spring and is at its best in May.
We are on Lake Garda in Riva at the hotel Savoy Palace, whose gardens are an Eden of carefully manicured borders, shrines of blossoms and cascades of greenery.
Above us there is activity in the parish church but it sounds so much better in Italian, chiesa parochiale santa maria maggiore. A small wedding is taking place, the ceremony in English and Italian, their vows echoing off the marble in the cool interior. A young Italian boy with a face so beautiful it last graced the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, does a reading. There is much happiness here at this little gathering with the priest smiling too.
We walk cool cobbled alleys that curve and twist from cool shade to bright sunlight. An ancient door bleached with years of sun leads to a tiny courtyard floored with an ancient mosaic showing a pastoral scene from ancient times. This was part of a Roman villa now long ruined, its stones reused for humbler dwellings and walls.
We are well up the hillside here and the view from this little cafe is breathtaking. The few tables have mostly locals seated at them playing cards and sipping grappa or strong espresso. At first we thought we were intruding on a private garden but we are beckoned by the owner to a little corner by the wall. Tendrils of ivy and honeysuckle cascade from the roof above and give green cool shade. We see that the mosaic is protected by sheets of plate glass laid slightly above the little tiles. It gives a slightly disturbing effect of floating above the floor.
Beyond the wall the hillside drops dramatically to the jetty where the ferry is waiting. This is a real gelateria where the ices are made in the kitchen. We order a modest gelato based on pistachio and almonds and two spoons and sit looking over this sublime lake while our order is being created.
This wind, the Ora is from the south at this time of day and is funnelled up the valley from the Po valley to give the lake its reputation for being among the best places in the world for windsurfing and sailing. It dies around six in the evening but in the morning the Peler blows from the north until about nine when it will die suddenly leaving unwary wind surfers stranded on the lake. Sound carries clearly in the warm air and we hear wind surfers shouting to each other as they skim the surface at breakneck pace their gaudy sails like mayflies wings, as bent on mayhem, they barely miss the ferry, its angry siren echoing off the far shore.
In the kitchen we see the daughter making gnocchi di patate with one hand while she holds a little child on her hip in the timeless stance of all young mothers. The little one is the image of her mother, the dark curls framing a sweet face with huge dark eyes, her thumb in her mouth as she watches us through the open doorway.
This timeless scene which could have been from a thousand Renaissance paintings is broken by the arrival of our gelato, the glass frosted and the pistachio glistening under the different toppings. The almonds crunch satisfyingly, their taste blending with the pistachio and the exquisite lemon sorbet that cheats the tongue.
We find a shrine to Saint Angela in a niche with a trickle of water from an old brass tap fashioned into a demon’s head. The bowl overflows and keeps alive a fern that had seeded in a crack in the rock. We hear a couple arguing on a terrace, an old man chastising a bad tempered dog, a young mother cajoling a little child to eat. They all have that warm sun-drenched cadence that goes with beaded bubbles winking at the brim, the smell of garlic and oregano, and the careless abandon of life blessed by the Gods.
The lemon rules supreme here, both in cooking and as a design icon. Gigantic lemons like rugby balls sit grotesquely outside shops oozing juice and everywhere there is the smell of citrus. Motifs based on lemons sit embedded in plaster walls beside chipped plaster saints their eyes gazing beseechingly upwards. The town wears its name well, Limone, and there are bottles of Limoncello to take home. Lemons have been grown since Roman times and the remains of pillars that protected the groves point skyward.
On the way back to Riva where we are staying a group of cyclists are also on the ferry. These are serious cyclists with mountain bikes and all the gear. Around twenty of them, young men and girls and extremely fit their calf muscles like whipcord, had cycled up from Germany and were now heading up into the Dolomites. Within seconds of docking they are gone riding hard around the lake shore strung out in single file.
Motor cycles are worshipped here too from the humble Vespa to Harleys costing more than our car. But we use the bus to travel the shoreline to Malcesne. We are supposed to buy tickets in the shops but we didn’t know. The driver cannot take money. He shrugs resignedly and gestures with his thumb to get on board anyway. Our grazia, mille grazia is met with a smile and his prego sounds as if he meant it. The shoreline of Garda was very isolated to traffic until the thirties when under Mussolini’s dictatorship, tunnels were built through the rock along the shoreline. Seventy seven of them altogether we are told by our guide, the same number of girlfriends that he had. The rich and famous live around Lake Garda but discretely. The new money moving in is Russian probably not the whitest variety as we hear the Russian mafia is elbowing out the old guard.
Riva is a beautiful town sitting as if it had grown out of the bedrock. Everything sits against a perfect backdrop of lake and mountain. The shoreline has been dressed with rounded river gravel and is easy on the bare feet. Shady trees provide a respite from the glare and families eat alfresco with young children splashing and laughing as they run naked in and out of the lake. Groups of teenagers sit on the grass their voices a pleasant cadence as they chatter continually. They touch and stroke each other’s hair unconsciously, their raven locks and aquiline profiles reminiscent of a sylvan group of shepherds and shepherdesses in a neo-classical painting of a sylvan scene in Arcady. A group of young men and girls play volleyball, a sheen of sweat on the satin skin of their lithe bodies that ripple with energy. The carefree laughter and pleasant manners of the young people here is in contrast to other more frenetic parts of Italy. Even the traffic is slower and more courteous. Maybe it’s something to do with the air that rolls down from the mountains.
We hear a familiar accent from a young couple on the steamer coming back from Sirmione. they have two little children and the familiar Dublin voices strike a chord. The daddy is a lecturer at the university in the next valley and the mammy is a primary school teacher. Both from Dublin they have been here eight years. They tell us April and May especially are the best times to visit the lakes. In the summer we are told, they wouldn’t dream of coming here the roads are so gridlocked and the tunnels become foetid sewers as traffic snarls up, breaks down, crashes and claustrophobic hours pass before they get out into sunlight to go into the next of the seventy seven tunnels.
We like Riva with a twenty minute walk from the hotel along the lake shore or five minutes in the bus. Our hotel, the Savoy Palace couldn’t be nicer. Our standard room is huge and the balcony just perfect. Food is exceptionally good and the vegetarian option better than most. The gardens are a dream of carefully manicured lawns, sweet-scented blossoms and secluded corners with comfortable cane furniture under shady palms. Late afternoon we sit in the cool mezzanine area sipping iced tea and reading while outside there is the chink of cutlery and crockery as staff serve afternoon tea and cake. As with many Italian hotels, dinner is included and here there is plenty of choice including a good vegetarian option. The staff are highly attentive under the eye of the head waiter and nothing is too much trouble. There are several people staying on their own here but this is a hotel where it is possible to do so without feeling obvious.
A baby Fiat Cinquecento, vintage late sixties sits in the corner of the foyer immaculate with its sky blue cellulose gleaming and chrome bumpers sparkling. This is an adornment to the hotel, it’s not for sale!
Sitting at the lake shore the soft sounds woo the senses to a dream-like state. Everything is farther away than reality and even the air with the pollen-laden sweetness of magnolias barely kisses our skin.
This euphoria is gone in an instant as raucous cries from a rough and tumble of little black-headed gulls waken us. Squabbling above us against a backdrop of faded blue dressed with feathery Mares’ Tails, the white scraps of confetti are tossed on the warm wind. Soon the bickering over scraps ends and they stand in the shallows nervously waiting for the next hand-out.
But what are seagulls doing in Lake Garda?

3  Thank james_m186470
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 6, 2014

We stayed here for the first time this May. It is a very pretty place with a lot to explore in the surrounding areas. At night the area around the bay is light up and the reflections on the smooth surface of the lake give much pleasure. From here it is possible to take a boat to many of the other towns that surround the lake, which we did. It took about two hours to reach Malcisine and once we were there we took the cable car up Mount Baldo (be sure to take warm clothing with you as it was 4.5 degrees on the mountain and 26 degrees in the town).

1  Thank hlilley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 5, 2014

Love this place, lots to do and see, the views are stunning. Hired a little car and went to different places around the lake and up the mountains. Perfect weather, great place to sit and watch the world go by.

2  Thank Beverley12014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 9, 2014

Being the largest lake in Italy,it produces a temperate Mediterranean climate with its own Riviera. Riot of vegetation blends with magnolias,palms and bougainvillaea with oaks,laureals and cypresses.
This has the makings of romance and this particular part of the lake is very romantic. this is the choice for Villa Guarienti to occupy the most beautiful residence on the lake.

Thank Eli B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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