Trip Report Index:
Hotel Review: St. Regis Rome
Hotel Review: Hotel De Russie
Hotel Review: The Westin Europa & Regina
Hotel Review: St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace (previously reviewed)
Driving around Lake Garda
Hotel Review: Hotel Sirmione
Day in Sirmione
Dinner in Sirmione
Hotel Review: Hotel Ideal
Night in Verona
Hotel Review: Sheraton Milan
After saying goodbye to the watery canals of Venice, we retrieved our car and headed for Lake Garda. Everyone seems to have heard of Lake Como because George Clooney (and new wife Amal Alamuddin) have a home there, but Lake Garda is actually the largest lake in Italy and a gorgeous place to visit.
In the lazy days of Italian summer, we weren’t in a hurry but took our time driving around the winding streets. Traffic is crazy in the big cities, but out in the little towns the crazy part is how long people occasionally wait for a coveted parking spot in the more touristy spots.
After pulling off the highway, the first town we came to was Peschiera. It is the main spot that the migratory tufted ducks come each winter and still has stilt houses that are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. It also happened to have a lovely bench great for gazing out over the waterfront.
The next town was Bardolino, which only has a sleepy population of 6500 but is well known for the wine and olive oil produced there. The hilly areas of the town are covered in vineyards. In the summer months there is the Zeni Wine Museum which is free. The first Olive Oil Museum opened here in the 1980’s and is open most of the year. The first week of October there is a Festival of the Grape and Olive where there is a contest for the best wines of the year along with markets of food and drinks.
I took a walk along the path by the water.
The walkway was dotted with little cafes and restaurants, along with some hotels. After a little walk it was time to continue on our way.
After just a short time in the car we soon came to the tiny town of Garda.
The trees swayed gently in the golden rays and one could have easily spent an hour or day immersed in a good book or conversation at one of the many cafes.
The town was quintessentially Italian, with small shops selling olive oil and pastries.
The old village of Garda has been carefully kept intact and I loved meandering through the pale yellow stone arches and down cobblestoned paths.
There are several historical churches in the village, one dating as far back as the 6th century. Walking down the narrow streets I felt as though I had gone back in time a good 70 years or so. I saw women come out of shops to sweep the front area and men rode by on bicycles.
After walking around the town we ended up back by the water where the fresh air and wonderfully warm summer day would have been great for a swim if there hadn’t been a marina right there.
The old rock of Garda stood in the background, rising almost 1,000 feet high.
We figured the view from up in the hills would be stunning, so we decided to go that way. Leaving the town of Garda behind we headed up the road.
Once we got up higher, as expected the views over the lake were gorgeous. It was a bit cooler up there with an occasional gentle breeze.
We stopped at a quaint little pizza restaurant in the town of Torri Del Benaco that had a view of the lake right across the street.
We drove slowly so we wouldn’t miss it, since the main road passes right by. Free parking was just around the corner and down a side street so it was about a 2 minute walk back to the restaurant.
The menu was posted right out front, which I liked because I could see the prices and what they served.
The restaurant only had a handful of patrons so we were greeted quickly and offered our choice of seating. I chose a corner table closest to the road with a view of the lake.
There were so many choices on the menu but I went with one of my favorites when in Italy – pizza!
Sometimes service can be slow in Italy in general, but our food came out quickly. With a thin, crunchy crust and piping hot cheese, the pizza seemed to disappear quickly.
The homemade Gnocchi was delicious too.
After lunch on the way back to the car it was easy to just stop at a nearby cafe for some quick dessert.
Torri del Benaco is a quiet little town, the sort where you hear the gutteral sound of an engine long before you see the car. Once the car passes, the rumbling fades into the distance and once again you’re left with just a peaceful quiet.
The cafe wasn’t busy when we were there with only a few tourists passing by, and I could just see a sliver of the shimmery lake from my chair.
My husband enjoyed an Espresso, I ordered a scoop of ice cream and it came with a long delicate cookie… stuck right in the middle.
Back in the car we continued the drive up into the hills. Every few curves we were rewarded with stunning views.
When you think of Prada do you think of high fashion and shoes? I did too, until we came across a sign for the town. There were rolling hills and grass fields where you could hear the wind rustling through the trees.
There were even cows ambling about.
It was starting to get late in the afternoon and we wanted to go to Sirmione to check in to our hotel. We took the road back down towards the water.
Next stop – Hotel Sirmione.