There’s so much beauty and elegance bursting out of Lake Garda, you could write a Shakespearian play. We only touched the south and the east of it, yet it seamlessly became our favourite spot in Italy. It’s not just the majesty of the Dolomites soaring around Monte Baldo, or the glacial lake that goes past what the eye can see. No, it’s more than that. It’s the relaxing lifestyle, the amiable personalities and the outdoor living that really struck a chord with us. If you’ve not thought of adding Garda to your trip, I think it’s time you certainly did!
We had our base in Peschiera Del Garda, at the South East point of the lake. We were fortunate enough to stay at two great places. Our first was an AirBnB with Andrea Minelli, who is a fantastic host and would go above and beyond to make you feel welcome. He’s also an avid cyclist and bearing in mind your location, it may well be worth going for a cycle with him.
Secondly, we stayed at the Meet Hostel, in a not too dissimilar location. As far as budget hostels go, it was pretty good! Plus it had free breakfast and a basic pasta dish in the evening for everyone to chow on. For a room in a dorm, we paid €18 per night. It also has a hammock, which is a key selling point for any accommodation!
Finally, after a month in Italy, we finally got Rachael to a vegetarian friendly restaurant! Her month of devouring cheese sandwiches and pizza was over! Introducing, Vecchio Mulino Beach (€€).
Unfortunately, they cook a lot of things in nut oils, so as Rachael became catered for, I became anaphylactic! They did me a seafood carbonara, without the nuts, which was really good! Pig ordered a cauliflower steak. I feel like they mis-sold this as it was just a big piece of chargrilled cauliflower. Nevertheless, it was a really good spot to celebrate 30 months together.
Trains are the main order of getting into Peschiera, although buses are most certainly the easiest mode of transportation, or a bike. There are frequent buses to Gardaland and to Garda from outside the train station. A bus to Malcesine, where Monte Baldo is, can be found outside the tourism office in central Peschiera, where you can buy a ticket which includes your return for €10.
So much to see and so much to do but we will condense it to what we got through.
- Monte Baldo
The north is infamous for its more spectacular views, with an array of panoramas of the Dolomites for your eyes to marvel at.
What we got up to
Day 1 – After a relaxing evening with our host, whom so graciously provided food and more importantly, wine, we headed to Sirmione on our first day. Sirmione is the little pecker that pokes its nose out into Lake Garda and is well known for the Castle Scaligero. We opted for the walk as we were racking up the excess pounds from the superfluity of wine and pasta.
We roughly saw it as a 10k and played it off as such. The walk is extremely peaceful in the Autumn months, with plenty of wildlife, lakeside bars and exercise stations to keep everyone happy on the way. The shores of Garda lake also prove to be an excellent spot for a picnic and a lovely couples picture!
Sirmione is a lovely spot to walk around, have a humongous gelato (which are unique to Sirmione) and take an exquisite perspective of lake Garda. We even managed to find an abandoned hotel with marvellous grounds. There was a little park there where I realised I couldn’t swing and envy any superhuman that can possess such a skill. We walked back the same route and were treated to another wonderful pasta and wine evening, whilst having the joys of stroking Andrea’s two cats, which isn’t a poorly placed innuendo.
Day 2 saw us trek over to Bardolino to hike up La Rocca. This is the overhanging cliff that soars above Bardolino. Sounds like quite the hike huh? Unfortunately not. After spending a good 15 minutes trying to find the right direction to go and incorrectly pronouncing La Rocca so nobody understood us, we conquered the beast with 25 minutes. It was quite steep in parts but really not too strenuous. The view was great and would’ve been better on a clearer day, yet enough to satisfy the senses.
We wandered back to Peschiera through wine fields along the south of La Rocca before pondering along the lake’s coast, notably passing through Lazise and having an ice cream of moderate size yet leaving us dreaming of yesterday’s monstrous cone. One bit of advice – There is a reason nobody is in the water in the Autumn months.. The glacial water will give you a sturdy set of stiff nipples!
Day 3 was kind of our relaxing day and also our 2.5 year anniversary, which obviously signifies so much importance to a relationship! We went for a morning run and workout before having our romantic lakeside lunch with a lovely bottle of Lugana wine, which is a local speciality. It has to be said, the wine tasting tours would definitely be worth trying as the Italians know how to drink, as well as eat! We also were fortunate enough to see some of the wildlife along the banks. The weird rat beaver you can see below is a coypu/nutria, alongside ducks and other aquatic birds.
Day 4 came around and we were fully expecting to leave but enjoyed Lake Garda so much, we extended our stay by two more nights to go up Monte Baldo and go to Gardaland on Halloween.
Monte Baldo is worth the trek. The view of the Dolomites after taking the cable car to the top is scenic perfection. A panoramic landscape of rugged snow-capped mountains, para-gliders and the lake below is postcard perfection. There are plenty of walks to do at the top and if you are only limiting yourself to the south of the lake, you can get a glimpse of Riva Del Garda in the north. We met a lovely group of Americans who we spent the day with but mistakenly thought we were Australian, which seems to be a recurring theme with American’s poor sense of accents!
Day 5 saw us go to Italy’s largest theme park, Gardaland. This was by far our largest disappointment of our trip! I can fully see the appeal for children as there are a lot more “child friendly” rides and shows but when you’ve got Alton Towers on your doorstep, you’ll see Italy’s theme park scene has a long way to go! Furthermore, going on one of the busiest days of the year really hindered the experience, only going on two rides and seeing one show in the eight hours we were there! Nevertheless, the decoration of the park was great and the acceptance of slyly dragging in €1.50 cartons of wine really boosted the experience and made my innate fear of vertical drop rides slightly more bearable! Pig made us go at the front of their Oblivion ride, which I will never forgive her for…..
All in all, Lake Garda has so much to offer and is so expansive that you could easily have a great time in one spot or traversing around the lake for a week, embracing the outdoor activities, wining and dining in luxury or simply soaking in the views. High season through the summer months may be too busy for some but catch Lake Garda at the right time and you are sure to find the best that Italy has to offer.