Lake Garda and surroundings: walks, food and relax
First idea was to road-trip through southern Spain and Portugal - from Malaga to Faro. After the umpteenth Covid wave at the end of December, however, we decided to scale back our trip and stay within the country. If you know me at all, you know how much I do prefer warm weather and sea over snow and mountains. However, after evaluating several alternatives, I - together with two of my close university friends - Sabrina and Angelica, decided to spend four relaxing days exploring Lake Garda and its surroundings.
I usually am a pretty careful and thorough organiser when it comes to travel (many of the people who usually travel with me will surely find themselves nodding, snickering and probably even cursing me a little bit when reading this sentence). This time, however, as everything was decided only a few days beforehand, we did not have much time/desire to prepare every single itinerary before our departure.
I am summarising here all the stops we made; the list of places we visited is more or less like this (you can find the complete map at the end of the article):
We left Bologna on January 6th in a rented 500 car for Sirmione. The idea was to stop for lunch, go for a walk and then leave for Arco, where we had booked a hotel for the first two nights.
The walk took a lot longer than expected, as we walked for about two hours. Nevertheless, I must say that it was well worth it.
Of the islands which in stagnant
Waters and vast seas Neptune holds,
Sirmio—the pearl of islands!—
Now my heart with you rejoices
Safe and sound, still scarce believing
Thynia and Bithynian
Fields have gone. What more fortunate
Care, after so many struggles,
When the mind shrugs off its burden,
Drained by foreign toil, than come
Unto our hearth and find comfort
In our longed-for bed! Thus hello,
Charming Sirmio, whom I enjoy
Enjoying; and you, rippling lake
Of Lydian wave surrounding
My home, drown out all other noise.
- Catullo, Ad Sirmium Insulam
Sirmione is a wonderful medieval village on the southern shore of Lake Garda, on a narrow peninsula a few kilometres long that divides the gulfs of Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda. Definitely worth a visit is the Scaligero Castle, a well-preserved fort close to the lake, very suggestive. The village is also very famous for its thermal centre and for the Grotte di Catullo (Catullo's Caves).
WHERE TO EAT
Y'all know me by now, if there is one thing that moves the sun and the other stars in my travels - that is food. Just before arriving in Sirmione, in fact, we did a couple of searches on the internet and found the restaurant Le Palme - Pizzeria & Cucina at a discount price on The Fork. Despite the decidedly uninspiring location, we sampled some excellent antipasti and pasta dishes.
The reason why we have chosen Arco as a base for exploring Lake Garda and its surroundings is still unknown to many. Arco is a small town of about 18,000 inhabitants, on the northern side of Lake Garda, renowned for its trekking and climbing activities. We decided to stay at the Garni On The Rock, right at the foot of the rock on which stands the castle that dominates the entire historic centre and on the banks of the Sarca river. A very minimal hotel, with very friendly staff, equipped with a climbing wall, SPA and excellent breakfast.
The centre of Arco is very characteristic, especially during the Christmas period, when all the streets in the centre smell of cinnamon and vin brûlé.
WHERE TO EAT
Since we hadn't choose Arco for its main attraction - climbing - we dedicated ourselves to long walks and typical Trentino food - did you have any doubts?
The Ristorante alla Lega is a great value for money: it's just a short walk from the main square and serves typical local dishes, with plenty of vegetarian options. The pasta and beans are excellent, as is their selection of local cheeses.
A restaurant that disappointed us a lot is Il Ritratto, apparently very well known in the area. It specialises in fish, but we were not convinced by its dishes or by the combinations of food which were often all over the place.
A special mention goes to BioEssere Risto&Caffè Vegetariano, inside a NaturaSì supermarket, which offers different vegetarian/vegan dishes (including desserts!) every day, we loved it!
RIVA DEL GARDA
We decided to spend an afternoon in Riva del Garda, probably one of the most famous villages on the northern shore of Lake Garda. The weather was not the best that day, but it allowed us to take a long walk along the lake and relax in front of a cup of hot tea.
LAGO DI TOBLINO
A special mention goes to this incredible lake that unexpectedly appeared in front of us along the road from Arco to Lake Caldonazzo, where we were heading to spend our last night in Trentino. Lake Toblino has the particular characteristic of housing on its shores one of the few examples in Italy - and certainly the most famous in Trentino, according to this site - of lake fortifications. What stands out most is, in fact, this imposing castle, of incredible beauty, almost submerged in the waters of the lake.
LAGO DI CALDONAZZO
As mentioned at the outset, this - unlike many others - was not a very well planned holiday. Before departure, in fact, we had only booked a hotel for the first two nights, leaving the last two days free, so that we could take our time to decide what we would like to do/see last.
So we booked a room at the last minute in this wonderful agriturismo, on the remote (can I say it? Nobody knows where this place is anyway!) Lake Caldonazzo.
Why did we choose this place? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that L'Agritur 16 is a real gem surrounded by nature. A newly built, modern and minimalist structure, full of windows that let the light in and allow you to admire the incredible view of the lake and with a small SPA at guests' disposal. The owners (a very young couple) are incredibly helpful and kind, the cuisine - with their local products - exceptional. The price, to be honest, more than reasonable given the services offered and the wonderful location.
Here is the map with all the stops made!
As always, a huge thank you to my travelling companions - Sabri and Angi - who have put up with my complaints for ten years now - vvb ❤