Lake Garda is rather diverse depending on if you are on the south, north, west or east side of the lake. The more north and west you get, the more mountaineous the landscape becomes. I think we managed to squeeze a tour around 3/4 of the lake in about 7 hours, with an overnight stop at Salo, south west of the lake – 4 kms from Gardone Riviera which was a popular vacation spot of Churchill and Somerset Maugham. We decided to travel last weekend instead because in the summer this coastal road gets really congested and you would miss the beautiful scenery and drive.
The scenery coming in from Venice , towards Bardolino was first filled with rows of vine trees , as you approach the lake – the view becomes rather breathtaking with the magnificent mountains as the backdrop.
From Venice, by car it took about 150kms to reach Bardolino, mostly on highway A4. We stopped at Bardolino, to walk along the lake – there is a park located just pass the town centre. From Bardolino, you can drive along the coast of the lake up north. That is what we did. We wanted to stop at Garda, the next town, but got sidetracked by the small roads and ended up further north. Malcesine is next, beautiful town – hard to find parking but you will, be patient.. and around there you can get a ride up to Mt Baldo. Lots of outdoor activities there too, like paragliding, sailing, mountain biking, racing bikes and eating! Lots of small paved streets and beautiful shops I thought!
After Malcesine, as you continue your drive up north, you will pass a few sailing clubs and more paragliders jumping off the mountain. Fabulous view to see them dropping off from the mountain top , when you stand by the lake and look up. Incredible – I think so, as I am frightened of heights.
We followed the road up to Torbole, and stopped for lunch. It is an extremely charming town. We had lunch at Hotel Geir, with a splendid view of the lake – they serve pastas/fish/meat. Next door is a pizza place – Cafe Casa Beust also with a great view of the lake. Spend some time there, and take a walk around the promenade. You can even walk pass several bicycles shops and oggle at the bikes – bike fans would love it here.
Torbole is not far off from Riva Del Garda at the northern tip (about 7kms away) . From Riva Del Garda we made our way slowly back down south on the west coast of the lake towards Salo. The western side is more rocky and there are inevitably more tunnels to pass through. The roads are also narrower (the roads on the eastern shore were much better and wider).
Limone del Garda is a must place to stop and stare! Park your car, and walk down the winding cobbled stone paths to the promenade. I promise you will not regret it! After loitering around a bit in Limone, we moved on to Salo
We found our hotel relatively easy about 2 km from Salo historic centre. Beautiful villa – good price too as it is fall, normally you get a good deal on hotels during this time. We stayed at Villa Arcadio, small hotel in a villa with olive groves and quinces! That evening we headed to town to check out the historic centre and took a romantic walk by the lake. Ended with a fantastic dinner at one of the town’s best restaurants – Trattoria Alle Rose (4 courses of antipasti + 1 pasta to share + 2 main courses + vino di casa came out to only €100 for 2, and the food was really good). We just did not have more place for desserts or cheeses! Sigh..
The next morning, we went down to Salo downtown again – as now the sun is shining with gorgeous blue skies before heading back to Venice, stopping by Sirmione for a quick walk around on the way home.