Northern Italy’s subalpine lakes each have a charm of their own. Having travelled to 3, Travel Freelance Writer, Mary Finucane decides it’s Lake Garda for the good life, Lake Maggiore for wonderful well-being and Lake Como for sheer magic.
Describe yourself and I will describe which Italian lake best suits you. Relaxed, a lover of the good life? It’s Lake Garda for you. Romantic, discreetly glamorous, refined? Choose Como every time. Healthy outdoors type? You’re definitely Maggiore. And the golden rule? Book a longer trip than you think you want and I promise, you’ll be coming back for more. You simply need ample time and patience to ‘unlock’ each lake’s individual beauty and magic so don’t sell yourself short.
Gardone Riveria on the western shore of Lake Garda is a good place to look for that key. Ever since Goethe lauded it’s balmy climate, Lake Garda has provided a first taste of warm south for visitors from the cool north. Gardone is a delightful botanical paradise full of citrus, cypresses and olive trees as well as wonderful palm trees and cedars. Its many villages, rich in history, command a wonderful view over the lake and of the Monte Baldo.
Gardone’s history as a hub for good-life seekers dates back to the end of the 19th century when German doctors praised the therapeutic qualities of its climate, ideal for long holidays. Soon, sovereigns, princes and important characters started to flock to the town.
In 1921, Gabriele D’Annunzio, one of the greatest Italian writers and poets of the 20th century decided to make his home here. “The Vittoriale” is a real fortress and prestigious museum and is quite frankly, the most unusual place I have visited, boasting as it does a warship hewn into the rocks, an amphitheatre seating over 1500 (go in July or August and you’ll catch a classical or folk concert there) and a magnificent mausoleum set on the highest hill. Definitely put this on your must-see wish list.
The whole of Gardone is drenched in wonderful villas , gardens and hotels and we were lucky enough to stay in the very inviting Hotel Galeazzi. Apparently it is a new venture for Inghams in bringing its Chalet Hotel style service, already popular in the ski winter programme to its Lakes and Mountains summer holidays and gets a big thumbs up from me (and now recommended by Tripadvisor, a recent award). Your half board basis includes a fantastic breakfast, unlimited water, tea and coffee, afternoon tea and an evening meal with complimentary, great tasting wine not to mention a delicious apertivo each evening at 7.00 pm (try Murphy’s law, Prosecco, Pimms and Elderflower). Service is welcoming and friendly and nothing is too much trouble.
From Gardone, we felt we could travel anywhere and we did. On our first afternoon we went by boat to Sirmione (free when you stay at the Hotel Galeazzi) which has one of the prettiest historic centres of any Italian lakeside town, combining aristocratic style and mountain rusticity all in one. After some vigorous strolling, photos by the castle and serious shopping, ice cream doesn’t taste much better than at “Scaligeri” run by Famiglia Bignotti in Via Vittorio Emanuele, a popular Gelataria that has been making delicious ice cream since 1948. Try Gorgonzola, “Puffo” ( which means Smurf in Italina and is bubblegum flavoured and coloured bright blue!!), or the child friendly Kinder Bueno (my 5 year old’s favourite) or Amarena (smothered in huge juicy cherries).
Read more next week about Mary’s adventures through Italy.