Pasta, Prosecco & George Clooney – Part 2

Marketing and Travel Freelance Mary Finucane continues her Italian adventure.. 

A bus ride or hot walk from Gardone brought us to Salo, a lovely Belle Epoque town full of handsome cafes, townhouses and hotels, many the result of rebuilding in the prevailing liberty (Italian Art Deco) style after a 1901 earthquake.  After giving in to the lure of limoncello and souvenir shopping in the markets, we treated ourselves to wonderful music of all kinds on the Lungolago (the lakeside promenade) which becomes the open-air setting for several bands. Go on a Thursday night to get the best sounds of the summer.

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Salo, a lovely Belle Epoque town

Another unmissable Garda destination is the hillside Tremosine. When the road leading to it, was opened, on 18 May 1913 it was dubbed, “the most beautiful road in the world”. Winston Churchill called it “the eighth wonder of the world”. And recently the Provincial Road No. 38, the Porto-to-Pieve which rises from the Garda lake road, winding up to the green plateau of Tremosine through the forra (gorge) of the Brasa stream, was the setting for a breathtaking car chase featuring the world’s best-known secret agent, James Bond 007, spying for Her Majesty’s secret service. The vistas from the cliff hanger balcony at Hotel Paradiso in Tremosine are simply spectacular. We ate delicious cakes there and dined on the views and both are memorable forever.

We explored Gardone Alto which is the old part of Gardone and feasted on wonderful “cucina locale” in traditional “trattorie” restaurants specializing in cooking typical local dishes. You don’t get a menu generally, the waiter just comes and tells you what they have, usually lots of grilled meat, fish and homemade pasta all washed down with oodles of great tasting prosecco. By the way if you don’t want to do the uphill walking, take the little train which leaves from the Grand Hotel and costs a few Euros.

There are many more places to mention, Limone (boasts one of the best wine bars in the region, Gato Borracho, for a glass by glass tour of northern Italy), Desenzano, Garda, Bardolino, Malcesine (if you stop here get on the cable car and go to the top of Mount Baldo for amazing views and great walks) to name but a few but all are within striking distance by ferry, private boat or bus.

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Hotel Belvedere, Bellagio

Now, just because I am sold on Lake Garda doesn’t mean I am blind to the charms of the other northern Italian Lakes.  On Lake Como, “Bello” Bellagio gets all the press and rightly so as very dolce vita it is too. We stayed at the stunning 4 star  Hotel Belvedere and if you’re in the mood for cool yet sophisticated modernity it delivers –  from the service to the lakeside pool and infinity jacuzzi to beautiful spa, all is impeccable. You could pay extra and enjoy a superior lake view room (or better still upgrade to an individually styled suite with balconied terraces) and just lap it all up.

We liked the little touches like our pool towels set out each morning and our room checked sometimes three times a day but what we relished most was evening dinner.  We enjoyed the usual pasta, pizzas and gelato of course but also fresh and local fare like Bavette al tonno con olive e capperi (bavette with tuna sauce, olives and capers) and the very memorable dish, Tagliatelle ai fruitti di mare con coulis ai broccoli (tagliatelle with seafood on a broccoli coulis). Delicious.  And all this from  Belvedere’s uber-romantic al fresco terrace with views of  Lake Como while the sun goes down. You just felt you were in a scene of endless beauty with die-for views.

More next week on Mary’s journey through Italy’s northern lakes..

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