I enjoyed a late-summer adventure to Lake Garda in northern Italy, my first trip outside of Germany since the first lockdown in March. I definitely feel privileged and grateful to have had a holiday while many others may not be in the position to do so. And while we could have a discussion about whether summer travel across europe sparked the second wave of infections currently running through most european countries, I’m sure you’ll find enough chatter of this kind elsewhere. Instead, let me take you on a little trip through this northern italian gem.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and a very popular destination for german tourists and the region caters to it well. From restaurant menus in German, german cyclists trailing the narrow roads, service staff speaking german and the sound of more dankeschön’s than grazie‘s as you visit the local caffetteria. Because of this, there’s a prevailing view in Germany that a trip to Lake Garda isn’t authentically italian, but rather a lazy excuse for a change of scenery. Opinions aside, I’ve come to appreciate why the lake is so popular.
The mediterranean flair
Despite its proximity to the alps, Lake Garda can easily fool you for a mediterranean coastal region. With mild winters and warm summers, it’s home to olive groves, citrus fruits and vineyards. And where there’s beautiful water and long summers, you’ll definitely find a parade of fancy yachts and motorboats.
With the unassuming trattorias, michelin star dining and farm-to-table feasts, the food scene is superb. Coupled with the hospitality and italian charm, you’re bound to leave with a full belly and heart.
The location is ideal
Located throughout the regions of Brescia, Verona and Trento, in northern Italy, getting to Lake Garda is an easy road trip for italians and its neighbours in Switzerland and Italy. For those looking to explore some bigger cities, Verona, Milan and Venice are also within driving distance. Water lovers will appreciate that the region offers some more some beautiful lakes: Lake Maggiore, Lake d’Iseo and Lake Como.
The possibilities are endless
Whether you’re in to sailing, hiking, castles, cycling, city trips, people watching, or day-drinking, the region offers something for everyone.
23 communes surround the lake, situated on the shore and nestled on the hillsides. Despite their proximity to each other, you’ll be fascinated by the different culture, history, architecture and rituals each of these communes bring. You’ll find ancient castles in Sirmione and Lazise, the old town charm of Salò, the many churches of Bardolino and the baroque palaces of Gargnano.
My favourite: Limone sul Garda. On the northern shore of Lake Garda surrounding the city of Limone sul Garda you’ll see the cliff side lined with ancient lemon and citrus groves; the Lemonaia. In their original state, some of these cliffside greenhouses were built up to 7 stories tall. While many have since been restored and continue to grow produce, other groves have been transformed to residential properties and cultural centres. Limone sul Garda have definitely embraced the lemon throughout the town, but as one of my favourite fruits, I have no problem with a bit of lemon overload.
A water lovers paradise
At almost 52km in length, Lake Garda is a dream for water lovers. The warmer months bring it all: ferries, jet-skies, sailing boats, rentals, and luxury motor boats. The lake is dotted with small islands, some housing ancient monasteries or castles and others just luxurious lunch spots. Get yourself on a boat and spend the day docked in one of the quiet bays, cooling off with a dip every now and then. If you’re lucky, the floating Delfino Snack Bar will cruise by with its menu of beer, champagne, tramezzini and salads.
Locals will tell you how the wind changes throughout the day, inviting the windsurfers to hit the northern shores of the lake in the afternoon. Despite the traffic, the water quality is superb and crystal clear. If you stay a few days you might be lucky to notice how the water takes on different shades of blue depending on the weather and how it reflects off the mountains.
Enjoying the view of the lakeside towns from the water will blow you away with its beauty and diversity. I mean, take a look for yourself.
Lake Garda has definitely charmed me!
Travelling during COVID
Acknowledging that everyone will have their own view on the matter, I’m happy to have had the chance to take a small break away from my four walls. I didn’t do so without seriously considering a few things beforehand:
- What do the current stats looks like?
- What measures and restrictions are in place in the region and hotel?
- How can I get to the location with the least risk?
- How are facilities are impacted (gastronomy, culture, tourism)?
- How can I access (medical) support if I would need it?
- What would I need to do when returning home e.g. quarantine?
- What travel options do we have to explore the region without coming into crowded areas?
Throughout my trip, I made sure to keep updated with what was happening across the region through local news sources.
It was easy to stay low-key and keep away from large crowds and noticed that there were significantly fewer visitors to the area than previous years. I was also happy to see that locals and travellers respected each others distance and all places we visited were strict in enforcing their measures for safety and hygiene. My philosophy is, do your research, practice common sense and avoid crowded areas or areas where you see a risk for yourself or others.
Here’s to hoping that that travelling will be more accessible again for everyone soon.
In the spirit of 2020, stay safe and healthy!