Discover what makes Lake Garda as appealing as it is and experience its unique flair. Just as the locals do, with Marco Polo’s insider tips:
The first espresso after leaving the autostrada
Stop at the car park after the first hairpin bend coming from Nago heading for Torbole and enjoy your first cup of coffee, your first aperol or your first ice cream (at the bar on the other side of the road). The view to the south is breathtaking.
Racing through tunnels like James Bond
The Gardesana Occidentale that runs down the western side of the lake from Campione to Riva passes through at least a dozen tunnels which even inspired 007’s motive scouts. Bond & Co. spent two weeks filming for Quantum of Solace on Lake Garda. That may only have resulted in a brief moment in the final film – but what a couple of minutes!
Trip on a paddle steamer
A trip across the lake on the ‘Zanardelli’ or the ‘Italia’ – two paddle steamers built in 1903 and 1908 respectively – is a must. The ‘Zanardelli’ operates in the north; the ‘Italia’ in the south. The locals love being out on the lake too, albeit generally in their own sailing boats. Alternatively you can hire a little motorboat with 40hp even if you don’t have a driving licence.
Torbole at half-past-six
When the first rays of sunlight peak over Monte Baldo the lake is already full of brightly coloured sails. When the wind is right, the windsurfing cracks are out on the water by this time, speeding along or showing off their tricks. Distance fans race back and forth along a 2km (1 1⁄4 mile) stretch between Torbole and Riva as if on a conveyor belt. Time and again. A wonderful spectacle to watch.
A view of the lake and pasta at half-past-seven
In the evening, when the colour of the lake changes from a brilliant silver to a soft gold in the light of the setting sun, sit back and enjoy an aperol or a ‘Hugo’ before your evening meal on the Gardesana Orientale at least once during your stay and watch the sun go down – either on a pontoon in Torri del Benaco, a balcony in the ‘Belvedere’ in Marniga di Brenzone or right on the water with a view of the castle in Malcesine on the Lido di Paina.
Sunday evening on the beach
Lots of Italian families head for the lakeside in July and August although it is often said that it is firmly in the hands of the Germans – which, considering the number of tourists who flood to the lake every year, is hardly surprising. However, when the Italians descend the situation changes noticeably. Tables, chairs and sun umbrellas appear early in the morning and airbeds are pumped up. After a long, hot day, family get-togethers start at around half past seven in the evening with barbecues, vino and a huge variety of antipasti. And some of the fathers may have had a successful day’s fishing. You may even be invited to a glass of something by your neighbours.
A day in a deserted village
A 30-minute walk along a donkey track from Marniga di Brenzone will bring you to Campo. An artist has set up his easel, sheep are grazing nearby, a donkey is standing motionless in the blazing sun. Campo dates from the 11th century and is a quiet, solitary place albeit run down now. Hardly anyone lives here anymore as most people have moved away: no roads, no future – but a wonderful atmosphere.
A night in the Limonaia
The view of the bulbous lower end of the lake is simply stunning and the edge of the infinity pool merges optically with the water on Lake Garda 300m (985ft) below. You may be able to find a more exclusive place to stay in Lago, but nowhere is as beautiful as in “Lefay’ – the holiday resort above Gargnano that will give you that perfect ‘lago’ feeling.
Buy the Lake Garda Marco Polo Spiral Guide.