Italy on the road

A stay on Lake Garda, in the footsteps of poets

A trip to the western shore of Lake Garda: what to see, where to stay and which gastronomic specialities to taste.

Truly a magical place, with a mild and temperate climate thanks to pleasant winds and mountain breezes, as well as magnificent villages, listed among the most beautiful in Italy. And it is no coincidence that Catullus, D’Annunzio, but also Kafka, Goethe and many others have, over the centuries, praised the beauty of Lake Garda, a paradisical spot at the foot of the Alps. 

The shores of this lake fascinate as many as twenty-five million tourists every year, who explore this lake of glacial origin far and wide, discovering its natural, cultural and, needless to say, gastronomic beauties.

A place loved by artists

The great wines are perhaps the best-known product of these lands because their tradition dates back to the time of the ancient Romans, but the extra virgin olive oil PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and, on the Brescia side of Lake Garda, the fragrant citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, bergamots, citrons and the celebrated lemons, from which delicious liqueurs and sweets are made, are no less important.

Tasting these specialities and holidaying on Lake Garda is quite easy, but you need to know how to choose the best solutions that can make the experience unforgettable. A good way to do this is to retrace the routes beloved by artists over the ages. The tour can only start from Sirmione, on the southern coast of the lake, to visit the archaeological area dating back to Roman times known as Grotte di Catullo. Keeping to the western shore, which is the main theme of our exploration journey, we follow the passions of another poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, who lived and is buried here, in Gardone Riviera, where the Il Vittoriale residence-museum and his Mausoleum are located. The site is open to the public and welcomes around 180,000 visitors each year.

A quality welcome

Dedicating time to discovering the local villages is a must, even to breathe in their atmosphere: many historic farmsteads and as many charming residences offer enchanting solutions for an unforgettable stay. In Salò – the ‘home’ of citronade, a drink that originated here in the second half of the 18th century – towering on the top of a hill is Borgo Il Mezzanino an ancient countryside residence converted into a farm, with a 50,000 m² park in which it is possible to stroll among vineyards, botanical gardens and bee-houses that produce delicious honey, on sale in the dedicated Bottega, along with many other zero-mileage gastronomic products. 

A few kilometres further south, travellers who are more aware of the issues of environmental sustainability, organic farming and a holistic approach can find the ideal accommodation at Agriturismo Il Pratello offering a philosophy of agriculture and hospitality based on mutual respect between humans and the environment. A wine resort where one can relax, be pampered, and feel a deep connection with nature.

Heading north, if Limone del Garda is an obligatory stop, a visit to Tremosine, a widespread municipality consisting of 18 villages, is an absolute must: the main one, Pieve, is perched on the top of a cliff, literally overhanging the lake, and offers visitors a breathtaking view. From here, fabulous itineraries for hikers set off along inland trails, towards the Ledro Valley, while it is possible to take advantage of the lake’s winds for surfing and windsurfing in nearby Campione.

What to eat on Lake Garda

Once the eyes have been satisfied, it is necessary to satisfy the palate: polenta is king in this area, possibly accompanied by pigeon and a glass of Bardolino, as well as excellent cheeses. But the king of the table is the lake fish: foodies can choose from no less than twenty-five species to satisfy their taste buds and curiosity. We recommend accompanying them with a local white wine, for example a Bianco di Custoza or a Garda Classico Chiaretto rosé. 

When cooking it at home, following local recipes, you may start with an easy recipe, like the one for the Roselline di coregone al Lugana (Whitefish roses with Lugana) with cherry tomatoes, olives, capers and lemon, with a fresh vegetable garden salad.

To round off the meal, one cannot but taste the persicata, a typical Brescian peach-based dessert with origins dating back to ancient times. To be made using only Collebeato peaches, the persicata consists of jellies made of jam and sugar and, needless to say, it seems to have been one of D’Annunzio’s favourite desserts, a true lover of all that was both good and beautiful.

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