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6 February 2024

Love Style-Love Italy-Love Lake Garda

Few places offer as much to do and see, all year round, as the largest and most charming of Italy’s lakes: Lake Garda.
And the place to see it at its very best is its east coast, in the Veneto region. Whether in search of family fun, activity breaks, romantic evenings, culture, relaxation or simply the peace and tranquillity of nature, this area covers it all. And, of course, there’s always Italy’s world-renowned wine and food to savour.
What’s more, this part of the lake is easily accessible, with many airlines flying from the UK into Verona airport, just 16km from the lake’s shoreline.
From Malcésine, in the north of the region – with its medieval, lakeside castle and the verdant wooded slopes of the towering Monte Baldo as a backdrop – down the cost to Peschiera del Garda, at its south-eastern ‘corner’, this area of Lake Garda is filled with leisure opportunities and places of interest.
Brenzone, just down the shore road from Malcésine, is a collection of small, traditional fishing villages, and is the starting point of the cableway which takes visitors up the mountain to cycling, walking and mountain biking trails. At lake level it’s a popular venue for watersports and is well known for the fresh fish in its restaurants and trattoria.
The pretty village of Torri del Benaco, just 20km south of Malcésine, retains part of its 10th-century fortifications, with the Castello Scaligero guarding a picturesque harbour, while there was also a 10th-century settlement where the town of Garda now sits. A former fishing village, it’s now renowned for its delightful curving lakefront promenade offering excellent views across the water. It is also a departure point for boat trips and possesses a charming historic quarter navigated by narrow alleyways.
In between Torri del Benaco and Garda lies the private headland of Punta San Viglio, which features an attractive ‘pay’ beach, the Parco Baia delle Sirene.
Another departure point for the myriad boat trips available on the lake is Bardolino, just three kilometres from Garda, and famed for the popular, light red wine that bears its name. And just outside the town are a couple of museums which pay homage to the region’s liquid heritage: the Museo del Vino, part of the Zeni winery, and the Museo dell’Olio di Oliva – the Olive Tree Museum – which celebrates the large regional industry of olive oil production.
The colourful, walled village of Lazise sits at the foot of the morainic hills at the lake’s widest point, a further five kilometres down the coast. The pleasant city-centre harbour-front is home to a medieval customs house, while the nearby San Nicolò church houses historic 13th-century frescoes.
At the bottom corner of the lake, where it joins the River Mincio, the former military town of Peschiera del Garda is a designated ‘Jewel of Italy’. A three-kilometre long beach provides ample room for relaxation and watersports, while a 16th-century wall, pentagonal in shape, encloses fully the old town. Outside the walls, it is perfect for hiking, biking, or canoeing along the Mincio, a journey which takes in the many vineyards and wineries of the area.
It’s also a good place to try the revered Lugano wine which is produced nearby, from the Trebbiano di Lugana grape, which thrives in the region’s soil.
Just north of Peschiera is the world-renowned theme park, Gardaland, adjacent to the lake’s edge at one point. Covering some 110 acres, it includes Gardaland Park, Gardaland Sea Life Aquarium and two four-star resort hotels: Gardaland Hotel and Gardaland Adventure Hotel.
It has nearly 40 family friendly rides, including six rollercoasters and three water rides, one of the most popular of which is Oblivion – The Black Hole, Italy’s first ‘dive coaster’. Legs dangling in the air, facing the ground at a height of 45m, participants then experience a vertical plunge at a speed of more than 62mph … straight into ‘the Black Hole’.
Ten kilometres south of Peschiera lies Valeggio sul Mincio, on the boundary of the provinces of Veneto and Lombardy. Founded near an old ford, it was traditionally a commercial ‘crossroads’ where travellers found good food. That tradition remains as the town is famed for its tortellini – ring-shaped filled pasta – as much as for the historic fortresses which still dot the countryside.
Bussolengo, just 13 kilometres east of Peschiera, is known as the Painted Village (Pagus Pictus) as a consequence of its frescoes, which are particularly prominent in the Church of St Valentino – the town’s patron saint – the Church of San Rocco, and in the cloister of the Church of the Padri Redentoristi. It is also a draw for tourists because of its shopping centres, while the small hamlet of San Benedetto, just to the west of Peschiera, is a popular spot for stand-up paddle-boarding.
The historic and romantic city of Verona – often underrated in a country with so many fascinating cities – enchants at every step: the traces of the magnificent Roman origins, the medieval style, Scaliger knights, the great Renaissance palaces and its 16th-century fortifications.
One of its more modern attractions is the Museo Nicolis – one man’s dedication to the history of cars, motorbikes and bicycles, with hundreds of exhibits, which also encompass aeroplanes, cameras, typewriters and anything which celebrates the ingenuity of human engineering.
Accommodation options in the region are suitable for all pockets, ranging from five-star hotels to the budget bed and breakfast available at the Meet Lake Garda Hostel – where a room will cost from just €18 per person, per night – or the various camp-sites, such as Campeggio del Garda, which abut the lake’s shoreline.
A three-night bed-and-breakfast break, in August, for example, at the two-star Hotel Italia, in Garda – just a little more than a kilometre from the centre of town and the lake shore – costs from just £84.63 per room, per night.
While for a five-star option, how about the restored 16th-century Villa Cordevigo Wine Relais, in Cavaion, four kilometres east of Bardolino, where a three-night bed-and-breakfast break, in August, costs from £339.23 per room, per night.
Lake Garda, or Benaco, is the largest lake in Italy, a little more than 51km in length and covering almost 370km2. It is shared by three provinces: the eastern shore, from Malcésine to Peschiera, comes under the province of Verona, part of Vé