That’s right, the Sweetings recently returned from Italy, more specifically, Lake Garda. Ah Lake Garda. Lago di Garda. I didn’t know much about it before we went. In fact, it only ended up on my ‘Places to try and persuade Luke to go on holiday to’ list after one of my friends recommended it a few months ago. Now, it’s one of my all-time favourite places.
We arrived in Pescantina, the village we staying in between Verona and Lake Garda, picked up a few essentials from the supermarket, and then found that everything else was shut because it was August 15th, a huge Italian bank holiday (shout-out to my Italian friend Francesca for the heads-up – without this nugget of information I’d have been wondering where the heck everyone was). We couldn’t check-in to our Airbnb until 3pm, so, we set off for the lake.
We drove to Lazise, which was the nearest Lake Garda town to where we were staying, and when we first saw the lake it took my breath away. It’s huge, and it’s blue. Not the murky olive colour that many of our lakes are. The mountainous backdrop didn’t go unnoticed either – I was captivated.
I might have been tired, roasting in my black running leggings (comfy for travel, unbearable for walking around Italy in the sun), stressed and hungry, but I instantly felt calm and happy standing in front of the lake.
People were strolling along the water’s edge laughing and chatting with ease, others were paddling, and some were on boats and paddle boards. Everyone seemed to be a good mood, and it rubbed off on me straight away.
So, since Lake Garda is now one of my favourite places ever, I thought I’d share the details of the places we visited. Grab yourself an Aperol Spritz and a slice of pizza, and let’s crack on.
The medieval town of Lazise sits on the eastern shore of the lake, at it’s widest point. It’s very picturesque – I could have spent all day walking around taking photographs, but ultimately I was there to spend time time with my husband, and I’m not sure he’d have found that to be much fun. Lazise has a beautiful waterfront with a promenade for you to stroll along, little shops, cafes and restaurants, a gorgeous harbor with colourful boats for you to admire/imagine which one you’d buy if you had the money, and a stunning chequerboard piazza for you to enjoy a drink in. There’s even a small beach so you can enjoy a dip and sunbathe in the sand! It’s made for relaxing.
Bardolino is charming, and my favourite of the towns we visited. It sits on the lakeside about ten minutes north of Lazise. It’s picturesque (just like the entirity of Lake Garda), but it’s also got a chic feel to it, and it feels a bit less touristy than Lazise. This gorgeous town is all about the grape. Bardolino wine is well-known throughout the world, and they actually have a Wine and Grape Festival that takes place in October. It’s the most important event in the Bardolino calendar. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants, including Ristorante Lunico, which we visited twice because it was so good. Lake Garda isn’t overly vegan-friendly, so it was great to see items on the menu marked up as vegan. Between us we had basil tortellini, a giant vegan salad (which was very much appreciated after all the carbs we’d been eating!), chips, and a vegan pizza which has to be the biggest pizza I think I’ve ever seen. We sat outside both times, once at lunch and once at dinner, and it was so great to be able to see the lake while we ate.
The pretty town of Garda has everything you could want from a lakeside town. It features a horseshoe-shaped bay, a promenade (the same one as Lazise and Bardolino), narrow streets with beautifully-coloured buildings, and medieval charm. There’s a great buzz about the town, partly due to the harbor, which sees visitors coming and going by boat from and to the other side of the lake. We went once in the morning when we were cycling along the promenade, and once in the evening when the sun was about to set. The town seems even more vibrant in the evening, with live music and people chatting animatedly as they stroll along the lake.
Torri Del Benaco
Torri Del Benaco reached our radar when we were looking at ways to enjoy a boat trip on the lake. It was less than half an hour from where we were staying in Pescantina, and from there we were able to enjoy a 30-minute trip across the lake to the town of Maderno.
Maderno offers a wonderful long walk by the lake, with views that you can’t stop gawping at, but Torri Del Benaco was the real highlight of the day, and a must-visit if you’re in the area. It’s an ancient village sitting at the foot of Mount Baldo on the eastern shore. A 14th Century castle stands proud on the edge of the village, and with my new best friend the lake running alongside it, I couldn’t help but imagine what a stunning location it would be for a wedding. It’s very romantic. If any of you are planning a wedding, please feel free to have it here and invite me to it.
You can expect cobbled streets to wander through, beautiful beaches to relax on, history to soak up, and pretty courtyards.
Sirmione is a busy town nestled in the south of Lake Garda. It was the busiest town we visited, but for a reason. IT IS BEAUTIFUL. It sits on a headland, meaning it’s surrounded by water, which instantly makes the place feel calm and cool, despite the hustle and bustle of the town.
The castle at the heart of the town looks like something from a fairytale, there’s a lovely building adorned with vibrant purple bougainvillea, plus roman ruins, beautiful public beaches, pretty piazzas and small harbors.
There are plenty of shops for you to duck in and out of, and traditional Italian restaurants to enjoy. We devoured some vegan pizzas, and then set off in search for vegan ice cream. We managed to find some, at Gelateria Mirkoz which is right in the middle of the town. We took our ice creams on a walk by the lake, where we were able to find a little slice of quiet away from the busy town.
So, in summary, Lake Garda is beautiful and I need to buy a holiday home over there. Or move there full-time, either will suit me nicely!