Europe 2016: Lake Garda, Italy – July, 2016
After leaving Verona, we arrived in Torbole, Italy which sits on the northern end of Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) which was our last destination in Italy before crossing over into Austria. Lake Garda is a 370 square km lake which is nestled between rising mountain cliffs of the alps giving it an even more dramatic location. The region is much more green than anywhere else we had visited in Italy up to this point and that along with the mountains made it feel like we were somewhere else entirely. We spent three days in beautiful place and honestly it was just what we needed to recharge before continuing on to the second week of our trip in Austria. This region is very popular with tourists from Germany and the surrounding area which is easy to understand why, it is also a world class destination for wind sailing and mountain biking which is pretty cool. It was nice to spend some time in a mountain town again where outdoor activities are the number one attraction. However, there are also tons of wineries in the region and other attractions for those not very interested in the outdoors!
The drive into Torbole started along a scenic highway through a sea of endless vineyards before snaking our way down a two laned road down the mountain valley and down to the lake. We pulled over in a small road cutout to get our first view as the sun was setting over Lake Garda and Torbole.
There was a ton of traffic heading down towards the lake so it was more of a slow crawl down the mountain but we eventually made it to our hotel which sat in a beautiful location right on the edge of the lake. We unfortunately had a bit of a reservation debacle at the hotel (at no fault of the hotel) but thankfully they were extremely nice and helpful and we got it resolved without too much fuss. After settling in we had a late dinner on the lake front at about 11pm and then settled in for a well deserved rest. The next morning we woke up to gorgeous views right from our hotel room.
For our first full day in the area we decided to head over to Malcesine which is another small town along the lake south of Torbole. From here we were able to take a ride on the cable car which takes you up to the top of Monte Baldo which sits at 7,277 ft overlooking the lake. Normally I would of prefered to climb the mountain the old fashioned way but with the time limitations we had this was the more expedient option.
Once on top of the mountain it was like being transported to a totally different world. The summit area did have quite a few buildings on it but the landscape is still so green and large that they really melt into the scenery without being an eyesore. There were also quite a few people but everyone was pretty spread out so it still felt much less crowded than being on Mt Washington on a busy weekend for example. Once we were on top we took the time to hike along the ridge and take in the views.
Unfortunately as we made our way out to the northern end of the ridge clouds began to move in which obscured a lot of what would have been incredible views. However through breaks in the clouds we were still able to get some great views here and there. It was certainly better than our most recent Grand Canyon experience!
Another highlight from the top of Monte Baldo was the herd of cattle grazing on the top of the mountain with their clanging bells. This was definitely a pretty unique site you don’t really get back home.
We also stopped for a while to watch paragliders launch from the top of the mountain out over the lake. It was pretty cool watching one person after another launch off into the valley below. It was really like an endless stream.
However as we were sitting around enjoying the scenery a storm rolled in pretty quickly so the paragliders were stopped from launching and I felt bad for the guys that had to just pack up their stuff and walk back off the mountain. I can imagine that is a real bummer. Since we couldn’t see anything else we decided to walk over to the mountain cafe and enjoy some lunch and wait and see if maybe the storm would pass quickly, but despite waiting for over an hour the weather never changed and really just got worse. So after enjoying our meal we decided it was time to head back down.
All in all it was a great day up on Monte Baldo and I would highly recommend checking it out if you happen to be in the Lake Garda region. It is very worth it! We spent the remainder of the day walking around town (which is quite small) and just lounging and eating which is always a good pastime before calling it a day.
For our last day in Lake Garda we decided to take the ferry around the lake and explore some of the other small towns which dot the shores of the lake. We did a loop from Torbole to Riva del Garda and Limone Sul Garda. The ferry system is easy to use and the boats run frequently so it is actually a very convenient way to get around the lake.
From the ferry we also got some nice views of the wind sailors in action as well as unobscured views of just how big the lake really is.
I will not go into too many details about each individual town but they are all a little bit different and offer various shops and restaurants to explore. They are small but quaint and worth the time it takes to get to them. They also have various churches and museums to visit if you were looking to do some traditional sightseeing in the area.
All in all we had a pretty great time in this beautiful region and I would love a chance to go back and explore more of it. It is really pretty huge overall and if you are into outdoor activities I can see it providing endless opportunities for fun and adventure. This stop was also just the kind of relaxing place we needed to recharge from the hot and sweaty portion of our trip up from Rome. From here we left the following morning to head up to our next stop which was Innsbruck, Austria.