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The use of fresh ingredients in Italian cooking seems to put the UK and the USA to shame. The joy of eating fresh tomatoes and fantastic olive oil is without equal. It’s hard to travel anywhere in Italy without also enjoying the fine wines that are on offer. Drinking wine with a meal is very much part of the culture here. If you have previously visited many of the larger Italian cities, you can wonder how the region around Lake Garda would compare. You can read in your guidebook that the area is largely made up of relatively small villages, towns, and resorts. It would be a trip that would be considerably different to previous visits to the country. During your stay on the shores of Lake Garda, you can opt to move around and visit as many of the lakeside villages as possible. You will be delighted to find thriving markets and restaurants in many of them. This is a guide to a visit to the Garda Lake. It takes a drive clockwise from Desenzano and touching in sequence the small towns of Salo, Gardone Riviera, Toscolano Maderno, Gargnano, Tignale, Tremosine, Limone Sul Garda, Riva del Garda, Torbole, Malcesine, Brenzone, Torri del Benaco, Bardolino, Garda, Lazise, Peschiera del Garda and Sirmione. It also includes a one-day boat ride on the Lake that starts in Peschiera del Garda and then touches the towns of Lazise, Bardolino, Garda, Salo, Gardone Riviera, Malcesine, Limone del Garda, Torbole and Riva del Garda. There are extensive descriptions and photos of the attractions. It contains many reviews for the best-recommended restaurants that are at the location described.
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Copyright Enrico Massetti 2015
Published by Enrico Massetti
All Rights Reserved
Lake Garda at Riva del Garda
Lake Garda is the largest Italian lake, situated at the foot of the Alps, in a beautiful area of southern Europe. At only 30 Km from Verona, 100 Km from Milan and 130 Km from Venice it is well placed for road, rail, and air connections.
Lake Garda offers the visitor a splendid natural scenery, full of colors, surrounded by the Dolomites of Brenta in the north and the gentle slopes of the morainic hills in the south. A rich vegetation flourishes thanks to the Mediterranean climate: lemon trees, oleanders, magnolias, and bougainvillea.
The cultivation of vineyards and olive groves produces excellent wines and olive oil. Strolling around the small village centers, going on a boat trip, exploring the surroundings in a wide choice of itineraries are the best ways of enjoying the lively atmosphere of the lake and the beauty of the landscape.
Moreover, Lake Garda is ideally situated for excursions: to the historical cities of Verona, Brescia, Mantua, Trent, and Venice, to the Dolomites, to a performance at the Arena in Verona during the Opera Season.
In this region, almost every sport can be practiced from tennis to paragliding, free-climbing, scuba-diving, clay-pigeon shooting, and karting.
Sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts find here their ideal conditions, and over the last years Lake Garda has been chosen by lovers of mountain-bike and has become world famous for the quality of its golf courses.
If looking for fun and relax there is an excellent choice of amusement parks and gardens; for those who love shopping opportunities are meeting all needs, from the picturesque street markets to the most elegant shops.
Lake Garda is also well known for its exciting night-life, its dolce vita: restaurants, cafes, the trendiest discos and entertainment of all kinds are to be found everywhere.
This itinerary on the Garda Lake illustrates a drive around the lake, starting from the Lombardy town of Desenzano and driving North on the Gardesana Occidentale (Western Garda lake road) to continue clockwise once reached the tip of the lake at Riva del Garda, remaining on the Gardesana Orientale (Eastern Garda lake road).
A dynamic and lively town, rich in memories and activities, Desenzano is the ideal place for a holiday which is a perfect balance between relaxation and fun, nature and culture. Thanks to its easy access and its geographical position, it is one of the most accessible destinations to reach, the ideal departure point for your next holiday on Lake Garda.
Desenzano and Lake Garda: in the heart and in the history of Europe, where customs and cultures meet and blend. A famous Riviera, set between the Alpine snows and the Mediterranean sun, caressed by a unique, mild climate all year round.
This land, which was formed by thousands of years of glacial activity, still bears the traces of prehistoric man, of Roman colonization, the passage of the Celts and the Venetian culture, of France and Central Europe.
Time stood still on the shores of the lake and had fixed memories and emotions of a past which is recalled every day in the works of art, in the rich museums, in the precious monuments on the corners of the streets of Desenzano.
Roman remains, Middle-age fortresses, old parish churches, and Renaissance paintings frame a center which is rich in history, art, and culture.
Important confirmation of the most critical historical eras can be found in Desenzano, starting with the Civic Archaeological Museum, which houses a plow from 2000 B.C. (the oldest to be exposed to date), the Roman Villa with its mosaic floors and the relics housed in the Antiquarium.
The Castle, from the High Middle Ages, and the Cathedral, which houses some precious paintings, such as Tiepolo's "Last Supper," are both fascinating.
The Republic of Venice established itself permanently in the Garda region and the territories of Brescia and Bergamo after the peace of Lodi in 1454. During this time the port of Desenzano was completely renovated. However, the outer breakwater, up to the lighthouse with its lantern, date back to the nineteenth century.
Before the nineteenth century, the small port (nowadays known as the Old Port) was protected by a large quay and by some rocks which curbed the force of the waters when the lake was stormy, boats could also be moored to the pier opposite the port.
The traffic of goods in the nineteenth century was noteworthy, goods departed from Desenzano or arrived there from other lakeside towns, either on small boats or larger craft towed by small tugs.
A tramline set out from a small square, which now houses the gardens at the start of the lakeside promenade "C. Battisti," and linked Desenzano to Castiglione and Mantova. The Venetian style bridge which crosses the entrance to the small port was built in this century, in the thirties. The sizeable wet dock to the south was also made in the thirties.
Nowadays the "nineteenth-century style" steamboats, with their beautiful slender shape, have all but disappeared, to be replaced by motorboat-ferries and extremely fast hydrofoils.
The Roman Villa
The Villa in Desenzano is, nowadays, the most crucial testimony, in Northern Italy, to the grand and sumptuous ancient villas.
The building, situated just north of the Gallic way, enjoyed an excellent environment and landscape along the southern shores of Lake Garda.
Nowadays anyone who wants to have an idea of the composition of the villa must use their imagination to make the large and distinct blocks of the building, dating from the IV century B.C. It emerges from the ruins, but without considering, in this first approach, all those other elements which date back to earlier dwellings, and that can be glimpsed here and there.
So, what can be drawn from these numerous separate ruins is an impression of a complex building, widely spread and characterized by three main areas, the first sector for extravagant stately functions, a second mainly residential area and a third which is for the most part thermal.
At the entrance to the villa there is also a small museum which, in three rooms, exhibits finds from numerous archaeological digs: amongst these, there are the remains of some fascinating statues and pictures, as well as a mill for pressing grapes or olives.
The castle is the building which characterizes the appearance of the town of Desenzano, either when seen on arrival from inland, or when viewed from the port, or even further away, from the lake. At the end of the fifteenth century the castle, which has its origins in the High Middle-Ages and probably stands on the foundations of a Roman castrum, was extended towards the south; however, it never became a military fortress, although the extension was carried out to house a garrison. It continued its primary role as a refuge for the population.
Inside the castle, there were the private homes of a few citizens which were always ready to accommodate those who lived outside the castle walls in the event of danger. In later years the castle gradually surrendered its function as a refuge, families continued to live there although its deterioration throughout the nineteenth century grew steadily worse.
In the castle, there was even a church, the church of St. Ambrose, which was used as a private house. The layout of the villa is that of an irregular rectangle, with a tower rising at the entrance, on the northern side, protecting the drawbridge, of which the loop-holes for the chains can still be seen today. It is a square-built tower with a single window in the upper part.
In 1882 the castle was used as a barracks, first as the headquarters of an infantry garrison, then for Bersagliere and finally for the Alpine troops from the thirties until 1943. The old castle, although devoid of any particular architectural beauty, apart from the facade, is of great historical interest and spectacular charm. All that remains of the old castle are some lengths of defense walls with crumbling catwalks between the four cut-off towers, except for the one on the north-eastern corner which up until 1940 was used as an observatory. From its terrace, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lake Garda.
Desenzano is located in a privileged geographic position with comfortable and fast ways of communication that connect it to several centers: the railway line on the Paris – Bern – Milan – Venice – Zagabria line. The service of the bus also extended to the Veneto and the Trentino, the regular lines of navigation on the entire lake, the highways (e.g., the Highway Turin – Milan – Venice "La Serenissima").
Desenzano is also close to the airport "Catullo" of Villafranca (Verona) and the brand new one of Montichiari (Brescia). All this makes Desenzano a node of such importance that it can be considered the "Capital of Lake Garda."
Restaurants in Desenzano:
•Ristorante Esplanade $$$$ Via Lario 3, +39 030 914 3361 Exquisite setting of this beautiful Restaurant building giving directly on the lake. The restaurant is located in the quieter part of Desenzano. The friendliness of the owner and the staff are very promising and only underline the excellent food creations that are offered.www.ristorante-esplanade.com
•Hosteria Croce d'Oro $$ - $$$ Vittorio Veneto, +39 030 999 1773 There are manly restaurants in Desenzano down by the lake, whereas this restaurant is up to the hill a bit off the lake. Food is very well prepared and delicious. The price-value is good. Not only typical Italian dishes but also specialties. The staff is very caring and polite.
•La Goccia Trattoria $$ - $$$ Via Montonale Basso, 13, +39 030 910 3194 Notwithstanding that it is out in the country a bit, it is relatively easy to get to because it is only a couple of miles off the A4 highway between Venezia and Milano. Note to all - do not try this restaurant without a reservation. It is a place that the locals go and know about, and it is always packed. Great seafood, excellent preparation, and excellent value.
•Pipol $$ - $$$ Via Roma, 73/B, +39 030 912 7357 Its a beautiful setting. Waiters do speak good English. Food is good, pesto isn't like the American style pesto, but it's delicious. Outside eating area at the end of the pedestrian walk doesn't look that promising but as night draws on it's more than acceptable.
•Pizzeria Vesuvio $ Via Mezzocolle, 37, +39 030 914 0092 English not spoken here. Nobody needs it. Ciro, owner and pizza maker, knows rudimentary English and the rest is hand gestures and pointing, and it works great. Fresh dough, thin crust, local salami, recently picked bell peppers, yum! Add two beverages, and a side of hot and crispy fries (new oil) and you are in heaven. Use a GPS, or you won't find the place. Minimal seating - countertop and bar stools.
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