Lake Garda, Lombardia and The Lakes - Italian Villa Vacations
Lake Garda, Lombardia and The Lakes
With its clear, clean and warm water, sunny beaches, mild climate and Mediterranean vegetation, Lake Garda is like a small sea set between the last spurs of the Alps and the Lombardy plain. Garda has been a favoured spot since Roman times and has been lauded by poets and writers through the ages, for example, Catullus, Goethe, Joyce and D'Annunzio. It unites its natural beauty with the traces of its history, from Roman remains to Liberty. There are many interesting little towns situated along the coast or up the hills, rich of history, culture, good restaurants and shops.
WHAT TO SEE ON THE WEST SIDE OF LAKE GARDA
The Brescian side of the lake begins at Sirmione which has been famous since ancient times for its health-giving spa water. The peninsula on which it stands sticks out into the water about 4 km and is one of the most enchanting places on the lake. In Roman times villas were built there including that of the poet Catullus who wrote of the beauty of the lake in his verses. Nature and history: Sirmione is full of art treasures and history starting with the Scaliger Castle through which one must pass to reach the town centre. The town itself is closed to private traffic but a shuttle takes the visitor to the end of the peninsula, the Grotte di Catullo, starting off from the square outside the spa (Terme di Sirmione) surrounded with a big park and famous throughout Europe.
Desenzano stands in the centre of a wide bay and is sheltered behind a semi-circle of hills. It is one of the best-known tourist towns on the lake and also a famous sailing and bathing centre. The town centres around the lakeside promenade, piazza Malvezzi (where an antiques market is held on the first Sunday in the month), Porto Vecchio and the porticoed streets lined with bars, boutiques and restaurants.
Valtenesi is the hilly area of vineyards and olive plantations that slopes down to the lake between the bays of Padenghe and Salò. It is made up of seven districts - Padenghe, Moniga, Manerba, San Felice, Puegnago, Polpenazze and Soiano. Ancient villages, castles and villas can be found nestling in the fields and on the lakeside there are small villages where bars, restaurants, and beaches await the tourist. Valtenesi produces some of the best Brescian wines (Groppello and Chiaretto for example) but is also famous for its extra-virgin olive oil. Both the wine and oil can be bought directly from their producers.
Salò is an elegant and popular holiday resort sitting in a marvellous position on the bay of the same name where it is protected from northerly winds. Along the lakeside (arranged in 1906) there are bars, ice-cream shops, restaurants and boutiques, that's why it is the favourite place where to go for a walk.
With its lakeside walk, large villas and grand hotels, Gardone Riviera preserves a charm of times past; it has been a famous destination for international tourism since the end of the 19th century. The most recently constructed part of the town is Gardone di Sotto, the pedestrian section alongside the water where bars, ice-cream shops and boutiques jostle for space, and corso Zanardelli which is the busy axis of town life. In the centre of a large public garden stands Villa Alba whose dock was the Torre di San Marco. In 1900 the Tsar's doctor, Arturo Hruska, created the wonderful botanical garden bearing his name. In just 10.000 m2 there are over 8.000 varieties of plants and flowers from all over the word. The older section of the town, Gardone di Sopra, still has its large villas surrounded by gardens and its 18th century Parish church; it was here that poet Gabriele D'Annunzio built the property called "Vittoriale", which became a national museum on his death. From the Vittoriale there is a pretty walk along via Belvedere to Fasano.
Toscolano - Maderno
Divided by the river Toscolano, Maderno and Toscolano (now a single unit) are popular tourist centres loved by sportsmen and sailing enthusiasts. Their shoreline is the longest on Garda and behind it lies a 9 hole golf course. Circolo Golf Bogliaco. The places to see at Maderno are the 12th century church of S. Andrea with a work by Paolo Veneziano and the later Parish church which has a painting by Paolo Veronese. Before arriving in Toscolano, a small detour should be take to the Valle delle Cartiere where a paper-making industry flourished after 1300. Toscolano, the original Benacum, was the most important Roman centre and the remains of a villa with mosaic floors can be visited. The 16th century church of Santi Pietro e Paolo has a baroque portal, 16th century wooden sculptures and 17th century pictures by the Venetian painter, Andrea Celesti. Nearby there is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Benaco con 16th century frescoes.
Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938) had two aims in mind when he built "Vittoriale" - to have a place to live and to create a monument to his own genius and audacious deeds during World War One. The site is an extraordinary set of buildings surrounded by its own park overlooking the lake. It was designed by Gian Carlo Maroni and encloses the Priory (the pot's house from 1921 to 1938), an open-air theatre (which holds a Summer season of D'Annunzio works each year), the poet's tomb and mausoleum, avenues lined with the urns of his wartime companions and a series of extraordinary objects such as the bow of the cruiser Puglia built into the hill, the speedboat MAS 96 which he used in the "Buccari Escapade" and the aeroplane in which he flew over Vienna, on the 9th of August 1918, to drop subversive leaflets. The Priory shows just what sort of mind D'Annunzio had and the life he lived with its Liberty furniture, thousands of objects, and the works of art, books and paintings with which he liked to surround himself in. The Library is very interesting for the collected works of the poet, rare editions of his favourite writers, and musical scores including signed copies of works by the famous musicians Debussy and Wagner.