Lake Garda & Emilia-Romagna, Italy


“You cannot travel the path until you become the path yourself”
– Buddha

Sitting at the edge of the Dolomites, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, where the alpine region was formed by glaciers at the end of the last ice age. The lake is enormous and reminded me of an infinity pool; as you gaze out into the distance, it becomes unclear where the water meets the sky as they unite in perfect unison, discerned only by the passing clouds of white above. It takes approximately two hours to drive around the entire perimeter of the lake, give or take, depending on traffic and weather. As you wind through long, dark tunnels, you come out on the other side to adorable sea towns. If you’d like to visit the entire lake, you can certainly drive it in one day if you select a few towns you’d like to visit, but my recommendation is to explore it slowly over several days, meandering about through the small villages and tasting fresh seafood right from the source.

We started in Salò, which is home to TripAdvisor’s #1-rated restaurant in the area, Osteria Di Mezzo, where we had the most delicious tiramisu of our entire lives. An unassuming facade, this family-run restaurant is down a back alley, tucked away like the little gem it is. Here is how it looks like from the outside:

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They start you off with a complimentary cucumber cream soup topped with an anchovy.

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We ordered a fresh lake fish, as well as delicious steak topped with truffle shavings.

The tiramisu is the classic recipe, only served with an inventive twist. It is served with a shot of espresso, which is poured over the top of a chocolate cup that melts into the rest of the dessert. You are then left to your own devices to mix everything together and devour…er, I mean…enjoy slowly, if you can help yourself. We also ordered chocolate molten cake, which was good, but didn’t come close to sharing the spotlight with its fancy competitor, Tantalizing Tremendously Tasty Tiramisu.

And once you’re thoroughly satiated, it’s time for the bill, which comes in this adorable postcard with some free treats made in-house (probably to distract you from the shock of the total.) We managed to rack up a €65 bill for lunch, which is unlike us. We typically fall in the range of €30 for the two of us, but we figured we’re towards the end of our travels, so why not splurge a bit? After all the sub-par, overpriced food in Venice, It was well worth it.

Once you’re nice and plump, get back out on the lake and take a walk around to settle the food and marvel at the pristine views.

Sunset dinners are sublime, and temperatures are pleasant (we visited in early August.)

Hiking Around Lake Garda

There are plenty of hikes to choose from, but since we only spent two full days around the lake, we settled on two spectacular ones. Just a heads up that Cascata Del Varone looks really neat, but when we drove up to it, we realized it was quite touristy and had an entrance fee of €5,50 for an individual ticket. Be prepared to get a bit wet, as you will be walking through and around the waterfalls, so visitors are advised to wear a rain jacket or poncho. We decided to give this hike a miss as we were looking for something more open with views of the lake and away from crowds.

Sentiero Panoramico Busatte Tempesta

Duration: 2 hours (includes ascending and descending a steep flight of stairs in good condition)
Views: Open to the elements, beautiful lake and town views
Elevation: 120 meters above sea level (360 feet)
Classification: Easy & pleasant
Distance: 5.4 kilometers (3.4 miles)
Month & Year Visited: August, 2017
Best Time to Hike: A few hours before sunset when it is not so hot and the sky lights up in beautiful colors

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Sail Boats

Looking like tiny toy sail boats on the massive lake.

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And here is the same photo, zoomed out to show the full spectrum.

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Stairs

Here is where the stairs begin.

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Monte Baldo

This was a delightful day. We actually didn’t do any hiking here because we were feeling lazy and wanted to enjoy the views without a workout. There is a funicular that ascends to the top that costs €20 per person. However, there is a way to avoid this high ticket fee! Simply go around to the backside of the mountain and take the ski lift up! The cost is only €7 and there’s a good chance that you will get your own lift (seats a total of four people), rather than being crammed inside a claustrophobic-inducing vessel with heaps of other people. The ride is beautiful and serene and takes only five minutes. The views at the top are beyond stunning. They’re surprising, because you have no idea that on the other side of the mountain lies the lake, shining below you like a sheet of wet turquoise metal. On the other hand, if you take the funicular, you’re coming from the lake side, so you’re seeing the views all the way up rather than being surprised and delighted when you arrive at the top. You can also choose to hike up and down or only walk one way and the ticket is cheaper. Stop at Chalet Falco (where the free parking is on the backside of the mountain) and have a meal before or after your hike/ride up to the top. The food and ambiance is welcoming and relaxed and it feels as though you are in the Swiss Alps.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views as you ascend on your own private lift, listening to the sound of beautiful mountain silence the entire way.

Once you reach the top, be prepared to be completely awed. Go ahead…roll your jaw back up off the floor.

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There are lots of paragliders to admire!

MODENA

Our main experience in Modena was the Ferrari Museum! At €16 per person, we didn’t really feel this was worth it. However, if you’re a car enthusiast, you may enjoy it. We stopped by the main piazza and it was a total ghost town! Since we visited during mid-August, all the locals were at the sea for the holiday called Ferragosto, so everything shuts down for between 2 – 4 weeks.

PARMA

Same situation with Parma; we only went for one day to check it out, and it was completely deserted.

We did, however, manage to visit a local delicatessen to ensure we tried all the Parma delicacies. 🙂

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You must try Parma ham, and of course, Parmesan cheese.

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Emilia Creamery is a delicious gelateria using all natural, biological ingredients.

NEXT UP: PIEDMONT REGION: TURIN & PARCO NAZIONALE GRAN PARADISO, ITALY

 

Categories: Italy

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