Garda at about 370 square kilometers is the largest of the Italian northern glacial lakes. Its typically Mediterranean scenery and vegetation with the majestic Dolomites on the horizon, reserves a surprise for the first time visitor.
Breathtaking views, intense colors and perfumes of flowers and fruit are typical of the Garda countryside but quite apart from the well known natural beauties, it is also a rich tapestry of history and folklore where nature, tradition and culture blend in a magically unique place of exquisite charm.
Garda at about 370 square kilometers is the largest of the Italian northern glacial lakes, not Maggiore as the name may suggest. Its typically Mediterranean scenery and vegetation with the majestic Dolomites on the horizon, reserves a surprise for the first time visitor: lemon and olive groves fringing the lake flourish side by side with vineyards producing fine award winning wines and oil at a surprisingly northern latitude in gently relaxing countryside more reminiscent of Tuscany. This is a fine testimony to the mild microclimate that has made the Italian lakes as a whole internationally sought after destinations and the ultimate in sensational outdoor lifestyle.
The local winds which blow in the morning and the late afternoon are called Peler and Ora and make this the top area for passionate sailors of all kinds. In summer Lake Garda becomes a center of sailing competitions and events such as the Premio Gorla and the Centomiglia.
A mecca for gourmets, sailors and windsurfers seeking out the breezy waters , the eastern shore harbors a few treats for history and culture lovers: a cluster of small villages with glorious Roman ruins and villa museums at San Felice del Benaco and Gargnano.
Lovers of walking, hiking, climbing and mountain-bike riding will also find massive scope for enjoyment in the truly memorable scenery.
Visitors to Lake Garda may also want to take advantage of its proximity to Venice to include a trip to the Serenissima or to the Arena in Verona for the opera.
Lake Iseo has a discreet charm, a mild climate and scenery that should be seen once in all seasons. This is our snapshot of Lake Iseo, a basin that deserves discovery from its Lake Garda, thanks to its climate and winds is the ideal place for sports carried out with sails, and not just in summer either, almost all year round. There are numerous annual competitions too such as the Premio Gorla and Centomiglia as well as many sailing clubs like the Circolo Vela at Gargnano, offering courses for all ages and full day or short excursions as an introduction to the delights of these sports, all in complete safety.
During the summer, the waters of Garda turn into a thousand different colors: rapidly moving windsurfers with their multicolored sails, a superb sight for onlookers, thanks to the wind called Ora, that has made Garda into a windsurfer's paradise. The less expert will appreciate the courses organized by qualified instructors which are a perfect introduction to the techniques required to learn this popular sport in complete safety, as well as to hire the right equipment.
Whoever may prefer a slower form of movement will prefer the canoe a perfect way to see the lake in total relaxation. But it is also possible to experience the excitement of the mountain streams which rush down the mountains to the lake. So make way for the bissa, a local vessel streamlined and rapid, canoes and kayaks, they will take you through moments of absolute joy and sheer adrenalin. Canyoning is one of the most popular sports in summer for mountain lovers. Gorges, little bays and waterfalls are the waterways for these slim fast craft, all enjoyed in complete safety. There are many places totake part in this sport either alone or in groups and there are courses for children too.
The transparent waters of Garda invite scuba divers to the depths, to exploration of the fascinating underworld of the lake and its ancient Venetian galleys which sunk hundreds of years ago. In the most gorgeous scenery, excitement grows by the second, memories gather and become unforgettable. The depths of the lake are at once a perfect venure for learners and a great destination for the more expert.
The natural reserve Parco Alto Garda is ideal for lovers of nature and tradition. In the hills and mountains is a netweork of roads and paths with refuges, huts and hospitable farmhouses such as the Austro-Hungarian barns with straw roofs in Valvestino.
On the Verona side of Lake Garda, the cable car at Malcesine takes you to the peaks of Monte Baldoat 1900 meters above sea level. The chairlift is a convenient way up to the ski slopes in winter and for mountainbikers and paragliders too in other seasons.
There are many different aspects to local color in the almost Mediterranean resorts along Lake Garda's shores.
An exclusive and elegant collection of rare plants and flowers is the Giardino di Delizia, an annual avent in the wonderful garden of Palazzo Bettoni Cazzago, at Bogliaco di Gargnano, towards the end of April is worth a mention. The exhibition is in many different sectors and dedicated to plants and flowers traditionally grown on the lake in aristocratic villas and residences as well as more innovative trends, from recovery to the spreading of rare species, with Italian producers that have been rigorously selected for their competence. There are also guided visits to the parc and lemon groves.
Then, on from horticulture to music and the thousand sensations and feelings it arouses in the listener. Each year Gargnano Jazz is a highlight of Friday evenings along Lungolago Zanardelli from June to August, A perfect opportunity to listen to music with many different rhythms in the stunning scenery of Gargnano.
And it may not be commonly known that the longest and most ancient of sailing regattas is held in the waters of Lake Garda.
The famous Centomiglia, organised by Circolo Vela Gargnano, took place the very first time on 8 and 9 September 1951. At the time the winner was the 6 meter Stazza Internazionale “Airone” belonging to Umberto Peretti Colò of the Compagnia della Vela of Venice who gained his victory after 20 hours and 25 minutes racing.
There is no better place to discover the tastes and flavours of Gargnano than the Limonaie, the lemon groves where for centuries Gragnano's livelihood was inexorably linked to the cultivation of lemons and citrus in the northernmost latitudes in the world. Here, more than any other place on the lake traditional Limonaie are still functioning, some of which have jealously guarded species of tree that are extremely old and rare, such as the "Madernina" variety or Limone Lunario or even the rare Cedri of Salò.
The rich basket of products Gargnano boasts superb lake fish from the famous Dominici family sold the morning after landing the catch in the main Square. Not to mention the local cheeses from Costa and Briano as well as the famous extra virgin olive oil produced from varieties called casaliva, leccino and the very rare Gargnà.
Local production of capers should not be overlooked as they grow from the stone walls which decorate the landscape with their flowers.
The oil production has ancient origins in this area which still produces today two main tyoes of D.O.P. oil, one on Garda the other on Lake Iseo where the finest habitat for this nectar has been found.
Garda is also famous all over the world for its wines: from Franciacorta to Garda, from Cellatica to Botticino, some of the wines on this side of the lake. Garda Classico, Capriano del Colle, Lugana and San Martino della Battaglia; all widely known wines both regionally and nationally. But that is ot all, this rich area also produces fine grappas and distillates, honeys, fruit and preserves, salami and cheeese ... tasty treats to be eaten on the spot or taken home to enjoy with family and friends.
History and folklore are at home here. Gargnano goes back to at least 973 AD, cited in a document for a cathedral donation in Verona. In the 13th century it became a spiritual and religious center when Franciscans founded a monastery and the Church of St Francis there in 1285. In the first half of the 1400's it was the main center of a “quadra” of the Magnificent Fatherland.
But recent history speaks of more curious facts. In 1944, after years of bloody advances and retreats, the second world war had taken over the whole of Italy and divided it into two parts. In fact, to the south the royal troops had taken the side of the Anglo American troops while from Rome northwards the German army was resisting the slow advance of the enemy. In October 1943 the Italian Social Republic grew between Salò and Gargnano, the final attempt by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to reorganise Fascist Italy. The choice of the western side of the lake was far from coincidental. It was a quiet area, far from the social tensions of the cities, with little Partisan action and little risk of attack from the air or from commandoes.
With Trentino Alto Adige being annexed to Germany together with a large part of the upper Garda area, the borders of the Reich were brought as far as Limone, just 20 lm from Gargnano. It was easily reached and easy to defend and furthermore it had a great many hotels, clinics, elegant villas and comfortable private residences which would provide perfectly adequate living quarters for ministers, admnistrators and officers both Italian and German. The official birth of this republic was on 14 November 1943 and Mussolini arrived at Gargnano on 10 October 1943 where he occupied the beautiful Villa Feltrinelli in the San Faustino area with his wife, Donna Rachele,and his two children Romano and Annamaria as well as othe close relations. Villa Feltrinelli was guarded by 30 SS from Hitler's personal guard .... the rest is history.
One of the most ancient trades on Lake Garda and in the Comune of Gargnano has always been fishing. Each year at Riva del Garda: Expo Riva Caccia Pesca Ambiente is a regular appointment for lovers of flying fishing and spinning.
A holiday at Gargano will be an unforgettable moment of relaxation surrounded by the lush countryside of Lake Garda in a tranquil, restful atmosphere. It was a place much loved by the English writer, D. H. Lawrence, who wrote two of his better known works there, Sons and Lovers and Twilight in Italy.
Gargnano is the largest town on the western bank of the lake and with its 13 little hamlets, it also includes the artificial lake Valvestino, a kind of fjord set between the mountains of the valley also called Valvestino. It is an interesting area of different kinds of scenery: lake, plain and mountain are set side by side, offering the visitor a variety of environment, sports and gastronomic situations.
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