When we first met we both worked shift patterns that often meant we wouldn’t get day off together in a month. Over coffees and wine we fell in love, and then we were offered an amazing opportunity. To live and work together in France. We went, of course, and spent four happy months in each other’s pockets. Five years later, each adventure we take has the same embrace of love that we felt on the first. We have never been anywhere that we truly wouldn’t return to. Last week we were lucky enough visit Lake Garda for the first time. It had everything we travel for, outstanding natural beauty, unbelievable Italian pizza, Nutella gelato. What more could you want? Here are (just some of) our Lake Garda tips!
We’re different people so we separate our tips as such. R, for Rachel, and D, for Daniel.
Go swimming in Lake Garda.
Seriously, it is absolutely freezing – or at least, it is in May, and a few locals told us that it was too cold to swim. ‘Too cold?!’ Said we, ‘bah!’
Daniel is the sort of person who dives straight in and deals with the cold as it comes to him. I’m that irritating person that lingers on the edge and slowly inches each body part into the water. But once we were in, and had gone sufficiently numb, it was delightful. Truly, to swim in a lake flanked by mountains in the Italian sunshine is something I will never forget. Just jump in.
Swimming and “Beaches”
Jump straight in! You can paddle in the cool fresh waters of Lake Garda. But, once the water gets shin deep the coolness can turn to a chill. And, once the water goes past your knees you know it’s going to feel far too fresh where its’ headed next so, Jump in. Embrace the shock and soon you’ll be enjoying bobbing in the gentle waves as lemon yellow sun warms your gleeful little bonce.
Once the chill has taken its’ toll and it is time to vacate the lake, be aware that the “beach” is more like a gravel driveway. I staggered, pallid and undignified like a drunken swan to the towels to bask and sponge up the sun in an attempt to look less obviously British.
This mightn’t sound too appealing but lay back, wriggle on your towel so as to displace some of the larger pebbles, and create yourself a make shift cradle in view of mountains and coast. Letting the early afternoon warmth slowly steam me dry with a book and my similarly chilled companion is a moment of true happiness that will stay with me.
Please Note: There are swans and ducks in the lake and, if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time of year as we were, you may get to see tiny ducklings huddled beneath the shadow of their mother looking for snacks.
Order drinks after 7.00pm, and you’ll get a slice of pizza.
Oh, this was a real, unexpected, treat. After a day exploring Sirmione we took a boat back to where we were staying, in Desenzano. We stopped for a glass of our new favourite Italian wine, (schioppettino – get yourself a bottle) and the waitress brought over a slice of fresh pizza each. We hadn’t ordered it, so we just thought she was being nice. Then, we ordered another glass. She did it again. We tucked in, happily. The next time (why didn’t we just get a bottle?) Daniel turned to me;
‘I’m full. I’m going to ask her not to bring more pizza.’
To be fair to him, he had already eaten a pizza and treated himself to a 7 euro gelato, but I don’t let anyone tell me when I’ve had enough pizza.
‘Don’t you dare.’
He didn’t. We both managed another slice.
As the week went on we noticed other bars doing the same as soon as the afternoon slipped into evening. It’s a clever and delicious way of encouraging you to stay. It definitely worked for us.
Gelato can be dangerous
As R has eluded to; I did, indeed, almost reject a piece of free pizza. It is not something that I am proud of and I wish we could all just leave it!
After a beautiful day in Sirmione; exploring the old fortifications, admiring the impeccably dressed older Italians wearing crisp beige and cream suits as if it was a mild autumn day, and looking at baby moor hens wait eagerly for tit-bits from their mother, we stopped for lunch. Pizza, in case you were wondering.
After lunch, we strolled some more. Sirmione is a picturesque place though there are only so many shops you can visit that sell things with pictures of lemons on them. Lemon bowls, lemon vases, lemon aprons… lemons, you get the idea.
Still feeling full we passed one of the many gelato shops and I decided that it was time. Making the early decision to have two scoops I set about carefully choosing the flavours so as to complement one another and to try and achieve the second greatest diary based experience after the cheese platter.
In poor Italian I tried to order and was mildly embarrassed to be spoken back to in perfect English.
“Cone or cup?”
As the shop assistant started preparing my first scoop it became apparent that I had selected a cone the size of a stocky toddler’s leg.
Fear turned to joy as I was passed the monstrous ice cream and, without displaying my inner alarm as the cost, paid 7 euros for the treat.
At first I enjoyed the novelty, an enormous ice cream following an enormous pizza. The well-dressed folks on the street around me may have had shoes that weren’t from Primark but I had a rhino horn of frozen wonder. This sensation lasted for approximately 2 minutes until the first drop of chocolate gelato ran down onto my fingers, quickly followed by another, and another.
Before I knew it I was frantically shovelling rapidly dissolving flavour milk into my face. Moustache sticky with sugar and fingers looking like I’d forgotten to buy toilet roll, the weight of the pizza in my stomach started to fight back against this leviathan.
Not more than a few minutes passed before I was feeling sick from eating too fast and unable to continue, as I knew that there was a boat journey back to our apartment (and I’m not a good boat passenger at the best of times). With great sorrow, but some relief, I threw my adversary in the bin.
By the time we went out for drinks I was starting to feel better but didn’t think that pizza would be the best idea.
Anyway, you’ve just read the story of a grown man eating pizza and ice cream until he felt ill. I hope that you’re proud of yourself.
Get your Spritz on.
D and I have travelled Italy before, so how did we not notice that everyone was drinking a fancy tall orange glass of fizz previously? For whatever reason, Lake Garda seems to be the place of the Spritz. We got into them in a big way. Aperol, Campari, whatever your flavour – order the Spritz. They use prosecco as the mixer. Well that’s just smashing.
Stay up late, wake up early.
In my experience, the best places tell you something about yourself. Standing in front of Lake Garda and watching the sun fall and rise behind the vast landscape of mountains was like being taken by the hand. It was staring at a wealth of history, noticing how small I was in comparison. It was a reminder of how glorious nature is. In short, I was and still am, awed by its beauty. So set your alarm for 5am and go and watch the sun stretch beyond the tips of the mountains. It will beat a lie in every time.