This doorway belongs to the Parrocchia di San Martino Vescovo, an 18th century church built on the remains of a pagan site. It’s in Peschiera del Garda, a place we’ve visited a couple of times in recent years. Peschiera is situated at the south-eastern tip of the lake, on the river Mincio. Its historical city centre is completely surrounded by imposing bulwarks forming a star with five points, surrounded by a navigable moat. The first city walls of Peschiera date back to 101BC. Over the centuries they were destroyed and rebuilt many times until 16th century when they were transformed into an imposing defensive structure.
I’ll be honest, it’s at this point our Giro d’Italia adventure rather went off the rails. We’d enjoyed a fabulously sunny few hours in Ljubljana and on our return drive to Peschiera, near Lake Garda. Chosen specifically because it was about a 30 minute drive away from the following day’s individual time-trial from Trento to Rovereto. When we checked in I scored a hotel room upgrade to a much larger room. My two sisters are constantly amazed at the number of upgrades we both get on flights and hotels. I’d like to be able to tell you my secret but I’ve no idea why or how it happens.
A quick wash and brush up and we were downstairs in the bar checking out the Aperol Spritzs. We are becoming seriously addicted to these. Afterwards we ate in the hotel restaurant which is reasonably prices and charming with a wide range of options on the menu, even for me. It was very relaxing watching the sun slip down behind the hotel’s own lake. This is part of the hotel’s charm, it’s far from the Lake Garda madding crowd.
After a blissful night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we were ready to tackle the gruelling time-trial. But first, my beloved suggested a real trip down memory lane. He wanted to revisit Malcesine, the site of our very first holiday together back in 1978. Unfortunately, the traffic was chock-a-block – mainly cars with German number plates. It was only May, I’d hate to be there in July/August.
We crawled along and then the heavens opened, seriously calling into question our attendance at that day’s stage of the Giro. We finally arrived at our destination to, not unnaturally, find the town much enlarged. However, the Old Town around the small harbour was much as it was, although there were now many more shops and restaurants. I remembered the steep cobbled walkways leading to the sandy shoreline and managed to find our old hotel, now part of a much bigger one. After a quick crawl around town, we plumped for a restaurant overlooking the lake that didn’t disappoint. Once again, we ended up speaking German with everyone!
The heavens opened as we drove away from Malcesine so we were more than happy to watch the time-trial on our hotel television, followed by an hour or two in the spa. Thereafter, we ate once more in the hotel restaurant. The following day, we took an executive decision to enjoy our morning at the hotel, now bathed in bright sunshine, before heading home. We skipped watching the start of the stage from Riva del Garda to Iseo, as it would’ve been out of our way.
We’d enjoyed our small excursion to the Giro and our (re)visits of Pordenone, Peschiera and Malcesine. I’m sure we’ll return at some point but it’s quite likely #Giro102 will be off the agenda next year as we’re planning on visiting Sevilla and its MotoGP in May.
We kicked off our trip to Austria, itself a bit of a gander down memory lane, with an even bigger one. The summer after my beloved and I got married, we went to Lake Garda for our summer vacation. Funds were limited. I recall going into the travel agent – remember this would have been 1978 – and asking where could we go for a week for £85.00 that wasn’t Spain? My parents were in the process of buying a holiday villa in Spain so we knew that plenty of holidays in southern Spain would be in the offing. Hence my comment to the agent who suggested Lake Garda – sold!
We stayed in a small family run hotel on the shores of the north-eastern part of the lake in Malcesine. I had looked forward to practising my Italian but, because my beloved looked like everyone’s idea of a typical German – tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed and speaks the lingo fluently – we spent the entire vacation talking German. Aside from plenty of walks and boat trips around the lake, my beloved impressed the hell out of the other lake-side sun worshippers, mostly Germans, by swimming across the lake and back (It’s a long thin lake at the northern end).
Our drive to Austria exceeded my beloved’s new daily limit so we needed to stop somewhere on route. Initially, he suggested Brescia but I prefer not to leave a car full of stuff in an urban environment and I know parking’s difficult in the centre of Brescia, which we last visited for the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Verona’s not too far from the lake but we’d spent a long week-end there more recently. So that left Lake Garda.
Of course, December is not necessarily the best time to visit the Italian Lakes but, on the plus side, it was free from the summer hordes and the weather was bright and sunny. My beloved chose the hotel, which I carefully vetted, and we decided to stay two nights so that we could explore more of the southern shores of the lake.
After arriving early on Saturday afternoon, we walked around the lake. Not Lake Garda, but the small lake next to the hotel which is surrounded by vineyards. We then relaxed in the hotel’s spa before supping some pre-dinner Aperol Spritzes, as good in winter as they are in summer. We ate in the hotel restaurant overlooking the lake. I can always find something to eat on Italian menus.
A good night’s sleep was followed by a hearty breakfast and then we drove into Sirmione for a stroll around its shoreline and pretty Old Town. The wind off the lake was bitterly cold but we’d wrapped up well though, once we spotted the outdoor thermal baths I would have been happy to fling everything off and sink beneath the steaming water. Unfortunately our swimming stuff was back at the hotel.
My disappointment was soothed by another Aperol Spritz – well it is nearly Xmas – in the sunshine where we were dive bombed by cheeky sparrows hoping for crumbs from our plate of nibbles. Then it was time for lunch at a small Osteria I’d clocked while walking around where I ate quite possibly the best tomato sauce ever and my beloved’s lasagna smelt divine.
We then drove back to the old fortified town of Peschiera which was celebrating with a small Christmas market. We just wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the sun go down over the lake. Time to head back to the hotel for a warm up in the spa and dinner.
Before we left on Monday morning, I purchased some of the local wine which includes two of my favourite red wines for winter, Amarone and Recioto. As we headed to Austria the snow became thicker and thicker. We’ve previously spent a number of Xmas holidays in the area but this was definitely the best pre-Xmas snow ever – a good omen.