Sunday, March 29, 2015
This was our 3rd trip to the Italian Lake District; our previous trips to lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano were in the summer. The crowds were overwhelming, the narrow, winding streets clogged with traffic. In late September, the tourist season was almost over and the roads far less crowded.
This time we went to Lake Garda and happened to choose one of the most beautiful towns on the lake—-and one of the best hotels we've ever stayed in, Villa Giulia. The hotel is right on the shore of Lake Garda and our cottage opened up to a patio practically at the water’s edge. There were gorgeous flowers everywhere, especially purple bougainvillea that was growing all over Lake Garda.
And the hotel had its own parking lot! I think we were happier to see that parking lot than the spectacularly beautiful lake. (Driving in Italy does that to you.)
The first day we just chilled out by the lake.
On our second day we decided to drive around the entire lake. We didn’t realize how long it would take. Those narrow winding roads are a challenge and it was impossible to stop at all the little towns our guidebooks advised.
Although the west side of the lake is less developed than the east--and far more beautiful—there were towns on the east side like Bardolino that made the long drive around the lake definitely worth it. It’s famous for the red wine made there as well as for an 11th century Romanesque cathedral. Bardolino’s 11th century Romanesque church is one of the earliest examples of Romanesque architecture I’ve ever seen. And the church also has some astonishingly well-preserved 13th century frescoes—it was worth the long trek around the lake for this. We didn’t manage to fit in one of my must-see’s, Heller Garden in our circle of the lake but we did see it before we left town the next day. The Mediterranean Garden at Helller Garden
We’ve been to many Italian gardens—all very beautiful and well-designed, but usually a little bit unkempt. The Heller garden was weed free--no dead branches, no spent foliage and, like so many Italian gardens, there were fountains and waterfalls everywhere. We were very happy we made time for it.
We wished we had another day at Villa Giulia, but considering how expensive the wonderful hotel restaurant was, it was just as well we had to move on.