Monday, July 4, 2016

Lake Garda

It was supposed to be a five hour drive from Monaco to the northern side of Lake Garda. Thanks to some unforeseen and totally random traffic, it took closer to seven. But the view once we arrived was beyond imagining.

Lake Garda is essentially a body of water surrounded on all sides by epic, green mountains. In places snow was still visible on the peaks. Tiny Italian towns with their stucco roofs and an occasional lonely church belfry sit nestled onto the barest edge of land between the mountains and lake. The lone road that curves itself around the lake is encompassed in a series of tunnels, their walls wet with moisture and endless archways giving view to the lake beyond.

When we arrived that evening the sun was just beginning to set, casting pink and gold rays across the aquamarine waters of Garda. Our hotel sat directly over the water with individual balconies allowing residents to stare out across the blue expanse from sun-warmed lounge chairs. Justin and I enjoyed a bottle of wine while the notorious winds of north Lake Garda blew scents of moss and water across our faces.

The next morning we breakfasted on hard boiled eggs, cappuccinos, and fresh fruit while staring out the glass wall of our hotel's dining room. All around us German voices spoke in low tones. Apparently, Lake Garda to Germans is what Florida is to Kentuckians. Everyone goes there for holiday. Thanks my blonde locks, our servers would attempt to speak to us in German before my broken attempts at Italian and clear American accent gave us away. During our travels around the Lake it seemed that we were some of the only American tourists in area. It was just us, the Brits, and, of course, the Germans.

We were eager to explore the surrounding mountains and set off on a trail head directly behind the hotel. What we encountered was a near vertical climb with the rough white gravel sliding out beneath our feet. On all fours we clamored up the side of the mountain, watching rocks tumble behind us in our wake. Exhausted but fulfilled, we returned to the hotel to sunbathe and swim.

I can honestly say that this day goes down as one of the most utterly tranquil days of my life. The lake waters were frigid and Justin and I would alternate between jumping into the lake and running to the sauna to heat back up. Once too warm, the process would begin again, leaving us giggling like school children at recess as we ran across the quiet dock to the sanctuary of the sauna. Our sauna lounging was cut short when an older and very naked German fellow decided to join us.

From there I sat with Justin, sipping chilled glasses of rosé and gazing out at the lake while my hair dried in lake-water flavored tangles around my face. Much later we showered and drove a short way up the lake to Limone sul Garda for dinner.

Our second morning saw us back in the Yaris to drive up to Arco. Arco sits on the very tip of the north side of Lake Garda and was only a 25 minute from our hotel. J and I were so sore from our hike the day before that we had not planned to hike up to the castle on the hill. Five miles later we stood on the ruined pediments of Castello di Arco overlooking the pure majesty of Arco and its surrounding countryside.

Oh, how I wish we had planned for more time in Limone sul Garda and the north side! It was so gorgeous and we only had two brief days there before we were scheduled to travel to the south side of the lake, to Sirmione. I have never wanted so badly to stay in one place before. As we drove out of the town my head was turned back, unwilling to loose even a minute of the beautiful sights around us. 

The drive to Sirmione was only an hour and half and saw us coasting through tiny Italian provincial towns. Sirmione is a medieval town, situated on a peninsula that stretches its delicate arm out into Lake Garda. The entrance to Sirmione is through the iron and stone gates of Scaliger Castle, which stands on the end of a stone bridge, guarding the entryway to the peninsula. Hotel Mon Repos, our destination, was at the very tip of this peninsula. So, with sweaty palms and pounding hearts, Justin and I navigated the narrow cobblestone streets, driving beneath stone archways and between buildings in our trusty Yaris. It was a terribly slow job, hindered at every turn by the masses of pedestrians clogging the streets. 

I had to wipe my hands on my dress before being greeted by the lovely hostess at Hotel Mon Repos. She lead us through the jasmine-scented grounds, tossing open our hotel door with a flourish. "Ze rooms may be small, but ze is AH-MAH-ZING." Girlfriend was right.


Our time in Sirmione saw us exploring the ancient Roman ruins of Grotte di Catullo, sunbathing by the pool, and exploring the medieval streets Sirmione Old Town. Justin and I shared a pizza on our hotel room balcony and sipped wine beneath yellow and white striped awnings in the city center while around us rain danced off cobblestones. We dined on bigoli pasta sauteed with duck sauce and donkey meat and ate gelato from beneath the protective shroud of our umbrella. A German gentleman we befriended said in reference of visiting Sirmione, "We drive an hour or two and are in paradise."

The adventure did not end at Sirmione. Our trip involved one last stop and it had me itching in anticipation.


Verona is only 45 minutes from Sirmione. I hadn't done as much hotel-planning and picking as Justin had in preparation for our trip, but this hotel was all me. Hotel Milano and Spa is hyper modern, complete with pulsing colored lights in the shower and a rooftop bar that overlooks the ancient Verona Colosseum. Justin and I dropped off our things and set off to explore the lush Guisti Gardens, wander through Piazza Bra and Piazza del Herbe, visit Casa di Julietta, and finally climb Torre del Lamberti for amazing panoramic views of the city.

I just love Verona. It is such a magical city, full of rich Italian history, art, and architecture. It is small enough to be traversed on foot, and large enough to give you plenty of things to do. Justin and I even stole and hour to lounge in the hot tub by the roof top bar, drinking aperol spritzes and listening to a production company practice for the upcoming opera inside the colloseum. My favourite moment had to be late that evening when Justin and I walked around the city eating dark chocolate gelato and watching the sun set inside the reinforced walls of the city. Sigh. Arrivederci, Verona.