Riva del Garda, near Lake GardaApril 14, 2017 in Italy
We reached Lake Garda on Good Friday. At 52km by 17km wide it is the largest lake in Italy and a place we'd dreamed of visiting for a long time. The towering mountains on the shores affect the airflow and create good wind for windsurfing and sailing. Our first sight of it was at the south end, wrapped in a mist that obscured the opposite bank. Although it thinned slightly, it hung in the air until we left the following day. The lake itself spread out like a sea, only without the swell.
After winding up some narrow resort roads, we found the car park identified as a van stopover in our book, had now fitted height barriers preventing vans from entering. Unfortunately, as we progressed along the lakeside drive, we found this wasn't the only one. There were caravan sites, but they looked the sort that would have clubs and charge big bucks for a night's stay.
The lake attracts 7% of all visitors to Italy and being Easter weekend it was packed. The drive took us through innumerable tunnels interspersed with sights of outstanding beauty. Dark, needle shaped conifers dashed the precipitous cliffsides, clinging to any slope with a shallower gradient. In other parts, the gargantuan hills were covered by a canopy of green forest, punctuated by gashes of pale yellow tinged rock where it was too steep for vegetation to get a foothold.
As for the tunnels, the prefabricated ones were fine. The arched corridors hewn directly out of the rock were not. If our sense of how high the van was didn't set off alarm bells, the chunks smashed out at the entrances and lines scraped along the tunnel walls certainly did. Oh yes, and the height limit signs were either 2cm taller than the van, or 8cm shorter than it. We adopted a strategy of turning our hazards on, waiting for a gap in oncoming traffic and pulling into the middle of the carriageway where the clearance was highest. If we met other vehicles we just had to inch forward and hope.
The south end of the lake had some beautiful towns that stretched their colourful buildings right out over the water. A few hired speedboats bounced over the waves, leaving white streams of wake behind them. Further north, windpower took over and the lake was covered with kite surfers, a few windsurfers, yachts and hundreds of white sailed dinghies, from learners in hire boats to international racers. The offroad car parks with views of the lake were invariably full and so after driving past the head of the lake without finding anywhere suitable to stay, we settled on a roadside layby at Riva del Garda. We didn't have a lake view but all around the town were amazing mountains whose size dwarfed us in our little home on wheels. The hazy air added a fairytale quality to the sight of the odd castle or small communities nestled in crevices or clinging to ridges. As evening drew on the traffic died away and granted us a reasonably quiet night.Read more