Having just completed the Tour du Mont Blanc in late August, we were looking forward to spending a few days in Italy before heading off to warmer Southern Europe for the month of September, but we wanted to avoid a crowded spot (hard to do in August) and not get on a plane. So we rented a car and headed to Lake Garda, one of the lesser known lakes in Italy about a one hour drive from Milan. Lake Garda is known for its biking, beaches and its proximity to Verona (Shakespeare put Verona on the map in Romeo and Juliet) and some of Italy’s wine country. The wines of the Bardolino zone (red, rosé, and sparkling) and Lugana–a primarily white wine zone are just south of Lake Garda.
We found an new agriturismo place, Agriturismo Miford ,in the town of Salò, a small town on the southern coast of Lake Garda and infamously known as the previous headquarters of the Fascist Government of the Italian Social Republic.
We planned for a few days of hiking and biking (both mountain biking and road biking). The town is centered right on the water and has a wonderful boardwalk that follows the coast for about 3 kms. It is a great place for a run, and there are a number of small beaches, if you want to take a dip. The town itself is a mix of commercial and classic medieval architecture with the classic old town center. The northwest part of the town is the most ascetic but any spot on the water is nice. There are a lot of bad tourist restaurants, but many good ones, if you take the time to look a bit and ask some locals. We were staying a kilometer outside the city up on the hillside which provided some fantastic views and easy access to a number of trails that wind through hilly farmland and ancient rural villages. We went out for a short 6km hike that turned into 16km (the scenery was compelling and the signage was lacking).
On another day, we headed north to the town of Riva Del Garda. The drive can be a bit challenging with travel on very narrow roads that snakes along and above the coast, but it is well worth it. Riva Del Garda is a nice spot on the water and a good spot to grab a drink or bite.
We hiked the Old Ponale Road Path which is an old highway that was carved into the mountainside high above the lake. It is a relatively short and steep hike that provides some fantastic views. It is very popular with mountain bikers, but we thought it was more interesting as a hike.
We struck out with the biking. We considered lapping the lake but after driving it for a day, we realized it was no location for bikes and we did not want to tangle with the Italian drivers who all seem to be late for an important appointment.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed our stay here. It is a very popular with German tourists but does not seem to attract the amount of tourist that other spots in Italy do.
Road Trip Sidenote: To get to Salò, we had a road trip from Chamonix, about 400km, which was also a lot of fun. Traveling through the 11km Tunnel de Mont Blanc is an experience as well as the additional 30+ km of tunnels and suspended bridges thru the Italian Alps into Milan was also quite interesting. I always enjoy driving European cars, even the “econoboxes”. The driving experience is always more fun. The cars are more responsive, and they are typically manuals. Our ride this week did not disappoint. We randomly ended up with a 6-speed Mazda 2 that was completely tricked out with all the latest tech – proximity sensors, lane warnings, auto stop-start, Apple Carplay. It has been a few years since we have driven a new car and with the way tech changes, a few years is an eternity. We totally agree with Car & Driver that it is “hugely fun to drive” (especially on the winding roads around Lake Garda).