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The traditional East Coast of Lake Garda

If you want to combine some history with pleasure, you can discover the east coast of Lake Garda towards Valpolicella valley; there you can taste typical flavours and admire traditional villages.

First of all, half way to the north you can discover the amazing Malcesine, a medieval village surrounded by striking landscapes and spectacular views; on one side you have olive trees and Monte Baldo and on the other side you can see the lake and its beaches. But the beauty cannot be better captured than anything else but art; Gustav Klimt, the Art Nouveau pioneer, painted Malcesine and Cassone with its houses and water reflections, while Goethe described this town during his ‘Italy journeys’ in some paintings, still preserved in Museum Castello.

As many lake towns have a Castle, the medieval one in Malcesine shows a glorious view on the lake from platform ‘Rivellino’, the rockfort which was built by Longobards in the first centuries a.C. Afterwords, Malcesine was owned by La Scala Family in XIII a.C,  then it passed to Visconti, Milan, Serenissima of Venice, the French and the Austrian, till it was taken by Veneto Region, as a National Monument in 1902. Once entered in the first yard, on your left you can see ‘la Casermetta’, the ancient guards site; then, on the basement, you will find the Museum of Natural History. On the first floor, instead, many civil weddings take place, as the view to the lake is just magical. But Malcesine has also its own Palce, Palazzo dei Capitani, which was built during XIII and XIV centuries on Roman ruins. Later on, in 1618 the city of Verona, on invitiation of Serenissima, bought the Palace as Mansion of Captain of the Lake or ‘il Capitano del Lago.


In fact, once you entered in the first floor of the bulding you can admire a painted ceiling with symbols of Gardesana dell’ Acqua, City of Verona and Lake Captain Lodovico Giusti. Outside, instead, you an get lost in the little garden and the boat harbour, as landing site of ‘Ganzarina’, the Captain boat. So, come to explore this mansion house and discover its local stone doors or flowers decorations on the walls. But the magic of medieval towns does not finish with its history or palaces; in fact taking a walk through the narrow roads of the village, you might be lucky enough to meet fisherman Adriano while he gets ready for his boat day; or, if you prefer to get lost in pretty roads, you can enter in the Atelier of Enza for a bit of art and a chat. Finally for some rest you could take a nice coffee break on a bench under that big chestnut tree in Piazza Cavour, one of the most photographed in town.

Furthermore, once passed Castelletto village, you could turn left towards a little mountain village called San Zeno di Montagna. This 1200 inhabitant village is a perfect spot for fantastic panoramic views on the lake. Located at 680 m. of altitude near Monte Baldo, this mountain is also a good choice for some peace and quiet, a trekking adventure or a bike ride to keep you fit during your travels. For the youngest there is also a Jungle Adventure Park, while you can relax watching the hang gliders coming down from the mountain. Also called the balcony of the lake or ‘il balcone del lago’, San Zeno is a pleasent village you can visit before heading towards the more ”Glamour area ”of Lake Garda for some shopping and restaurants.  Some traditional events of this village can be the Fair of chestnut in october and Festa di San Michele. In addition, you could go a bit further away in the countryside to taste some local products. In general the mild climate of the Lake allow the growth of olive oil, agrumes and vineyards, but the wine production is the most popular. In particular, this side of the Lake is also called by the Germans ‘Olivenriviera’ or Riviera degli Ulivi, for the spectacular olive trees that grow along the roads.

If you are a sportive person you can discover Valpolicella Valley in our e-bike Tours.
However, you don’t need to travel that far from the lake to get deep into the wine culture. The most famous local villages are: Garda, Bardolino and Lazise. These three towns give their names to the wines, locally produced.

Garda, is a cosy little town, which goes back to the ancient Civiltà Palafitticola Italica. Taken by the Longobards during Barbaric invasions, its name ‘garda’ probably refers to ‘warda’ which means guard in Longobard language. The village is represented by its 1000 a.C Castel; however, as you can find in Malcesine, there is also a town Palace, Palazzo dei Capitani, which hosted the Captain of the Lake during the Serenissima Republic domination. In fact there are many Villas or Mansion houses to visit in Garda, such as Palazzo Carlotti , Villa Albertini, Palazzo Fregoso. The medieval centre is represented by Pieve di S. Maria, which goes back to 1117 a.C. Some parts of this building are gone now, but you can still be able to see the Chiostro, la casa Vicariale and some gotic decorations.

Then, if you like to take a proper rest on some beautiful beaches with crystalin water, you should enter into Baia delle Sirene, located in the bay of Punta San Vigilio. Here, the olive trees are surrounded by green grass which grows till the water lake. Destination for many past visitors, such as Winston Churchill and Prince Charles of England, this little heaven is also enrichted with a Villa, a little church, a locanda and the park. Peace and quiet from the busy roads is a deserved gift. However, if you get hungry, you can have a walk into the weekly central market, where you can find local fish, fruits and vegetables and the typical cheese of the area. You can ask to discover these local villages with one of our Private Tours.

Bardolino, instead, is located about 30 Km from Verona, but only fifteen minutes from Garda. This is the typical area of the common red wine Bardolino, the first one which was given the denomination DOC (denominazione di origine controllata). At the moment there are 2.700 h.a. of country land used for its production, with 17 millions bottle of Bardolino sold every year. The export market is around 65%.  Again this village is also known for its historical origin, which goes back to 1222. The Church of San Zeno is one of the few monuments that survived to the big heartquake of Verona in 1117 a.C. Some archeological documentations also say that this stone church has its origin in IX Century; inside you can still admire some left frescos and paintings. In addition, you can take a walk along the little harbours, maybe stopping in some bars and restaurants of this lively lake village.

Lastly, on the south- eastern side of the lake there is Lazise. This is also known for its typical locally produced wine. Located 24 Km to Verona on the Moreniche Hills (Colline Moreniche), its name comes from the romanic ‘laceses’ which means ‘city of the lake’. Because of its six towers and the Castle, Lazise is another medieval town you can discover on this side of the lake.

Once left the parking area, you can admire the Castle or just take a walk under the walls arcade to enter into very tiny streets, between little ice cream shops or noise squares. People chatting loudly from the bars can be very entertaining. Perhaps if you come to visit this village during Christmas or in the summer you might be lucky enough to see some local traditional markets set up along the lakeside pedestrian area. Lazise also hosts two termal parks located just outside the town, in the little area of Colà.  So, if you want to combine some relaxing time with pleasent walks this town is totally recommended. You can taste some of the local wine flavours during our Wine Tours.


by Matteo Pasqualotto

3 October 2017