Our first holiday in almost two years! Tom and I headed for beautiful Lake Garda in Northern Italy for two weeks of rest and relaxation. We chose the elegant town of Salò on the lake’s south western shore as our destination of choice and were not disappointed.
As you can imagine, in the absence of travelling due to Covid-19 regulations and lockdowns, it has been impossible to keep my blog up to date. The last trip Tom and I made together was in December 2019, when we visited South Africa. In the meantime, I have been writing fiction and my new book, In the Shadow of the Olive Tree, was published in July this year. I am now writing the sequel.
As we wanted to relax completely, we didn’t even bother to hire a car, figuring we could get about by ferry if we felt like it. We chose Hotel Vigna as our home for a laid-back two weeks. Directly overlooking the lake, our balcony gave us a bird’s eye view of all the boats and ferries arriving and departing.
We loved this friendly family-run hotel, which operates as an up-market bed-and-breakfast, giving us the impetus to visit many of the excellent local restaurants.
Salò itself is an interesting town in the province of Brescia in the region of Lombardy. Quite apart from the great shops, set temptingly along the pretty cobblestone streets, it is a town steeped in history.
For three hundred years, until the 18th century, Salò was part of the Venetian Republic.
From 1943 to 1945, towards the end of World War II, Salò became the German-backed Republic of Salò under Benito Mussolini, who created his own de facto Fascist state on the shores of Lake Garda. There is an interesting exhibition at MUSA, the local museum, which deals, in part, with this subject.
In the same museum, there is an exhibition covering Gasparo Bertolotti, renamed Gasparo da Salò, one of the very earliest makers of the violin and we saw some of his original masterpieces on display.
The cathedral, il Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata, is in late Gothic style and, apparently, rebuilt in the 15th century. It’s quite beautiful inside and I was particularly attracted to the way the floor was designed.
The town of Salò has a population of around 10,000, which does not swell to enormous proportions during the summer months, as it is not what I would call a “party town”, which was one of its attractions for Tom and me.
Being walkers, we were also lured by the idea of being on the longest promenade – or lungolago – on the lake, being in excess of three kilometres of immaculately kept pathways and bridges, all sporting ramps for those of us who prefer a gentle incline, to scampering up and down steps.
One day we visited Limone, a small town about half way up the western side of Lake Garda, known as the Lemon Coast, where the winding streets were full of a multitude of jostling visitors. This surprised me, as it was October and I would have imagined it to be off season, but the tourists poured through the town in their droves, having arrived either by coach or by boat. However, it is a splendidly scenic town and well worth a visit, backed as it is by the vertiginous sides of the northern part of Lake Garda where the hillsides are dotted by lemon houses (limonaie), which were built long ago to shelter the lemon crops from the frost.
We also visited Toscolano-Maderno on the lake’s western coast, where the car ferry crosses the lake from Torri del Benaco throughout the year. Apparently, it is just 8kms and takes half an hour to cross. It has a long, peaceful lungolago and plenty of camp sites.
Gardone was where we visited the home of much-loved Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. It is called Vittoriale degli italiani, and this is where he lived out the last sixteen years of his life. This house, with its mausoleum and gardens, really is a must-visit for anyone interested the life of this great poet. One can feel the eccentricity of the occupant in every room. As Gabriele d’Annunzio is a fascinating subject in himself, my next blog will be about his sojourn in the Vittoriale.
Our two weeks sped by in a blur of boat trips…..
walks and exploration of our surroundings; restaurants and lazy bars where we enjoyed a spritz or two while we people-watched…..
…and wandered along cobbled streets and underneath the old clocktower….
It was all quite perfect. We were both sorry to leave lovely Salò behind, but we’ll be back.