Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lake Garda

Have you heard of this place? I had but knew very little about it. Lake Como, yup, know it. Been there and also George Clooney lives there. But Lake Garda? This turned out to be one of the hidden gems of our trip. In case you're wondering, Lake Garda is northwest of Verona, bordering the Dolomites. It's about 90 minutes east of Milan.

While staying in Villa Bartolomea we day tripped to Sirmione, at the very tip of the peninsula. It's an adorable lakeside town whose highlights are a 13th century moated castle and the remains of Grotte de Catullo. The town itself is filled with restaurants and boutiques, and at lunch I ate the local trout baked in a sea salt crust. The tableside serving grossed out the kids but the fish itself was tasty. What do they do with the salt once the fish is baked, anyway?

One shop had a darling girl's dress in its window displayed alongside a matching purse. Thing 1 and I fell in love with it and then discovered that the purse was actually the packaging for the women's bikini. Dave offered the bikini to Eldest Daughter and thus it was a win for both Pinks. The bikini is, um, very European in cut, and looks fabulous on her. I'm not sure we would have bought it, though, had she tried it on first. I'm fairly sure Dave has not seen it on her yet.

The day we visited Sirmione was easily in the low 90s. Given that the highest point in the Dolomites is over 10,000 feet, I expected Lake-Tahoe-temperature water but no, it was much warmer. I wish we'd brought our bathing suits so we could do more than just dip our toes in the water. Leeann and her kids rented a paddle boat with a slide off the back. How fun would that have been?! And she did a long open-water swim in the lake because that's what she does.

We went back to the lake after the villa rental was over, this time staying at a German chain hotel in Lazise near the Gardaland amusement park. The hotel was new and modern and filled with beautiful young blond families. It looked as though we stepped into a gathering of German models. Our bodies nearly went into shock for the lack of mosquitoes! They were rather fierce at the villa.

We spent one day at Gardaland, Italy's sorry attempt at the Disney magic. The kids had fun although Dave and I thought it closer to Children's Fairyland than Disneyland. In the kids' opinion, the best part was the lack of concern for safety. Thing 2, the most petite of our children, was able to ride on some seriously scary roller coasters. We asked one Italian how they could run such rides. His response? "In America you sue when there is an accident. In Italy we say, 'How tragic.'" That about sums it up. Please no judging my parenting; Dave rode them with her.

The town of Lazise is nearly as adorable as Sirmione. A Scaligeri castle sits on the southern end and its 11th century stone walls surround the town. There is an enclosed fishing harbor and stone church. We had dinner overlooking the lake, the kids ate the requisite gelato and I managed to buy two more pair of shoes. We also explored Bardolino, which has large olive trees bordering its lakeside promenade. This area is known for its olive oil. There's also a town further north called Limone sul Garda, known for its lemons, but it was too long of a drive for me to torture the family with given our two days at the lake before returning to the states.

Will you remember Lake Garda now?

First two photos: credit to Neeracha

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