Lago di Garda
Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake, and it’s quite a hot spot for holiday-goers. With its stunning mountains rising out of the north shore and quaint little towns up and down the coasts, it’s no surprise.
I think it’s safe to say the most popular towns are along the south coast (Desenzano, Sirmione, Peschiera), but the husband and I found an Airbnb apartment in Bardolino, on the eastern edge of the lake. And the best part about it? PET. FRIENDLY. That’s right, we had a basset-filled weekend getaway.
After an hour of driving we were there. Miriam, our Airbnb hostess, was wonderful. She spoke great English and had a private parking spot waiting for us right downtown. The apartment itself was inside the pedestrian zone, so we had to carry everything a little way but it was completely worth it to look out the window and see people milling around the little shops below.
Our apartment was adorable. It was perfect for two people and dogs too – there was actually a little “hound nook” next to the bed that was an ideal place for them to curl up. And Maddie LOVED having a loft. She’d go up and roo at us from between the rails.
There was a little fridge and a stovetop, and everything we needed to make our own food. We had every intention of having a relaxing, movie-watching, book-reading, tea-drinking weekend. That did not happen though, because Bardolino was too wonderful to stay indoors.
Now on to the good stuff! Bardolino is the cutest little lake town. Typically narrow Italian streets, warm colors, and restaurants on every corner advertising “specialita pesce.” The entire town center is pedestrian-only, and a wonderful foot path goes along the length of the lake as far as the eye can see. Naturally, the dogs got a LOT of long walks.
We heard a lot of German over the weekend, which felt a little wrong in Italy – Garda must be a destination with the Tedeschi. The weather was amazing, except that it was terribly hazy. I’ve been in Italy nearly two years now and this no longer comes as a surprise, but it was still pretty disappointing because we couldn’t see those gorgeous mountains. Here, check out the comparison – the first one is actually from Malecsine to the north (we couldn’t see ANY mountains from Bardolino). The second is from Peschiera del Garda last spring on a particularly clear day.
One of the first things I did in Bardolino was check my geocaching app and found that there were two within easy walking distance. Here’s the Husband with our first one!
Our last evening the Husband surprised me with “We’re going mini golfing.” And indeed, we were! There’s a mini golf course about a five minute walk from the apartment, and there was hardly anyone there. I think it was €6 each, and €3 for 10 minutes on the trampolines. (Why yes, my husband IS five years old!) It made for an excellent date and I got to practice my Embarrassing Golf Stance, so it was a win-win.
We went to one of the many restaurants and shared a bowl of mussels (best in months with an R – April is cutting it close but they were still delicious), and I got an angler fish stew! Mostly just for the novelty of eating angler fish. It was yummy, but can you see the little fin bones and spines in the meat? It was a bit of a job getting to the edible stuff.
Oh, and last but not least, we had a houndy photo shoot.
We decided to do a mini day trip up to Malcesine, where there’s a castle on the water. It was a 45 minute drive up the coast, but lovely all the way. The road winds along the lake in a “Sunday drive” type of fashion.
Malcesine is pretty different from Bardolino. It’s built on a hillside and has a medieval flare with its castle, rough cobble streets, and narrow alleys and archways. Bardolino is flat and modern-looking by comparison.
We decided we should check out the castle while we were there and paid the €6 each to get in. (No charge for hound dogs.) It’s a small castle and not particularly exciting unless you’re one of those museum people, but the views alone were worth the admission cost. The castle is clearly the tallest building in the town, especially if you climb up the tower. The views of the terra cotta roofs and snow-capped mountains behind are something special, not to mention the lake itself.
There was a lot more to see in Malcesine, but we headed back to Bardolino for dinner and to give our hound troopers a well-deserved break.
Even being off the beaten track a bit, Bardolino and Malcesine were still kind of touristy. April is a wonderful time to go because tourist season isn’t in full swing yet, but the weather is warm and beautiful. Not warm enough to swim, but still. One thing we hoped to find was a kayak rental shop, or even paddle boats. The only paddle boats we saw belonged to a hotel, and maybe kayaks just aren’t popular? Or maybe they figure it’s just too early in the year.
Either way, we didn’t get to take the girls kayaking. You may already know that Hazelnut is a seasoned kayaker, but Maddie has yet to set foot on one. It would have been an interesting outing, that’s for sure. She’ll get her sea legs sooner or later!
It’s hard to believe it’s taken us this long to visit Lake Garda, but we’ll definitely be back; it has so much more to offer!