I’ve just spent the last week eating, drinking and cycling my way around the Lake Garda area of Italy. I’ve been to Italy before, a few times actually (Rome, Florence, Lake Como, Milan, Cinque Terre, Venice, Ceglie Messapica – I’ll stop) but I was totally sucked in by how beautiful, relaxed and moreish this part of the country was.
Bardolino Wine Festival
My friend Chloe and I were there for the Bardolino Wine Festival. A different style of booze up compared to my recent adventures at Oktoberfest – classier (red wine darrhhling), cheaper (€1 a glass!) and outside looking out over Lake Garda. Bardolino is such a pretty little town and the festival bought a few thousand people together to make a dent on trying the local wines from different tents, and the local fare too. I’d 100% recommend this festival (I want to go again next year) so a full review is on the way. Oh, and the fireworks over the lake had us two fireworks scrooges mesmerised.
We stayed in a two bedroom, two-floor apartment at Parc Hotel Germano. I felt like a right flash git when we got in and my friend was left open-mouthed. Inghams sorted me right out with a beautiful vista out to the lake and my pick of the Italian seafood menu every night in the hotel restaurant. The fish came from the lake, I mean, seriously!
Cycling Lake Garda
The hotel had a bike rental service, so to balance the epic meal times and wine consumption we did a 60km cycle to the village of Sirmione, via Lazise and Peschiera del Garda. Both were quaint little villages where hearing someone speak English was a novelty, both felt very Italian. We stopped for cappuccinos and limoncellos respectively, and to try to capture the beauty in our minds and iPhones.
Cycling is definitely my favourite form of transport – even when we got drenched in the only rain storm of the week during the 40th and 50th kilometre.
Boat ride to Garda
From Bardolino you can get to Garda in a 15-minute boat ride, so we did. Our day in Garda was spent sitting around in the sun drinking €3 Prosecco, eating the free tapas crisps and nuts you get with each one and wandering the streets eating RICOTTA AND FIG GELATO. Oh my days it was delicious.
I’d been invited to check out the Beatilla Farm in Mantova, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine the two trips. We got the bus to Mantova and after an SOS call to the owner to save us from the shopping centre after my Google Maps had told us we could walk 10 minutes on what was essentially a motorway, we were there.
I have more on Beatilla coming up but for now, it’s an eco, arty, working farm with a restaurant and super slick design. Owners Luca and Bea have created a welcoming farm with rustic tradition and comfortable rooms. We really loved it here and it’s well located to explore so much more of the area, which we did in Verona (went for the day, above) and Mantova – both strongly recommended.
Mantova / Mantua
I’d never heard of Mantova before but I should’ve done. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s actually where Romeo is exiled when he kills Tybalt. Pretty sweet place to go to be honest. It’s got all the attractions of a city – cool shops, bars, restaurants, a marina, markets, historical sites – but on a relaxed and easy scale. The streets were cobbled, the shops were quaint and full of character but there were still modern bars and Wi-Fi cafes. There was also a huge park and a lake where we lucky enough to cycle past to the sun setting.
The last day
We managed to find a little wine tasting market in Mantiva – where we picked up a few bottles.
Unfortunately as it was our last day (got to go all out) we’d already drank 3 Negronis each, and a few glasses of vino so the market tasters pushed my (little) friend over the edge. We needed to cycle home, first down a small hill, but she toppled over, smashed the neck off one of the bottles of wine, covered her white jeans in the sweet elixir and managed to knock her bike chain off. We had to pay two local kids to put the chain back on and chuck the wine away (after a short debate about whether to drink the leftovers from the smashed bottle or not).
And then it was a simple 6km cycle home in the dark. Not the best idea we’ve ever had, but definitely not the worst either.
This was meant to be a short post, oops – too much to tell you!
More on Lake Garda, Bardolino and Mantova over the next few weeks…