The promised sunshine did not show itself this morning and the day started off in the same, altogether now…atmospheric way as yesterday.
Still beautiful though.
The ferry departs (and indeed arrives in) Desenzano about 100m from my hotel. Yes, I could have found a cheaper deal for accommodation but as I’m staying by Lake Garda, damn’it I was having a hotel by the lake with a lake view. We may pass this way but once, after all.
(And I am delighted to report that a lake view is exactly what I have. And there’s no squinting or hanging at an eyewatering angle out of the window in order to see said view: I just open the curtains).
So, the ferry… incredibly easy to use. Stroll over 20 minutes before the boat leaves; buy your ticket; wait for the ferry; get on and take your seat; then, just sit back and watch the view slide by.
As with rail transport, FFP2 masks are required if you want to sail on the ferry. According to the signage on the jetty, these will be required until the 15th June. I haven’t seen any equivalent signage at railway stations (so having not bothered to Google this, I’m assuming it’s the same on the trains).
So far, I have been struck by how common mask wearing is here. Although the regulations are being reduced, mask wearing especially by staff working in frontline services and particularly in hospitality is just the norm. And patrons generally seem to be following suit.
It’s a far cry from the UK where as soon as announcement is made for two weeks time, everyone treats the rule change as taking immediate effect.
I have seen grafitti against the vaccine pass (and saw a very small demonstration in Turin) but the usual pattern of behaviour here is to wear a mask. The only people not, from what I have seen so far, seems to be the English and Americans. How do I know? I heard them speaking.
Anyway, back to Garda and specifically the town… it took around 40 minutes to cross the lake from Desenzano to get there and the views were stunning.
It’s one of the smallest towns on the lake but it’s pretty and a good place to start the day with a coffee and a cannoli. (This week I’ve averaged put at 32,000 steps a day so don’t worry about my cake consumption. I always knew I did a lot of walking while travelling but this is the first time I’ve had a step counter with me. I’m not paranoid about what I eat and I’m lucky enough not to have health issues: life is short, eat the cake).
A 40 minute walk along the promenade links Garda to Bardolino – a somewhat bigger town and a settlement that has made its fortune through its wineries. Unfortunately there were no weekend vineyard tours and certainly none that invited solo travellers.
(Just as I typed the last paragraph, a rose seller, plying his trade in the bar I’m drinking in, took one look at me and just walked away. When you’re in a pair or a group you can’t get rid of the buggers. There are pros and cons to travelling solo!)
The walk to Bardolino is stunning and while I may not have been able to tour a winery, I found a restaurant where I could sample the local wine… though I found I preferred the Valipocella (a sharp flavour of cherries) to the Bardolino.
It was like following a Goldilocks trail starting in reverse with the smallest today.
Bardalino is a small town, filled with colourfully painted shops and buildings. There’s a small church with some striking stained glass windows and it’s a pleasant place to stroll.
As a backpacker, shopping has a limited attraction – unless I buy in bulk and ship it home, how am I going to carry everything? I took a brief look at the wares on sale and headed off for the next part of the lake walk (or promenade) that links Bardolino to Lazise.
Now, this was an impressive village/town to walk into, just because of the size: it’s got a castle.
Lazise come from the Latin word ‘lacus’ meaning lakeside village. Wasn’t early place-naming literal? Lazise was actually a Roman stilt-village (which I think is fascinating – I’d heard of stilt villages in Southeast Asia, dependent on the terrain and local risks, such as flooding or dangerous animals, but I saw nothing about this here). There are no signs of this history today.
Like Desenzano, this village needed to defend itself against invaders and Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor granted permission for the village to fortify and defend itself.(Strange that this permission is necessary). If the castle looks familiar (yesterday’s trip to Sirmione) that’s probably because during the 13th and 14th centuries, Lazise was ruled by the Scaligeri of Verona who built the castle and encircled the town with walls.
Later, the town came under the rule of the Venetian Republic, then Napoleon, then Austria and in 1866 it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.
It was threatening to become a sunny afternoon when the heavens opened. Did I wait, as planned for the later boat in two hours time or should I cut my losses and jump on the one leaving in ten minutes?
I’d already walked the circumference of the walls and shopping doesn’t grab me. I left. And ten minutes later… the rain stopped… Of course it did.
It was an hour’s ride across sparkling blue waters to Desenzano. The clouds still shrouded the mountains surrounding the lake but the white buildings of Sirmione seemed to glow in the late afternoon sunshine.
Back in Desenzano and aperitivo was calling…but it doesn’t appear to be the same as in Turin or Bergamo. Even on the bars away from the tourist traps, offer seems to be limited to a packet of crisps and some olives… if you’re lucky. In a wine shop the other night I was offered a handful of salted nuts.
Unimpressive aperitivo aside, Desenzano is an incredibly friendly place to visit and no matter where I am in the world, football always helps the conversation.
As the waiter, in the restaurant where I had dinner poured my wine, he asked where I’m from (Manchester) which led to a question about City or United? To be honest, while I always say City, I’m winging it when it comes to football or indeed any team game or individual competition. (I usually know enough to annoy specific individuals, but I don’t actually care about sport).
Tonight we were able to conclude that City has a good coach, but “with all of that money, anybody could be a good coach.” This will set me up for my next football related conversation and they seem to be particularly keen on it around here.