The Italian Job: Day 14 – Leaving Lake Garda

There was no sign of the Magnificent Seven as I went to purchase my ferry ticket back to Desenzano.

The Three Amigos had however taken over their duties in group action on purchases. It was working more smoothly for them. One read out the timetable to the two in the queue, (presumably for return journeys as there was only on crossing coming up in the next hour and the harbour office opens only 20 minutes before each sailing).

When it was their turn, all three squeezed into the cabin, passed money (yes, actual cash) between each other and bought their tickets.

I wonder if the Magnificent Seven actually went anywhere yesterday.

A sizeable queue formed, snaking back from the jetty alongside the small harbour. As the ferry arrived, a terribly elegant woman graciously sauntered past everyone to the front whereupon she realised that all of these people were waiting for the same boat as her.

Here comes the boat

There was a very definite twitch of realisation and surprise and she rather less elegantly scuttled to the back of the queue. It’s not that big a harbour – one queue, one boat: it was unlikely that we were all waiting for free pancakes.

First stop of this four hour boat ride was Assenza which is further down the Eastern shore from Malcesine, skirting the Isola del Trimolene as it headed for the jetty. Few people left the boat here and quite a few boarded.

I hadn’t been able to get photos on the journey up and had not considered it much to look at – certainly not in comparison with Garda’s other towns. A very short Google search revealed that assenza means absence. (Check in to this blog for the photos, stay for the trivia).

The next port of call, back on the Eastern shore was the ridiculously pretty Gargnano. Few disembarked here and few boarded.

A large group of Danish tourists had already been on board when I found my own seat at Malcesine with a tour guide who provided updates at each stop… and a very lengthy one here at Gargnano, having said very little in Assenza). Sadly I was unable to benefit as my Danish is non-existent.

Their tour leader led them off the boat and along the jetty, waving a Danish flag, at Maderno. A handful or passengers boarded in their place.


The ferry’s progress slowed to a… float or a drift… as it made its way from Maderno to Gardone. The same had happened in reverse on the way up but I thought I had imagined it. This time I could hear the engines had slowed before being shifted up a gear to take us smoothly and quickly into the jetty.


A large crowd boarded and once we reached Saló there was a fair exchange of small numbers on and off the boat. Some of the passengers were from Malcesine – that’s a two hour boat ride each way. Desenzano was definitely the better base for exploring the Southern end of the lake more easily.

Yes, I was just taking photos of all the places I like

Good grief, we actually stopped at Portese: two out of three boatrides so far. The captain on this ship needed a new intercom. With each port announcement, the speakers ended with a low hum which sounded like he was being heckled by Sweep. (As in Sooty and Sweep).

Onwards and rapidly picking up speed to head back across the water to Garda’s Eastern shore. Next top, the town called Garda, and I would be staying onboard rather than having to change to another boat back to Desenzano.

Punta San Vigilio

The ferry took some time to manouvre back out of the jetty to resume the journey, swinging away from the shore and setting a course directly to Sirmione where everybody (with the exception of myself and three others) left. Sheer numbers of people, a few with bulky luggage and several bikes made this a fairly time consuming exercise. The 25m long jetty was full of people waiting to board, so even though crew checked the tickets, moving through the crew to do so, it was ten minutes before we left.

Desenzano enjoying the sunshine

Last stop, at least for the ferry was Desenzano. After an hour’s leisurely lunch, I walked up to the railway station. The start of my week here had been 16°C and required gloves. Today, it was 28°C so a slow walk to the station was in order.

And of course, my platform was in full sunshine.

Bloody hot

The train arrived and this was the swishest one I had been on so far. (Yes, that is a word).

“Mind the gap?” Unnecesary when the doors open with an extending gangway making it easier for people in wheelchairs or pushing buggies and prams to board, as well as not requiring a small leap from people carrying rucksacks. How civilised.

There’s room for bikes – with belts to strap them in, though the rack behind was being borrowed by two large rucksacks. (My rucksack was between two sets of four seats).

The carriage doors indiciate which facility will be found in which compartment – this one was marked for bikes and for wheelchairs. The next carriage was for prams (and presumably buggies).

This train was taking me as far as Verona where I would change to another heading to Bolzano. It skirted Lake Garda passing a flat landscape of vineyards and the occasional timber yard. The rails were lined with red poppies – they have been everywhere here.

As we approached Verona, larger villages and then towns became more common. As the train entered the outskirts on a high ridge through the city looking out over low level apartment blocks, it slowed to around 10mph before pulling into Porta Nuova.

Trainline’s usual voodoo wasn’t working. No clues about the platform I needed to be on (or indeed the Bolzano train’s final destination) and the printed timetable signage didn’t even list my train. Or any train going at 1701.

I went around to the main hall, laughing at the temperature indicator that claimed it was 17°C – the hell it was.

Over to customer service and after saying Buongiorno” , if I’m not asking for something simple like a ticket or food, I usually find it’s best to indicate that I’m English – let’s not raise expectations about my conversational abilities.

So (allora):

“Inglese,” says I.
“Italiano,” says the chap at the desk with a chuckle.

I’d found the comedian, which I’m always pleased about.

“My ticket is for Bolzano at 1701 but no final destination is listed,” I said.
“Si, it’s the train to Munich and it’s going from Platform 11”.

Problem solved, and Platform 11…despite being at the furthest end of the station… was in the shade.

The train arrived 15 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. No racing along the platform to find a carriage was necessary, though my ticket did not indicate a particular booked seat other than to highlight: second class.

The carriage that stopped in front of me was second class. That would do. I climbed, yes, climbed up the steps, aboard and sat in the first compartment of six that I came to. It was an updated version of this old fashioned style of seating with the compartment doors and walls to the corridor made of glass so I had a fabulous view out of both sides of the train.

Old fashioned

It was 15 minutes late in leaving behind the platforms that looked more like fields of poppies. We climbed through a rising landscape of large villages and terraced vineyards and then passed through a tunnel to emerge into a mixture of mountains and vineyards.

The conductor arrived to check tickets and mine was fine but the girl travelling in the same compartment as me had not bought a ticket.

After trying multiple languages, the conductor addressed her in English saying that travel from Germany to Italy (on this line I assume) was free but travelling from Italy to Germany was not. I wondered if this was a student travel issue – she seemed very young. She said she was travelling within Italy – she was still going to have to pay.

At this point I was quite pleased that I have not fully switched to paying for everything on my phone. She had no credit cards with her and no signal on her phone, or so she said. I had five bars on mine and apparently so did the conductor.

They left the compartment and the girl did not return. Presumably, possibly put of embarrassment, she found somewhere else to sit, having paid. Or perhaps she was asked to leave the train at the next stop.

German train travel is incredibly cheap if prebooked, but can be a little eye-watering on the day.

The view outside was of a flat valley, filled with vineyards and the occasional stone built village, each with a church tower, usually in the centre. Green mountains, bare white rock, showing in places bordered both sides. The further North the train travelled, the mountains’ greenery became more sparse until they resembled gigantic coastal cliffs standing in the fields. Every few miles, a castle would be visible about a quarter of the way up the mountainsides. A dual carriageway ran parallel to the railway line.

The train stopped at Rovereto and Trento before arriving in Bolzano, which would be its last stop in Italy before crossing the Austrian border.

When the train did arrive, I spotted the girl without a ticket wandering along the platform.

Categories: Italy, Lake Garda, Public Transport, The Italian Job, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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