First impressions are often so telling. Minutes from the airport I sensed the scale of the mountainous peaks and craggy cliffs with houses “Where the Mediterranean meets the Alps” is a fair claim for Lake Garda as its sub-tropical climate thrives under the sunshine and is protected from the northerly winds by the high Alpine foothills. The lake is 200 feet above sea level and the steep, rugged cliffs are in the north while the softer hills are southwards.
The lakeside towns, Salo, Garda and Bardolino have a pleasing similarity with long waterfront boulevards dotted with cafes, bars, churches, coloured houses and little marinas
I stayed at the town’s historic Grand Hotel Gardone (www.grandhotelgardone.it/en/). It’s now a combination of six buildings that stretch forever along the waterfront with long corridors leading to a traditional and homely suite of rooms: a sitting room, reading room, dining room, a music lounge, billiard room and a charmingly slow old-fashioned lift. The great and the good flocked here. Churchill himself stayed in room 310.
At the neighbouring jetty I enjoyed a bespoke outing from Lake Garda Boat Trips (www.beeboatservice.com). With the engine off the stillness was mesmeric. Isola di Garda is utterly dreamy with its cormorants and heron colony, its pines, silvery olives, pink oleander, cypresses and bougainvillea. It has a heavenly calm perhaps from the possibility that St Francis himself once visited the island when it was a monastery.
I disembarked to enjoy an evening walk along the promenade where right at the end of the mini-marina, with orange trees outside was the Savoy Palace (http://www.savoypalace.it/en/) where I enjoyed a delightful dinner. It welcomed me from afar with its elegant pale blue and white shutters.
And it was in Gargnano that I was next to stay at Villa Giulia (www.villagiulia.it), owned by the energetic and cultured Barbara Bianchi Bombardelli. The gardens and terraces slope down to the lakeside. It all looks out at the majestic snow-capped slopes of Monte Baldo.
Along the shore I walked to a hamlet called Villa where the Alps are at their clearest and where there’s a magical little marina hosting eight boats and two restaurants. Here I reached Villa Bettoni (https://www.villabettoni.it/?lang=en). The villa is like a private, informal museum and booking is mandatory and, if you choose the right day, you’ll be accompanied by a member of the family.
I left the next day to go to the northern tip of the lake and after a number of impressive tunnels I came out at Limone. Her abundance of citrus trees is meant to be why the locals who grow an enormous species called Cedro lemons have the longest life expectancy.
Here I boarded the wonderful yesteryear boat Siora Veronica (http://www.sioraveronica.com/en/) and walked up and down the long teak gallery as the boat effortlessly glided up to the top of the lake.
My final destination an hour’s drive away was the city of Verona. I knew it was going to be rather special, it being the setting for no less than two of Shakespeare’s plays.
My last hotel was the delightful Hotel Due Torri, originally a 14th century antique inn, (https://hotelduetorri.duetorrihotels.com/en). It’s fifth floor panoramic terrace looks down on the uniform brown-tiled rooftops of the city centre and here there’s a rooftop bar.
The city centre is mercifully unspoilt, and respectfully preserved with no rubbish
or adverts. It is all highly walkable along its maze of streets bordered by old crenellated buildings and the raised outdoor tombs of the great and the good believing themselves to be buried closer to heaven.
I wandered down via Filippini, part of a picturesque, quiet and unspoilt neighbourhood with its colourful houses and laundry-drying balconies. I had lunch at the charming Osteria Dogana Vecia which offers authentic meals, full solely of locals with all the cooking and serving done by its two owners.
Dreamy, exquisite, refined and measured. All adjectives that undeniably apply to the Italian way.
Adam Jacot de Boinod
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 047 1064), classic-collection.co.uk) offers 3 nights at Due Torri Hotel, Verona from £912 per person. Price based on 2 adults sharing a classic room on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Verona and private transfers.
Adam had further support from www.gatwickexpress.com and www.holidayextras.co.uk (who offer airport lounges at all major UK airports and many international destinations).