Gwen said it first, but don’t we all need one? A sweet escape? I know I did, after the move. And my husband must have understood just how much I needed it (or maybe he needed it too), because when I mentioned that it would have been nice to go away for a few days somewhere to chill and not think about boxes-reorganizing-furniture for a couple of days, he started looking for weekend trips we could take.
After proposing a location on the Swiss Alps that we had visited before and receiving a veto on that (because as lovely as it is, I really don’t need to feel more isolated right now) he found a great offer for a 4-day family package on Lake Garda.
So last Sunday we finally left and drove down – we were really lucky with the weather and had a wonderful time, and I would have shared details before, except it took me a while to download the over 400 photos I took
Day 1: after about 2 1/2 hours on the road, we stopped in Locarno, on the Italian part of Switzerland. Locarno is right on Lake Maggiore, so after lunch we of course took a walk along the lake and got some gelati – because you just know that the closer you get to Italy, the better the ice cream gets
The rest of the day was spent driving to out hotel on Lake Garda, scoping the local towns for places to check out in the following days, unpacking, and enjoying the first of several lovely meals.
Day 2: we drove to Verona. When I lived in Milan, I drove to Verona a couple of times for work, and despite the lack of time on both occasions, I was so impressed by the city that I vowed to return and explore it properly. Unfortunately this time I only had a half day available, but we still managed to walk around and enjoy some really lovely views. Verona is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, there is just so much history and so much beauty, you almost don’t know where to turn! I hope I will be able to return for a more detailed visit in the next year or so.
Day 3: the west coast of Lake Garda is just spectacular. The views are gorgeous all around the lake, I’m sure, but in the towns on the west coast you feel a little like in a fairy tale. There are so many antique buildings and villas, and you really feel the presence of the old viscounts and nobles who fought over their rights to call the area theirs 600 or so or so years ago. Many of the villas have been renovated and converted into hotels, to welcome the many tourists that no doubt flock here during summer (though considering the amount of tourists who were there at the same time we were, I’b betting that tourist season here is March-October), to enjoy the view, the history, and the cuisine
So we stayed local, and from our hotel in Gargnano drove to the nearby Toscolano Maderno, Salò and Gardone Riviera to walk around and see some of those gorgeous buildings we kept driving by up close, and take a leisurely walk by the lake. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, and though this was the least planned portion of our trip, it was also maybe the loveliest.
Day 4: we drove to Sirmione, which is in a very peculiar position in lake Garda, being really narrow peninsula (originally an island, until the construction of a bridge) on the southern coast of Lake Garda, which means you always have amazing views on at least two sides wherever you are.
Sirmione is also a famous Roman settling site, and a famous location for Terme (healing waters/baths). Even the Roman poet Catullus sang the town’s praises, and with good reason: Sirmione is a very picturesque little town, and any artist and history lover would feel right at home here.
Day 5: Time to go home! We decided to stop by Como on our way back, since it’s right at the border. However the air was quite a bit crispier than we imagined, and some of us (ok, me) weren’t dressed accordingly. It was cold but still sunny, we were at least able to take a short walk at lunch time and steal some pictures, while already planning to come back in Spring and walk around what also a lovely lakeside town, with some beautiful historical buildings.
As we drove home, I felt a little sad that our vacation had already come to an end, but I had such a wonderful time and drank in so much beauty in the previous 4 days that I was definitely more happy than sad. Truth is, no matter where I go, how far from home I travel, no matter my passports and the town I call home, I am first and foremost an Italian. And there is nothing to make an Italian happier than beauty, no matter its source. (Though good pizza comes damn close )
And just as I was thinking this, and finding that my thoughts were being darkened by the fact that we were approaching the 10-miles-long Gotthard tunnel, to go through it for the second time in less than a week –have I mentioned I’m a little claustrophobic? – just as I was feeling the sense of relief (for finally coming out of the tunnel) mix with the disappointment (for being back in German-speaking Switzerland) I saw the sun starting to set behind the snowy mountains, without a doubt a reminder that in Switzerland, too, there is beauty. In other words, the Alps were telling me to count my blessings. I guess I should listen.