When I decided to stop at Lake Garda on my way to Venice I thought it would be a peaceful place to stop for a few days. Little did I realise that October is a popular month for German motorhomers and caravanners to visit and sample the local food and wine.
Camping San Nicolo in Bardolino, on the south east shore of the lake, was chock-a-block with Germans. In fact the staff were rather surprised that I was English and equally amazed that I was travelling alone.
On the first day I decided to walk up to the Zeni Winery to try the local Bardolino wine. After a small and informative museum there was an area for sampling and buying their products. 14 of the cheaper wines were offered for free on a self-service basis, while the more expensive wines were served at a counter for a small fee. I managed to try 8 of the free wines but didn’t really like any of them and poured most of the samples into the spit bucket. Meanwhile, the Germans were knocking back everything on offer, piling boxes into their cars and driving off drunkenly to their hotel or campsite.
The best way to explore the largest lake in Italy is by boat, so I took the early morning ferry to Sirmione, the most southerly of the Lake Garda towns. As I walked from the dock to the striking Scaligera Castle, I was relieved to hear more English being spoken and as I climbed up the tall tower for some excellent views of the promontory, I bumped into several Asian families.
Lazise is an impressive walled town just south of Bardolino and its narrow, cobbled lanes are lined with restaurants, souvenir shops and gelaterias. A huge, noisy morning market, stretched out along the lakefront was just beginning to pack up when I arrived, but beyond it I found the tranquil gardens circling the outside of the impressively thick walls. It had been a hot and tiring day so I indulged myself with some of the soft and smooth ice cream before the final leg of my boat tour back to Bardolino.
In the central church of San Severo, I attended an evening concert by the Bardolino Philharmonic, a 30-member choir accompanied by an organist and featuring an operatic soloist who happens to be the aunt of the campsite receptionist. For an hour they presented a wide range of pieces from Bach to Verdi and even Ennio Morricone’s theme from the film “The Mission”. However, it was the spiritual setting with its backdrop of religious frescoes which made it a magical evening.