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Lago di Garda

After a bit of ‘googling’ we decided to make Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), our first stop in Italy. This will give us time to go via the Swarkovski factory in Austria on the way.

We are not there for the tour, just a little bit of shopping! Several hours and $$$ later, we meet Don back at the car. He quickly got bored and had retreated to his kindle (electronic book for you non techie’s). We can see from a distance that he has also taken the initiative to hang the wet washing out the windows of the car (lucky we hadn’t been washing underwear)!

Exhausted from our shopping expedition we stop at Hall in Tirol to refuel. It’s a quaint Austrian town (note, I’ve moved from picturesque to quaint), with typical half-wooden houses trimmed in white with red, yellow and pink, alongside a beautiful old church.

There is a wedding coming out of the church and we watch the guests, dressed in traditional garb, parade down the street into the town square. They are greeted by a brass band – we couldn’t have organised anything better to show Jane.

By mid afternoon, we arrive at the town of Riva del Garda, positioned at the Northern tip of Lago di Garda. The lake is the largest in Italy and is encircled in the north by the Dolomite Mountains, providing a dramatic backdrop.

We navigate around the north western side of the lake. To our left, Italian style villas elegantly perch along the shoreline, to our right; olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees cling precariously to the steeper slopes.

The village of Gargnano sits about midway along the western shore of the lake and is where we have decided to stay. The Italians are pretty relaxed, we’ve made a reservation at the Hotel Garni but no pre-payment was required and they are happy for us to decide how long we will stay when we get there.

The hotel is right on the waterfront and we have water views from our rooms. The aromas of fresh pizza and pasta waft in from the restaurants below. It didn’t take long for us to agree that two nights here would be lovely.

You haven’t really eaten pizza until you have it in Italy. Of course, sitting on the edge of an Italian Lake as the sun sets makes for the perfect ambience, but there is something else; the paper-thin crusts, the local tomatoes and the fresh herbs. Who knows why, it’s just better.

We have a relaxed day strolling around the village, afternoon siestas and reading by the shore.  Late in the afternoon we venture up the hillside to Muslone, which is hosting a village fete.

On the way we have to stop off at Campiona in honour of Katrina and take a photo for her. At Muslone we were expecting the fete to be something similar to those we had been to in France.

This one turns out to be a little more low key.  The village is decorated in red and white bunting and the open town square has been covered for the night. There is a lovely sense of community as the young and old sit and chat at tables. We join one, but our poor Italian makes conversation difficult.

We are quickly making-up for the somewhat lacking cuisine we’ve been eating in Germany and Austria. Dinner is at Le Tre Oche; there is a story about a priest and geese which I couldn’t decipher. The food is superb, we all had fresh pasta and deserts – I can already feel the waistline expanding!

Tomorrow we are back on the road, the destination is now Tuscany. We didn’t think we would get to Tuscany this trip, but having scratched the Danube of the list we now have plenty of time. We are all excited, Don and Jane have not been and I was there 15 years ago and loved it.

We have a leisurely 3-4 hour drive ahead of us, so are taking our time following the west side of the lake. Our hosts at Lake Garda recommended stopping at Sirmione – an islet at the south west end of the lake, with a well preserved medieval town.

It’s also a very popular tourist destination with day trippers pouring in by ferry, coach and cars. Guess what we did? We came, we saw and we quickly left it to the tourists.

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