Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ITALIAN LAKES: GARDA, ISEO, COMO, MAGGIORE


Peschiera del Garda

Walls surrounding Peschiera del Garda 
Ruins from the Roman era
The northern lakes of Italy, formed by glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, are incredibly beautiful. Over the course of two and a half weeks, we visited 5 of them.  
Borghetto

First stop was Peschiera del Garda at the foot of Lake Garda.  At 34 miles long, it is the biggest lake in Italy. The town was once an important military center and is virtually an island in the lake surrounded by 16th century fortress walls.  However, Peschiera del Garda's history goes back to the bronze age and the foundations of buildings from the Roman era were recently discovered. 


Borghetto on Mincio River
Close by is the charming little hamlet of Borghetto. Situated on the Mincio River, it is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. 

Next stop was Lovere on Lake Iseo, smallest of the major Alpine lakes at 20 miles long.  It is not as well known as Lakes Garda, Maggiore and Como, but just as beautiful.   
Medieval center of Lovere



Lovere sits on the northwest corner of Lake Iseo with stunning views of the towering peaks that surround the water.  It would be impossible to drive around the lake without the many long tunnels that cut through granite mountains 

Our hotel offered a walking tour of the city where we saw the 3 different sections of the town: medieval, renaissance and modern.  They must not get many Americans here.  Our young tour guide was so surprised that we were from the U.S. that he kept pointing us out to locals along the way saying, "From Floreeda.  Floreeda!"  
Entrance to tunnel through mountain on Lake Iseo

In the middle of Lake Iseo is Mont Isola, the largest European lake island.  We took the passenger boat there one day stopping at lakeside villages along the way.  On the island, we were able to follow a tranquil path along the water from one village to another. 
Menaggio on Lake Como

Our hotel on the main square
View from our terrace

Lake Como is Italy's 3rd largest and deepest lake.  It has long attracted the rich and famous - artists, writers, aristocracy. There are many huge, elegant villas along the shores of the lake. Nowadays it may be best known because George Clooney has a home there.    


We were able to tour all the villages in the central area of the lake by boat.  I think Bellagio with its elegant shops and Menaggio (where we stayed) were the nicest.  Our room overlooked the main square and the lake.   

From Lake Como, we drove to Lake Maggiore, the longest of the lakes (about 40 miles) but second in overall size. Partially in Switzerland, Lake Maggiore also attracted the rich and famous in years gone by.   It was featured in Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell To Arms."
Promenade in Bellagio


Bellagio on Lake Como
While we were in the town of Stresa, we took the cable car and chair lift to the top of Mount Mattarone, almost 5,000 ft above sea level. Unfortunately, the haze prevented clear photos but we could see the shadowy outlines of several lakes surrounded by towering mountains.   

We found the town of Stresa to be a little too touristy so cut our visit short and moved on to the lovely lake of Viverone.  Well off the beaten tourist path, we enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing few days there.  
View of Stresa & Maggiore from cable car



On top of Mount Mattarone

On July 19, we say "Arrivederchi, Italy" and drive into France.  After 2 months and 4 days in this beautiful country, we cannot answer the common question:  What was your favorite?  We loved the variety of our stops:  the northern Italian Riviera, Tuscany, Umbria, the Adriatic coast and the Alpine lakes.  We found the hosts and hostesses of our various lodgings to be incredibly warm and hospitable.  More often than not,  when we asked the check out time, the answer was, “When do you want?” 
Pool at Hotel Marina

View of Lake Viverone from hotel
Italy, like most of Europe, is enduring financial hardship at this time.  You would never know it!  We saw more Audis and BMWs on the roads here than anywhere.  Coming from Palm Beach County, that’s saying something.   Of course, the young people suffer the most; unemployment is high.  Many long to come to America - especially Miami thanks to CSI Miami. 

There is still so much more of Italy to see that we are already thinking about coming back next year.  In the meantime, we look forward to saying "Bonjour, France." 
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