Pull up a Garda suíochán

Take in the lo­cal sights, but re­alise that all roams and roads lead back to the lake, writes Rosita Boland

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL -

I’ m haz­ard­ing a bet that any mem­ber of our coun­try’s po­lice force who goes to north­ern Italy for a hol­i­day buys a few branded sou­venirs. Riva del Garda, at the north end of Lake Garda, must be a source of amuse­ment to any­one who has ever passed through Tem­ple­more. Pretty much all the sou­venirs on sale – hats, t- shirts, snow­globes – have “Garda” writ­ten on them some­where.

It’s all about the lake in this part of Italy. Lake Garda is so huge that each of its var­i­ous dis­tricts around the lake has a dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter. We were in Trentino, at the north­ern end, but ev­ery district has those beau­ti­ful, vast views of the lake, no mat­ter where you are.

This is a re­gion with su­perla­tive pro­duce, and while you might not as­so­ciate a su­per­mar­ket with a must- see at­trac­tion when on hol­i­day, Garda’s Agraria’s co- op is ex­actly that. It is a glo­ri­ous place of lo­cal pro­duce. Ev­ery­thing from olive oil glow­ing like gold in bot­tles, to char­cu­terie, cheese and veg­eta­bles that look like art, is all sourced from the sur­round­ing ar­eas.

If you think all that sounds lovely, but re­ally, what makes this co- op so dif­fer­ent? That would be the full- size petrol- sta­tion fuel pumps, which dis­pense wine by the gal­lon.

I watched agog as mem­bers of the pub­lic walked in briskly with their empty gal­lon

con­tain­ers and choose which pump – house red, white and rose – they wished to fill up on. There are also shelves upon shelves of wine that comes in more con­ven­tional forms, ie bot­tles, but it’s the pumps that are by far the most pop­u­lar with the lo­cals.

Also on sale here are the items needed for sabrage. That would be open­ing a bot­tle of cham­pagne, not by twist­ing off the foil and the lit­tle metal yoke and then pop­ping the cork, but by slic­ing off the neck by us­ing a spe­cial sword. A sword and a bot­tle of suit­ably showy and ex­pen­sive cham­pagne come on sale in boxes that look like some­thing Long John Sil­ver would have buried his trea­sure in. You won’t get it past carry- on, how­ever, and you may not get the sword in the hold ei­ther.

You see the Omkafe logo on cups in cafes all over north­ern Italy. This ar­ti­san espresso cof­fee is an old fam­ily busi­ness, lo­cated near Riva de Garda, at Arco. The Martinelli fam­ily founded this roast­ery in 1947, and it is still a fam­ily- owned busi­ness. There is a lit­tle mu­seum on site, and you can have a tour of the roast­ery it­self. The cof­fee doesn’t come in gal­lon cans, but in ex­quis­ite lit­tle espresso cups at the end of the tour. Two mouth­fuls of that cof­fee and I al­most started lev­i­tat­ing, it had such a pow­er­ful ef­fect.

The lake is not just for surf­ing and boat­ing on; it is also, for the less ac­tive tourists, for look­ing at, walk­ing by and dream­ing be­side. Many of the lake­side cafes and restau­rants have fab­u­lous views, but those much higher up, such as Ac­etaia del Bal­sam­ico, have even bet­ter ones. Ac­etaia del Bal­sam­ico is a work­ing farm with a res­tau­rant and rooms, and a ter­race that ap­pears to float over the lake 4km be­neath. They make their own bal­samic vine­gar here, and in­cor­po­rate it into the menu in un­usual ways.

Ev­ery­thing comes back to that mag­nif­i­cent lake. There are such beau­ti­ful walks and cy­cles, for all lev­els of fit­ness. We took elec­tric bikes, a form of trans­port new to me, and rode a route called Fer­rata Colo­dri. It brought us away from the lake, along a river and through forests and even­tu­ally back to the lake again. It was a novel and wel­come ex­pe­ri­ence not to have to ex­pend so much en­ergy in get­ting up hills, and in­stead hav­ing that en­ergy to fully en­joy the gor­geous pas­toral sur­round­ings.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the lake­side it­self is abuzz with bars and cafes, and sim­ple as it sounds, hav­ing a cof­fee or a glass of wine look­ing onto Lake Garda ei­ther by day or evening is just plain good for the soul. Aer Lin­gus flies up four times a week to Verona from Dublin; aer­lin­gus. com gar­da­trentino. it

Rosita Boland was a guest of the Lake Garda Trentino Tourist Board I watched agog as mem­bers of the pub­lic walked in briskly with their empty gal­lon con­tain­ers and choose which pump – house red, white and rose – they wished to fill up on

Left: Riva del Garda, over­look­ing Lake Garda; above: Ac­etaia del Bal­sam­ico

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