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Lake Garda

Lake Garda (or Benàco) is part of three regions: the western shore with a dense evergreen vegetation is in Lombardy, the eastern shore with Mediterranean plants such as lemon trees is in Veneto and the northern tip where the lake is like a fjord, enclosed between the chain of Monte Baldo and the Ledrensi Alps, is in Trento. In the Lombard area, rich with parks and villas, there is Gardone Riviera, with the “Vittoriale” complex where Gabriele D’Annuzio lived.

Coming one after the other on the Venetian coast are: the small hamlet of Lazise, surrounded by medieval walls, the ancient village of Garda, with a splendid view from the point of S. Vigilio and Malcesine, with its castle overlooking the lake, around which the hamlet grew.

In the Trentino area, the coastlines are higher and rockier and this is where Riva del Garda is, a tourist resort with a central-European air because it was the Hapsburg’s holiday resort  when the Empire had expanded up to this part of Europe.

There are five small islands on the lake. On the island of Garda, St. Francis of Assisi founded a monastery, later converted into a Venetian-style palace. Nearby is the island of St. Biagio, also called “dei Conigli”, close to the shore and in times of drought, it can be reached on foot. The other three are on the eastern shore, near Malcesine.


Already in the Roman times, thanks to its position and the pleasant climate,  large villas were built on the lake shores such as the one called “Grotte di Catullo” in the thermal locality of Sirmione.

During the Renaissance, the lake belonged to the Visconti family, then to the Republic of Venice.

In the 19th century it became the tourist destination of the élite, starting from Gardone Riviera with the luxurious Grand Hotel Gardone Riviera.

Here, tourists can visit small, interesting, fortified hamlets as well as do water sports. For children, then, there is the attraction of the amusement park of Gardaland.

Food and wine

Along the shores of Garda, the Garda oil is produced, an extra-virgin olive oil of excellent quality, but also much-appreciated wines (Bardolino, Lugana, Garda) and citrus fruits. The typical dishes are mainly made with fish from the lake.

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Lago Maggiore

“Lago Maggiore” (or Verbano) is a pre-Alpine lake, the shores of which partly belong to Switzerland but mainly to the Italian provinces of Novara, Varese and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.

Geography and history

There are 11 islands on the lake, mainly belonging to Piedmont. Between Stresa and Verbania there is the archipelago of the Borromee Islands (made up of the islands “Bella”, “Madre”, “dei Pescatori”, “San Giovanni” and the rock of “Malghera”); in front of the Swiss locality of Brissago, there are the islands of “San Pancrazio” and “Sant’Apollinare”. In front of Cannero Riviera,  instead , there are three surfaced rocks called “Castelli di Cannero”: Ludovico Borromeo built a stronghold  “Rocca della Vitaliana” on the largest; on the smallest one there is a small cannon tower which was a southern garrison for the channel port.

The lake was well-controlled by the Roman Empire but following the barbarian invasions the area underwent continuous partitioning and a progressive decadence. Only in the Middle Ages did the creation of new hamlets and castles permit the rebirth of the cities under various dominions, especially that of the Borromeo family.

It is possible to go on many excursions on the lake thanks to the large number of passenger boats  which count more than thirty amongst steamers, motor ships, ferries, catamarans, hydrofoils and motorboats. There are still 5 historic boats. This is a tradition which started at the beginning of the 19th century, because  in 1826 the first steamer was already  sailing the waters of the lake.

For the lovers of nature, one of the major attractions of “Lago Maggiore” are the gardens (those of Villa Taranto, Isola Bella and Isola Madre), but also the numerous protected parks.

Food and wine 

A lake cuisine prevails on the coastal areas with dishes based on fish such as perch, pike and lake trout. But the gastronomy is also inspired by the cuisine from Piedmont (mixed boiled meats and “bagna cauda”) and by the specialities in the valley (polenta, sausages, cheeses such as Gorgonzola). Red wines are produced here, amongst which are Gattinara and the rare Pruné.

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