Across lake Garda

September 13, 2011

The single most important thing that determines the start of the day is breakfast. So let’s skip the croissants and coffee and eat something real. It was a cloudy Monday morning, the streets were empty and slightly chilly, we stopped by a local enoteca and ordered a bruschetta Margherita with a glass of white.

Breakfast in Sirmione. I'm not really the kind who photographs every meal, but this one just looked way too good to pass up. Note the fogged up glasses of chilled wine.

The place had about half a dozen tables, all of which were empty. I suspect if anyone local wanted to have breakfast there, they already did, as it was 11am by then.

Sirmione seems much less like a tourist trap if you see it on a weekday. There are still travellers there, but only about a quarter of the Sunday’s numbers. The clouds were thick and looked like it was going to rain.

Chinese restaurant in Sirmione.

We decided to take a ferry trip up the lake and back, got tickets and still had a few hours to kill before the departure. Went back to the car to go for a quick grocery run. It started raining while we were walking to the parking lot, and it rained pretty hard. Got an umbrella on the way (for €10 who could say no?). Found a grocery store with the help of the GPS, bought some prepackaged croissants and bottled water for the trip and just in case. Got back to the old town just as the rain ended. Caught more birds in the water by the pier.

By the pier in Sirmione.

Finally our ferry arrived and took us out of Sirmione. Destination: Malcesine, close to the north end of the lake.

Hills around lake Garda in infrared. It so happened that with the recent rain the moisture in the air caused most photos in regular light to look a bit too hazy, while the IR still cut through most of the obstructions. So here is one of the many hills to follow. As the ferry kept making stops at different towns we looked at the passing houses, churches, boats and the overall landscape.

Stopped at Gordone. White palm leaves rule.

Purple is the next best thing if pink is unavailable.

The clouds would open up every so often, showing bits of blue sky.


Orange trees growing on the lake shore.

Flowers everywhere, as per usual regulations.

Cliffs over lake Garda

The struggle of the clouds and the mountains.


A manicured little town on the shores of lake Garda.

The ferry we were on was a fast one, hydrofoil. There were no open seats and we had to look and shoot through the glass windows. As it occasionally started raining again, this was not necessarily a bad thing, although it did cause visible streaks in some images.

Somehow the needles of evergreens show up as very dark shades compared to the foliage of deciduous trees.

One of the stops on the way across lake Garda.

The large ridges make the underlying towns look rather miniature. Few things remind you of how tiny and insignificant you are as effectively as the look of large mountain ranges. (Hey, we haven't seen the real Alps yet! Now that will be an exercise in humility.)

You can see the tunnels built right through the mountains in this cliff, carrying auto, and possibly train traffic.

As is often the case, a town is accompanied by a church bell tower.

And then we were finally at Malcesine.

The port of Malcesine.

View from Malcesine.

No pink lamp posts.

The poles in the water are almost like the ones in Venice.

Looking up.

Mostly sunny.

We did not eat here. Instead we sat on a bench on the shore and ate croissants with creamy filling and frizzante water.

Let's look at the port again when it's sunnier.

There was a dreamy haze everywhere, mellowing down any and all thoughts and worries.

It was so pleasant and calm, we kept looking at the lake and the hills, taking pictures, acting silly… It kind of struck us eventually that our return boat should be leaving in 5 minutes. And it was the last boat of the day. And we had 5 minutes to walk back. But I had to take another picture.

The last photo before we realized we were irreversibly late.

About a hundred meters from the docks, we heard a tell tale whistle and rushed faster. It was too late. The boat left without us. According to our phones’ clocks it left at least 2 minutes early, but there was nothing anyone could do except to tell us that we can take a bus from Malcesine to Peschiera, and a taxi from there to Sirmione. Awesome.

There goes our boat.

At this point I became unexpectedly upset. It just seemed completely inappropriate for us to miss the boat and get stuck somewhere like that. My partner thankfully managed to bring me to some senses as arguably, it was far from the worst place to get stuck in, by any account.

The bus fare was remarkably cheap (€4 per person), and the bus was not to leave until a few hours later. Having suddenly several more hours to spend there, we took a walk around, bought a pair of earrings and shoes for me (retail therapy is an FDA approved treatment, after all) and took more pictures.

The rooftops of Malcesine.

A rare Italian duck.

A rooftop garden.

The same tree that caught my eye earlier (possibly) delaying me just enough to miss the return ferry. I'm not complaining, I still wear the shoes I got there.

The clock, the palms, the evergreens, the mountains, the clouds.

Boats moored on the shores of lake Garda.

I get an eerie sense of freedom, and danger, and wind and large spaces when I look at these boats. Now they are peacefully at anchor by the shore, the next minute they can take off never to be seen again.

Finalmente = finally!

I want orange trees on my terrace, and an apartment with a view of the mountains on one side and lake (or ocean) on the other.

Although mountains on both sides would work too.

Streets of Malcesine. Very mellow, they are.

Residential houses.

A church in Malcesine.

A church in Malcesine, closer look.

An apparition in someone's window.

A tomato purse. For those truly devoted to the vegetable.

This time around, I insisted on getting to the bus stop an hour in advance and just sticking around there. It was a fairly busy road running quite a bit above the water level, but still nowhere near the tops of the nearby mountains. There is actually a cable car running from Malcesine to one of the peaks, and it’s something to consider if the weather is clear.

Roundabout in Malcesine. I will never understand why there aren't more of them in Canada. Every single "all way stop" intersection in the city and in rural areas, as well as some regular STOP signs could be safely replaced with a simple roundabout resulting in dramatically reduced need to ever stop and faster overall traffic flow. And the larger ones could become great excuses to add more greenery or art to the roads. I wish.

A tower of a medieval castle in Malcesine.

Clouds coming down the slopes.

A statue of an angel on the hills above Malcesine.

Unlike the ferry, the bus was a little late. Once we boarded, it took us around the curved roads along the lake. Considering the size of the bus and the curves on the road, the driving style was definitely way out of the league of any bus drivers I have encountered in Canada. He was not exactly crazy, but somewhat frisky, perhaps.

Looking out of the bus window, with the trees passing quickly in the foreground.

Passing towns along lake Garda.

Once we reached Perschiera, it was time to order a taxi. So I get out my fancy pants phone, find a number of a taxi and ask for one to be dispatched to me. Where to, they ask? Well, to the bus stop. Signora, there are many bus stops in Perschiera, which one are you at? Hm, the one where the buses stop, the intercity ones. The station. You know?

It would have lasted a while to the entertainment of my partner and another undisclosed observer, but if only I turned around and looked, I would have seen a taxi parked just a few meters away. They are not stupid, they hang around the bus stations just like they do in Toronto, to help you make those last few kilometres to your destination. The undisclosed observer was, of course, the taxi cab driver, who had about enough of me trying to order a taxi by phone and came over to offer his services directly. Good call on his part.

The final part of the trip took about 20 minutes, during which the sunset reached its most dramatic deep red stage. Did not take any pictures but enjoyed the ride. Talked a little bit with the taxi driver. Does he like the city he lives in? Huh! Of course he does. His city is the most beautiful city! Verona.

Upon returning to Sirmione we dropped off our bags and the umbrella and headed out to eat. This time we did get a seat at the restaurant we wanted and had a terrific time. We actually ended up tipping to the waitress, everything was just that good. You normally do not tip in restaurants in Italy, it’s not expected at all, unlike in North America. However, great service does deserve recognition. The atmosphere, the attention, the food – everything was just perfect. The restaurant was Osteria al Torcol.

The next day would bring another change of scenery, as we will be heading out of Sirmione to Milano.

Sunset at Sirmione lookout point. Infrared. 

1 Comment »

  1. Linda C. says:

    Thanks for the wonderful insight of what looks like possibly the most beautiful place on earth!

    We will be staying in Sirmione next July 2012 for one week. I have loved Italy and everything about it for such a long time so can’t wait to finally get there, it can’t come soon enough.

    Part of the reason for going to Garda is because of the views and like yourselves we fully intend to get out and about and see as much of the lake as possible… snapping all the way.

    We are taking a one day trip to Venice which we are also really looking forward to. As we are only there for one day I wondered if you had any suggestions on making the most of our day there.

    Many thanks again for posting your gorgeous photo’s.

    Linda & Tom

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