We’ve spent the night high up in the hills of Nago Torbole at the most northern tip of Lake Garda, and now we’re heading down to the lakeside town of Torbole.
And my word, what a stunning place Torbole is, with its dramatic mountain ranges dipping down to kiss the blue waters of the lake.
Finally, this really feels like we’re in the breathtaking, spectacular lakes of the Grand Tour and the Romantic Poets.
Torbole fascinated German poet Goethe, who described its winds as one of the wonders of nature. His descriptions prompted many young painters and poets to visit Torbole on Lake Garda as part of their Grand Tours.
Due to the constant, highly regular winds on the lake here, and the ban of motor boats, Torbole has become an international centre of windsurfing and sailing. It’s a true paradise for watersports lovers!
The northern lakes have two regular winds – the Ora and the Peler and it’s these consistant breezes that make the northern towns such meccas for windsurfers.
The Ora is a southerly wind, which starts at noon and blows until the early evening hours. The Pelér is a north wind, which begins in the second half of the night and continues until late morning.
No matter where in the world we are, the hubby manages to find, and consume, caffeinated beverages!
I have to be dragged away from this slice of heaven on earth – the rest of the lakes are going to have a lot to live up to!
Driving along the hair raising roads of Lake Garda, you could easily miss this next little slice of paradise – Punta San Vigilio.
This gorgeous little peninsula, owned by the Guarienti Counts of Brenzone, is part of the Municipality of Garda.
It’s a tiny little village, completely on its own with a clutch of cobbled streets, beautiful Villa Guarienti and a very expensive waterside restaurant and tavern.
Below is Locanda San Vigilio, a 16th century building that today houses a hotel and restaurant with a wonderful terrace overlooking the lake.
As it’s late in the day we nearly have this little delight all to ourselves so can soak in the endless views.
It’s hard to believe that this epic expanse of water is a lake and not the open sea!
But Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy after all. Measuring 32 miles in length from north to south and 10 miles at its widest point toward the southern end of the lake.
In total Lake Garda has a perimeter of 98 miles – which we (hubby) are driving around over the next few days!
But before the epic road trip begins in earnest, let’s just soak in some of this glorious late evening sun as it gilds the mellow old stones.
We’re in rich company as Punta San Vigilio has seen some illustrious visitors in its time including the King of Naples, Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh and our very own Prince (now King) Charles of England.
Hitting the road we’re headed to our first stop of the lakes – the most Northern tip of Lake Garden, the mountain town of Nago Torbole.
We’ve headed on from the familiar sights of Venice and onto a completely new adventure now – a tour of three of the Italian lakes. Starting with Lake Garda, perhaps the most well know, and definitely one of the most visited.
The first town we stop of in, and our first proper look at Lake Garda is at Lazise.
Lazise overlooks the south-eastern shore of Lake Garda and sits on the Veronese side of the lake.
The town is surrounded by the Scaliger Walls which you used to be able to walk along, but sadly it looks like the private family who own them have now shut them to the public.
After a quick mince along the water front, and checking out the little pebble beach, we’re off to our next stop Bardolino.
This is an ancient settlement with archaeological excavations showing the presence of humans in the area since prehistoric times.
The harbour is a colourful delight with boats in rainbow shades bobbing in the breeze. If the sky looks a little ominous it’s because we’d just endured biblical rain and thunder for the past 12 hours in Venice !
A few shots of the ubiquitous bougainvillea then we’re hitting the road again – lots to see on this whistle stop tour!
To finish off our three day trip to Venice we’re cruising up the Grand Canal on vaporetto line 1.
Venice can be very expensive to visit, and if you want to get on the water, most options aimed at tourists are eye watering (prices for hiring a gondola are pretty steep)
But if you want to see the most iconic sights of Venice then hop on Line 1 of the vaporetto.
The vaporetto is the Venetian public waterbus that is well used by locals and tourists alike meaning that they are VERY full.
There are 19 scheduled lines serving locales in Venice as well as travelling between Venice and nearby islands, such as Murano, Burano, and Lido.
Vaporetto No. 1 is the main tourist route in Venice as it passes along the Grand Canal. Boats start from Piazzale Roma and ends at the Lido.
There are around 200 buildings lining the two sides of the canal and many of them are elaborate palaces or palazzo in Italian.
Most were built between the 13th and 18th centuries by wealthy families wanting to flaunt their money and status on the high street of Venice.
We head to St Mark’s basin where some of the most iconic sights can be found including the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Below is the looming tower of St Mark’s Campanile an imposing 16th-century square cathedral tower topped with a golden angel.
In front of the tower you can see the columns of San Marco and San Todaro. These marble and granite pillars are topped with statues of the city’s two patrons: the winged lion, symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist and St. Tòdaro, the Byzantine St. Theodore of Amasea, the city’s first protector.
Line 1 terminates at the Lido, effectively the seaside for locals. The Lido, or Venice Lido is a seven mile barrier island in the Venetian Lagoon.
Much of the seaward coast has sandy beaches lined with hotels and private beaches. We sneak onto the sands for a grey Venetian seaside experience!
After a swift paddle it’s back on the vaporetto and a sunset cruise back up the Grand Canal again.
The sun sets over the Doges Palace and St Marks basilica. The golden dusk adds yet another layer of faded glory to this most spectacular of cities.
But alas, nothing good can stay (as the song goes) and we’re heading on from Venice in the morning. But we about to embark on a tour of the Italian lakes so plenty more to come!
The San Marco basin is an area of the Venetian Lagoon where you can find the Riva degli Schiavoni the lively waterfront area and promenade in front of the Doges Palace.
It’s also a great place to gondola spot as it’s where lines of these iconic waterbourne vessels dock up.
You can also see the famous Bridge of Sighs that links the Doges Palace interrogation rooms to the New Prison.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last glimpse of Venice that convicts saw before being locked away.
The bridge’s evocative English name was given in the 19th century by Lord Byron. It’s translated from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri”, the thought that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.
San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the islands of Venice. The island, and its Palladian church, is an important landmark.
Away from the main waterfront, there are plenty of other tiny waterways to explore.