We decided to hire a car on two occasions during our 20-day trip to Italy. One would be to drive from Verona to Lake Garda, and the other in Tuscany.
I did hire both from rentalcars.com and it was a smooth process. For the whole renting period (9 days) we paid 212 Euros, quite a great deal right? So, after leaving the B&B in Verona we headed to the train station, which was the place rentalcars indicated as the collecting point. We took a taxi (costed 15 Euros for three plus luggage) and happily went to the car parking and called the Agent, Ecovia. Nothing. No answer. We called again and again with no answer.
Starting to worry a lot, I decided to call Rentalcars in the UK. Long story short, the collection point was not the train station (the guy at Ecovia ended up telling us that he did already ask rentalcars to change it), but at the Ecovia office, which costed us another 10 Euros and a delay of almost an hour.
The guy at Ecovia in spite of having behaved quite bad by not answering the phone, ended up being a nice guy (he justified his absence saying that he had to go home to check his sick mother).
The car was a brand new Opel Mokka, very comfortable, truly a great car and totally worth the money paid (it included all drivers free, so anyone of us could drive at no extra cost).
Relieved that everything was solved, we headed to Lake Garda.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, and it is usually crowded during high season. It is located in the north of Italy, and covers three provinces: Brescia (Lombardy Region), Verona (Veneto region) and Trentino (Trentino-Alto Adige Region), on the foothills of the Dolomites. With 51km long and a circumference of 158km, it is doable for short time visits, easy to reach and there are plenty of things to do.
The ride from Verona to Lake Garda is quite a pleasant ride, with nice views along the way. Getting to Lake Garda we were starving, and decided to stop for lunch, at Santa Maria di Lugana in Sirmione. We saw a place that looked nice from the outside, with lake views it seemed, and decided to stop there. It ended up being La Lugana Trattoria, a beautiful place with a beautiful setting and location. It was our first view of Lake Garda e I instantly fell in love. It was just so so beautiful and the day was gorgeous.
From their website:
Near to our Bakery ” Fenice” there is our trattoria La Lugana, a quiet location with a double terrace directly on the lake.
The care and the elegance of our dishes is the main note of our philosophy.
The kitchen of our trattoria provides a menu figured according to seasonality of the products in line to the genuineness of the dishes offered.
Vegetarian choices or meat preferences, seafood and sea fish are also included, with the possibility of tasty grilled dishes.
I had braised beef with Amarone wine reduction, my son the Roasted octopus, potato puree and anchovies emulsion and my friend Andrea the Monkfish wrapped in bacon with spinach and almond slices. Everything was beautifully done. Starting our Lake Garda experience with that amazing meal, in front of the lake, was just perfect.
Our first night at Lake Garda would be spent in Malcesine, and the second and last, in Limone sul Garda, on the other side of the lake. We did plan to see Malcesine and Limone well, and drive at a relaxed pace, stopping when we felt like seeing a place (Sirmione castle was however on the plans). On this first day, we only stopped at Garda (stupid us, as there is so so much to see) and the rest was just driving and enjoying the spectacular views. I mean, it is really a paradise. Most of the road goes around the lake with fantastic lake and mountain views, and the small towns are located on the lake shore, are charming, lively and really a delight.
It is difficult to describe in words how beautiful Lake Garda is. I was really happy that I decided to go there instead of his brother and so much more publicized Lake Como. As I said above, our only stop before Malcesine was Garda Town.
Garda is located 32 km from Verona, and borders Torri del Benaco and Bardolino.
It is a small town, charming and beautiful and we took a time to walk along the promenade of the lake as well as its small marina, packed with colorful boats. Along the promenade there are many cafes and restaurants to seat and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere.
As we were not yet hungry and wanted to explore Malcesine with enough time, we headed there. The drive to Malcesine, where we would be staying for the night was relaxed, and we got to Hotel Firenze even before sunset.
The Hotel is located on the main road, and includes a nice restaurant, with gluten free options. The rooms were big and very comfortable, with a nice size bed and bathroom and a balcony with fantastic views over Monte Baldo. I mean, how awesome it is to wake up and see those stunning mountains from our balcony? Priceless. As next day we would be taking the cable car to Monte Baldo and leave for Limone, we quickly stored the luggage and headed to Malcesine historical center to see as much as we could.
Malcesine is a small town located on the north-eastern shore of Lake Garda, and is one of the most popular towns on the Lake. Its medieval setting, narrow streets with shops selling typical products (I bought a delicious fennel salami and Limoncello), small harbor and pretty walkway along the lake, make it a delightful place to enjoy relaxed time and walk around the town.
Malcesine was built around the Scaligeri castle “Castello Scaligeri” and “Palazzo dei Capitani”. Scaligeri Castle, houses today a museum dedicated to Lake Garda, that has a room dedicated to the poet Goethe. We had time to walk around Malcesine, see the castle from outside, wander along the narrow streets and feel the ambiance, before heading to the hotel to have dinner and rest.
Next day we woke up to a beautiful day, with a gorgeous blue sky and a nice temperature. It was the day to take the cable car and visit Monte Baldo, a site of great botanic diversity and fantastic views over Lake Garda.
If you intend to go there, plan for at least half a day as, depending on the season, the cues are long. We had a waiting time of 3 hours, that luckily took only 1h30m. The ride up is smooth, with a few ups and downs that can upset weak stomachs.
But getting there, descending from the cable car and and looking around, seeing the impossible to describe beauty of the surrounding views, makes everything worth it.
Monte Baldo offers a fantastic, superb view lake Garda as you can see from the photographs below.
As I had a nasty cold I was wearing my polar jacket and a scarf, and in spite of the sun being quite strong, I was happy I did because the wind makes it also cold. It is easy to walk around, as they have clear tracks, but it is also easy to fall, as the slopes are slippery and have a lot of rocks, making it a challenge to go to more distant areas (with stunning views) unless, like us, you wear a good pair of non slippery shoes.
The views are really amazing, and I believe that during spring, when the flowers are in the blooming season, the spectacular botanical diversity Monte Baldo is known for will be highlighted and worth another visit. As we were getting hungry and it was already midday, and we still had to drive to the other side of the lake, we decided to return. The way down is more bumpy than the way up, but honestly easy. On your way back, you will have a fantastic view of the Castle, and by the end of it, you will feel kinda nostalgic and wanting to go back. Up there, everything is beautiful and relaxing.