A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a long weekend in Verona I had at the beginning of August. Subsequent to that, I jumped in a hire car with my husband and my sister and brother in law to the most ludicrously beautiful town I have ever had the luck to see: Malcesine.
Malcesine is on the North East coast of Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake. It is heaven on earth and looks like a CGI film at times as it is so pretty. The times I wasn't concentrating on eating the pizza in front of me, or drinking a delicious Moretti beer, I would find myself looking at the view - where ever I happened to be. If I was looking out onto the lake, I was stunned by its mountainous terrain, but, equally, if I was sitting outside in a piazza having a cappuccino, I would fall in love with the buildings and their vintage shutters.
For those that are a little bit more active, however, like my husband, I have a few ideas about what you can do in this part of the lake to keep even the most adventurous entertained. The lake itself is an obvious place to start for activity and it is literally awash with water sports. On a lot of its days, Lake Garda is privy to a refreshing breeze which is great for windsurfers and sailors (and sunbathers!) There are a number of places that equipment can be hired, though sailing is typically expensive. My party and I stayed next door to a watersports center in Val di Sogno. We hired paddle boards one morning - I used my board to top up my tan, though the rest of my party were a great deal more conscientious. Either way, it was great to get out onto the cool, clean water.
We also hired bikes from a shop in Malcesine itself, which was a perfect way for getting around the surrounding area. My sister in law and I hired pretty shoppers, the boys chose racer bikes. This sums up the attitudes towards biking that the sexes had on our little trip, which worked out well. Whilst Mrs M and I would literally go shopping on our shoppers, Mr L and Mr M would go cycling for hilly kilometers at a time. Practically speaking however, it did allow us to travel between our just out of town hotel to restaurants in the evening without the need of a car - traffic around the Lake can be shocking.
This is a great shame as there are so many pretty towns to be seen. Fortunately, however, there are ferries to and from Malcesine to various other parts of the lake. We went to Limione one morning, which was another stunning location. Supposedly it takes its name from all the lemon groves in the town and the pergolas that are there to help them grow. It is quite a sight, both from the water as you approach the town on ferry and also from within the lemon groves themselves. My party and I happily meandered around the picturesque cobbled streets before grabbing a gelato and catching the ferry back to Malcesine.
On the ferry back, there is an unparalleled view of Malcesine itself, but also Monte Baldo - the mountain that overlooks it. There is a funicular that goes to the top of the mountain. If this is your type of thing, and it really does afford a spectacular view from the top, then go early. The queues to go up are exceedingly long in the summer. I think we queued for over an hour - and that was with having bought our tickets already. Luckily, it was well worth it. For the adrenaline junkies out of us, there is opportunity to parasail back down. For the calmer members of the public, it is a lovely spot to hike around or simply sit down at one of the restaurants and eat. The food and drink up the top is expensive however and if I had my time there again, I would have gone to the supermarket and bought a picnic to eat whilst admiring the awe inspiring view.
We visited Malcesine at an opportune time, despite the swathes of tourists that August attracts. It had its annual Jazz Festival on which was a lot of fun. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I don't know a lot about jazz despite my best efforts to improve my knowledge of music. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself at both the nights we attended - and that wasn't just due to the incredibly cheap prosecco offered at one of the main bandstands. There was a buzz all around the town and every corner turned there was another artist performing for varying sized crowds.
Malcesine is full of friendly Italian charm with a laid back feel that made my eight day stay there incredibly good fun, but also relaxing. There are a wealth of restaurants in the town itself, some of which do fall into the tourist trap of just churning out mediocre food, but thankfully they are quite few and far between. I ate well 90% of the time, and for the times that I didn't, the local wine helped! Whilst I was there I decided that next summer I would hire a villa for a month and drive out there to eat refined carbs for 28 days straight.
I can't wait to return.
On next week's blog, I am talking about another place I can't wait to return to: The Cotswolds. If you'd like my tips for this quintessential English destination straight to your inbox, sign up to my subscription list below!