You are often urged to ‘buy local’ but on our travels, we have discovered that in terms of maps, that can be a serious problem!
In Monte Rosa, we had to send off to Stamfords of London to get a detailed, topographical map of the area. On Garda, we could get any number of cycling and hiking guide books in German or Italian. Maybe the English versions were just so popular that they sold out…
We did finally succeed in purchasing a map showing some of the many walking routes, so we worked out a couple of walks of our own. Here are a few of The Fab Four’s favourites!
The Little Valley of Santa Lucia
We parked in Nago, the village just above Torbole and walked through the vinyards.
“Buongiorno!” We hailed a lovely Italian farmer working on the vines. He hailed us back, took out his curved knife and cut us each a bunch of his grapes. He told us that they were Merlot. They were the sweetest and most delicious grapes that I have ever tasted, straight off the vine!
We dropped down to Torbole through some terraced gardens, before following the 4000-year old Roman Road that winds back up through the olive groves and climbs steeply up the little valley of Santa Lucia.
This road was once the only link between the Alto Adige, Garda and the Po valley. It was wonderful to think whose feet might have trodden on these cobbles! Saints, Kings and armies, all on their way to conquer the fertile Italian plains; for God – or themselves.
Remarkably, to oppose the dominion of the Visconti family over Lake Garda, in 1439 the Venetians transported a whole fleet of galleys through the valley on this road to Torbole!
We finished by walking under the ruins of Penede Castle, which overlooks Nago and Torbole.
There’s me thinking that the views, the Roman Road and the castle would be the highlight – THEN in Nago, I find a pictograph of Chris Evans high on a wall!
We have done this walk a few times and the views never fail to impress – it is different every time!
A version of the route (starting in Torbole) is described on this website. Click here for details. There are a few, short bits of road, but it is mostly safe off-lead walking – and if you start in Torbole, you don’t need to get in the car!
“The delicious spectacle of Lake Garda, I did not want to miss, and I am delightfully rewarded for my detour” The poet Goethe spent a short time in Torbole. To read his words and discover a walking itinerary following in his footsteps, including St Lucia, click here.
The town of Limone is pretty and really quite limone-y. Lemons were certainly grown here, although so far north, the lemon groves needed seasonal heating and roofs. Lemon growing died out with the unification of Italy and the advent of railways, which could bring in fruit from warmer regions further south, such as Sicily.
Despite its Lemony associations, the name of Limone actually pre-dates the citrus growing and is simply a consequence of location; Limone derives from a Latin word for ‘Boundary’ because it is on one! Depict that in ceramic, why don’t you?!
We walked around the narrow streets which were jammed with tourists, even though it was out of season. When we’d had enough of that and a bite of lunch on the harbour, we wandered up the Torrente Giovanni into the hills – and solitude.
This is Kai and I snogging in the rain, just after we had a nice chat with a lovely Hungarian couple! Then it faired up, so it wasn’t all bad.
However, we got to see a lot more of this view of the lake, because the lakeside road back to Torbole was closed! (Note, I say THE road for ’tis the only one!) We had no option but to sit motionless for hours!
The main annoyance was watching windsurfers planing accross the lake…BECAUSE WE WERE READY FOR ACTION!
Ah well, at least the kit got wet – we had left it outside and it rained again!
St Giovanni & La Gallerie della Grand Guerre
We followed the road from Torbole to the Val de Ledro and parked up in Biacesa. From there, we followed the path up to La Chiesa di St Giovanni. Up being the operative word!
It was a beautiful day and despite having climbed the equivalent of a Lake District peak, we decided that we hadn’t walked enough!
We continued on to the Gallerie di Guerra – trenches dug by Italian and Austrian troops in the First World War to guard their positions in the mountains. There is an impressive cave dug into the mountain here, but you will need a torch in order to look inside!
We continued, passing a sign saying that the path was for experts only! Mark scouted the route up ahead.”It’s OK, just don’t look right…” he told me. The reason – a knife edge ridge sweeping thousands of feet straight down to lake Garda. The photo is a bit hazy, but you can just see the yachts!
The dogs seemed fine with it. We put them on the lead for safety, although in fact it was a little hair raising being dragged along a knife edge by four enthusiastic canines!
We met a bloke up here who told us that his friend’s 35kg dog had done a Via Ferrata. We must look that up on You Tube!
The mountain wars here must have been brutal. Not only did someone have to dig the trenches at nearly 1000m of altitude – they lived up here all year round. I have heard reports that the troops had to stuff their boots with straw or paper to try to keep warm in winter.
We dropped back down into Biacesa. It was time for coffee and a cake. But not too much cake, when one small slice cost €5!
The bloke with the Via Ferrata dog was in the cafe. He seemed very relieved that we had made it down!
Part of the route that we did (up to the church) is described on this website. Click here for details.
We did look, but couldn’t find the Via Ferrata dog on the internet. Shame!
Join us next time as we need to apply some Zen to the Art of Caravan Maintenance!