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At the southern foot of the Alps, between its rocky toes, lies Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, a 30–mile–long fjord scoured through the rock by the last of the Ice Age glaciers, a watery cleft so deep you could sink the Eiffel Tower with room to spare. This is Alpine country with a gentle Mediterranean climate, a soaring landscape ripe with olive and lemon groves, palms, cypresses, oleanders and orange trees.
It was settled by Etruscans in Neolithic times, visited by the poet Vergil in the Augustan age, fought over by venal princelings in the Middle Ages and by glittering emperors in the early modern era. The famous German poet Goethe discovered Lake Garda by accident, on his way to Verona in 1786, and was so arrested (literally - see The 'Spy' Poet) he just had to tell his friends about it.
People have been coming here ever since for the dramatic views, and Italians themselves appreciate the agreeable climate, which is particularly fresh and invigorating in spring. And of course there are lots of bars and restaurants serving great local dishes including Bigoi co le aole, a sort of 'big' spaghetti with aola or alborella, a lake fish unknown in the UK, spaghetti co le sardelle (anchovies), Zisam (alborella and onions), or polenta and luganighe (Swiss/Italian sausage).
This 8 day holiday, with flights, coach transfers and 3 star accommodation by the lake including dinner and breakfast, with the option of extra excursions to the Dolomites, the Lake area, or Venice, makes this a truly outstanding Omega deal.
Garda (from Verona airport)
The charming lakeside town of Garda may be found on the southern part of the lake, on the centre stretch of the Riviera degli Olivi where Lake Garda opens out after the enchanting promontory of San Vigilio and Mermaid Bay. The town has many fine villas and gardens, a small historic centre of narrow lanes and Gothic and Renaissance buildings, as well as sophisticated cafes and an attractive waterfront promenade. The town is particularly noted for its leather shops and the ever–popular lakeside Friday market, and is superbly located for ferry and hydrofoil services to other enticing Lake Garda resorts.
Gardone (from Bergamo and Venice airports)
Gardone Riviera is situated along the south–western shore of the lake, from where you can easily catch a ferry to other popular lakeside towns. At one time Gardone itself was an exclusive resort for the Italian upper–crust, and there are traces of 1920s art nouveau elegance still to be seen amid the lush gardens and opulent villas. One of Italy's most famous and eccentric sons, poet and war hero Gabriele D'Annunzio, had a grand and bizarre abode here which is still worth a look, sporting among other things a thousand–seat amphitheatre, a torpedo–boat, a biplane installed inside the house and a battleship on the lawn.
Also recommended is the Giardino Botanico Heller, or Heller Gardens, featuring a Bridge of Monsters, a Chinese water–clock, sculptures including a giant wooden Praying Mantis, pop–art by Keith Haring and Roy Leichtenstein, and more than 2,000 species of plants from around the world.
Toscolano – Maderno
These two conjoined towns, located on the western shore of Lake Garda under the Pizzocolo mountain, date back to Roman times and were later the site of Italy's earliest medieval paper mills, some of whose remains are still visible today in the Valle delle Cartiere (Paper Mill Valley), and one of which has been made into a free museum. The area's output of fine quality paper became sought after throughout Europe and in Royal houses. Art lovers might want to check out the 16th century church of Santi Pietro e Paolo, which contains 22 paintings by the Venetian painter Andrea Celesti. On a less highbrow note, Maderno also happens to have the largest beach on the west side of the lake, with a mile–long promenade.
This tour is organised and operated by Omega Holidays plc ABTA V4782 ATOL 6081