Day 4 Trento to Lake Garda 50 km
THE PRESSURE WAS ON TODAY because we had to get to the ferry terminal at RIVA DEL GARDA by 1.45pm and had 50 km to cycle. Situated at the northernmost tip of LAKE GARDA, we had to pick up the ferry from there to take us on a five hour boat trip on the lake to the southernmost port of PESCHIERA – and there was only one ferry a day so we couldn’t be late. Believe me, my little legs were peddling nineteen-to-the-dozen and I ended up being in a kind of daze for most of the morning, valley hugging the ADIGE RIVER through fruit farms, vineyards and fields of maize.
OUR FIRST GLIMPSE OF LAKE GARDA
WE SET OUT EARLY – VERY SAD TO LEAVE TRENTO and vowing to return one day, but it was a good job we did for today put many obstacles in our path; by way of detours and wrong turns – one of which added another 12km to our journey.
I was getting seriously overheated, as temperatures had risen today to above 35oC, and we had several climbs before we could freewheel down to the lake – what a welcome sight that was.
This was Day 4 and I had finally managed to work out: the gears on the bike, the saddle height, correct padding in the shorts to stop numb-bum AND THE TRIP FINISHES TOMORROW!!
EVERYTHING CHANGED TODAY AND WE KNEW WE WERE ITALY. Whenever we stopped on the bikes, looking lost, someone would come up to us and offer help – such a welcome change from the unfriendliness we had experienced on the first part of our trip. An old chap in the little village of Marco was typical. “Turn right by the machina bianco (white car) – go over the ponta (bridge) and past the fabrica (factory)” and parted with a “how romantic, the two of you on bicycles”. At last I could understand a little of what everyone was saying – my father had been in Italy during the war, learned to speak Italian and spoke to us kids in Italian. How lovely is a smile and a friendly exchange when you are in a strange place – priceless!
LAKE GARDA suddenly appeared beneath us as the DOLOMITES parted – like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – we had an hour to make the ferry. Then the strangest thing happened. We could see the ferry port of Riva del Garda around the top of the lake to the north with boats chugging in and out but, no matter how hard we peddled, it seemed to get further away – it just never seemed to be getting any closer. Panic was setting in along with exhaustion!
FINALLY, we dropped down to a bike track that skirted this Italian water-sport playground – it was such a lovely sight, with everyone, young and old, having fun on and out on the lake on all manner of water craft: surf kites, wind surfs, yachts large and small, peddle boats and stand-up boards. I spotted number plates on camper vans from every corner of Europe and, I could certainly see why they would make the journey here – it was fun and it was warm and there was water and a beach!
WE MADE IT – RIVA DEL GARDA
And we had time for a very welcome Aperol Spritz and handsome prosciutto, cheese and salad panini. We had discovered these very strange looking bright orange drinks inTRENTO – where they originate from – and they became our pre-dinner drink for the rest of our time in Europe – once tasted, there was no going back. They are made from Aperol vermouth (made from bitter orange, gentian and rhubarb) prosecco and mineral water with a slice of orange – tops.
Aperol Spritz – probably number 20 on Sifnos Island, Greece
AGAIN – RIVA WAS A FABULOUS PLACE THAT WAS HARD TO LEAVE: full of fabulous medieval buildings with a beautiful water-lined piazza but, we had a ferry to catch.
THE LAST TIME I HAD BEEN ON LAKE GARDA WAS IN 1990 (singing in a choir in Verona with Pavarotti!) and, while maintaining that charm and beauty I remembered from twenty-five years before, it was just incredibly busy. Traditionally the playground of wealthy Venetians, going back centuries, the shoreline is dotted with elegant villas, draped in scarlet bougainvillea, gardens punctuated with Lombardy cypress trees, and private moorings that sported classy motor cruisers that would probably cost more than my house – all shiny timber and sleek lines. I was waiting for George Clooney to come zooming past flashing a smile and an ad for Nescafe.
THERE WAS SO MUCH TO SEE THAT THE FIVE HOURS ON THE FERRY WENT BY IN A FLASH– the fact that they served prosecco in real bubble flutes, albeit plastic ones, may have helped and I spent most of the time just gazing, dreaming and writing my diary. The lake is 50km long, mountainous in the north with reliable winds whistling down from the Dolomites with the accompanying choppy waters, to flat terrain and calmer waters in the south. Italians have been holidaying here since Roman times – and eating and drinking – the area is famous for its lakeside vineyards and fish restaurants.
Hotel Puccini in PESCHIERA turned out to be a rare dud – it definitely did not sing! We met other cyclists on the ferry heading for the same hotel and we turned up like the peloton on the Tour de France – equally as tired and hot as we were, only to be told that the pool closed in five minutes!! I was also looking forward to a swim before breakfast only to find out that it didn’t open until 10am. What is that? I thought hotel amenities were there for the convenience of hotel guests, not the staff. It was also the only place in three months that we were asked to pay for WiFi; there were no products in the bathroom, apart from one minuscule bar of soap that was like trying to lather up putty, and the fridge was totally empty – not even a bottle of water.
FORTUNATELY, PESCHIERA ITSELF WAS ANOTHER DELIGHT and well worth a visit. We were back in the land of oleanders, figs, potted geraniums and olive trees that skirted the lakeside esplanade as we walked from our hotel in search of dinner. We found a floating restaurant that was just gorgeous. One of the bonuses of being Europe in summertime are the long days – it doesn’t get dark until after 10pm at night and people eat late, enjoying the long twilight and balmy evenings.
PESCHIERA – romantic, waterside dining
NOTE: While I go for the prosecco and pinot gris, me mate always drinks red wine and, having zero Italian, was having a bit of difficulty explaining to waitstaff that he likes a full-bodied, robust wine. Paolo, our very nice young waiter in Peschiera, we gave him a good tip – he told him that should ask for corposa – which literally means having the corpse in it!!
Even after a few corpses, Michael still managed to get back on the bike the next day for our final run to Verona.