„We could take the car to visit the Italian lakes? This would make us more independent and flexible and we can stop, where ever we like it. „said Peter, while we are planning our summer vacation.
Somehow we did not want to fly this time. The holidays in August can be quite crowded in Europe. Nothing is worse for us than lie towel by towel with strangers on the beach. So we decided to make a road trip through Northern Italy with Secret Escapes. From South Tyrol, via Verona, to Lake Garda, to Lake Maggiore. In retrospect, that was an excellent idea. Why, can you read here:
- 1 Italy Roadtrip First Stage: From Vienna to Welsberg
- 2 By car to Lake Garda – and why I hate Verona
- 3 Next stage by car – The Lake Garda
- 4 Lago Maggiore – a magical holiday resort since 1887
- 5 San Bernardino Pass and Lake – a little extra on the way home
Traveling by car has a clear advantage, you just see more of the area. The area around Vienna was not that attractive at the start. Along the south highway we went in the direction of South Tyrol, through the rain, a classy weather to run away.
The First stage goes via Graz, Wolfsberg, Spittal an der Drau and Lienz to Welsberg-Taisten in South Tyrol. Passing the numerous construction sites, but without much traffic jams, we reach the first destination after about five and a half hours.
The reason why we like to travel with Secret Escapes offers is simple. It is always a surprise. But in a positive sense. When we arrived the weather was so-so. The dark rain clouds started to dissolve and we move into our small but nice room with a view of the mountains. In the middle of a cute town and near nature, Secret Escape has chosen this accommodation really cleverly.
The hotel even has a small spa, which I gratefully visit to give the shaken body a little rest.
It’s a typical family driven hotel, so the atmosphere is friendly and interested in their guest. The food is fine and the beer is perfect. The first night I slept wonderfully.
Story of the legends about the Fanes Empire, Lake Braies as a „place of promise“ plays an important role. According to legend, the Fanes people are hiding in an inaccessible, underground place until their rebirth.
Only the depth of Lake Braies and the huge rocks of the Sasso della Porta are sure to give it safety. Even today, the rock door of the „Sas dla Porta“ opens on every full moon night, and the boat with the Fanes queen and her daughter Dolasilla glides out onto the lake …
The next day we take the bus (!) To Lago di Braies. Because the mountain road is closed for cars between 10 am and 2pm, and we do not want to get stuck in Braies for too long, we use the paid bus. The line runs hourly between the small station Welsberg and Lake Braies. Not a bad idea, you have less stress with parking. Because in front of the hotel on the lake the parking place is completely overcrowded.
Many beautiful hiking trails start from the eponymous hotel in the mountains and in the National Park Fanes Sennes Braies.
We decide to take a leisurely walk around the lake, which takes us about 1.5 hours and is not difficult. We take lots of beautiful photos from the lake and the panorama. But we can also discover very rare plants. An elderly hiker draws our attention to the devil’s claw. It is extremely rare and I can even take a picture from the pad.
At the end of the path we come back again to the Hotel Pragser See and decide to have a leisurely lunch here. The hotel was built around 1900 is delightful, the food is good and I have caught too much wine.
After this great trouts fresh out of the lake, we take the bus back. Tomorrow morning we continue to Lake Garda.
hay flower schnapps. High percentage meadow from the bottle is not only funny, it even tastes good.
South Tyrolean wine. The wines in the area are not to be underestimated. Often, the wineries are so small that you can not find their wines at the wine merchants of your home destinations. We always made pics from the bottles and try to find it in the local Stores.
Bacon and smokehouses. Where else, if not in Tyrol, is it famous for their smokes? But even smoked bacon is only partially durable. In the car trunk and in the summer heat it’s not ideal. Take it with you if you have a chance to keep it cooler (fridge in the hotel rooms).
The next morning it rains again, another hike is out of the question for us and we decide to take advantage of the proximity to Verona. I have not been to this city since early childhood. But my memory can no longer cope with today’s reality.
It is crowded, loud and expensive. And if I say, expensive, then I mean the rip-off in the restaurants and the overpriced souvenir market, which ugly and with junk overload on the beautiful street looking like a disgusting big grub, which seems to eat up the city.
Particularly disappointing is the balcony. Weather Shakespeares Julia was standing there above, nor Romeo called her on the small courtyard below the scene. In real, Shakespeare’s story was inspired by another event in Trieste. This famous loving couple has never lived in Verona. So everything here is quite a cheat package. The whole story you read here: The real fake Juliet’s balcony
I’m standing under this fake balcony now, whose former building function was actually a stable. The balustrade was built much later to defend the Romeo and Juliet lie.
I understand that for some visitors, this balcony is a symbol of true love. However, I have no romantic feelings. Rather claustrophobic panic attacks, caused by the masses of people standing underneath the balcony to take a picture. Standing at the balcony is a chargeable and short pleasure. Not an option for me. The bronze Julia statue, where „lovers“ like to stroke the breast, is not visible. Too many people jostle, shove and thrust in the crowded courtyard. It is noisy, it is warm and I can not breathe. We leave the spectacle and continue our trip to Salo, where the charming 4 stars Hotel Villa Galeazzi is already waiting for us.
Garda is, thanks to its unique position, one of the few alpine lakes that has a Mediterranean climate and atmosphere. Already, descending from above, we see the first palm waves, the lemons are smelling and the houses are decorated with many flower boxes and amphorae, like this would be a race. That’s the flair that I love so much. The roads are sometimes narrow, winding and Peter is in his element and steers our blue BMW safely through the curves.
Again, Secret Escape had a taste. The 4-star hotel in Art Deco style is pretty and the room is fine for us. The bathroom is a bit too small. the door opens towards the sink, it is, unfortunately, a bit tight. But the view from the cute balcony is nice. I enjoy the view of the lake. The small balcony sticks like a swallow’s nest on the facade – above us only the roof gable. One should already be free from giddiness.
But the room is nicely decorated and spacious. For the next two nights, we will certainly feel comfortable here.
By car around Lake Garda? No problem. It works and is very interesting. From Salo, we drive towards Gargnano along the lake and enjoy the views. Along the road there are many attractions, parks, small castles, and churches. We take the SS4 to Piovere and then turn on the winding mountain road SP38 to get to the viewpoint Panorama Al Fil. The view from here is breathtaking. The small summit cafe offers a sweet cream with coffee. I sit and enjoy mascarpone and the view over the lake.
Now the diabolical little Google travel App on my phone is peeping and I get a hint of another spectacular location. The shudder terrace of the Hotel Paradiso in Trevo Perosine.
So we drive back towards the lake and then turn into a small, inconspicuous tunnel. In a hairpin bend leads up the extremely narrow mountain road and – nothing works anymore. A long line of cars standstill, all engines seems to be turned off and everybody is waiting. But what are we all waiting for?
After a while, I get restless. We can now neither go nor return. There are already cars waiting behind us. Only the motorcyclists roaring past the long line unimpressed. At some point, a motorhome comes from the direction in front. On the narrow street, every car begins again to push back and forth. With a lot of moves, we can manage to make room for this idiot in the camper. That we ourselves are quite idiots will turn out a little later.
In July by car through the Brasa Valley was not a good idea. So we jerk from hairpin to hairpin. Everywhere the same picture. Long-waiting car queues and at some point we even meet a small truck. Shortly afterward we know why. The Brasa gorge gets even closer. So close that the two rock walls almost touch each other. For Peter, the thrill is pure. I distract myself by filming these scenes for you.
The valley is awesome! We are passing mall water cascades, driving through small tunnels and tiny slopes. Once at the top we have lost a lot of time. We find a nice place to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. The small mountain villages are also worth seeing. At the very end of our adventure, we did not find this hotel with its shocking terrace.
Lake Garda is very varied. Actually, there is something for every budget. Many of us may still remember the campsites on the waterfront or the smaller beach pensions. Of course, there are also very nice houses with a SPA available, excellent cuisine and air-conditioned, modern rooms. Because of special favor for Castle Hotels, it led me to find the one or the other real treasure. But if you want to stay there for holidays you need a treasure on your account.
A turn around the lake takes about 4 hours and is highly recommended – to get first impressions.
After this adventure, we really earned it fo have a fine dinner at the lake site. There is great seafood available in the restaurant La Veranda in Salo.
The next day we took the car ferry from Limone to Malcesine.
A nice trip – at the castle. by the way – here we took the cover picture. Those who are free from giddiness and courage should climb the tower.
The view is definitely worth it. The museum, which is located in the rooms of the castle, tells prehistoric, regional history and the fables around the lake. Well worth a visit even in the rain. (Admission is chargeable) A selfie with Goethe is self-evident.
Another destination is the Monte Baldo. As we are standing on the to of the keep, we see from afar the huge queues inf front cable car. In July it can become very crowded and very to long waiting times in the heat. We decide to skip this spectacle. Here you can find the information about the cable car. But you can also be athletic and hike up. Along Lake Garda, there are fantastic and numerous hiking trails. Another reason for me to come back.
The last evening we spend with an insider tip. The Fior di Loto in Puegnago. Peter, the steak tiger, has discovered this restaurant, which offers steak specialties from all over the world, but also from local cattle. Anyone who speaks Italian has an advantage. However, the waitress speaks broken German.
In the middle of nowhere between paddocks, carp ponds and mowed meadows, we let repass our experiences on Lake Garda and enjoying the end of this stage comfortably.
Search for the lemon plantations on the lake and buy the fine limoncello, but also other great things made from lemon.
Lavender is also available here in July. In the form of oils, bags for the wardrobe and pretty little soaps that are smelling wonderful and are a coveted souvenir. Incidentally, lavender is also a great poultry spice.
Wine. Here, around the lake the first good italian wineries are situated. Also around Verona you will find some good drops. The Soave is growing here and it is worth taking with you.
On the way to Lago Maggiore, we climbed some altitude by car.
At first, we pass Bergamo with its fine cheese and good wines. I’m angry that we have too little time again. You absolutely have to stay there – you can find all sorts of fine regional specialties and Bergamo town is very beautiful.
Continue passing Milan – with huge luck we will not get stuck into the infamous traffic jams. Then we are crossing the Po Valley with its river and its typical white shores. Slowly the highway winds up into the hills and mountains.
Nature gets a bit meager again and even if the lake is well protected from the mountains, the Lago Maggiore tends to face a typical mountain lake again. Palm trees and exotic plants are becoming ever rarer. The lake level is also higher than Lake Garda and here it can get really cold in winter. Nevertheless, this lake also has its own special charm. The many small islands, called the Borromees, are popular destinations. We got stuck all day on the small island „Isola Bella“.
We were quartered by Secret Escapes in Stresa. The Hotel Della Torre is again a pretty and well-kept house. The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned and we have a comfortable balcony overlooking the city and the lake. Thanks to WLan this place becomes my workplace.
Next to the hotel is a nice pool, unfortunately, many children. That’s why we set off again and have a walk to the old promenade, passing the famous five-star palaces By the way, in one of these high-class hotels we will spend the last days of our lakes road trip.
Stresa is sophisticated, noble and relaxed. You just do not have to do anything here except looking. To to this is nicest at Daniele’s Restaurant. There is also a fantastic kitchen available. The Daniele’s, sponatnously chosen as our favorite hangout for the next few days.
In the old days of the 19th century, the Who’s Who of this decade used to see and get seen along the wide promenade. Rich cloth-merchants families built magnificent mansions and castles, Hemingway sacked his money at the hotel bar of the Grand Hotel Iles des Borromee, poets, artist musicians and the hosts of the European royalty prefers to stay here.
Even today there is something noble, elegant and very relaxed in the air. That’s why the Motor XCat World Cup is taking place, that’s why we are not surprised. Infected by this atmosphere, we watch calmly and relaxed the spectacle of the howling, agile speedboats.
Our last stage lets us more time. 5 days we can spend at the lake. The weather is changeable – our excursion with the cable car to the Mottarone is less spectacular because the lake, unfortunately, disappears in the haze of the weather front. No chance for a decent picture. This one ist from Deposit Photos. Sorry about that.
Peter decides to a hell of a ride with the Alpine Coaster. A thrilling ride compensates for the poor visibility.
Like at Lake Garda we drive along the shores of the Lake Maggiore and find idyllic places to stay. Beautiful old towns line along the lake banks.
The neighborhood of Switzerland is becoming increasingly noticeable. This is where the sell-out of the beautiful shores near the lake begins. In Switzerland, we drive through ghostly places. The real estate rules speculation. No one on the streets – half-ruined new buildings without buyers. Even worse is Locarno. Skip that. Not even for shopping. Thank God, the Italian shores are still so dreamy and beautiful, as I can remember from my past.
Croissants: In Baveno Imbarcadero you get wonderful, freshly baked and not saved with butter Kipferln. Recommended for a breakfast at the idyllic harbor.
Specialities: In the old town of Cannobio you will find all sorts of fine stuff to bring along. Search in the small shops for seasoning mixes for your Arrabiata spaghetti sauce, or spicy or with olives. Pesto in glasses, grappa, and limoncello, sugos in glass, long-lasting cheese and many other specialties in smaller portions are great as a gift.
The last two nights we are spending in the legendary Grand Hotel Iles des Borromees with all its pomp and splendor. However, we have made this booking ourselves. It is no longer part of Secret Escapes‘ organized journey.
The antique carillon starts every hour, the art collection in the hotel itself is worth seeing – but replaced in cheaper replica, which does not detract from the overall picture of an Art Deco palace. Our suite is pompous the view over the lake, from the bedside, so lovely. We are fine. A detailed hotel review will follow.
Because we do not have to go back to Vienna but make another visit to Friedrichshafen, we are driving the BMW over the curvy and sportive San Bernardino Pass and check out the last Italian lake on our road trip. You can read about our Airship adventure with the Zeppelin soon. That’s our next story.
Conclusion: With Secret Escape through South Tyrol and the Italian lakes and mountains, it was great fun. We have seen and experienced a lot. By car, you are flexible and can divide the time as you like it. I can highly recommend such a road trip through Italy. Of course, you can also put together your road trip yourself. However, the risk of choosing a hotel that is not very good, exists. Check twice!
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