Villages in Pictures: Malcesine & Sirmione

We drove up to Malcesine, an old and extremely – and here I hesitate to use such a contrived adjective – picturesque municipality that lies by the northern part of the lake (the … phallus …). It was a 33km drive that took us about an hour and twenty minutes. But why, I hear you ask. There is one main road that goes around the whole lake. Remember all those Germans and Dutch we shared the roads with, down to Lake Garda? They were on that road too. All of us together, inching forward, a veritable glut of round-about uncertainty and flagrant disregard for road rules (actually, that was more the Italians.) Scooters swerving in and out of one long, jostling line of big shiny German cars, tiny shiny Fiats, and caravans that could probably fly to the moon or sail to Australia. But we got to Malcesine, eventually, and triumphantly snagged a park in among some olive groves.

Worth it? Why, natürlich. Was für eine dumme Frage! Malcesine, one of the more well known, popular and indeed bigger villages by the lake, is set against those massive mountains, the town seemingly designed to either lead you down stony paths to the water’s edge, or up skinny alleys to the remains of an old castle.

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Which leaves us with Sirmione. Once a favourite with wealthy families from Verona, it sits at the very bottom of the lake, dividing the area in half.

Below is a handy map borrowed from Wikipedia – you can see Malcesine on it, as well as the previously-discussed shape of the lake:

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Having seen the traffic heading south to Sirmione on a previous day’s trip, SG came up with the brilliant idea of catching the boat from Lazise to Sirmione, thus avoiding a good two hours in the car and the horror of finding a park. Plus, seeing any sort of waterside town, village or city from the water itself, always affords such a lovely perspective.

Of course, we caught the boat with most of Bavaria and Austria (and their dogs – literally, not figuratively) and shared the day in Sirmione with the other half, who had travelled by car. Sirmione was the busiest of all the towns we’d visited and by the end of all the hustle and bustle, we were, truth be told, rather fed up with humanity.

But. Again. Worth it? Ja sicher. It always is. This is, after all, where Maria Callas had a villa, James Joyce met Ezra Pound, and about which poet Alfred Tennyson wrote “There to me through all the groves of olive in the summer glow, There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow”

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The Scaliger Castle, a 'rare example of Medieval port fortification'
The Scaliger Castle, a ‘rare example of Medieval port fortification’

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 Coming up tomorrow in this ongoing week of Lago di Garda: Food & Wine