Lake Garda: A splashing time on the waterfront

Visitors to Italy's largest lake have raved about its beauty since Roman times. It didn't take long for David Ryan and his family to join the fan club

Everyone sang Lake Garda's praises. Italy's largest lake, fist-shaped with a long index finger pointing towards the Dolomites, has charmed visitors since the Roman poet Catallus built a house in Sirmione in the first century BC. Lovers of this glacial creation include Dante, Goethe, D H Lawrence and James Joyce.

So we were in the best of company as we marvelled at Garda's crisp beauty. We stayed in a Thomson's Al Fresco Vivaldi mobile home at the Fornella campsite near San Felici on the lake's south-west side. The impact of tourism is carefully managed here. The owner, Sigmar Cavazza, has blended the site into the olive groves from which his aristocratic line still derives much of its income.

On nearby Isola del Garda, the lake's largest island, the neo-Gothic stately pile of the Villa Borghese Cavazza stands proud. Less posh but just as pleasurable was a day spent on the lake in a 40hp speedboat hired from the campsite's boat rental, Baia Verde. Our youngsters are 18 and 14 years old but they screamed like small kids as we crashed through the waves. Our day-long hire cost €160 (£108) plus about €25 (£17) in petrol and was worth every cent. You can explore the charming lakeside towns, take in one of the roving markets, stop for lunch or a picnic or just stop, mid-lake, and take a swim.

The narrow roads around the lake suffer from bottlenecks but there is an excellent, inexpensive ferry network if you prefer a day's car-free touring. Our local ferry port in Portese had information on various tours, including the scenic route north to Riva del Garda where the lake narrows and the mountains dominate.

The lakeside settlements are a joy to walk around in the early morning and late afternoon. The architecture is stylish, but it's the colours that impress: the buildings painted in shades of ochre, lemon or cream with purple bougainvillea, vines and olive trees. The narrow streets in Salo, Sirmione, Desenzano or Malcesine offer respite from the sun. After dark, these towns are vibrant with street concerts in high season.

Fornella has a good restaurant, but our most memorable meal was at Gran Fausto in Portese, an excellent family-run restaurant on the harbour which is popular with the locals. Three courses cost €30 to €40 (£20 to £27) per head.

The lake is famous for its sailing regattas but water skiing is popular in the south. There's also cycling, golf, rock climbing, horse riding and paragliding off Mount Baldo, where the cable car from Malcesine offers a sedate way to sample spectacular scenery.

Traditionally, the British have tended to cling to the south-eastern side of the lake, and 80 per cent of Fornella's campers in June and July are Dutch or German. Keith, our Thomson rep, said: "The Dutch make the campsite the centre of their holiday and can go for days without leaving it."

I could see the Dutch viewpoint. The mountain air, lake waters and gentle sunshine penetrate to the bones. But if you really need to flee your campsite, it's hard to beat Verona. The arena provides a fantastic setting for opera at an affordable price and no restricted views. Tell that to the West End.



David Ryan and family stayed at Camping Fornella (00 39 0365 62294) as guests of Thomson Al Fresco (0870 166 0366; Seven nights costs from £286 to £1,284 for up to six people in a Vivaldi mobile home including ferry.


Italian Tourism Office (020-7408 1254;

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments