My weekend in Garda Trentino.
An itinerary among history, traditions, savours and emotions.
From Arco to the small and nice villages gravitating around Tenno as far as reaching Riva, on the west-north bank of one among the most suggestive and charming “water mirror” of our country: Lake Garda.
Three days of smiles and welcome, paths into the nature, discoveries, arts and trails recalling the passage of poets, literary men and painters.
Three days of leaps in time, soaked in the Habsburg world’s splendours (yeah, Sissi passed also by here…), of strong and intense tastes – like a strangolapreti fuming dish and an abundant portion of salted meat – and of all the magic and the manual ability with a masterly skill of a handicraft (Christmas, gastronomic and not) made of expert gestures, passion and unconditional love for one’s own land.
My journey to Garda Trentino begins from this nice small town, magically set – almost it is a precious gem – between the first alpine tops and the Lake of Garda, in an unusual landscape ranging from the snow-covered peaks to the olive groves on the first hills as far as the valley sloping down softly, following the Sarca River flow, towards the lake.
After a hot coffe served in the precious frame of Palazzo Marchetti in front of its frescos dating back to the 1500s, I stop and admire before from outside (and then inside) the wonderful Collegiata of Santa Maria Assunta, the community reference point since 1600.
After have looked about for some hours among the Christmas market stands (it develops into the streets framing the Collegiata), have tasted some local delicacies and have dreamt for a bit in the ballroom of the old Casino Municipale – it was the favourite place of the Habsburg and it seems it was patronized by the Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria herself (known as Sissy) in the second half of 1800 – I decide to reach the Castle of Arco.
Doing it I follow the path crossing the Olivaia – the area of the olive trees at the foot of the rock – then I set out for a stretch on the Rilke promenade, a sort of literary promenade into the places extolled by the Rainer Maria Rilke poet who stayed right in Arco for long periods towards the end of the 1800s.
The view of the small town and the surrounding valley is breathtaking.
“Do you know what I thought in nights and anxiety nights on my bed? (…) Such a valley, full of fragrant breaths, within a stream quietly flowing beyond bright hills appearing villages smoking the peace, solitary castles.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke, Arco, 21 March 1897)
In few kilometres by car from Arco I reach the surprising frame of the Lake Tenno: it’s a turquoise water mirror set among the surrounding mountains changing shades of colour when the day lights change. It formed in 1100 about following a landslide which blocked the Rio Secco flow.
In Summer the lake – included among the purest ones in the Alpine area – is fit for swimming and even underwater excursions to explore the petrified forest on the seabed are planned.
In about 5 minutes by car (if you want also a nice 20 minutes walk) I arrive to one of the most suggestive villages of Garda Trentino, not by chance included in the list of the 100 most beautiful villages of Italy: Canale di Tenno.
Cobbled stones streets – made even more magic at Christmastime by the picturesque Christmas market –ancient stone houses whose main doors reveal courtyards and caves of other times, narrow alleys, wood galleries with the typical flower decorations catching the visitor’s attention taking him into a remote world as if by magic, that one of the old farm villages of the area.
A heap of history, architecture, savours and folk traditions integrating perfectly with the permanent expo of agricultural tools and the Casa degli Artisti works – it is located right at the entrance of the village – dedicated to the painter Giacomo Vittone who fell in love with Canale di Tenno and he moved here and made it the favourite subject of his works.
And it’s just here that every year, in August, the famous “Rustico Medioevo” festival takes place: it’s an event halfway between gastronomy and historical remembrance.
My weekend in Garda Trentino ends on the Lake Garda banks, in Riva.
On a sunny and bright Sunday, decorations, hangings tied to the impending Holidays and over thousands Santa Clauses preparing for the annual group run, blue sky holding its own with the boundless shades of the lake and views and paths catching my attention more than any other thing.
Among all, the path taking me discovering the old houses of Marocco.
The borough at the Rocchetta’s slopes, made of houses including the mass of stones – the “marocche” in dialect – sliding down from the mountain and the ancient walls of Riva. A labyrinth of colours and suggestions.
The ideal point where to stop is certainly Piazza Marocco where can be assumed once there was the ancient castle then replaced by the Rocca. Here it is possible to admire a precious wash-house dating back to 1600, a votive niche installed after the plague of 1630 and the so-called Palazzo del Vescovo.
A weekend in Garda Trentino can be done in every season of the year.
My visit to this wonderful area happened in the clou of Christmastime, so this gave me the chance to explore the famous Christmas market of Arco, Riva and Canale di Tenno.
Beautiful and enthralling not only for the suggestive locations and the variety of artefacts and products exhibited but also for the remarkable craft quality, considering that every single exhibitor is valued and chosen following a strict selection. An experience to enjoy, ideal above all for families with children and couples seeking authentic and special places where to enjoy all the magic and the charm of the Advent’s wait.
Not to miss in Riva del Garda, usually in the period from 30 December to 8 January, a stop for food-and-wine tastings in the stands (they leave from Piazza Garibaldi and arrive as far as Viale Roma) of “Di gusto in gusto”, an event cared by Villaggio del Gusto to promote the richness, the savours, the excellences and the local culinary variety.
To optimize at the best the tour to Garda Trentino is advisable to download the App “Hidden treasures”, available both for Android and iOS.
During my stay I followed many of the itineraries suggested, using the digital maps and the indications included in every single path. A service extremely useful and totally free which allows to plan the exploration of the area according to one’s own taste and/or the time in one’s hands.
All destinations indicated in the itinerary are put in a 20km about circuit which can be done easily by car.
Agritur Vin e Amor – the ideal place where to stay overnight during the tour of Garda Trentino.
It’s a recently opened B&B, located at the entrance of the little village of Dro, very few km far from Arco. It is run by a couple of young and very kind local people. The bedrooms have a modern style furniture and have all comforts, a delicious and abundant sweets/salty things breakfast. During the day is possible to do local wine tastings upon request.
The Agritur has also a swimming pool and a solarium.
Ristorante da Alfio – you can’t say to be in Garda Trentino if you haven’t tried at least one of the local tastings menu of this restaurant. I chose the “Tipico Trentino” with strangolapreti alla trentina, salted meat and fasoi and apple strudel.
Welcome, service, kindness and quality absolutely over the average.
Acetaia del Balsamico Trentino – more than a restaurant, a taste, savours and new trials experience.
A restaurant, that then is also an acetaia and a B&B, near Tenno, with a wonderful view of the valley and of the Lake Garda. Here you can taste the savours of the Garda Trentino tradition (pickled vegetables and salty meat first of all) and its connections with the house products, the aromatic vinegar, wines, sparkling wines and cheeses.
The tour of the acetaia with the funny and very kind owner, Ivo Bombardelli, cannot be missed.