Elegant Padova -- known in English as Padua -- is home to an ancient university, a Basilica that is an important centre for pilgrims and a chapel containing one of the world’s greatest art treasures. Use this website to help you plan a visit to this fascinating northern Italian city and find your way to the other beautiful towns and villages in the Veneto that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spend a day at the lake

Within easy reach of Padova and well worth visiting is the beautiful and popular Lago di Garda (Lake Garda).
Italy’s largest lake has been praised by writers and poets over the centuries for its clean water, mild and sunny climate and for the beauty of many of the towns that lie along its shores.
The old harbour at Desenzano
From Padova there are direct trains to Desenzano del Garda, a resort at the foot of the lake. The journey takes about an hour and from there you can go by boat across the lake to visit other resorts.
Desenzano is a lively town with plenty to see and do, upmarket fashion shops and good restaurants, bars and hotels.
You can enjoy views of the lake if you walk along Lungolago Cesare Battisti or you can climb the steep streets away from the lake if you want to explore the town.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the port as well as at the Porto Vecchio (old harbour), which is a short walk away. Desenzano’s Ufficio di Informazione Turistico (Tourist Information Office) is located there.
The Romans also enjoyed holidays in Desenzano. In 1921 the remains of a fourth century Roman villa were unearthed close to the lake. These are now open to the public and can be accessed from Via Antonio Gramsci.
There is also a medieval castle within walking distance of the lake in Via Castello.
Il Duomo, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena, in Piazza Duomo, off Via Mazzini, is full of art treasures, including an 18th century version of The Last Supper by Giambattista Tiepolo.  
Un Servizio di Navigazione (boat service) operates from Desenzano to Sirmione, Bardolino, Peschiera and Moniga del Garda.
The resort of Sirmione lies in a dramatic setting on a narrow, four kilometre peninsula reaching out into the lake.
The castle at Sirmione
Sirmione has a medieval centre, full of interesting shops, bars and restaurants, and a fairytale castle, la Rocca Scaligera - the first thing you see as you approach by boat.
The castle was built by a powerful family from Verona in the 13th century and the Italian poet Dante is reputed to have once spent the night there, but it is worth visiting la Rocca Scaligera for the views of the lake from the battlements alone.
There are beautiful views of Lake Garda from many different vantage points in Sirmione that have inspired writers over the centuries, from the Roman poet Catullus, to Ezra Pound and James Joyce in the 20th century, who are reputed to have once met up in the resort.
You can visit the ruins of a Roman villa, built in the first century BC, that perch on a rocky promontory. Although they are known as Le Grotte di Catullo, it is by no means certain that the poet ever lived there. Born in Verona , Catullus is believed to have lived in Sirmione for part of his life and his poetry singles out the resort for special praise from ‘…all peninsulas and isles, that in our lakes of silver lie…’
Opera singer Maria Callas also appreciated the beauty of Sirmione, choosing to spend part of her life living in a secluded villa here.
The resort of  Bardolino is just a short boat journey from Desenzano and exploring the pleasant town is as enjoyable as quaffing the light red wine of the same name that is produced there.
|A wine bar in Bardolino
There are regular boats to Bardolino from Piazza Matteotti, which is at the side of the lake.
You will see the tower of an old castle that is now part of a hotel as the boat approaches Bardolino.
Walk down the short main street into the town, which is lined with shops, restaurants and bars where you can sample Bardolino by the glass.
Make a point of visiting the church of San Severo , which dates back to the 11th century and is a popular location for weddings, and the small church of San Zeno , which dates back to the eighth century and still contains traces of its original frescoes.
If you want to learn more about Bardolino wine and the history of wine making, visit the fascinating wine museum run by the Zeni family of winemakers at Via Costabella 9. The museum is open from mid March until the end of October and individual visitors are admitted free of charge. For more information, visit www.zeni.it.