Around the same time that we started planning our roadtrip, my in-laws decided to go abroad for the first time in 7 years, having regularly been holidaying in Scotland. They settled on Riva Del Garda, a beautiful town on the very northern tip of Lake Garda in northern Italy. As it so happened, that was en-route to the Dolomites which is where we were planning the second half of our trip. With dates coordinating nicely, we planned in a two day stopover in Riva to meet up with the in-laws. When Simon’s brother and sister-in-law got wind of the idea they also planned their own roadtrip to Rome, so a Chevis family reunion weekend in Italy was the best option for all involved.
The drive from Ailefroide to Riva takes approximately 5-6 hours, and you could take in Turin and Milan along the way if you fancy stopping off (and feeling rock and roll). Italy is probably my favourite country to visit, and I always feel oddly at home there. We’ve not spent a lot of time in northern Italy, having just had a long weekend by Lake Como earlier in the year. There’s definitely more wealth in the northern regions, and that affluence became even more apparent the closer we got to Lake Garda with stunning pastel painted villas flanking the roads along with palm trees and stunning views.
We stayed in the centre of the town in the still new Holiday IV Gardan hotel. Quirky, comfortable and spacious we were extremely impressed (and not just because we’d spent the last week camping!). as they’re only a year old you can see they’re still trying hard to make your stay special – our room was spacious with walking space around the whole bed, a balcony, sofa and generous double-size shower. Being slightly away from the lake’s edge it’s also much more reasonably priced, and they even have a communal kitchen if you wanted to cook your own food, something you don’t tend to see in hotels.
Walking to the lake front after settling in it was somewhat amusing to ‘bump’ into the in-laws at the bar. It was such a lovely way for us all to get together however, and share a great experience. The following day we opted to walk the couple of miles to Torbole, following the wide pavements between the lake and the town. It was a very hot day, and halfway along the walk we decided it was time to test the waters. The ‘beaches’ are pebbled, and with the lake being so large it definitely feels like a coastline rather than lakeside. But the joy of freshwater is none of that saltiness, and we swam for a long time in the cool and clear water. There were plenty of watercraft out too as it happened to be a windsurfing event on – but everyone is able to make use of the lake, from sailors to paddle boarders to swimmers, in places designated areas keep everyone safe and happy.
Having discovered a great passion for swimming that’s developed over the last few years, it was blissful to float back and gaze at the mountains, combining two integral parts of my life. After a lunch stop in Torbole we took a dip on the way back again, this time the wind having picked up enough to create waves. Floating pontoons had been put up in parts of the lake, and swimming against the current to reach one and jump off again helped work up enough of an appetite to indulge in yet more pasta and wine upon our return.
It was a short weekend to enjoy each other’s company, and there is a huge amount on offer in the area that we didn’t come close to exploring. Just before we headed off on our respective next journeys, we took a walk up to the Bastion, a ruined fort that gave wonderful views of Riva and the surrounding mountains. I’m already hoping that we go back to Riva to fully appreciate what we missed on our whirlwind stop, but with plenty of restaurants, lots of great food and more prosecco, it made for a wonderful mid-point of indulgence on our otherwise active holiday.
Read about Part 1.