There are two things we discover quickly after setting off on a walk from the shores of Lake Garda on a serene Sunday morning.
The first is that finding somewhere to buy water in Gargnano on a Sunday morn is no easy task. The second is that when we do find a café, the owner asks us to wait whilst he slips on a stripy jumper and covers his face with a mask.
However, being seriously overcharged for a small bottle of water doesn’t dent our high spirits. We’d had a luxurious breakfast beside a resplendent Lake Garda, the sun is shining and the Italian countryside sings out our names.
Even the walk to the start of the route is full of sights to widen the eyes and make us feel as though somehow we’ve slipped through time to emerge at some point in the 1950s. A casually stylish foursome step onto a wooden jetty from a motor launch; a sleek, gleaming, open topped sports car growls past as we make our way between tall houses with ochre facades and perky window boxes.
DH Lawrence once spent six months in this very spot. Lucky bugger.
A turn inland and the artists’ dream of a lake side village (it even has a harbour with the best fresh fish dish in the universe) is replaced by an olive-lined track leading past slumbering ancient villas, curious lizards, antique communal wash areas (first time I’ve ever seen one anywhere that is still used) and weeping willows.
It’s easy walking through the sort of countryside that comes with a soft focus to it. There’s nothing particularly remarkable, it’s simply pleasant strolling.
A plan of picking up lunch in a tavern in one of the small villages along the way is scuppered by the fact that the one bar/restaurant we pass apparently closes for lunch. We wonder if it closes for dinner as well.
The tranquility of the countryside is disturbed by the ever louder rumblings and grumblings from our stomachs as we descend through thick forest to the Toscolano River where fishermen and fisherwomen cast their lines beneath a canopy of cypress, willows, alder and plane trees.
Rickety wooden bridges span the river, leading us to an old paper mill from the 16th century.
It starts to rain, cutting short our exploration of the ruins, and we shelter under a tree. The rain falls gently, befitting of the scene around us, but persistently. We watch from our dry spot as a couple of dogs take an anarchic route across a covered bridge; using its roof.
Eventually the rain abates enough for us to continue past a museum dedicated to the mill to reach a picnic spot and the hope of food. It’s a perfect place for a picnic – benches in a glade, a lanky old villa towering above the river and a stone bridge from which to play Pooh sticks. The area is packed with Italian families tucking into food… and there is a kiosk.
However, the kiosk’s selection of things to eat is limited to say the least. A packet of crisps is a poor substitute for the plate of pan-fried trout we’d hoped for.
Still, the crisps are welcome and just about enough to sustain us on the last five or so kilometres into Gardone below Mount Pizzocolo. Some say the mountain resembles Napoleon’s profile. I struggle to make the connection.
Gardone positively oozes bohemian and artistic influences, especially evident in the tantalising views of the intriguing and whimsical arty grounds of Il Vittoriale, an intriguing folly of a place created by poet-soldier-hypochondriac Gabriele D’Annunzio.
It looks fascinating but we’ve no time to explore it. Instead we head towards our penultimate destination, the jetty beside another throwback to a different era, the Grand Hotel Gardone. After a brief wait we board a ferry, grab a seat and order a beer to make the return journey in a more relaxing manner along a colourful coast where a series of equally pretty villages smile and scowl as the sun and cloud battles for dominance.
The ferry drops us within a short distance of out hotel, Biai D’Oro, as the sky darkens and a slight breeze becomes a gusting wind. A chef pokes his head out of a door, makes a face and withdraws rapidly.
We quicken our steps as the clouds start to spit at us and a gust of wind lifts a table outside a café, depositing it, upside down, in Lake Garda. We sprint for the door and barge through it as the light rain becomes machine gun hailstones. As we shut the door we hear a girl who was behind us scream – she’s wearing a flimsy summer dress that offers no protection at all against the stinging pellets.
We are not always quite so lucky. But in this case our walk has ended with impeccable timing.
A storm over a lake is particularly enjoyable when watched from inside a cosy and stylish hotel room with a generous glass of red in hand.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+