Welcome back, Raffies!
I have been a bit silent last week, because we went home to my family in Italy. I grew up in the hills of Bardolino, by the Lake of Garda in Northern Italy. For university, I moved to Germany and that was really the first time in my life I was faced with the German weather in all its might and glory.
Before that, I used to visit my family and I would always wonder why they were complaining about the weather and how lucky I was to be living in Italy. To be honest, I did not feel the weather in Southern Germany to be that bad. However, since I have moved to the Netherlands I have come to really appreciate the sunny weather and the blessing of seeing the sun on an almost daily basis.
That’s why we decided to go for a short week to Italy and because due to my World Food Challenge, I needed to be somewhere where I could cook. From the big plans of traveling around and doing excursions, we ended up lying by the pool in the sun and being as lazy as the cats.
However, we went to Bardolino a couple of times. The routine ice-cream stop was obviously included. Now I’d like you to join me on a tour around the town of my childhood.
Bardolino is a small town on the shores of the Lake of Garda. The name might originate from the Latin “bardus”, for bard, but the origin is not certain. With its 8000 inhabitants and its great climate, it is a tourist resort in summers. People from mostly Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark come to enjoy the Italian flair. As a matter of fact, in summers there are more tourists walking around the streets of Bardolino than there are locals. That’s why I prefer it in spring or autumn, when the crowds are gone and you can enjoy the views.
Events and feasts
Bardolino is only 25 minutes away from Verona, which I will be bringing to you in another post soon. It lies in the hills between the Alps and the Plain of the Po. If you enjoy hiking in the mountains or winter sports for the colder months, you can discover the Monte Baldo that watches over Bardolino and the Lake of Garda.
One sporting event I have never attended is the International Triathlon in Bardolino, where people from all over the world come to compete.
Another event I did enjoy as a kid and still do, is the Festa dell’Uva. This is an event of five days, where you can try the new wine, Vino Novello. Bardolino is quite famous for its red wine, the Vino di Bardolino. This wine is exported all over the world and, every year, in early October it is ready to be tried for the first time. Hence this party.
There are also a few interesting museums like the Wine museum and the Oil museum, that show the cultivation and production processes. The Sisàn Museum, however, shows old hunting and fishing habits, in order to teach and show its heritage. Furthermore, you can learn about the ornithology of the area.
If you are a big fan of amusement parks, you should not miss Gardaland, Italy’s biggest amusement park only 15 minutes away by car.
Feeling like by the seaside
Bardolino has a sub-Mediterranean climate, as it is called, which means that, even though the Mediterranean Sea is a few hours by car away, it has warm and dry summers and mild winters. Which makes in a haven for tourists. Occasional thunderstorms can disturb the idyllic weather. For tourists, a great variety of lodgings are available: from camping resorts, to hotels, B&Bs or renting a house. According to your preference and to your budget, you can find a bit of everything.
Same goes for the gastronomy. Restaurants can be found on every corner. You can enjoy a nice pizza or lasagna. The traditional Veronese cuisine does not seem to be that well known among tourists. However, you should enjoy some nice Carne Sala’ with Polenta, as well as Risi e Bisi and Bollito con la Pearà.
Then you can buy yourself a great homemade ice-cream at Gelateria Biancaneve, a big favourite among locals, who tend to avoid the touristy areas.
Having grown up there, I prefer to avoid touristy places, since I have the feeling that you do not really experience the Italian soul.
Ever since my school days, I have been a regular at Ristorante Pizzeria Al Gabbiano. The owners know me and they have watched me grow up. My friends and I still go there for eating pizza and lately, they have introduced this amazing Coconut cheesecake with a Nutella topping that is absolutely to die for. If you ever stop by in Bardolino, you have to try it!
If you are looking for shopping for souvenirs or shoes and clothes, the main square with the old church is the heart of Bardolino. Piazza Matteotti is the main square of Bardolino and when we were kids we used to slide down the stairs of the church, but now they placed a sign against it. However you can still see that the stairs are shiny from generations of children’s butts that polished the marble.
Early presence goes all the way back to the Prehistory, with petroglyphs – rock art – that can be admired on Monte Luppia, a mountain 10 minutes away from Bardolino.
History goes on with signs from the Roman ages, which show that Romans seemed to enjoy spending leisure time by the lake. If you want to visit the famous Villa di Catullo in Sirmione, you can hop on a boat and, instead of pushing yourself through the summer traffic and the always busy roads, enjoy the breeze and view. You can stroll through the roads of Sirmione, soak in some thermal baths and casually enjoy another ice-cream.
Back to Bardolino, it seems that the stones of the Roman villas were used to build the walls in the Middle Ages. It was in the Middle Ages that olive trees and vineyards were first cultivated on the hills around Bardolino.
After the Middle Ages, Bardolino came to be a part of the Republic of Venice, the Serenissima. Bardolino was even a stronghold of the Venetian marine and witnessed the battles between Venice and Milan in the lake. The Venetians actually carried their ships from the river Adige over the hills and into the lake!
Later, Bardolino was part of the Austrian empire, until the Italian reunification.
Nowadays, what remains of the Medieval fortifications are a few pieces of walls between houses in the middle of the town.
From the numerous monasteries that were built over the centuries, the Monastero Camaldolese, also known as Eremo di San Giorgio, still stands and offers some great homemade products like fresh honey, extra virgin olive oil and soaps.
There is so much more I could be writing about Bardolino, but I don’t want to make this post too long. 🙂 I’ll be telling you more about the town I grew up in.
See you very soon!