Lake Garda tour by Vespa
The Vespa, a symbol of freedom and an icon of the "Made in Italy" in the world, accompanies you on a tour among green hills, lakeside roads, steep roads, mountains, tunnels, gorges and canyons providing you with a series of emotions that only the Lake Garda region and its uniqueness may give you.
Off the beaten tracks, we will encounter completely different landscapes and sceneries, all of which equally fascinating, covering a distance of 100 km in 8 hours.
The east and west banks in one tour. A unique experience between mountains and serpentine roads climbing up the Lake Garda hinterland, which is characterized by small farms, excellent taverns and fairytale villages.
The meeting point is in San Giorgio in Salici (Sona), where a brief introduction is held to explain the equipment and to do the formalities. The Vespas are provided with GPS so that you can trace your position at any time during the trip.
After the preparations, we leave direction Torri del Benaco, from where the ferry will bring us to Maderno on the opposite lake shore.
Following the Strada Regionale 450, we cross the area between Cavaion Veronese and Affi and then pass Costermano and Castion Veronese. The road goes upwards and the landscape is getting greener until we reach Albisano, where we take a break to enjoy the splendid view.
The small village on a hill above Torri del Benaco at 309 metres above sea level is comparable to a huge balcony overlooking both sides of the lake. The houses are lined up around the piazza and the Parish Church of San Martino, and all around there are olive groves, orchards and vineyards that add colour to the hilly slopes.
From here, a narrow and winding road descends to the lake shore and the port of Torri del Benaco, with the azure blue of the lake as our constant companion. But do not get too distracted by the beautiful view as the curves require some attention.
Once at the port of Torri del Benaco, we board together with our vespas and ferry from the eastern Venetian shore to Maderno on the western Lombard shore in about half an hour.
We are already in the Natural Park Regionale dell’Alto Garda Bresciano which is a naturalistic, historical and landscape gem extending over the territories of the municipalities of Salò, Gardone Riviera, Toscolano Maderno, Valvestino, Magasa, Gargnano, Limone sul Garda, Tignale and Tremosine.
It is a varied area that ranges from 65 metres at the lake to almost 2000 metres of the highest mountains (Monte Caplone, 1976 m) and presents features of the Mediterranean and the sub-alpine climatic and vegetation zones.
We head north following the magnificent lakeside road Strada statale 45 bis Gardesana Occidentale that offers unique views of the lake and Monte Baldo.
It is a breathtaking stretch of road. Sometimes it seems that you can touch the waters, sometimes you find yourself on an overhanging rock and other times you enter cool tunnels dugged into the more and more steeper mountains.
We quickly cross Gargnano and Campione to reach the most exciting part of the tour: the Strada della Forra.
The spectacular serpentine road is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Winston Churchill defined it as the eighth wonder of the world and secret agent James Bond used it for a wild chase.
The road connects the western lakeside street with the Tremosine plateau, burrowing its way through the mountain in the rift formed by the Brasa river.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the plateau of Tremosine was connected to the lake shore 300 metres below only by a steep path.
The construction of the Strada della Forra finally provided a connection to the port, which allowed the inhabitants to bring the goods from the lake to the mountains.
It was inaugurated on 8 May 1913 after a construction period of 4 years under Arturo Cozzaglio, an engineer capable of creating unique solutions to meet the specific challenges of the mountains. The street caused excitement throughout entire Europe.
Riding this street is more than exciting, between tunnels and gorges, darkness and flashes of light and in the middle of nature that changes from the Mediterranean lake shore with olive trees, citrus groves, cypresses and holm oaks to the Alpine flora with black pines, ashes, oaks, beeches, Scots pines and spruces.
After a lunch break in a nice local restaurant, we head towards Pieve di Tremosine. Once arrived, you just have to admire the panoramic view from the terrace of the Hotel Miralago, from which you can see Malcesine and most of the eastern shore.
Here starts the ancient path that leads from Tremosine Porto to Tremosine Pieve, the only access until 1913.
Crossing the piazza, we drive down cobbled streets and under barrel vaults to get to the so-called scala tonda, a round staircase, decorated with flower pots. It is said that Arturo Cozzaglio, the engineer of the famous Porto-Pieve-Vesio road used to sit down here to reflect. He loved these stairs so much that he was named after them: "Arturo dela scala rotonda".
On a walk we read on a plaque that the famous Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, one of the most prominent members of the Viennese Secession movement, was a guest here once.
On the way back towards the village centre we pass the church of San Giovanni Battista. It was built on top of the rocky wall that descends steeply from the plateau to the lake. The church houses decorated altars, a choir room, confessionals and the 18th century wooden table of the sacristy, made by the Trentino sculptor Giacomo Lucchini.
Afterwards the tour continues through an enchanting mountain plateau in the middle of forests, valleys, meadows and farms. A must is the "Alpe del Garda" social cheese factory to buy the best local produce, such as "Formagella di Tremosine PAT" (a local speciality that has been added to the list of "traditional agricultural products", a cheese with exquisite taste and fine aroma of mountain meadow) and "Garda" (matured cheese, which is made exclusively from milk of the breed Bruna) but also cold cuts, oil, honey, jams, grappa and handicrafts.
It's time to return to the port. It takes about 45 minutes downhill before the ferry brings all participants from the west bank back to the east bank. And the tour does not end in Torri, there is more!
Once again, we climb the winding roads of Monte Baldo between coniferous forests and alpine landscapes to reach Lumini, a hamlet of San Zeno di Montagna with about 150 inhabitants. The name Lumini probably derives from the fires that were lit in past to keep away the wolves at night.
A short break at the bar of the main piazza and then back to the starting point in San Giorgio in Salici.
Here the Vespa Tour - Lake Garda comes to an end. We have passed an eventful day full of discoveries revealing the ecological, cultural and historical diversity of Italy's largest lake. The region boasts such a unique variety that must be preserved and promoted through experiences like these, experiences that are unforgettable and show the beauty of the lake in an innovative way.
Stages of the Vespa Tour - Lake Garda:
- San Giorgio in Salici - Sona (departure)
- Torri del Benaco - Maderno (ferry)
- Strada della Forra
- Pieve di Tremosine
- "Alpe Del Garda" Social Cheese Factory - Tremosine
- Maderno - Torri del Benaco (ferry)
- Lumini (San Zeno di Montagna)
- San Giorgio in Salici - Sona (tour end)