Italy’s largest lake, blessed with a benign climate and diversity of landscape, with Venice to the east and Milan to the west, remains curiously uncelebrated.
The north end is edged with jagged mountains. They formed a border between Italy and Austria.The northernmost points, Riva and Torbole, charmed Goethe, who called the view “a precious spectacle”.
Each little town brings discoveries: a church rich with Renaissance frescoes, ancient walls, a botanical garden, a flower-lined promenade, a ski lift soaring high into the mountains and, of course, the local red wine – and where better to taste it than Bardolino, elegant and pretty, relaxed and classy.
Shortly before she died in Paris in 1977 Maria Callas told a friend how much she missed Sirmione – over the years she retreated regularly to her villa on the lake to escape from the stress of the limelight. Sirmione has thermal baths and a health centre with hot springs and treatments.
The unhurried pace of life, the agreeable nature of the small journeys, stepping on and off the small restaurants, bobbing up and down on the blue water … it’s all part of the easy, Italian “dolce far niente”, the sweet idleness of life.