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Gardone Riviera (Italy)

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Town located in the province of Brescia, in Lombardy

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      22.05.2011 15:14
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      a stunning town of the edge of a picturesque lake with a garden not to be missed

      I visited Lake Garda with family last summer and although we were based in Sirmione (previously reviewed), we took several day trips to the other towns round the edge of the lake.

      All the towns are linked together via good transport links, principally either a reliable and cheap bus service or the various boats that cross the lake, calling at each town, much like a conventional bus service. The bus service is the cheapest and quickest option and we opted for this most often, but staying at Lake Garda would not really be complete without at least one trip on the lake so we decided to travel to Gardone by boat. These boats that take passengers round the lake are a relatively expensive mode of transport but it was worth every penny/cent! The boat was fairly large so you had plenty of space with seating downstairs completely enclosed or upstairs on the top deck with a roof to protect from the sun. The upstairs was by far the most popular option and there was plenty of space to be able to choose your seat and walk around to look out over the lake in different directions. The crossing was a mix of travelling round near the lake shores giving an opportunity to see the fantastic scenery and crossing the lake, giving a small idea of the scale of it. Unfortunately the North of the lake was shrouded in fog, but we were reliably informed that on a clear day if you look up as you cross the centre of the lake you can see right up to the mountains.
      a word of advice- even in the middle of summer there can be a chilly breeze in the middle of the lake so a light jacket/wrap would be advisable.

      All the towns round the lake have their own quay where the boat will pull up to let you on and off and this is generally very central, often leading straight to the main square, so very convenient.
      On arriving at Gardone I was struck at how beautiful it was. It name of Gardone Riviera is easy to understand- the lake side is dominated with several expensive hotels and private villas and this certainly has an air of being one of the more exensive towns on the lake. That said, the food we found- at a small sandwich bar was very reasonably priced and the service impecable- when my sister objected to every sandwich flavour on the menu they were more than happy to make one for her with the filling she requested.

      Gardone is split into two parts know by the locals as Lower and Upper.
      The lower town is fairly small and pleasant to wander round. The square the boat arrives at and another just nearby are the focal areas and surrounding them are a selection of small shops and cafes. It is also possible to walk along a short section of the shore line giving outstanding views across the lake. Cheeay as it might sound, Gardone really did seem to sparkle under the Italian sun.

      The principle reason for our visit to Gardone was to visit the botanical garden (Heller Garden). This garden is situated in the Upper part of Gardone, an area which leaves behind the riviera feel of the lower part and becomes somewhat more rural with winding roads. Again in this upper part there were cafe's and a small selection of shops including one particularly nice bakery.
      The Heller Garden is owned and designed by an artist and this is very evident. Even for those who are not fans of Gardens, this one has something for everyone. The Garden itself isn't huge but the amount of interest in the space gives several hours of pleasure. As well as planting it up beautifully, the garden design is based round different sections with their own themes such as a bamboo area and a rocky area. In between all the plants there are pieces of the artists work and other statues and ornaments he has brought together. Every corner you turn round holds a new surprise waiting to be discovered. In fact there is so much to see you will find yourself wandering round several times to make sure you didn't miss anything. Running through the garden are a series of streams and pools, some with fountains in. Attractive bridges cross them at points and through out the garden there are many seating areas- all of course in keeping with the rest of the garden for you to sit, reflect and take in your surroundings.
      The owner clearly has a sense of humor as well which will be evident for any visitor. Although I don't want to give away the surprises do make sure you don't miss walking over the bridge in the bamboo area....!
      For any photographer, professional or amateur, there are photographic opportunities galore.

      Entry to the garden is a modest fee although once you have left there is no re-entry so don't be in any hurry to leave, .

      It is possible to walk up to the upper town from the lower town but for those who don't feel like the walk there is a road train that goes from the square the boat arrives at and goes round, stopping at various points including the Heller Garden.

      Overall I would throughly recommend Gardone as a day trip for anyone staying on or around Lake Garda. Although there isn't a huge amount to do apart from the botanical garden, and a few other attractions, the town is lovely to walk round, and sitting looking out over the lake is a lovely way to spend an hour or so(with an Italian ice-cream of course). Taking the boat across took several hours and I feel that this was a good day to have chosen to spend that length of time traveling.

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