As we left Chamonix, car pointed once again towards the Alps, we entered the 7-mile Mont Blanc tunnel. Beyond the tunnel we arrived in Italy, a new country for us, one dotted with vineyards clinging to the hills and ancient castles perched above. We planned for a 2-night stay somewhere between the French border and the craggy Dolomite peaks and along the way discovered Italy’s largest lake – Lake Garda. With many small villages dotting the shore of this lake, we chose Bardolino for our 2-night stay, originally a bustling fishing village dating back to the year 1000, now known for its nightlife, food and wine.
Before we left for Europe we’d made reservations in larger cities but hoped to be spontaneous beyond that. It appears that the shoulder season of September and October in both France and Italy have been discovered as an ideal time to visit, as impromptu hotel stays are more difficult to find than we had read. Luckily we were able to snag two rooms in Bardolino, although in separate hotels, but friends Frank and Margee were within a block of where we were booked.
The layout of Bardolino is a bit unusual but makes perfect sense once you understand their logic. Houses were built one behind the other beginning at the shoreline. The streets run perpendicular to the coast, which permitted safe and easy access for the fishing boats to be transported down to the water.
Verona was nearby, known throughout Shakespearean verse as the “city of eternal love”. Since it was an easy day trip, we decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it draws poets, painters, and romantics for its various styles, Roman origins, magnificent Renaissance palaces, and the walled heart of the city. This is where the house of Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet) is said to be based, although many skeptics dispute this. The ancient amphitheater, whose walls still stand, is visited by tourists around the world. We opted out as we knew Rome was in our future.
For us the Sant’Anastasia church and the Duomo were the highlights of the day in Verona, as well as the walk along the Adige River. Beyond this we found Verona to be very crowded, touristy, and loaded with high-end boutique shops.
The mountains were calling us once again.
Next Up: Back in the Alps, Italian-style