Malces­ine, Lago di Garda

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At the end of May I went on a last-minute trip to Italy by myself. I had given up my tenancy in London, because I was fed up of paying a small fortune to a land­lord who was unwill­ing to fix the seri­ous leak in the ceil­ing that was prob­ably going to bring the plaster down some­time soon, and a relat­ive asked me to house-sit. The house-sitting date then changed, but it turned out to be cheap­er for me to visit friends in York­shire, and then go on holi­day for a week than it was to extend my tenancy, which shows how ridicu­lous the prices are in London now. As it was a last minute thing, I had to go on my own. I don’t mind trav­el­ling solo though, I used to do it regu­larly for work, and trav­el­ling alone is better than going on holi­day with someone who doesn’t want to do any of the same things as you. (In my case, wander­ing aimlessly for hours and hours, taking hundreds of photo­graphs and eating a lot). I also got to re-read The Name of the Rose in peace.

I considered going to Crete, because I wanted to see all the Minoan archae­olo­gic­al sites, but it was hard to work out where stay, and which places were Magaluf style budget party towns (not really where I wanted to go). I asked my Greek friend Ellina, but it turns out she’d never been to Crete either.

So in the end I booked a deal to Malces­ine on Lake Garda. Malces­ine was the first place I visited in Italy when I was 12 or 13. Through­out my teen­age years I visited Italy 2-3 times a year after the budget airlines star­ted doing £20 tick­ets to Pisa and Bres­cia, and after I gradu­ated I did some teach­ing work in North­ern Italy, and I’ve seen most of the coun­try now bar the furthest three south­ern regions (Apulia, Basilicata and Calab­ria) Sardin­ia and Sicily. Although I had been to some other towns on the lake since (I’ve also got some dispos­able camera photos I took around the turn of the century that I dug up here), I hadn’t been to Malces­ine since that first holi­day, so I was really inter­ested to see wheth­er it had changed and how much. While I was there I star­ted writ­ing a zine about the trip, and also about Italy in the 90s/​early 2000s and now. I haven’t finished it yet though. I wrote in more detail there, so my blog entries will concen­trate more on images.

While I was on Lake Garda, my biggest expense was ferry tick­ets. I took the ferry each day to a differ­ent place around the lake. As the scenery is stun­ning, I took a lot of photos. I’ve whittled them down to around 10 shots or so per place, but I’ll post them gradu­ally, so you don’t get overkill of views of water and the Alps.

This was the hotel where I stayed for £30 a night. It wasn’t luxuri­ous, but it was very clean and comfort­able, and the family who ran it were really nice. The pool was unheated, and Malces­ine is in the Alps so I never got to swim in it, except for my first try when I nearly gave myself hypo­ther­mia. A short walk down the (slightly scary, barely any pave­ment) road were some steps down to the lake path.

This is the route into town. Not a bad commute. Almost all the tour­ists here are German, and most of the local people speak both Itali­an and German.

You pass a lot of boats on the way into town. At the end of May the weath­er altern­ates between sun and mist- the temper­at­ures were really pleas­ant, although you wanted a jack­et. The peak tour­ist season is August, when the rest of Italy is unbear­ably hot, and every­one heads for the cool of the moun­tains.

There are lots of villas and hotels arranged on terraces along the lake path, and lots of strange little grates and passages.

This is Malces­ine itself- an old town of narrow cobbled streets arranged around the castle. In the past, the border with Austria was just to the north of here, rather than at the Bren­ner Pass as it is now. Until Mussolini built a road around the lake, the only way in was via boat. The castle surpris­ingly has a museum about Goethe in it. He made a visit to Malces­ine in 1786 after sneak­ing over the then closed border, and got arres­ted as a spy because he was draw­ing the castle. I also did some sketch­ing while I was there, but no-one arres­ted me (although I did make a new 7 year old Itali­an friend called Victor­ia who was very specif­ic that her name was not Vittor­ia). Nowadays the castle also doubles as a wedding venue.

As soon as you head inland, everything looks a lot more alpine. This street could easily be in Austria.

At this end of the lake, the water is incred­ibly clear.

If you walk away from town, you come to this deser­ted portico area.

There’s a reas­on why photo­graph­ers call this time of day just before sunset “Magic Hour”

At certain times of day, and with an over­cast sky, the water looks like glass.

It’s defin­itely not a place where you can bear to be indoors at sunset.

There really was no-one else along this part of the shore.

My next post from Lake Garda heads off into those blue moun­tains in the distance.

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