Discovering Lake Garda

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Lake Garda (In Italian "Lago di Garda" or "Benaco") is The beautiful lakeside towns around Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) have charmed foreign visitors for centuries starting with its first visitor and enthusiast Wolfgang Goethe, who visited it in 1786. The largest lake in Italy (370 km²). It is located in the North-East of the peninsula, about half-way between Venice and Milan and divides the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige. It is in an alpine area and was formed by glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. The Latin name of the lake, Benàco, is of Indo-European origin (perhaps meaning "strongly penetrated") and it was surely already present at the moment of the roman conquest; the current name instead derives from the homonymous city, Garda, that lies 32 km from Verona and, during the Middle Ages, was the greatest exchange and trading center. The shape is typical of a moraine valley: it is probable, in fact, that this portion of the lake was created through the action of a Paleolithic glacier. The river Sarca is the main affluent among 25 tributaries, while the only outlet of the lake is the river Mincio.

Lake Garda measures 51,6 km in length, while the maximum width is 17,2 km. Its perimeter measures 158,4 km and the maximum depth is 346 m.

It is situated at the slopes of the Southern Retiche Alps, between the chain of Mount Baldo to the East and the Alps to the West, from Riva to Salò. Long and slim, the Southern section of the lake, embraced by the gentle slopes of the Riviera of Olives, looks decidedly Mediterranean, whilst, just a few kilometers North, where Monte Baldo rises, it completely changes character and turns into a narrow fjord. Rocks and steep cliffs surmounted by castles and ancient churches steeped in history stand guard over suggestive and graceful little ports.

Tourists are offered all kinds of trips on and around the lake and throughout the surrounding territory: cultural trips, nature walks, sporting activities and sight-seeing.

In order to fully appreciate the lake's beauty, it is possible to leave your car and take a trip on one of Navigarda ferries, preferably choosing the slower itineraries which include almost all the ports on the Veronese shoreline where you can take spectacular snap-shots of the scenery.

Once you've reached Malcesine, it is advisable to catch the cable-car (the new Malcesine - Tratto Spino rotating cable car) and from a height of 1760 metres you have a unique and breathtaking view of the lake.

The lake's flora and the fauna are inextricably linked to Mount Baldo, the "Garden of Europe". The mountain side features one of the most diverse natural habitats in the world concentrated in a relatively small area: olive groves along the typically "Mediterranean" section of the lake, evergreen ilexes and oak-trees; further up the slope you'll find ash-trees and chestnuts-trees whilst, at a height of 1700m, you'll discover lilies, rhododendron's and a spectacular range of wild-flowers of great botanic interest.

Nonetheless, the undisputed "King" of the natural environment along the shores of the lake is the olive-tree: olive-trees have been cultivated here since Roman times and the area's oil-making industry was given an extraordinary impetus by the monks of the medieval abbeys of San Zeno and Santa Maria in Organo.

Also cultivated all over the Veronese hills stretching from the lake to the Valpolicella area, right up to the valleys of Mezzane, Illsai and Tregnago, the region's oil has a deep greenish-gold colour (due to its high chlorophyll content), a delicate scent which leaves a fresh, grassy after-taste, along with a slightly bitter, lemony taste on the tongue. It is ideal with any kind of food, although it is best served uncooked: just a small amount enhances the flavour of any dish. Its characteristics remain intact when it is heated at high temperatures which makes it also perfect for frying.

What makes Garda oil unique is that it comes from groves situated on the world's northernmost latitude. The lake's geographical location and "microclimate" protect the olives from typical parasites and diseases which afflict olive trees in warmer climates.

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Discovering Lake Garda

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This article was published on 2010/04/03