We had no particular destination in mind
"October 31, 2005"
Riva is simply where we ended up...
Ma Kettle and I had no real destination in mind as we departed our apartment to begin our 6am walk to the Padova train station. We had been housebound for a few days, and really needed to stretch our legs. Besides, we still had two days remaining of our long weekend, and didn't want it to go to waste. We were immediately engulfed by heavy fog, but fog in Padova at this time of year is pretty typical of the Veneto region, and usually burns off after a few hours. It was just the light rain fall that dampened our spirits a tad. We stopped at our favourite pasticceria for a quick refueling of coffee, and were assured by our pal Lorenzo that weather outside the Veneto was sure to be clear.
We searched the Trenitalia departures board, and decided to head for Lago del Garda, thinking perhaps a quick return visit to Desenzano, located at the southern tip of Lake Garda, might be a pleasant diversion. We'd possibly hop the ferry and tour the lake for a bit, stop for lunch somewhere, then return home the same day.
Upon arrival in Desenzano we were met with even heavier rain, plus the ferry dock was closed, perhaps for the season, perhaps due to fog, we couldn't find any notices to be sure. Faced with the prospect of wandering about a town we'd visited numerous times in a miserable downfall, we thought we'd hop a Sita bus, and hope for sunshine to the north. We are optimists by nature you see.
"After a few detours, we were headed to Riva..."
This trip was unplanned, no doubt. We quickly found that no single bus goes all the way to Riva at this time of year, and would require some hopscotching to get there. We went as far as we could to Gargnano on the west side of Lake Garda, visited their pretty little harbour, had a quick lunch, saw the hotel that DH Lawrence stayed in, and then caught the next bus to Limone.
The entire Sita bus experience was wonderful. The scenery is breath taking as you follow the contours of the lake, and meander through numerous tunnels cut into the sides of the mountains. The bus allows you an unobstructed view, as you sit elevated above the growth alongside of the famous Western Gardesana Road, originally built in 1932. The ride was very comfortable, the numerous drivers were all most helpful and courteous, and above all, it was cheap.
We really do recommend this mode of travel to anyone considering a visit. Travel by car appears to be convenient, but traffic is extremely heavy in peak season, and parking is difficult and driving rather tedious.
We found Limone to be very picturesque, nestled at the steep foothills of Mount Baldo, but accomodation was limited to say the least. The tourist season had ended, and there is little need for hotels to remain open year round with a permanent population of slightly under nine hundred inhabitants. A return visit to Limone is in our future for sure, preferably at a time when we can view the lake, and not just hear the waves lapping onto shore through the thick fog.
We caught the last bus to Riva just before 5pm, anticipating that we'd have a nice dinner, then make our way back down the eastern shore of Lago del Garda, then catch the train home later that evening.
"Riva, at last..."
We got into Riva at nightfall, and were amazed at the size of this lovely town, easily seen as lights illuminated the elevated communities in the nearby hills. We liked the feel of Riva, and discussed overnighting here if dinner was a success, but first needed to confirm the departure times of the last bus heading back to Desenzano.
Well, it was a no brainer, since we were told the bus we arrived on was in fact, the last southbound bus. Furthermore, as the following day was All Saints Day, everything would be closed, including the bus station, and limited service would be available. The clerk told us that the only bus the next day would depart at 9:40am. We made a quick decision to give luck a chance in finding accomodation, and bought our return tickets for the morning run.
The bus stop is located approximately ten minutes from the old centre, and having no maps to guide us, we followed our noses, realizing our instincts had obviously failed us miserably this day. On the plus side, the rain had stopped, and the fog was thinning, having lifted a tad as we travelled into higher elevation.
Our noses worked real well, and after a short detour, we walked through the portals leading into the old city centre. What a pleasant surprise. Shops were open, people were milling about, and there was a real festive feel in the air. The first street we wandered down, gave us many choices of hotels to consider, and we saw a familiar name Hotel Vittoria, and having stayed at various hotels with variations of the same name numerous times at differing locations throughout Europe, we gave it a try. We were successful. We had a bed for the night.
First impressions of Riva were favourable. We only experienced it at night, and never did get to actually 'see' the water front (couldn't, it was dark). We just wandered about the centre, tasted the beer, ate the food, and drank in the ambience. We did no official sightseeing, but still, we thoroughly enjoyed our little excursion.
Given a weekend, with sunny skies, an intinerary, a map or two, and a clear idea of what was where, Ma Kettle and I would return in an instant. The whole Lake Garda area is beautiful, every stop is worth a visit, but keep in mind that traffic in high season is horrendous.
From what we could see, the beaches themselves are numerous, but other than the wonderful view, nothing really special. There is no sand to speak of, expect gravel, and smooth, wave washed stones. Visiting in off-season might be tricky as mentioned, so plan well. There is nothing pleasant about a fishing village closed for the season...