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September 26, 2013

A Love Affair with Lake Garda

By Amy Tara Koch | Travel

A Love Affair with Lake Garda
Courtesy of Villa Arcadio Hotel & Resort

Nestled between Milan and Venice, far from the glittering crowds of Amalfi, sits Lake Garda, a retreat so spectacular, one thinks twice about chatting up its riches for fear of spoiling its pristine aura. Its charm lies in the area’s waterfront vistas and its quiet celebration of heritage. The towns are adamantly local; family-run hotels and private palazzos dot the shoreline. The glamour here is found in the distinct absence of glitz.

An ancient convent-turned-boutique hotel offers a slice of Lago di Garda paradise. Villa Arcadio Hotel & Resort (rooms, from $310; 2 Via Palazzina; 39-03/654-2281; hotelvillaarcadio.it) in Salo—with its frescoed walls, terracotta floors, vine-laden terraces and salons—imparts a homey, welcoming air that is at once relaxed and refined. But mamma mia, what a view! Every vantage point offers sweeping panoramas of the lake, mountains and olive groves. Mustering the motivation to venture off the property (and away from its glorious lattes) is a challenge.

When you do leave, rent a Riva boat (complete with a captain) at Arcangeli Centro Nautico (85 Via Pietro da Salo; 39-03/654-3443; arcangelicentronautico.it) and jet around the lake James Bond–style, stopping only for dips in the crystal-clear water. Be sure to visit Pasticceria Vassalli (84/86 Via S. Carlo; pasticceria-vassalli.it), a renowned pastry shop featuring sweets made with citrus fruit grown around Lake Garda, and stock up on local products (leather, honey, olive oil, limoncello) at Salo’s weekend market. For a high-wattage lakeside meal, book a table at the sumptuous Villa Feltrinelli (38–40 Via Rimembranza; 39-03/6579-8000; villafeltrinelli.com) for exquisitely prepared local cuisine.

Northern Italy is known for otherworldly olive oils and wines. A tasting at centuries-old olive-oil producer Azienda Agricola Comincioli (10 Via Roma, Frazione Castello; 39-03/6565-1141; comincioli.it) in Puegnago del Garda offers some of Italy’s brightest flavors. Spa enthusiasts should stop at the mineral springs at 120-year-old Terme di Sirmione (7 Viale Marconi, 39-03/091-6261; termedisirmione.com)—the recently upgraded Aquaria Thermal Wellness Center has a cutting-edge range of heat experiences and body treatments incorporating the famed sulfurous waters.