Monday, September 7th
Beach-day at Lake Garda
Today was our 'beach' day - and the objective was to wander down to a suitable lakeside beach spot and relax, taking in some rays and enjoying a slow day.
We chose to go to the lakeside town of Lazise, which has long been a local recreation destination. We parked close to the town's boardwalk, and strolled past moored boats at a small harbour, with the blue of the lake and the sky beyond. We didn't find any good beach spots right in town, so we walked beyond, eventually locating a stretch of public beach not far beyond a cool semi-ruined Scaliger castle. Even though this was September (i.e. supposedly the 'off season'), there were still a lot of people about - especially Germans. Miriam explained that Lazise has always been a popular destination for Germans. In fact, she remembers being here as a young girl with her family, and the fact that her father proposed to her mother in this very town!
Southern Lake Garda
The beach was not the best sandy beach I'd seen, but it was decent enough. We found a vacant spot and put down our stuff. Jenn and Miriam went for a dip first, followed afterwards by Asmir and I. The water was reasonably warm and the floor of the lake was reasonably flat and sandy (which is definitely not the case all the way 'round Lake Garda).
Afterwards, I returned and to veg with Jenn and Miriam, while Asmir went off exploring the lakeshore for a few hours.
After Asmir came back, we left the girls, heading back to the car to move it (our parking meter time was about to expire). Along the way, we wound through the center of old Lazise, finding it to be a reasonably authentic and attractive place, despite the beach resorts and somewhat campy attractions outside the old core. We located a smaller patch of unoccupied beach closer to the town center, and so after parking the car in a new spot, we went back and fetched Miriam and Jenn.
Torre del Benaco
By late afternoon we were ready to head off. We were interested in repeating last night's excellent dining experience, so we decided to head up the coast of the Lake, keeping our eyes peeled for someplace good to eat.
We took our time driving up the coast, stopping at various lookouts and attractions, and eyeing various restaurants -- especially pizzerias -- since Asmir was hankering for some authentic Italian pizza.
After some false choices and some humming and hawing, I decided to try a new tack: I would try and locate, on my GPS, something that indicated pizza AND which was 'out of the way'. I figured there was a better chance of finding some local authentic cuisine if we stayed slightly off the beaten track. I located something called Pizzeria Belvedere not too far up the highway to the north. It was not on the main highway, it was a pizzeria, and with a name called 'Belvedere' in combination with the steeply sloping terrain above the lake in this area, I thought that it might have good views, too!
The icon on my GPS indicated that this restaurant was in a small town called Brenzone, just a few kilometres to the north of where we were. We angled off the highway and onto a narrow side street that angled diagonally up the steep hillside above the town, stopping in a nearly empty parking lot that had a small sign on a lamp-post that indicated that this was the parking spot for the Belvedere restaurant. Except that there was no restaurant to be seen anywhere. We parked anyway, then got out and walked back down the road a little, then up the road a little. Still no sign of any restaurant. Consulted the GPS again - yup, this was the spot.
Figuring that perhaps the GPS had it slightly wrong, we got back in the car and drove further along. Eventually (and quite far away from the parking lot) we passed the modest little sign marking the Belvedere bar ristorante pizzeria. Hmm... that must be the overflow parking, I thought. A good sign perhaps, of a substantial clientele?
After re-parking the car, we walked into the restaurant, and immediately we could see that this place was indeed called Ristorante Belvedere for a reason. The 'downhill' side of the restaurant stuck far out from the steeply sloping hillside, and on that side was a wide terrace, filled with tables, all the way around the restaurant. Beyond was an unparallelled view of Lake Garda. Mostly, though, the place seemed empty, although It was still early for Italian dinner.
I asked the waitress if they had space, and she said yes. I asked for a spot at an outside table and she regretfully informed me that they had already all been booked. Hmm... all outdoor tables already pre-booked, eh? sounded like we may have lucked into a little gem of a place!
Now having a good feeling about this place, we agreed to an inside table (which was still quite nice), and sat down to eat. As we perused the menu and ordered our dishes, the place started to fill up. It wasn't long before all of the outdoor balcony tables were filled, and soon, even the interior tables were filling up. And, the clientele seemed to mostly be Italian. An off-the-beaten-path restaurant rapidly being filled with locals: definitely a good sign.
Then the food came, and we knew: this place was indeed a gem. Asmir had ordered a seafood appetizer, and he practically fell out of his chair with his first bite of it. The house wine was a great tasting Bardolino (which is the local wine of this area), and the remainder of our food, including the pizzas, were also excellent. Then, at the end of it all, another surprise: A surprisingly cheap bill, especially given the quality of the food. I think I can safely speak for everyone at our table: if ever we are in this vicinity again, we're going to call ahead and reserve one of those outdoor tables overlooking the lake. A great view, great food, and reasonable prices a winner makes!