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For well over twenty-five years I've been visiting Garda, and yet only recently did I discover one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
I guess it is because most of Tremosine is on a plateau set high above the lake, where three or four little towns thrive in their obscurity while the world rushes by far below. Only Campione del Garda is actually on the water, and that's hidden away right at the bottom of a huge cliff.
Officially, it is still a part of Tremosine, but it is very different from the rest of the area in that it is right on the lake with a towering cliff rising sheer above.
Sadly, most of the inhabitants left with the closure of the cotton mill in 1981, and it is now being modernized into a yachting center. Apparently, the wind conditions are perfect for world-class sailors to practice for things like the Olympics.
It's great for sailors, but any character the town once had is gone. Spend an hour or two here enjoying an incredible location, but that's more than enough time.
You simply must drive the Strada della Forra (SP 38). It is definitely one of the most scenically beautiful and varied drives I've ever experienced.
You start off in a huge, gloomy valley with lush vegetation. Towering cliffs rise sheer besides the road, and slowly, as you descend down to Piave, sunlight begins to illuminate the scenery. You get your first glimpses of blue waters far below, and cypress trees tell you that you're back in Italy, no longer in the Jurassic-like world of the first part of the drive.
As the road curves and bends, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Garda, a shimmering expanse of azure blue. The sparkling waters beckon you to take a moment and savor the serenity of the scene. You may even catch a glimpse of sailboats gliding gracefully across the lake's surface, adding a touch of elegance to the picturesque tableau.
The Strada della Forra is a testament to the marvels of engineering as well. Carved into the cliffs, it winds through narrow passages and tunnels, offering a thrilling experience for those with a sense of adventure. The cliffs themselves, with their jagged edges and dramatic formations, stand as silent witnesses to the passage of time and the raw power of nature.
As the drive draws to a close, you find yourself in the embrace of charming Italian towns, where the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts from quaint cafés, and the laughter of locals fills the cobblestone streets. It's a chance to immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of the region, indulging in delectable cuisine and discovering hidden gems along the way.
The Strada della Forra is not just a drive; it's a sensory symphony, a harmonious blend of natural beauty, history, and the sheer joy of exploration. So, buckle up, let the wheels carry you along its winding path, and prepare to be captivated by the spellbinding allure of this scenic masterpiece.
Pieve is one of the loveliest little towns in all of Italy; it has preserved its history and character over the centuries. Houses are still a harmonious blend of burnt umber or yellow ochre, and narrow cobbled lanes offer glimpses of the lake far below.
Head out of town along Viale Europa, which is lined with cypress trees, and you'll see a sign leading to the Hotel Paradiso. Turn left and end up on the Terrazza del Brivido. The views out across Lake Garda will give you goosebumps.
Visit the church in Pazza Cozzaglio too for breathtaking views. I could spend hours here, sitting on the bench next to the ancient olive tree while gazing out at tiny boats painting streaks of white across the blue canvas of the lake.
Pieve is the perfect base to explore the area, there isn't a lot of choice when it comes to hotels though.
There are a few people renting out rooms on Airbnb but if you'd prefer a hotel then the Hotel Miralago is top option. Its position is arguably the best on the entire lake. Sitting down to breakfast with this view makes every day perfect... even if you do nothing else until dinner.
Because the towns up here above Lake Garda were not easily reached in centuries past, they had to develop their own cuisine, mostly simple mountain dishes with lots of cheese, gnocchi, and polenta.
In later years, fish from the lake became more common, and now risotto and pesce persico have become almost a signature dish of the town. Also try the casoncelli, a version of ravioli common in this part of Italy.
The best place to try the local cuisine is at Trattoria Da Angelo. It's run by Angelo and his family, and you'll find that lunches in the courtyard, surrounded by old stone walls, will be something you'll miss for a long time. Anything on the menu is good; however, the gnocchi made with local cheese is arguably the best I've ever had.