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THE LARGEST of Italian lakes, Lago di Garda is about 1 1/2 hours east of Milan, just past Brescia (of Mille Miglia fame). The lake has an irregular hatchet shape, surrounded by rolling farm country in the south, wedged between mountains of more than 7000 ft. in the north.
The eastern shore of the Garda is placid; the western shore, a touristy drive with several celebrations of speed—just the thing for auto enthusiasts.
In the 1920s, roads around the lake were used for the Garda Grand Prix. It was here in 1921 that Tazio Nuvolari (www.wp.me/p2ETap-Hi) entered his first automotive race. He scored his first victory of international stature six years later at the same venue.
During the heyday of Schneider Trophy seaplane racing, in the 1920s and 1930s, the lake was a frequent test venue. Desenzano, near its southern extremity, has a memorial to these aviators.
About a third of the way up the western shore is Gardone-Riviera, home of Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863-1938, www.wp.me/p2ETap-dt). His villa, Il Vittoriale, is crammed full of memorabilia, much of it reflecting this poet’s fascination with speed—not to say with the general high life. (See http://www.vittoriale.it/.)
It has been observed that D’Annunzio’s villa in the 1930s made the goings-on at Caroline’s Villa d’Este look tame. For confirmation of this, check out the performance art/stage play Tamara (http://goo.gl/Rh9NZ).
As the mountains get increasingly serious, the trip hugging Garda’s western shore turns into corniche motoring, a succession of 56 bridges and 70 tunnels.
In guidebooks published prior to 1918, the northern portion of Garda was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the lake’s northern tip lies Riva di Garda. By the way, this isn’t where Riva speedboats are built; their home is in Sarnico, on Lago d’Iseo.
Maybe you’ve been to Lago d’Iseo? It’s on my list. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013