In collaboration with the Garda Trentino S.p.A. Tourism Board.
This summer I enjoyed one of the most fantastic travel experiences I have ever had: a culinary and trekking trip to Riva del Garda in Northern Italy. Riva del Garda is located on the north shore of Lake Garda, and it is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy good food and wine after a day of adventuring.
While there, I climbed up the via Ferrata to the top of Cima Capi (Click here to read about that adventure!), explored Arco Castle (blog post to follow!) and spent a day trekking from Lake Tenno, through the mediaeval village of Canale to the Varone Waterfall, an unforgettable walk through a truly magical landscape.
Lago di Tenno – Lake Tenno
Tenno Lake is located just a short half an hour’s drive north of Riva del Garda. This beautiful azure-turquoise alpine lake was formed around 1100 BC when a landslide from Cimi Salti to the southwest blocked the course of the Rio Secco. The lake is popular with locals and tourists alike who swim in its crystal clear waters during the summer months, sunbathing on the island in the centre.
To get to it, the 421 road runs to the west of the lake, and there is a carpark/bus stop at the top of a set of mediaeval stairs leading down to the lake. There is a well-maintained footpath around the lake’s circumference, a walk that will take you about an hour at a leisurely pace (leaving enough time to grab the geocache!). Note, dogs are not permitted on this footpath.
With its unspoilt surroundings nestled in the middle of the forest at the foot of Monte Misone, Lake Tenno is the perfect location for the beginning of a downward trek to the Varone Waterfall, via the mediaeval village of Canale and Tenno Castle. Continue your trek from the south-east tip of the lake, following the signs for the 406 walking path.
As you trek downwards, you will see Lake Garda appear in the distance.
The Mediaeval Village of Canale
Canale di Tenno is a 13th-century mediaeval village which has, in 2017, been added to a list of the 20 most beautiful villages in Italy. Featuring narrow paved alleys, arcades, small internal squares and houses set one against the other in the mediaeval style, your trek through this area will take you back in time.
The village was largely abandoned after the First World War, but it saw a regeneration due to the interest of the local artist community. Now, the village houses about fifty inhabitants, mainly artists.
Continue your trek along the old road that leads to Calvola, stopping for a visit at the ‘Le Vicinie’, or ‘medieval common’ monument. Here, four men discuss the problems of village life. Don’t forget to grab the cleverly hidden geocache here.
From here, the cobbled trail leads sharply downwards through the edge of the forest. Watch out for small lizards, birds, a wide variety of beautiful insects and the occasional wild deer through this area. If I am, to be honest, the area is so magical the appearance of a unicorn wouldn’t have been out of place.
Lunch at Antica Croce in Tenno
The village of Tenno is dominated by Tenno Castle, a 13th-century fortress which is now privately owned and not open to the public. Directly across the street from the castle, you’ll find Hotel Antica Croce, a perfect location for an al fresco lunch under the warm summer sun. By this time, if you’re lucky, L’ora, a gentle cooling breeze will appear off Lake Garda to help keep you cool as you dine outdoors, and I’m sure you’ll have worked up an appetite with all the trekking.
Good food and wine are the passion of chef Ettore, and his son Lorenzo, who together manage the kitchen in Antica Croce. Their menu features a wide variety of local delicacies, including their famous carne salada – a dish of finely sliced, marinaded rump of local veal beef eaten raw as an appetiser.
As I’d already sampled carne salade at another restaurant the day before, I began my meal with a local cheese platter featuring Trentino Parmesan, Tremosine cheese, Verda Misone cheese and a herbal cheese from Fiavè served with red onion mustard and pear chutney. A basket of bread rolls and a glass of fine white wine accompanied.
This was followed by the second course of homemade red wine pappardelle with venison and rosemary and a perfectly paired glass of red wine. Made with local venison this dish was rich and hearty, just what was needed after a morning spent trekking. This was followed by a dessert of homemade amaretto semifreddo and a coffee from local coffee roasters Omkafe.
Omkafe have been roasting their own coffee blends since 1947, and you can visit their premises in the nearby town of Arco for a tour of their coffee museum.
From Antica Croce, continue on your trek on the cobbled path to the left of Tenno Castle. The track will take you between olive groves and thick forest, continuing downwards from the mountains through another truly magical area.
The path will take you back out onto the main road, so take care with the traffic while you continue down the hill towards the Varone Waterfall.
The Parco Grotta Cascata Varone has become one of the main tourist destinations on Lake Garda, and a visit to Tenno would not be complete without seeing it for yourself.
Entrance to the waterfall is via the ticket office (€6 for an adult with concessions for families and groups). Take your time strolling up the pathway from the ticket office to the cavern entrance and enjoy the well-maintained gardens.
The waterfall itself originates from Lake Tenno, 8 kilometres up the mountain) where the lake water feeds the Magnone stream which then falls from the mountain edge into the gorge, a drop of more than 100 metres.
Walkways are built into the cavern and you can see where the limestone has been eroded over the course of 20,000 years.
The sound is a deafening rush of air and water as the water enters the cavern from the stream above, dropping 100 metres to the ravine below. It is a truly exhilarating experience that can’t be missed!
From the Varone waterfall, you can either continue your trek to Riva del Garda, just 3 kilometres away or hop on one of the public buses that pass by every hour.
If you are wanting to do this day’s trek I’d recommend setting aside a whole day to do it. The walk itself is only around 8 km long (say, two hours walking), but if you want to explore the mediaeval village of Canale, admire the sculpture just outside Calvola, enjoy a leisurely lunch in Antica Croce and fully explore the Varone Waterfall I’d set aside the whole day. It will be a day well spent.
HOW TO GET TO RIVA DEL GARDA
Riva del Garda is a very accessible tourist destination popular with outdoor enthusiasts and foodies alike. It is located on the northern shore of Lake Garda and can be reached either via the north-south motorway route between Austria and Verona or the east-west Milan-Venice motorway. You can often catch a budget airline flight to Gabriele D’Annunzio Airport (76 km south) or Verona Airport (91km south) usually via Milan, and from there catch a bus or train to Riva del Garda.
The nearest railway station to Riva del Garda is at Rovereto (20km east). From Rovereto the buses of Trentino Trasporti offer a shuttle service to the northern end of the lake. There are also stations at the southern end of the lake at Desenzano or Peschiera, with bus services offered by the Verona area company ATV.
WHERE TO STAY IN RIVA DEL GARDA
With thanks to Hotel Luise for hosting me during my visit to Riva del Garda. A full review of this comfortable, stylish, centrally located four-star hotel will follow soon!
WHERE TO EAT IN RIVA DEL GARDA & AREA
While on my culinary tour of the region I ate at no fewer than six different restaurants, each offering a wonderful range of local cuisine with their own unique twist.
In addition to Antica Croce, mentioned above, I can recommend Nuovo 900, located in downtown Riva, Ristorante al Fortino in Nago, Ristorante Il Ritratto Carpe Diem in Arco, Villetta Annessa in Riva and Osteria le Servite in Arco. A separate blog post with more information will follow shortly.
For more information on where to stay, what to eat and what to do while in Riva del Garda visit the Garda Trentino Tourism website.
With thanks to the Garda Trentino S.p.A. Tourism Board for the extraordinary experience of visiting, trekking and dining in Riva del Garda.