If you are a gardener, you will remember the BBC TV series Monty Don’s Italian Gardens, the garden tour of Italy where the extravagant pleasure gardens created for fun and flirtation in the Veneto area around Lake Garda were shown.
Lake Garda is the ideal base for exploring Italian culture. In the north, the villages and towns are surrounded by mountains and dramatic scenery, where windsurfing and sailing are the number one activities. In the south the lake opens up and you’ll find many lakeside walks, bustling shops and markets. And all around the lake you will find parcs and gardens, one for every day of your week’s holiday.
Sunday: Parco Giardino Sigurta
These huge, stunning gardens, situated just 5 miles south of Peschiera, are considered to be in the top five in the world! Nearly 400 years old, the park covers a huge area of 560,000 square meters (more than enough to keep you busy for a day!). The gardens are based around 5 flowering periods and there will be different plants to look at depending on when you come here. It contains a huge variety of plantlife, including more than 40,000 bushes, ponds with tropical fish, herb garden, and a great lawn. This is the biggest of all the Lake Garda parks in terms of land area.
Monday: Gardens on Isola Garda
Isola del Garda is the largest island in Lake Garda and is not far from the coast at Manerba and San Felice. On this charming island is a stunning villa which was built by a wealthy family over a hundred years ago. Beautiful gardens were created to compliment this fantastic spot. It has an abundance of trees and shrubs, all perfectly manicured into a fairytale-like scene. Only recently open to the public, this really is a garden with a difference!
Tuesday: Botanical gardens Hruska Gardone Riveria, Heller Garden
This is a small but beautiful botanical garden found on a terraced hillside in Gardone. It has over 2000 species of plants from all over the world.
Wednesday: Il Vittoriale
Not the best perhaps, but certainly one of the most curious: the Vittoriale, decadent poet and adventurer Gabriele D’Annunzio’s monument to himself. Full of hammed-up military bombast, the place is a sort of proto-fascist Disneyland. The mausoleum for the heroes of the Fuime adventure looks like the base of a food blender; nearby, the prow of a battleship sticks out incongruously from a cypress grove.
Thursday: Public gardens at Riva
The first time you go to Riva, at the top of the lake, you’ll probably think that this large town is very busy with little space. You’ll be surprised, therefore, if you walk to the lakeside and go towards the east, as you’ll come across some lovely public gardens going right down to the beach. Here you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Lake Garda’s second largest town.
Friday: Parco Natura Viva
Another of the large Lake Garda parks, but this is one the kids will love as well! Located at Pastrengo, a couple of miles east of Lazise, this massive 40 hectare park has much to offer. It contains the following parts:
1) Parco Faunistico (Fauna park) – This part has around 200 animals from all over the world. It’s also involved in the conservation of rare plants which are in danger of becoming extinct.
2) Safari park – This part can only be visited in a car or bus. A nearly 5 mile long route winds you through a large area of land and allows you to view many animals, especially from the Savannah area. Great for kids.
3) Botanical route – This has a huge variety of plants, from local ones to tropical plants kept in the greenhouse. Located in the landscaped hillside.
4) Dinosaur park – This is located in the Fauna park and has life sized models of lots of dinosaurs. Kids will love this.
Price from £595 per person: Thomson Lakes & Mountains (www.thomsonlakes.co.uk; 020 8939 0740) offers a week’s half board at the three-star Hotel Perla in Garda on Lake Garda, Italy (based on two sharing; save £200 per person) including flights from Gatwick and transfers departing on 8 July 2015. Direct flights available from all major UK airports. Excursions to these gardens and parks are available locally or take a ferry which crosses the lake in all directions several times daily.