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Report 678: Italia - Umbria, Lago di Garda, Lago di Como & Visits with Friends in Empoli and Coccaglio

By girasoli from Hawaii, Spring 2005

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Page 13 of 24: The Castle in Sirmione and More Lake Towns

photo by girasoli

me in front of castle in Sirmione

Wednesday morning, I had a leisurely breakfast and then decided to sit out on the deck for an hour to get some sun. After an hour in the sun, I went inside the big castle in Sirmione, the moated and turreted Castello Scaligero. It was quite impressive and very enjoyable. After walking around the bottom part, I climbed the first tower. At the top, you could walk around the edge of the wall (similar to the Fortezza in Montalcino). The views were spectacular. On the other side of the tower, there was a second tower to climb. More wonderful views at the top! Last, there was another area where you can see more of the castle that surrounds the water. The entrance fee of four euros was definitely worth it!

After exploring the tower, I walked to the other end of the town to the tip of the peninsiula to visit the Grotte di Catullo. There is a choice of walking or taking a little tram for one euro to reach the Grotte. The walk was not very far but on a hot day, many people chose the tram. The Grotte di Catullo are alleged to be the Roman villa and baths of the poet Catullua. I walked around taking pictures and at one point, I stepped on this rock (forgetting that it was actually a ruin thousands of years old) to get a better view for the picture I wanted to take and then I heard a loud whistle! A man that guards the area was blowing the whistle at me to get off the ancient stone that I was standing on! I lost my head there for a moment!

In the afternoon, I took a boat to the towns of Bardolino and Garda. I found out that taking the boat in the afternoon was quite a different experience than taking the boat in the morning. I waited with a large group of people, and as the time grew closer to the arrival of the boat, the crowd grew larger and larger. I have found that there does not seem to be any sort of line when waiting with a group of people here in Italy. The Italians will appear to be polite by saying “permesso” but then just push right on towards the front and the Germans just push right on through. I could not believe when I saw an elderly man in a wheelchair by the entrance and how everyone just pushed right by him to get on board. It took quite a while before the man was let through. You have two choices, be aggressive or wait and be last. I tried to be polite but also I had to stand my ground, a delicate balancing act.

Both Bardolino and Garda were very beautiful little towns on the lake. Unfortunately when I arrived at both towns, everything was pretty much closed for the afternoon except for the bars and gelaterias. By the time everything opened again, it was time to take the boat back to Sirmione. I enjoyed nonetheless walking around taking pictures and the boat rides in between the towns.

For dinner, I found a little restaurant away from the centro tourist area called Al Portico Ristorante con Pizza. At first I was seated near the door. I ordered a cannelloni dish. The waiter came to ask if it was ok if I moved to another table because he forgot that there was a reservation for six people and he needed my table. This worked out great for me as it was in a much nicer spot and when I saw the pasta dish that was brought to the table next to me, I asked what it was called and changed my order to this dish, a tagliono pasta with fish, cherry tomatoes, and a delicious sauce. The Italian couple next to me told me that it was a good choice and we chatted off and on through dinner. They were very nice and it was great to have some company for dinner.

photo - me in front of the castle in Sirmione (tried and tried but when reducing the photo for web specifications, could not get it any clearer)

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