In and around Riva del Garda
It was chilly in early May 2010 when I first visited Riva del Garda, Italy. It also rained almost the entire time. In 2011 I chose to arrive a couple of weeks later, May 19-21, and what I found was sunshine!
Rovereto is the train stop for Riva. From there, you take either a bus, which drops you in town (so you still have to get yourself to the hotel), or a taxi. I called efficient and English-speaking Christiano Toffola of Taxi 2 Taxi Rovereto (phone +39 33 88 445 445) and the ride to my hotel cost me about €40 (near $53) plus tip.
The Best Western Hotel Europa (Piazza Catena, 13 I-38066 Riva del Garda [TN], Italy; phone +39 0464 555433, fax 521777) doesn’t look like a Best Western as we know it. Facing Lake Garda and the huge, car-free square, it’s blue and white and tall and narrow, with only four stories, not counting the ground entrance from the square.
The owner remembered me from my last visit and gave me a warm welcome. Room 104 was special and had to be a lot more expensive than what I’d reserved for €70 a night, single, through www.booking.com.
In general, this hotel’s rooms are smallish, with the ones in the back facing the road and a rock wall. Most are recently remodeled, each with a modern marble bathroom, comfortable double bed and a desk. The rooms with a view of the lake (some with tiny balconies) are just about perfect, as was mine.
Breakfasts are taken in a large dining room, with one area comprising an all-glass sunroom. One disappointment — coffees are from a modern push-button machine.
Something I had been looking forward to again, just a few doors south of the Europa at Ristorante Pizzeria Nazionale, or Bar Nazionale (Piazza Catena 25, 38066 Riva del Garda [TN]; phone 0464 552507), was the creamy lasagne of northern Italy (€6.50) and, for dessert, the typical espresso- and brandy-soaked tiramisu (€4). These dishes didn’t disappoint.
This restaurant, family run, personable and casual, has a big dining hall upstairs plus a few tables with large view windows on the main level, but most people like to sit at one of the many tables outside. It’s closed on Monday.
Located at the tip of Lake Garda, Riva is a lovely spot. It’s known for its windy afternoons, which promote world-class sailing races and, daily, lots of colorful sailboarding. As at Lake Como, there are many ferries, which ply the length of the lake; the small terminal is only a few steps from the hotel.
A nice excursion is one to Limone, with its remains of terraced lemon groves along the front. From the ferry stop, I walked the sweet town from end to end.
I found, to the north, hiking groups emerging from small guest houses on the hillside and, to the south, a steep narrow road up past tiny stone homes built in the distant past. Along the waterfront were many hotels, filled with Italian “regulars” as well as tourists.
From the hotel, one can take long walks along the lake in either direction. The one to the south was peaceful, and I even ran across a tiny beach below the seawall.
I had almost decided not to return to Riva, but I’m so glad I did. The leader of the tour I had taken the previous year was at the Europa with her new group, and during her free time we had lunch at Bar Nazionale.
She also asked me if I wanted to take the excursion again with her group the next day so that I could, if the weather cooperated, finally see the Dolomites. I jumped at the chance. The previous year we had encountered dense fog that hid the unusual shapes and spires of the surrounding mountains.
This time, as the bus slowly zigzagged along the circular road linking four passes, including Passo Sella, heading to the only lodge — hooray! — we found sun, mostly blue skies and puffy clouds.
Pictures can’t do these Alps justice. They’re one of those magnificent sights you just have to experience, yourself.