I’ve recently returned from my honeymoon at Lake Garda and whilst I was there, I got in a fair bit of running in the mountains and trails around the area. I thought I’d write a brief post about it as I couldn’t find much information on the subject from the UK before I left so I thought this could be useful for others…
Lake Garda is a beautiful area close to Verona, situated in the southern part of the Italian Alps. Although the mountains in the area are relatively small by alpine standards, they are often steep and the terrain can be challenging. Trail conditions are mixed with some areas being highly runnable to whilst others areas are hands-on-knees steep with sections of scrambling and via ferrata.
We situated ourselves on the Western shore of the lake in Salo, which is a great base with regular ferry trips to the other areas in the region. It has lots of nice restaurants and places to stay and I felt that we had definitely made the right decision in staying there due to its balance between amenities and access to the beautiful local area. There are some nice routes easily accessible from the town but if you would prefer to be based right in the heart of the mountains and are less concerned about variety of food and accommodation, the nearby Gargnano could be a better bet.
The other side of the lake is at the foot of the largest mountain in the area, Monte Baldo, which towers over the water 2,218m. Despite the fact that the Eastern shore offers this tempting objective for the walker or runner, I feel that the Western side has more variety to offer overall. In any case, transport links around the lake are good so it is easy (although quite costly) for the traveler to explore both sides.
Kompass maps are readily available and I was really impressed by how detailed and accurate they are. I would definitely recommend going for the 1:25000 variants as I found that 1:50000 just wasn’t detailed enough for accurate route finding.
The paths are generally well marked using the standard red and white paint and signage that is commonly found in the alps. They are assigned three different grades on the maps which can be found on the key, ‘trails’, ‘footpaths’ and ‘steep-paths’.
One thing that could present a challenge to walkers and runners is the variability of the conditions that can be found for a given path classification. For example, in a lot of areas, a route classified as a ‘trail’ can be wide and well maintained, sometimes with concrete under foot. In other areas, a path with the same classification can be rough, narrow and over-grown. Equally, some of the ‘steep-paths’ are indeed quite challenging but in other areas they are moderate and easily traveled.
Obviously routes in the mountains can always be potentially steep and challenging but I make this point to advise the reader not to put too much faith in the classification systems and rely more on contour lines and common sense.
We visited in August and encountered very favorable conditions but as with any mountain environment, the weather can change quickly and dramatically and anyone setting out on a trip in this area should prepare for any eventuality. Thunder storms are a regular occurrence and the sudden rainfall can make the paths treacherous and increase the risk of rock falls.
Lake Garda is a stunning area which offers a great balance of beautiful mountains, good food, culture and an authentic experience of Italy which, if you go to the right places, is less tainted by tourism than many other destinations.