Weekend in Lago di Garda
|Lazy Days Ahead|
This weekend the weather forcast in every direction was dull and dreary. It was also a long holiday weekend - Labor Day or International Worker's Day. Back in the States, Labor Day is held on the first Monday of September. May Day, as it's also known, commemorates the labor union movement and the eight-hour day movement - eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
These days while this situation seems normal, it wasn't always this way. Workers had to really fight long and hard to improve their working conditions. Nowadays, May Day is a day for peaceful protests and demonstrations seeking continuous improvements on working conditions and worker equality.
While it was predicted as raining everywhere in our neck of the woods, we decided to head south to Lago di Garda (At least it was warm!). Garda is located south of the Austrian Alps... and to get there we must drive through the Brenner Pass.
The Brenner Pass is one of the most important passages through the Alps from Austria to Italy. It is one of the lowest passages through the mountain range and, thus, has been highly coveted and fought over by various groups.
The Romans were the first to regularize the mountain pass around 2nd Century, AD, after the prehistoric eras after the first Ice Age. The German tribe, Alamanni, tried to move south into Italy via the pass in 268 AD but were stopped by the Romans during the Battle of Lake Benacus. The Romans continued their dominance of the Brenner Pass until their break up in the 5th Century.
In 1867, the Austrian Empire completed the Brenner Railway, the first trans-Alpine railroad built without a major tunnel when it runs at high altitude (1,371 meters).
After World War II, the pass was used as a ratline - part of a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe into other countries.
The Brenner Autobahn (A13)/Brennero Autostrade (A22) is a major transport route from Innsbruck, Austria to Modena, Italy and a major route for European travellers trying to get through the Alps into Italy (holiday traffic jams galore!). Unlike other Alpine passes, the Brenner Pass is open year round.
As the lowest mountain pass in the Central Eastern Alps, it was the most suitable to construct the motorway which also includes the Bridge of Europe which, in 1963, was the highest motorway bridge at the time of its construction.
|High on a Hill Top|
Travelling along the Brenner Autobahn, one can see many of the castles and strong holds that followed the pass between Austria and Italy. They are clearly visible high up on the hill tops. If you're a castle fanatic, here's a list of Tyrolean castles to get you started. I love seeing them and imagining what life must have been like all those years ago!
Finally, we departed the A22 into Riva del Garda. A bit gloomy, but still a cool view, nonetheless.
|Riva del Garda|
Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Carved into existence by the glacial movements of previous Ice Ages, this lake has many stories to tell. This is the site of the Battle of Lake Benacus where the Romans defeated the Alamanni as mentioned previously. This is also where, in 1797, Napoleon I held off the Austrians in the Battle of Rivoli. In 1859, the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, resulted in the birth of the Geneva Convention and the Red Cross. And during World War II, this was where Mussollini set up his capital for his Italian Social Republic in Salo´ to aid the Nazis during their occupation of northern Italy.
. . .
During our visits, we usually stay in Gargnano, a sleepy, little commune that is bustling with tourists and motorcyclists in the summer. Everywhere our eyes can see, amidst the old architecture, there are many, many olive trees. Also, in the mix are citrus and fruit trees and herbs that grow into the size of tall bushes. The scent in the air is heavenly!
|View from Our Window Toward Maderno|
|Checking on the Olive Trees|
Sadly, the much beloved olive trees are under attack from a deadly pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa, also known as the olive leaf scorch. Basically, it destroys the water movement within the plant starting with yellowing or brown leaves which fall prematurely. The branches follow immediately after.
It's been a tough few years already for the olive oil industry... and this additional pathogen only makes matters worse. Read about it here and here.
|El & Lil - Grass Pile Experts|
El & Lil love their time here in Gargnano. There's always something fun to do outdoors... a walk through the olive trees, picking flowers, swinging in the hammock... there's always an adventure (or an ice cream cone) around the corner.
|El & Lil - Off on an Adventure!|
I met a nature enthusiast during our visit, and he pointed out a few protected plants in the area. Apparently, we were in the presence of a few wild orchids and wild asparagus plants near the house property. The other two I do not know the names of... but they were beautiful nonetheless.
One other, of the many flowers that pop up in the garden, is my favorite of the area and is such a delight for me to find - the red poppy (papavero). Once considered a weed, this weed is quite fabulous to look at and apparently has a few medicinal properties up its sleeve. A milder cousin of the other (infamous) opium poppy, this flower has been used as a mild sedative, a stress reliever, or as a cough suppressant.
I have just discovered that entire fields in Tuscany are covered with these flowers in May... I think we have found another road trip!
|Dusk on the Lake|
|Old Doorways on the Water|
|Score! A Hidden Playground under a Tree|
|Commune di Villa|
|Dada & His Girls|
This won't be our last trip to Lago di Garda... there's so much here to do and to see... and I haven't even gotten started on the food here. Stay tuned for a few more posts on this gorgeous area!
One day I hope that El & Lil might read these pages and see all of the things we did with them at such a young age. We always wonder what goes on in their heads... what do they remember from our trips?
|What Memories Will They Capture?|
|What Secrets Will They Share?|