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A Rough Guide to Lake Garda in Italy: Lazise, the 'Key to the Lake'

A personal account of a visit during my time spent on Lake Garda where I lived and worked for 6 months.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mannix @ Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Paul Mannix @ Flickr Creative Commons

You will find the little town Lazise on the south-east side of Lake Garda in Northern Italy.

It's situated in-between Peschiera and Bardolino which are only a few kilometres away on the bus-route.

The town has similarities to other towns on the lake such as Pescheira and especially Sirmione in that it was an important military stronghold.

The Scaglieri family figure highly as they built a castle here which has their familiar 'fish-tale' ramparts lined along the fortifications.

It struck me as amusing also to see dozens of TV aerials along the ramparts. The aerials however, were actually sitting on top of houses behind but had to be extended up to clear the old walls presumably. The castle itself is in private hands so there was no access to that.


I read in a guide-book that from this old castle a chain would be drawn across the mouth of the town harbour where warships were berthed by the Venetian Republic in this 'Key to the Lake' which is what they called Lazise.

It is a very picturesque town, popular with tourists and containing many interesting shops as well as charming restaurants and bars.

ArminFlickr @ Flickr

ArminFlickr @ Flickr

The name of the town comes from the Roman 'Lasitium' derived from the Latin 'Lacus' meaning 'Lake' leading to the term 'Lacustrine' which means the environment of a lake.

Its town walls and castle were built as far back as the 10th and 11th centuries.

The fortifications were in remarkably good condition although one or two of the structures on top looked like they were balancing on a thin end and ready to fall at the slightest push.

I'm sure they were safe but I didn't walk under them to have a closer look.

A mosaic of a saint at one of the entrances is that of 'San Zeno' one of two Patron Saints of the town, the other being San Martino.

In the centre I passed the arcaded medieval customs house which built and repaired boats for the Venetian fleet and was later used as a shelter for storing sheep's urine as it was a vital ingredient for gunpowder. Not very glorious in battle, to have sheep pee flung at you from all sides. But to quote a guide book, it states;

"Nowadays the village is crammed with cafes, pizzerias and holiday-makers, but retains a whiff of character...."

I have absolutely nothing further to say on that particular comment as I don't think I could better that aromatic observation.

The medieval customs house

The medieval customs house

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A Wind-Swept Day

I returned to Lazise on another day when the weather was not so fine. At the campsite we had lots of thunder and lightning over two days and on this particular day a barrage of hailstones that rattled on my mobile-home like frozen peas on a tin-can.

The skies cleared and as I had a half-day from work at the campsite I cycled down to Lazise for another visit. No chances of a swim though as there were very strong winds that had the waves kicking up something ferocious down at the harbour.

But what a great time everyone had, especially the kids standing on the prom getting caught in the spray. The front of Lazise has a wide prom and is very flat so when the big waves hit the shore, shallow water flowed about 40 yards in, right up to the lakeside restaurants and into the edges of the streets.

So lots of people began paddling along the prom as it was so smooth to walk on barefoot and really refreshing when the waves splashed across the stone. Even patches of the ground were covered in smooth, flat pebbles embossed in concrete which offered the barefoot paddlers the added extra of a foot-massage.

Little whirlpools spun around the drain covers, kids splashed in the street, others cycled through the water and the more adventurous stood at the edge to await the shower of spray that shot about fifteen feet in the air completely soaking them. The ever-present ducks were not amused though and I saw two of them standing at the side almost getting knocked over before immediately taking flight into the force of the gale.


Above us a line of international flags rippled loudly in the strong breeze whilst their ropes rattled against the flagpoles. The whole frontage of the town in fact seemed in a state of fervent animation.

There was shrubbery and trees quivering, parasols and awnings fluttering madly, chairs blowing over and everyone smiling, laughing and whooping it up. Even outside the deserted restaurant and cafes, idle chefs, waiters and bar staff looked on seeming to enjoy watching everyone making the most of this impromptu water-fest.

The small boats moored nearby all bobbed up and down like a maritime Mexican wave while their masts swayed from side to side jousting like pike-men in the midst of a medieval battle.

You certainly don't need the local 'Aqua-Paradise' adventure park on days like this. Why pay for an expensive theme-park when nature can provide all the fun and excitement you want for free.

Photo by lullaby @ Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by lullaby @ Flickr Creative Commons

Watching the locals

But in the towns I noticed that I get strange stares from children over here, most certainly because of my long hair which has more than a hint of ginger about it.

Maybe it seems unusual to them to have a pale imitation of William Wallace stalking their streets miles from Scotland. But they sound really cute when they speak too which is something to do with the way the Italian language comes across from the little ones.

And I've noticed that by and large the Italians seem wonderful with children. I've yet to see a mother or father get angry in public with a child and certainly never strike them. In fact they seem to lavish a lot of affection on their kids which is wonderful to see.

Of course, as you'll be aware no doubt, the society over here in general is very child-friendly and families are welcome in bars, cafes and restaurants at all times of the day. Even busy waiters and waitresses will indulge children and have fun with them in passing as they serve up the pasta and trays of wine glasses.

dichoecho @ Flickr

dichoecho @ Flickr

But some people had to work and it was interesting to watch a small riverboat navigate its way aside the pier to offload some passengers.

The public toilets were nearby and they were free, so that could've been a real blessing for the grateful embarkees. But full marks to the man at the helm as he made it look easy.

It was soon followed by a bigger, heavier white-coloured boat which effortlessly slid alongside.

I was looking straight on to the stern and to my eyes this head-on profile made the boat look like one of those evil storm-troopers from the 'Star Wars' films. Very strange, very strange indeed.

The Andromeda Ferry

The Andromeda Ferry

Another grafter was the poor cleansing man who came round with his small refuse-lorry to change the plastic bin-bags from the garbage cans at the lakeside. Not only did he have to contend with a stiff wind blowing his fresh bag all over him but the old bag was being swept away at his feet as the water washed over the cobbles.

Incidentally he was quite lively on his feet as when a wave came in he would immediately leap up onto a bench to avoid getting his training shoes wet. I wondered if the Lazise Cleansing Department offer Olympic level water-sports training to their employees or whether he was just a natural.

On the way I saw a lorry giving birth to a speed-boat. It was being watched by an interested crowd of onlookers present at this joyous occasion. The marina staff had the boat attached to straps hanging from a crane and two patient workmen were slowly trying to prise it out from the trailer.

Slowly but surely the boat reluctantly inched its way out of the womb before the truck gave one last huge push forward to spring the new-born out of the rear and into the world.

Cigars should have been passed around but nobody dared go to the back of the hull and smack it on the stern. It seems that the Italians are kind to all their bambini of whatever description.



Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on November 10, 2009:

Thanks 'poetlorraine'. I worked nearby Lazise this summer so I was lucky enough to visit more than once.

poetlorraine on November 10, 2009:

love the hub..... visited this place myself, and i thoroughly enjoyed it

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