I want to provide as much information as I can on Love Lake Garda to try to help you fall in love with the region as much as I have. I’ve spent the last eighteen years exploring Lake Garda but I’ve only just scratched the surface, so when someone offers to share some of their experiences I’m very quick to accept.

Ciarán Elster of  www.railandwrite.com very kindly wrote me this article about Riva del Garda, a town that I haven’t yet has a chance to explore too deeply….but after reading this I’ll be paying it a visit soon.

Riva del Garda: Outdoor adventures for all ages!

If you want sandy beaches, freshwater swimming, sumptuous meals which won’t break the bank, some outdoor adventures and a family-friendly atmosphere all rolled into one, you need look no further than the enchanting town of Riva del Garda. Situated on the northern tip of the lake from which it takes the last part of its name, this town of about 15,000 inhabitants is the perfect base for a holiday which combines active and lazy moments, all generously rewarded with helpings of pizza, pasta and deliciously fresh, flavoursome ice-cream.
Italy being Italy, there is no shortage of restaurants to choose from, with the area surrounding Piazza III Noviembre being particularly rich in pizzerias and ice-cream parlours. There is also a fine selection of bars and eateries by the harbour, its magical ambience making it a fantastic setting in which to casually stroll in the direction of a drink or dessert in the evening. Just be careful not to trip over any dogs; they seem to outnumber the people here, and the smaller the more fashionable!

Riva del Garda: The beach and water sports

Riva being a lakeside town, its most obvious attraction would be its long stretch of sandy shoreline. And it certainly does delight, the walk along the lake front and across the river giving the eyes a real treat before arriving at a beach which never lacks atmosphere but on which there is always plenty of space to stretch out. The water is a touch on the cold side, but once the initial shock to the system is overcome this only adds to the invigorating nature of a freshwater swim.

With the northern side of the lake being quite exposed to the wind, Riva is a popular water sports destination with many companies offering everything from tasters to extensive week-long courses. My own attempt at windsurfing was rather disastrous, but that was due to a lack of ability on my part rather than any faults of the lake or my exasperated instructor. Time and time again I hauled the sodden sail out of the water, vainly struggled to hold both it and myself upright for several seconds before the wind sent it back in my direction, its weight sending both would-be-surfer and sail crashing and splashing back under the lake’s surface. It was a far cry from the sleek white triangles which seem to effortlessly glide across the top of the water, adding their colour to the picturesque horizon for anyone relaxing in an outdoor bar or café by the shore. It was enough to show that for anyone willing to take on the challenges of this surprisingly difficult activity, Riva is an ideal place both for newcomers and experienced surfers.

As a quick glance at its harbour will affirm, Riva is arguably Lake Garda’s number one spot for sailing. With many international races taking place there, trailers can often be seen bringing in immaculate boats emblazoned with the emblems of their respective nations, and there are no shortage of vantage points from which interested spectators can watch the action. For anybody willing to give sailing a go, options abound when it comes to hiring various types of yacht, dinghy or catamaran, with tuition also widely available for those not already versed in nautical travel.

Riva del Garda: Cycling

Cyclists, cyclists everywhere. Wander around the edge of town and you will see them in groups of twos and threes, powering their way up and down the hills on their slick mountain bikes. The clientèle of cafés and bars will often feature groups of athletic-looking people clad in identical Lycra gear, suggesting that the area is popular for cycling clubs to do group training excursions. With the mountainous landscape and stunning scenery it’s easy to see why, while the extensive network of cycle lanes and widespread availability of rental bikes makes Riva ideal for a tamer type of cycling expedition as well as the quest to take on the mountains.

My only bike ride in Riva to date has been of the latter variety, availing of the day-long rental on offer in my campsite to calmly pedal 4km along the lake front to nearby Torbole before coming back the same way. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant experience than rushing through the breeze with the water to one side and mountains to another, with the possible exception of rounding off the trip with a strawberry ice cream by the beach. Renting a mountain bike and giving myself a more strenuous workout in the area north of Lake Garda remains on my bucket list, and if I ever come to fulfil this particular ambition some lucky pizzerias will make a tidy profit from the appetite I’ll work up in the process!

Riva del Garda: Canyoning

Very few people have even heard of canyoning, as evidenced by the puzzled looks I usually receive in response to mentioning it in conversation. As I shockingly discovered in the writing of this paragraph, even Microsoft Word hasn’t heard of it, putting a red line under the word as soon as I hit the space bar. This, and the exhilarating adrenaline rush I gained from partaking in it, truly make me feel that the majority of humanity is missing out here.

If asked to define what canyoning is, I would probably say that it is a combination of hiking, swimming, jumping, sliding and abseiling. The concept is relatively simple: a group of people start at one point in a canyon or youthful river and make their way to a lower position, taking the most direct route possible from the top to the bottom of waterfalls of various shapes and sizes along the way. The more gently inclining waterfalls make for super-fun slides, as gleeful wetsuit-clad adventurers sit on them and allow their bums to be swept down into the awaiting plunge pool. Drops of a more vertical nature involve the simple but terrifying act of leaping from the top and rushing through the air for a few seconds before splashing into the water, while the bigger and more complicatedly-shaped descents necessitate the use of ropes, harnesses and abseiling techniques.

On the whole, the enjoyment of canyoning makes it akin to a theme park for all the ages, with adults perfectly equipped to rediscover their childish sense of fun. You don’t need to be a fitness freak or even a quintessential lover of the outdoors to make the most of the experience, the only requirement is to be willing to enjoy yourself and get a bit wet! There are plenty of options for anyone staying in Riva to try out this incomparable activity, with companies doing minibus collections in the town itself to bring thrill-seekers up into the mountains to the river’s source.

Riva del Garda: Accommodation

So, now that you have more than enough reasons to put Riva del Garda on your list of future destinations, the question is where to stay. For family groups, it would be hard to do better than Camping Brione, a campsite that seems to just about have something for everyone. The beach only being a short walk downhill (although this makes the return journey slightly more arduous!), the nicely-sized pool, the well-designed mini-golf course and the aforementioned bike rental scheme should keep the guests amused. The bungalows on offer will provide holidaymakers with plenty of comfort, with rooms that don’t overheat in the Italian summer and balconies from which the scenery can be admired at one’s leisure. For budget travellers who come with their own tents, there is also a spacious lawn on which to pitch their canvas shelters.

Follow the link for a list of hotels in Riva del Garda.

Riva del Garda: Getting there

Its position in the north of Italy makes Riva an easy place to get to, with several busy transport hubs nearby. Direct buses are available from the train-served towns of Desenzano and Peschiera, and from the airport cities of Verona and Brescia. If you want to make your journey to and from Riva yet another part of the holiday experience, the most novel way to travel might be by boat, with regular ferries connecting it to various other towns on the lake.

So, if you’re looking for some family fun, some quality food, some outdoor escapades, some idle beach time or some more vigorous water exercise, or a combination of all of these, Riva del Garda could be the place for you, especially if you want to have these experiences without too much financial strain. And if you spend your stay getting down to the beach or up to the mountaintop, don’t forget to reward yourself with some pizza and ice-cream afterwards!

Thanks again to Ciaran of www.railandwrite.com for this fantastic insight to Riva del Garda.