The magic of Lake Garda is enough to inspire the least likely of scribes to put pen to paper (or start tapping the keys of a keyboard), and that includes me includes me; it actually inspired me to build this website without any previous knowledge. Some writers just seem to know how to transform the beauty they are seeing with their eyes into the perfect words. The inspiration for this post was an article that I came across in the Telegraph news paper (there’s a link to the article at the bottom of the post). The article’s author, Lee Langley discovered that over the centuries, Lake Garda’s stunning beauty and captivating aura has been an inspiration to some of history’s most legendary poets.
Gaius Valerius Catullus the Roman poet wrote much of his romantic verse at the family villa in Sirmione, which may or not have been the ‘Grotte di Cattulo’ the impressive ruins that stand on the tip of the peninsula.
‘What full, extended glee, Sirmione, seeing you again more beautiful than all the islands and peninsulas that Neptune raises on the different waters of transparent lakes or the immense sea’ – Catullus
Whilst in the region mourning the death of his brother, Lord Tennyson described Catullus ‘the tenderest of Roman poets’, in his Lake Garda inspired poem Frater Ave Atque Vale (Hail Brother and Farewell).
Row us out from Desenzano, to your Sirmione row!
So they row’d, and there we landed-“O venusta Sirmio”
There to me through all the groves of olive in the summer glow,
There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow,
Came that ‘Ave atque Vale’ of the Poet’s hopeless woe,
Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen-hundred years ago,
‘Frater Ave atque Vale’ – as we wandered to and fro
Gazing at the Lydian laughter of the Garda Lake below
Sweet Catullus’s all-but-island, olive-silvery Sirmio!– Tennyson
D H Lawrence who stayed for many months in Gargnano, with his wife Frieda, wrote some of the finest descriptions of the lake by ever written, in his collection Twighlight In Italy
The waters of this lake are the loveliest colour imaginable: purple in the shade and emerald green when they break on the white rocks
The lake lies dim and milky…..the mountains are dark blue… the sky glistens… the light burns gold.
And, as he gazed across the water from his beloved Limone, where the air was filled with:
exquisite scent of lemon flowers
a lake as beautiful as the beginning of creation
In 1786, the famous German writer Wolfgang Goethe stayed in Torbole and Malcesine. He too was particularly captivated by the lemons, writing in his journal:
What I enjoy most of all is the fruit
His love affair with the lake may have ended when he was arrested as a spy in Malcesine, by police who were suspicious of him sketching the castle.
There are a many roads and hotels around the lake named after the 13th century poet Dante Alighieri. Most famous for his work The Divine Comedy, he wrote of Lake Garda:
‘Up there in beautiful Italy there lies a lake at the foot of the mountains on the borders of Germany above Tirol, it is called Benaco’.
Annunzio, Virgil and Byron
Gabriele d’Annunzio, Italy’s flamboyant and controversial war hero-poet, was the creator of one of Lake Garda’s most popular attractions, ‘Vittoriale’. The fusion of his poetical imagination, daring, brilliance and eccentricity shines through in the Gardone estate that was once his home.
Virgil, the great Latin poet, was born just 60km south of Lake Garda in the legendary village of Andes just outside of Mantova, a city which stands on the bank of the River Mincio. He made regular trips north along the river to it’s source at Peschiera del Garda, and on to Sirmione where once was the home of his hero Catullus.
Lord Byron, the 18th Century English Poet, discovered the majesty of Lake Garda after spending some of his short life in Desenzano, where there are now hotel rooms named after him.
Italy’s largest lake is overshadowed by Como, but it deserves to be better known!
It wasn’t one of these famous poets that inspired this post but an article I came across by Lee Langley writing for the Telegraph. If only I had his writing skills I would have you all flocking to Lake Garda. Please do click through and read how Lee, inspired by the great poets, waxes lyrical on the wonders of Lake Garda.
Italy’s largest lake is overshadowed by Como, but it deserves to be better known, says Lee Langley – and spring is the best time to explore it.