Espresso Yourself

Arco, an Italian lakeside paradise, has steady breezes, a clifftop castle, and classic climbing crags

May 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
arco italy

Kingdom come: The 12th-century Castello Di Arco

SINCE THE TOWERING LIMESTONE WALLS of north-central Italy's Basso Sarca valley were discovered by climbers in the early 1980s, the ancient Roman village of Arco, 50 miles north of Verona, has been a hot spot for European adventurers. Situated where the Dolomites meet the palm trees and oleander of northern Italy's lakes region, Arco and the 9,000-foot peaks of the Pre-Alpi not only offer some of the continent's best sport climbing, but the steady breezes on nearby Lago di Garda (Italy's largest) draw windsurfers from around the world. Trails like the 19-mile Tremalzo (etched into solid rock by Italian and Austrian soldiers during World War I) provide world-class mountain biking, while the valley's roads frequently host the Giro d'Italia cycling race. With a crenellated castle overlooking its cobblestone streets and ancient piazza, Arco looks downright medieval—until you discover its well-equipped outfitting shops, its outdoor cafés, and the 82-foot Rock Master wall, Europe's tallest artificial climbing structure and home to an international free-climbing competition that draws the likes of Lynn Hill and Japan's Yuji Hirayama each September.
WHERE TO PLAY Start by heading to the Climber's Lounge, two blocks north of the city center at the base of Monte Colodri, where you can visit the Friends of Arco Mountain Guide Service for beta on the best local climbing (011-39-333-1661401, You'll find some 135 bolted routes at Massone, a 90-foot limestone crag two miles northeast of town; advanced rock rats can consider 5.10 to 5.14 multipitch routes up nearly-1,000-foot Monte Colodri. Rent a mountain bike at Bike Shop Giuliani (011-39-0464-518305, and pedal up to 5,463-foot Tremalzo Pass, which overlooks shimmering Lago di Garda. Or tackle the 25-mile Arco Bike Nature route, which winds above the olive orchards of Massone to 4,000-foot Monte Velo. For windsurfing gear and lake access, visit the Conca d'Oro Windsurfing Center, in nearby Torbole (011-39-0464-506251,

APRÉS–ADVENTURE Enjoy strangolapreti, or spinach gnocchi, beneath the frescoes at Alla Lega (011-39-0464-516205, Afterwards, hang out with the windsurfers in Torbole, where Discoteca Conca d'Oro (011-39-0464-505045) cranks Latin dance tunes till 4 a.m.
WHERE TO STAY If pitching a tent in one of Arco's campgrounds—Campground Citta di Arco has a pool—isn't your style, do what Lynn Hill does and rent a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the Arco Guesthouse ($119–$150; 011-39-3355-241312, Each newly renovated suite has a kitchen, wood floors, and DSL access, and on the lower level there's a sauna and a bouldering wall.
HOW TO GET THERE Arco is an hour and a half's drive from Verona and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Milan. Both cities are served by British Airways (800-247-9297, from the U.S. Or take a bus from Verona's Porta Nuova train station to Riva (two and a half hours) and then on to Arco (20 minutes).

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