Lake Garda defies logic. Perched in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites below the snowy peaks of the Mont Baldo ski area, it should be like any other large alpine lake: cold. But the immediate waterbed sustains its own warm, Mediterranean-like microclimate, giving fruit to surrounding olive and lemon groves, vineyards, and wineries and clear water that looks almost as if you’re in Positano or Portofino.
“I lived in Northern Italy for many years and first learned about Lake Garda from the Italians who would flock there on holidays,” says New York–based photographer Katina Houvouras, who captured this shot while walking round Torbole, a town at the northeastern corner of the lake known for its windsurfing schools and competitions, kite surfing, paragliding, fishing, and sailing.
Located between Venice and Milan (it’s approximately 2.5 hours from each), the lake is also renowned for diving. It contains about ten spots, mostly along the lake’s north and east shores, known for eerie underwater relics.
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On land, you’ll find excellent mountain biking, especially if you head up to Mont Baldo. Climb? Base out of Arco on the limestone cliffs just north of the lake. There are more than 1,000 routes—mostly one or two pitch for sport climbing, but also a few airy 2,000-foot ascents.
Unwind with some of the area’s famed Bardolino, an Italian red wine, and some fresh-caught fish. If you can, try the lake’s trout, one of the locals’ most sought-after dishes.
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