Queensland Sunshine Coast couple, Bryan and Nevis King are living the Italian dream. Lex Noller of Noller & Turner Travel Associates visited the largest of the Italian lakes to share in their experience.
Bryan and Nevis now spend six months of each year, from May to October, living on Italy’s stunning Lake Garda running their boutique travel business, Lake Garda Tours. The idea for their new business grew after friends and regular clients of their Buderim cafe were enticed by Nevis’s regular trips back to visit the home of her mother and father on the shores of Lake Garda.
Nevis was so in love with the Brenzone region of her parents’ birth, that she proudly displayed posters of Lake Garda on the walls of the cafe she ran with her husband Bryan. The encouragement of these cafe regulars sparked an idea – why not run small group tours to this beautiful, but often bypassed, region of Italy?
Nevis certainly had a passion to share her beloved Lake Garda – and after 11 years as a European coach driver, Bryan was more than eager to get back behind the wheel as driver and tour guide. Now in their second full year of operation, Bryan and Nevis are living their dream, roughly an hour’s drive from Verona, or 30 minutes more to Venice. The main benefit of their tours is that they are small group tours with no more than six people.
The other great advantage is that guests stay in the same boutique-style hotel for the full tour; located a few minute’s walk from the historic quarter and lake’s edge.
Each day we were met at our hotel and then headed off to explore the lake and its environment. These tours are very much ‘relaxed touring with a local’, as their slogan says. The experiences people enjoy on tour are those that are rarely available on a group tour. We were travelling with a small group and a couple who know and love the lake.
During my recent tour, we walked through the villages where Nevis’s mother and father were born. A stone in the archway of her father’s home has the inscription “1494” – that’s only two years after Columbus is said to have left Italy to discover America! We walked further to the next village to see the home where her mother was born.
After then picking cherries in the yard of a neighbour and having a cup of tea on her terrace overlooking the lake, we drove to the largely abandoned village of Campo, a 12th century hamlet with only one remaining family still in residence. We explored the village and followed with a wonderful picnic lunch of local meats and cheeses with red wine.
This is the kind of experience that you rarely get on group tours. The whole tour was so different to the normal travel experience. One night we even dined in a castle.
Aimed at over 50s, Lake Garda Tours offers five- and eight-day tour options. Nevis speaks Italian and her large network of family and friends has proved invaluable when selecting lesser known places to visit around the lake. Nevis has now added a walking tour which is based on their existing eight-day tour, but with five distinctly different day walks and three days of sightseeing.
Their tours are proving to be very popular. One recent well-travelled guest said the tour was one of only two tours he had done around the world that had exceeded his expectations.
5 Things You Didn't Know About Lake Garda
1. The opening car chase in the Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, was filmed through the gallerias and twisting curves of the cliffside road on Lake Garda’s north shore.
2. The infamous Punta Veleno, one of the world’s steepest cycling courses, rises 1080m over 8km from Castello to Prada and is open to both MTB and road cycles in September annually.
3. Bubbling from a spring in Cassone, the Aril River flows just 175m under three bridges and over a small waterfall before spilling into Lake Garda, making it the shortest river in the world.
4. In the charming lakeside town of Malcesine, the world’s best cliff divers leap 27m off the wall of Scaliger Castle into the water as part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
5. The southern end of Lake Garda is home to Valpolicella and Bardolino; areas best known for their red varietals — the light
Chiaretto, the rich Amarone and the sweet Recioto.