On Lake Garda is possible to taste wine, oil, truffles, citrus fruit, below a short introduction to these product:
Truffles, which can be found both in the mountainous areas - as the region on the western side of Lake Garda (Alto Garda Bresciano) and on Mount Baldo - and in the southern Lake Garda morainic hills. All edible truffle’s types are present on Lake Garda, where they are particularly appreciated in their most widespread and best known varieties. The excellent black truffle has a strong, pleasant smell and is very digestible. It is consequently one of the most sought-after kind of truffles, second only to the white truffle.
Extra vergin olive oil, almost all the oil produced from pressing the olives grown on the shores of Lake Garda is extra virgin. This oil is certified by the denomination of controlled origin DOP “Garda” and further defined by the indication of the production’s area - “Bresciano”, “Orientale”, “Trentino”. This is a faultless fruity oil which tastes like olives and other fresh fruits. Its acidity level is lower than 0.70 %.
Lake fish is the pearl of Lake Garda’s cuisine and the catch is quite rich, except for the carp the most renoun and typical among the species. This has found only in Lake Garda its ideal habitat but it is getting harder and harder either to catch or to find on the menu of local inns or old restaurants.
There are about 40 fish species in lake Garda, many of which are native to the lake, while some arrived by chance from nearby waters and others were introduced by man for repopulation purposes. Apart from the almost unfindable carp - still the unchallenged king of Lake Garda’s cuisine - , Lake whitefish and coregone, lake trout, eels, sardines, pike, chub, tench, minnows, carp and perch are all appreciated for their gastronomic qualities.
Fishermen associations and old fishermen’s corporations are particularly active on the eastern riviera in Garda, Lazise, Torri, Bardolino, Brenzone and Malcesine. There are many fishermen on the western riviera too, most of all in the mid and lower lake areas of Desenzano, Moniga, Manerba and Portese. Here you can personally choose and buy the freshest fish when the boats come home from their nightcatch early in the morning.
Saffron: The microclimate of the Garda inland is particularly suitable for the cultivation of the "yellow gold" of the kitchen, saffron, spice from ancient origins and precious virtues.
The Garda area can boast this refined production, we find activities that have experimented cultivation in the hilly area, at the foot of the Baldo, on the eastern shores of the lake, in Prevalle and Gargnano, but in the lower lake we can find the most significant and long-lasting example of saffron cultivation.
Since 2001, in Pozzolengo, the family-run Azienda Agricola Al Muràs, has undertaken unusual cultivation in an area where the mild climate of the lake and the organic soil qualities are perfectly combined.
The Grazioli family produces about three kilos of precious spice annually, which sells purity to individuals and restaurants in the area, or in exquisite jams, honey and bakery.
On the western side of the lake till Gargnano and further northwards the mountains dominate the view and as the rock drops vertically into the water, acrobatic road engineering was needed in order to link the villages to each other and to the rest of the riviera.
The ancient olive groves characterise the landscape with their gnarled, skinny trees covering the sloping rocks down towards the lake. Producers obtain an excellent extra virgin olive oil from the most typical variety of Lake Garda’s olives, which is available in local restaurants and for direct sale.
However the citrus fruit groves are the most unmistakeable feature of the “Alto Garda Bresciano” Regional Park, whose characteristic structures brought wealth and recognition to these areas.
Nowadays the citrus fruit is only cultivated by amateurs for demonstration purposes.
But if you have a friend there you may be able to try a rare citron or an equally rare lemon. In the very mountainous parts, hidden from hurried tourists, you can find fascinating localities and places. If you feel like going along roads which require careful driving, you will find the most enchanting surroundings, villages and views of the lake. Here you can also find the hard and mature local cheeses from the cheese factory “L’Alpe del Garda” on offer as well as those rare, precious products of the earth, which are truffles.
The most noted types of edible truffles, from the precious black truffle to the summer and winter ones grow here naturally and recently on truffle farms too. They are used to enrich the local cuisine, which may also occasionally offer some carp, the most noble and only endemic lake Garda fish.
Most of all in Salò the food industry has managed to obtain a number of interesting traditional produce such as the unmistakable citron water, citron syrup and citron flavoured chocolates.
Leaving Salò past the vegetable gardens and greenhouses of Campoverde, where the long standing tradition in fruit and vegetable growing has made local growers very well-known outside Lake Garda area since the end of the XVIII century, we come to Valtenesi.
The last mountain layers leave room to beautiful hills rich in vegetation and sprinkled with villages and castles, ancient parishes and baroque churches from XVIII C.. This is the panorama that tourists can enjoy when leaving the main road that crosses the territory in the direction of Desenzano and turning into the lanes that lead to the seven villages historically known as “Valtenesi”.
The cultivation of vines and olive trees is an ancient tradition here and the wine and the oil from this part of Lake Garda’s riviera have been well-known and appreciated since a very long time ago. The Valtenesi is most of all a land of red wines, nowadays guaranteed by the mark of controlled origin “Garda Classico” DOC. The main wine is the “Groppello”, together with the rich, tasty and young “Chiaretto” which was perfected here at the beginning of the twentieth century using methods learned in France.
Olive-growing now is expanding very fast contending land with the vine, once the unchallenged queen of the area. Single growers and associations sell excellent extra virgin olive oil directly or from their numerous oil mills of the area.
As concerns local cuisine Lake fish has been intelligently rediscovered, especially lake whitefish, pike, sardines and bleaks prepared according to the simple traditional recipes. Then truffles, most of all the excellent white variety which has its heart of production here and can be found in autumn and winter.
And finally excellent honey for all those people fond of genuine food produced by a growing number of bee-keepers.
The lake becomes a sea, Sirmione reaches out into the water with its promontory rich in fascinating history and poetry, and the waters close up and head away towards the last morainic hills which mark the upper flow of the river Mincio.
In the western side of the emissary of Garda, at the beginning of Mincio Park in Mantua, the cuisine is characterized of rich flavor: meat, salami and first courses too, such as hand-made pasta according to traditional methods, tortelli with pumpkin filling, “Caponsei” (bread dumplings) and around Valeggio, delicious meat tortellini. Legendary tales have grown up around these meat tortellini, which can be told to all those gourmets also interested in Lake Garda eating culture and civilization.
Following the wine and oil routes of the Riviera degli Olivi you go up the other side of Lake Garda along the eastern side. Despite the growing tourist demand of the area vineyards and olive trees dominate the landscape and bear fruit of historical importance.
In fact this is the heart of the “Bardolino” wine area, which gives the local wine producers the right to embellish their bottles with the name “Bardolino classico”. You come into the territory where the Consortium of Protection assure the quality and wholesomeness of the extra virgin olive oil of the eastern side of Lake Garda.
Further inland, between Peschiera, Castelnuovo and Lazise where the hills are very gentle, there are orchards which provide the excellent yellow and white peaches that you find on the fruit market stalls all along the riviera. Another fruit comes from the hills that between Lake Garda and the Adige valley rise up towards Mount Baldo.
As exotic fruit kiwi do not have a long standing local tradition but they are so well suited to the climate of Lake Garda and its surroundings, especially to the Affi area, that they can be counted among the most representative local products.
If you visit Lake Garda in springtime you should not miss a trip up to Rivoli Veronese, which still echoes to the sound of the battles of bold Napoleon, who came to Italy bringing the wind of the French revolution. And up to Cavaion where local produce is “Bardolino” and “Valdadige” wines, extra virgin olive oil and particularly white asparagus, that local gastronomy offers in many ways.
People who want to combine a detoxificating treatment with Lake Garda’s diet can make the effective “grape cure” also in Bardolino and surroundings in September and October.
Lake Garda with its Mediterranean colours and lights now resembles a Nordic fiord. Mountains overshadow this part of the eastern shore, which leaving the villages of Garda, Torri and Costermano behind, now heads for Brenzone and Malcesine and then further on to complete the circuit of the lake at the Sarca plain.
Vines give way to olive trees which dominate the coastal landscape and allow a limited production of extra virgin olive oil. Climbing higher up the slopes of Mount Baldo the vegetation growns more and more alpine.
Local gastronomy is enriched by the traditional products of Mount Baldo region, whose centre and heart is Caprino Veronese: salami, traditional local cheeses such as “Caciotta”, “Monte Baldo” and “Monte Veronese”, and woodland produce like chestnuts (from San Zeno and Ferrara di Monte Baldo), mushrooms and truffles as well as honey and aromatic herbs. The rediscovery of ancient pharmacopoeia has infact reawakened interest in infusions and herbal teas and remedies.
Along the shores fish still plays an important role in the gastronomic tradition of the villages whose existence has always been inextricably linked to the lake. The old rituals and traditions underpin a cultural commitment to the importance of ancient recipes, such as “bigoi co le agole”- the most characteristic dish of the upper Veronese riviera, in which home made spaghetti is served with a pickled minnow sauce, “risotto co la tenca”, a dish that in some parts of the riviera is as popular as “bigoi co le agole” or “sisam”, an ancient way of preparing lake minnows with onions, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and laurel as fixed by one of the oldest lake traditions.
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