Words: Valentin Illichmann
Pics: Ronny Kiaulehn
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and well known for windsurfing, hiking, mountain biking and sailing. But SUP is also something you should try there, the landscape around the lake is so pretty that a little paddle touring can be a lot of fun. And from your SUP you see things from a different angle. The wind, when it blows, is quite handy for downwinders. Also a SUP sightseeing tour should be on your to do list.
Riva del Garda is a bustling Italian town which doubles as a tourist resort, located at the northern end of the lake. Torbole and Riva are well known for windsurfing as the thermal wind is usually blowing regularly during the summer months. Stand Up Paddling is getting more and more popular though and can be even more attractive when adding coffee or ice cream breaks or even a nice Italian lunch combined with some sightseeing – SUP Dolce Vita style!.
Visiting Riva del Garda
The north side of the lake has mountains rising on either side, and Riva sits comfortably on the shore, with a backdrop of water, valley and hills. After Desenzano, Riva is the second-largest town on Lake Garda, and it has a very different atmosphere from the other lake resorts: simultaneously alive yet staid.
Our plan was to paddle from Torbole to Riva and maybe even a bit further up the coast to the Hotel Pier where we usually go windsurfing in the afternoons when the wind is blowing. To go back on the breeze later we decided to start early in the morning. We did not have a car but luckily we could borrow an Italian Arpe from a friend. This was quite handy, as we threw our inflatable SUP backpacks and paddles in the back and drove to the Circolo Vela Club right at Torbole´s beachfront. From there we pumped up our inflatables and paddled along the beach towards Riva, passing the Surf Segnana Surf Center, where we also met other Stand Up Paddlers on the water. From here we could reach the city of Riva pretty fast.
It was beautiful so early in the morning as the water was super smooth and the air still fresh. Also the beachfront was very quiet at this time of the day, so we paddled really close. When we arrived in the harbour we took a small break and climed up the beach to have a quick glimpse oft the historic centre, which is set back from the lake and protected by the town’s fortress. The heart of Riva is an atmospheric network of tall buildings and narrow lanes. Also very pretty is the town museum (Museo Civico) housed in its moated lakeshore (we could even paddle around it!). Alongside this sturdy fortress is a pleasant leafy park. A little tourist ‘train’ starts here and does a very brief circuit of the town for those seeking more entertainment.
But we did not stay out of the water for too long as we wanted to be back before the Ora (south wind) starts. Like this we can go downwind. So we carried on paddling further towards Limone. The route was full of surprises – flowers and nice beach houses which you don´t even get to see from the road. But the highlight of our tour we found next to the old Ponale hotel close to the tunnel. There was a little hidden cave we checked out and what we found inside was a stunning waterfall with crystal clear mountain spring water falling.
Paddling further along the coast we quickly reached the famous Schweinebucht, where lots of windsurfers hang out later in the day. At this tiem fo day it was nice and quiet and we could jump from our boards to climb up the hill and enjoy the stunning view from there. Right after this bay we already reached the Windsurf Hotel Pier, where we had a quick Cappuccino at the bar. We did not want to stay for too long because as soon as the wind starts the windsurfers head out and it´s hectic.
Riva for lunch
By this time the Ora had already started slowly – perfect for the paddle back to Riva. With a little breeze our backs we made good time. This was great for us because we wanted to have lunch at Spiaggia de Olivo, a very cool bar in Riva. The perfect place to eat or just sit and chill with an ice-cream or drink, watching the stunning scenery around you. There are plenty of eating and drinking establishments aimed at tourists in Riva, but this place is just perfect as we can have our boards and paddles right next to where we’re eating. Further back you’ll find many more small restaurants and coffee bars. One place you definitely should not miss is the famous Villa, one of best ice cream places in Garda.
Back to Torbole
Finally we slowly paddled back to Torbole, where the windsurfers were having fun with the afternoon wind. Now it was definitely a bit more hectic and we were quite happy to have started our tour so early. Arriving back at Circolo Surf we went to the Beach Bar there for a nice sundowner – a perfect day of SUP Italian style!
Accommodation: There is a good choice of places to stay in Riva or Torbole, from extremely smart, large hotels to boutique B&Bs. Not all of the local accommodation is close to the lake, so read descriptions and reviews carefully before booking.