Lake Garda, Italy
Read excerpts from Italian Journey (Italienische Reise), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s chronicle of his travels in Italy from 1786- 1788, published in 1816 & 1817. These Lago di Garda-related passages are drawn from his recorded experience on September 12-13, 1786.
Aside from the references to daily life, it is amazing how much — from the shifting winds, to the lemon groves to the local trout — remains “just as true as it was hundreds of years ago.”
His First Impression — Viewpoint Torbole
How much do I wish that my friends were with me for a moment to enjoy the prospect, which now lies before my eyes.
I might have been in Verona this evening but a magnificent natural phenomenon was in my vicinity – Lake Garda, a splendid spectacle, which I did not want to miss, and now I am nobly rewarded for taking this circuitous route.
… [From Torbole, on the northern edge] The lake may be seen for its whole length, and it is only at the end, towards the left, that it vanishes from our eyes. The shore, which is inclosed on both sides by hill and mountain, shines with a countless number of little hamlets.
On Daily Life
… I went out for a walk in the cool of the evening, and now I really find myself in a new country, surrounded by objects entirely strange. The people lead a careless, sauntering life. In the first place, the doors are without locks, but the host assured me that I might be quite at ease, even though all I had about me consisted of diamonds. In the second place, the windows are covered with oiled paper instead of glass. In the third place, an extremely necessary convenience is wanting, so that one comes pretty close to a state of nature … The greatest carelessness is visible every-where, but still there is life and bustle enough …
On the Winds
After midnight the wind blows from north to south, and he who wishes to go down the lake must travel at this time, for a few hours before sunset the current of air changes, and moves northward. At this time, the afternoon, it blows strongly against me, and pleasantly qualifies the burning heat of the sun. Volkmann teaches me that this lake was formerly called “Benacus,” and quotes from Virgil a line in which it was mentioned:
“Fluctibus et fremiter resonans, Benace, marino.”
This is the first Latin verse, the subject of which ever stood visibly before me, and now, in the present moment, when the wind is blowing stronger and stronger, and the lake casts loftier billows against the little harbour, it is just as true as it was hundreds of years ago. Much, indeed, has changed, but the wind still roars about the lake, the aspect of which gains even greater glory from a line of Virgil’s.
On Limone’s Lemon Gardens
… We passed Limona [Limone], the mountain-gardens of which, laid out terrace-fashion, and planted with citron-trees, have a neat and rich appearance. The whole garden consists of rows of square white pillars placed at some distance from each other, and rising up the mountain in steps. On these pillars strong beams are laid, that the trees planted between them may be sheltered in the winter. The view of these pleasant objects was favored by a slow passage …
On the Food
The host, with Italian emphasis, assured me, that he felt great pleasure in being able to serve me with the finest trout. They are taken near Torbole, where the stream flows down from the mountains, and the fish seeks a passage upwards. The Emperor farms this fishery for 10,000 gulden. The fish, which are large, often weighing fifty pounds, and spotted over the whole body to the head, are not trout, properly so called. The flavour, which is between that of trout and salmon, is delicate and excellent. [These are Lake Garda’s famous, now-critically-endangered indigenous Salmo carpio.]
But my real delight is in the fruit — in the figs, and in the· pears, which must, indeed, be excellent, where citrons are already growing.
Lago di Garda from the Air
Incredible aerial images of Italy’s largest lake, located on the edge of the Dolomites. Runtime: 1 min.
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