Riva del Garda – Dead in Feb

After our very long car ride we decided to have a car-free day.

It had been an early start, so once Evie had napped we headed out for coffee. We hadn’t had much use for our pram in the last few places we’d stayed (except as a snow gear carting device) but today we found great use for it. Riva del Garda is a very walkable and pram friendly city.


Being a Sunday, we thought it would be best to use Google to find a cafe rather than wandering around searching aimlessly. Craig used his trusty google maps to discover a route to a cafe near the lake front which was apparently open.

Trusty was a vast overstatement in this town. We eventually got to a playground near the lake front where we stopped to re-assess where we were supposed to be going. Every cafe or restaurant we’d passed seemed to be “chiuso” (closed). Thea had fun clambering around on the equipment and Evie dozed in the front pack near the lake front. Lucky it was such a gloriously sunny and warm day.

But Craig NEEDED coffee, so we kept searching.

As we hadn’t found any cafes open at all, (not even the ones that Google listed to be open) we decided the best bet was to head to Blue Garden (the local mall). On our way we came across the iLike cafe (after another hour of searching), where we finally managed to get our cappuccinos.  I’d decided that dairy-free in Italy just wasn’t going to be pleasurable for anyone involved so decided to re-trial dairy in my diet for the week. AND man did my decaf latte taste good!

We hadn’t managed to get to the supermarket the night before and were running dangerously low on food supplies. Blue Garden Mall turned out to be only 5 minutes from the cafe and had a COOP supermarket. It also had a mini car that we paid for so that the girls could have a little ride.

We stocked up on scrummy gnocchi, fresh bread rolls, fragole (strawberries), lamoponi (raspberries) and of course (my favourite) buffalo mozarella. I left Craig to pay for the shopping while I took Evie for a breast feed. He was very confused and didn’t understand why the shop assistant refused to process his vegetables and fruit until a kind customer took pity on him and explained that they all had to be bagged, weighed and stickered before reaching the checkout. We’d never come across that in NZ before. Armed with our shopping and tired from a morning spent on our feet we headed back to the apartment.

Thea and Craig were very pleased to discover that our apartment’s hosts had a backyard to play in. It included a play house, trampoline and ride-on car. They had great fun in the sunshine while Evie napped.

An Italian holiday is not complete without a gelato, so we figured we’d head to town again to find some.

Innocently, we looked up some gelato places on Google Maps. There seemed to be two quite close to the Blue Garden mall (about 20 minutes walk away); we popped on our front packs and headed there. But alas, once again we found that both were shut. No explanation, just shut. Google didn’t even know about it – WHAT???

Now it made sense why the froyo/gelato shop at the mall was so ridiculously busy. Strangely it was terribly laid out, and there was a screaming toddler in a pram (not ours, phew) and about a bazillion people were there. Let’s just say it was NOT a pleasant experience getting to the front of the queue for gelato. Thankfully the gelato itself was pretty good and Evie had her first taste of fragola (strawberry) sorbet, and loved it!

We thought that the next few days (not being a Sunday) would prove more successful in finding open cafes/restaurants/shops. We were disappointed.

Our mornings started out the same, we’d head out with the girls in the front packs or pram to find coffee.

Then after an hour minimum of searching we’d finally find somewhere to have one. It seems that lakeside towns that teem with people in the summer months have an unofficial, undocumented and very frustrating shutdown period in February. A couple of the more informative shops had dates listed on when they’d re-open. Some were as early as the 20th of February (the day we left Riva del Gard) or as late as the 1st of April. Most shops didn’t mention being closed at all.

Not only were the restaurants and cafes closed but also the Pontale Path. I was really looking forward to walking it, as it curved around and above Lake Garda with stunning views.

We still managed to find things to do, mostly involving walking and coffee (when we could find it).

On Tuesday we finally got our lakeside coffee and capitalising on our success we thought it would be nice to take Thea out for a real Italian lunch of pizza and maybe some pasta.

But once again we failed to find any restaurant, osteria or trattoria that was open. So we had to settle for toast and a hamburger at a pasticceria after they ran out of vegetarian paninis and margherita pizzas (which were our first choice). We despondently walked home and had ice cream later that afternoon of course.

We’d booked four nights in Riva del Garda figuring it would be a nice change from the snow and there’d be plenty to do. It ended up feeling like it should have been a 2 night stay, as nice as our apartment was.  Given how glorious the weather was in the mid to late teens and sunny every day it seemed kind of strange that businesses weren’t capitalising on it.

I want to return but definitely not again in Feburary, even simply because our apartment and hosts were so awesome. And it was very beautiful in the sunshine.

It feels like an unfinished story – all the things we wanted to do didn’t get done.

We head to Milan via Verona for our next leg, to try and find the Italian vibe we loved so much on our previous trips here.

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