The GardaConcierge guides of the nature holiday series end with a segment on the flora and fauna in the Lake Garda area.
The Lemon Riviera
The term ‘lemon riviera’ refers to the part of the lake shore extending from the back country of the gulf of Salò to the town of Limone located in the north. For a long time, the cultivation of lemons has shaped the local economy. The area can also pride itself on being the northernmost Italian region to grow lemons. Lemons and lemon houses characterise the landscape with its terraced gardens that rendered the cultivation of lemons possible in the first place. Over the years, however, the cultivation turned out to be too costly and only traditional growing has survived. One of the most famous places in the area is the lemon house (it. ‘Limonaia’) in Limone. The ‘Limonaia del Castel’ boasts a characteristic multi-level architecture with pillars and stone walls as a support. In the summer time, events are held in the building, including tastings and guided visits in the evening, when the lemon house shines in marvellous colours. Oranges, mandarins and citrons are among the citrus fruits that have made the lemon riviera famous. There are different cultivations on the western shore of Lake Garda, among them grapevines and olive trees. Due to its proximity to the water, the Lake Garda area boasts a mild sub-Mediterranean climate. The climate is alpine on the mountain sides surrounding Lake Garda, thus adding to the variety of the flora and fauna in the area.
The Olive Riviera
The so-called ‘olive riviera’, which owes its name to the presence of more than 200 olive types, is located on the eastern lakeshore. The cultivation of this fruit also looks back on a long tradition. It started in Etruscan times and was then popularized by the Romans. Even if only the eastern shore is referred to as the ‘olive riviera’, the cultivation of olives goes beyond this area, just as the cultivation of lemons goes beyond the western shore. The climate on both shores is similar near the lake and changes only with increasing height. Other plants typical of the olive riviera are cypresses, as well as oleanders and wild roses. While the cultivation of lemons in the area surrounding Brescia is not as intensive as in the South of Italy, the cultivation of olives still plays an important role in the local economy. In all provinces adjacent to Lake Garda, the “Olio Garda DOP” oil is produced, which was awarded the DOP label indicating the controlled designation of origin. The museum dedicated to olive oil and its production should also be pointed out. The museum is located in Bardolino’s borough Cisano.
As far as vegetation is concerned, the area surrounding Monte Baldo is probably the most beautiful; not without good reason the picturesque mountain is known as the “garden of Europe”. The Baldo massif is located northwest of Lake Garda, in the Trento and Verona provinces. With a total height of more than 2000 metres, Monte Baldo is home to a varied vegetation that can be subdivided in four sections: Mediterranean, montane, boreal and alpine. The flora in the lowest, Mediterranean section is similar to that of the lake shore; actually, olives are grown there. The trees include holm oaks, oaks and common hornbeams and the bushes include caper, laurel and rosemary bushes, as well as other species. The montane vegetation of Monte Baldo is located between 700 to 1500 metres above sea level. Here there are beech, lime, silver fir and larch forests. The areas covered with weed and serving as pasture grounds should also be mentioned. White crocuses, gentian and windflowers bloom in the boreal landscape further above. Among the trees are mountain pines, rowan and trees and savins, as well as erica. The highest-lying section of the garden of Europe is the alpine part. It is located at 2000 metres above sea level and thus covers only a small area. The cliffy area boasts only a few species, including the alpine rose and cinquefoils. The fauna of Monte Baldo includes mammals and birds. Among the first are deer, roes, chamois bucks, ermines, marmots, badgers and squirrels. The varied bird life includes golden eagles, owls, eagle owls, common ravens, hoopoes, woodpeckers, wood grouses, chaffinches and larks.
The Water of Lake Garda
Let us move on to the typical fauna of Lake Garda, starting with the more than 25 species of fish that live in Lake Garda. The northern part of Lake Garda houses carps that can be found only in this region. As it enjoys great popularity at table, it is threatened by extinction due to overfishing. The decreasing water quality and competition by alien species of fish add to this. Among the autochthonous fish, traditionally served in Lake Garda, bleaks, eels, pikes, tench and lake trouts also play an important role during festivals in the area. Carps, whitefish and three types of perch (perch, sunfish and large-mouth bass), in contrast, are allochthonous species that usually live in different ecosystems. Lake Garda also houses various water birds, including ducks, swans, herons, coots and sea gulls. The number of the pelicans and flamingoes living on Lake Garda has instead decreased, with them being nearly extinct.