One minute you are by the lake in shirtsleeves, enjoying the sun and waves. Ten minutes later, you are in the high mountains and two thousand meters up, breathing fresh air and wearing a windbreaker.
There are few places on earth where you can change landscape and climate in such a short space of time. Malcesine, one of the most picturesque villages on the western shore of Lake Garda, is one of them.
The change of perspective is made possible by the Malcesine-Monte Baldo cable car, a main attraction in the province of Verona. It is visited by over three hundred thousand people annually and the number is continually growing.
The ascent from the lake shore to the summit is rapid and spectacular. You board just outside the centre of town and then start to climb in altitude. Halfway up, there is a stop to change car. You then follow the last stretch up to the summit of Monte Baldo.
Baldo is a mountain massif in the province of Verona which winds along the western shore of Lake Garda. It’s particularly renowned for the variety of its flora, so much so that it has been nicknamed the “Garden of Europe”.
The cable car is the most convenient way to get to the summit of Mount Baldo, which is otherwise accessible only on foot. The cabin of the cable car is designed to rotate during the ascent. In this way, the trip itself is spectacular, allowing you to enjoy a full 360-degree view of the continually widening landscape as you go up.
Once at your destination, I suggest you take a deep breath of fresh air, look around and admire the view.
If you suffer from vertigo, it’s best to take the arm of a friend. It’s a bit like being on the edge of the Grand Canyon only that just below is Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, rather than the Colorado River. From here, you can admire Lake Garda in its entirety.
In the winter months when the mountain is snow-covered, the atmosphere at altitude is even more magical. The last time I was there, I started from Malcesine on a cool February morning. The sky was clear and the temperature was 6 to 7 degrees. At the end of the ascent, the temperature had dropped to -5 degrees.
Snow had fallen a few days before and it was compacted. So, I hired a pair of skis and I spent the day going up and down the slopes of the small but spectacular area on this promontory.
In summer, the cable car becomes a way that tourists staying by the lake escape the heat. When the heat is so stifling that even a dip in the lake isn’t very refreshing, there’s nothing better than a walk at high altitude.
If you’re a trekking enthusiast, you can do some beautiful hikes from there. They are not too complicated since you are already at the top. So, there is no longer any big difference in altitude to take into account.
After about an hour of walking south, you reach the Telegraph Refuge. From there and the 2,200 metre peak, you get another spectacular viewpoint, particularly towards the southern part of the lake. Continuing north, you reach the Church Refuge and from there another summit, Mount Altissimo.
When you decide to descend, you have two options. The first is to get back on the cable car and follow the route in reverse. This way, in ten minutes you are back at your starting point.
The second option is my favourite. You walk down from the summit of Monte Baldo to the lake. The path is steep at some points but well-beaten and all downhill. Moreover, you cross through a nature reserve which is an unspoilt ecosystem. It allows you to see a forest very similar to that which covered all the mountain in previous centuries. This accounts for its name, which derives from the German word “Bald” which means ‘wood’.