Sunday 20 September 2015

lake garda or watership down

After returning to Lake Como turned out to be rather a wash (more on this later), H and I decamped to the shores of Lake Garda (Gardasee, Lago di Garda and known in antiquity as Benaco where Roman forces defeated the Alamanni confederation—whose name is lent to the French and Spanish exonyms for Germany although Deutschland is Germania in Italian).
We chose a nice site on a south-western peninsula of the lake called Manerba del Garda—pleasantly peopled but not over-crowded since high-season was over but yet not too cold for a dip in the water. This region in general has been a sheltered one—eons before the tourist crunch, due to its climate and is the most northerly clime for citrus orchards, particularly lemon trees but not neglecting wine and olives, and the fact that many structures have foundations that reach into pre-history and neolithic times is probably a reliable indicator of the weather. The silhouette of La Rocca greeted us every morning, framed dramatically by welling clouds and though perhaps not the highest cliff on the lake, it was certainly the closest.
The old town centre rising up on a hill more inland was something to behold as well, but what we found to be the most delightful accent to the peninsula demarcating just one protected cove was the Isola San Biagio.
Separated from the main beach by barely a shin’s depth of water, one could walk to the little island along a path of pebbles to discover (though privately-owned, entrance just seemed to be not brining in outside beverages or dogs and maybe a visit to the snack-bar) free range bunnies (conigli). They were everywhere—tame and underfoot like the growing flock of ducks that visited every morning just in time for breakfast.
The rabbits appeared among the tents later on as well. Perhaps this reserve had origins as stock for a private hunt—which happily does not seem to be customary any longer, but makes me think rather on the origins of Manerba, which is believed to have been founded round a grove sacred to the goddess Minerva—the patroness of the hunt and harvest and other virtues besides. This Etruscan avatar of Athena overlaps what is properly the bailiwick of Artemis but there was a lot of cross-over for champions and I wonder if the keeping of bunnies did not reach back that far and into mythology as well.