Running in Limone sul Garda

I have just returned from a beautiful week on the Lago di Garda, in Italy. Or, as my Scottish aunt referred to it at some point, "Loch Garda".

Limone sul Garda

We stayed in Limone- a quiet and beautiful lakeside village on the north-west shore of the lake. Limone is in Brescia, Lombardy and is famous as a site of lemon groves and citrus fruit production until WW1. Interestingly, its name likely refers to its position on the edge of administrative regions as opposed to to those lemons ('Lime'- on the line or edge). It is bursting with fresh air and greenery, and is one of the steepest villages on the lake, with cliffs arising directly behind the houses spiking dramatically into the sky.

Running in Limone sul Garda...

I found many, many gorgeous options for activity in Limone. This post is long, but hopefully will be useful as despite finding well marked trails when I was there, I found it near impossible to get information about the trails for hiking or running beforehand. If you want to stay active on holiday in Limone sul Garda or run in Limone, you won't be disappointed. Even though none of my running was directed or serious (no paces, times, distances in mind), I adored the smells of lemon and olive groves on the foothills, and the views of dramatic mountainscapes and the glimmering lake below.

Old lemon grove ruins
The Sun Trail 

In Limone it is possible to run along the front on the cobbled pathways with only minimal road exposure- the track is mostly pedestrian. It goes directly through the busiest parts of town so its best to run this early in the day. This route covers only a few miles from the Hotel Panorama at the north end of the village, to the southern end of the town. You're done when you run out of path basically.

The sun trail goes on for much longer into Reamol. Again, this goes along the front from the information office, to Hotel Panorama, then instead of going left out of the car park onto the 122, go to the far right of the car park and follow the sun trail into the groves. This path is easy and not long, and will have to be an out and back. But it provides a few pretty miles that are nice underfoot and avoids the roads and dangerous tunnels. 

In Limone Village
Another option is to run upwards through the quiet streets into the top of the town and the hills.You will find lots of pretty homes, and higher up in the hills some beautiful views and also the home of St Daniel Comboni- now a nunnery and monastery. You can go into this estate, but there are rules about respect and movement.  For this run you would have to use roads but as long as you do not wear headphones, be mindful of whether drivers can see you, and are polite to pedestrians and drivers, this shouldn't be a problem. Conversely, I wouldn't run on the Via VI Novembre main road through he bottom of the town- it is busy with traffic, fast moving and not safe unless you are in a vehicle, particularly where it hits the tunnels (I wouldn't feel good about biking these either). If you are on the paths beside this road (including the sun trail), I would stop or switch direction when I ran out of path.  

Looking down on the town


The San Giovanni Stream

The river path is another excellent place for a run- the path starts at the beach and goes uphill for a mile or so. It is concrete and uneven, so wear padded shoes- I ran back down this in my trail shoes and could feel every step. I would then recommend the run back down finished with a swim in the lake. Just watch out for the water snakes. Not joking (they aren't venemous, don't worry). It appears that there is also a guided walk up this river. 

The river path- similar underfoot all the way up



Trail Running- Routes 122 and 136

Trail running is the big game in Limone. Limone has been the setting for several Skyrunning competitions and has some big deal difficult trail routes, including a vertical kilometer (route 136) course that heads onto Cima di Mughera. This site has a good map of the trail networks on Cima di Mughera, but is in German.. More details on that course next week (including how to find it), as I did attempt the VK. 

This image from http://www.lagodigardaescursioni.it/ is very useful to show these trails
There is also route 122, which leaves from the car park behind the Hotel Panorama (on the far right of the town if you are looking in from the lake) and runs up onto Monte Palaer, then Cima di Mughera (the peaks behind Limone).  Trail 122 has a modest sign. With all of the trail routes/hikes you'll know you're on route if you can see the red and white stripes on rocks and trees. Route 122 is a bit unstable- loose shingle and rock, and hilly, but is definitely less dramatic in the beginnings. It does become much steeper and much more exposed as you gain height, and I think is still rated as a 'difficult' trail. As you can see above, there are many options once up on the mountains.


Count on the trails taking a lot of time per mile- they are exposed and technical, so a lot will be at a jog/scramble pace. Also know how to use iron or plastic cabling safely, and how to use iron rung ladders in places.

Trail markers

The start of the route 122 behind the Panorama
The view from 122, showing its distance from the village

Trail Running- Less exposed trails

If you are looking for less exposed and safer trails, there is a trail traversing along the start of the cliffs from the top of the river path in both directions. This path has fencing at all sections and is perfectly safe in every sense. It is low down in the mountains, but high enough to give a lovely view of Limone and the panorama. Your worst threat is a twisted ankle, and even that is unlikely. It is a couple of miles long, and goes to the far left of town (again, left from the perspective of looking into Limone from the water). Unfortunately I can't find this trail number, but it is very, very well signposted and the trails leaflet from the tourist information shows this trail in numbers (with wildly overestimated times taken to walk section to section). 

The traverse trail- undulating but very managed and safe
Its possible to combine many of these options- we went up the river path and along the traverse trail on the day we took the above photos. You can also join the traverse path in the grounds of the Comboni monastery house if you arrive through the town. The sun trail across the front obviously joins trail 122 at the Hotel Panorama, but these routes require different shoes, so I wouldn't consider combining them. Neither 122 or 136 join the trail described with fences.

If you are a master trail runner, both route 122 and the vertical kilometer extend into the trails on top of Cima di Mughera, as pictured above. There are miles and miles of options there, dropping into the valley behind the peak or right over onto other peaks. 

Overall...

In general, Limone sul Garda is excellent to run in. There are lots of options for a weeks worth of running. You will get some funny looks as the vast majority of people are over 60 and not active. However you can just look up into the mountains or over the lake and ignore them all. 

There are many many drinking fountains (pro-tip, the municipal building has one with iced water available), and also public toilets in many places including at the front near the start of the river path and up above the municipal buildings at the shopping areas there. The public toilets are generally very clean, although the ones on the beach are squat toilets (still clean!). Road shoes should be fine for the traverse trail, river trail, the front paths, and the town roads, but you need trail shoes for 122 and any of the other mountain trails including the 136 vertical kilometer. 

For more information, this resource is excellent. Thanks to the Tripadvisor contributor who pointed it out to me. The tourism office has a booklet of trails including the Skyrunning series, I strongly recommend picking it up. There is also a walk/run possibility up to a chalet above Limone but I did not do it. 

Safety First!

Although there is little crime in Limone, the paths in the village and the sun trail are exceedingly quiet before 7am, and you may see no one at all, so exercise caution. If you are on the mountain trails let someone know where and when you expect to be, and when you will return. If you're alone tell your hotel. It would be easy to suffer a fall and disappear in those mountains. Take your emergency whistle, carry warm and waterproof clothing even if you wont wear it, bring water and food for more time than you think you will need. I carried a full backpack on 136. I'd also suggest gaiters- I didn't have them and many small rocks ended up in my Inov8s, tearing at my skin.

That's a long fall that is.
The weather also closes in fast, as the weather up north is more alpine than lake. Be wary of these sudden changes, as the rocky paths are treacherous when wet. Even the village trails are slippy underfoot in the rain.

Clouds pouring in before the rains
Other places to run...

I can only give information about a few places in the north of the lake that we went to, and that I saw people running or hiking in. If you have information about the south, or other areas in the north, please add it in the comments. 

If I were to go back to Lago di Garda with friends or my partner, I'd stay in Riva or Torbole in the Trentino area. Both are right up north on the lake, with younger crowds and a multitude of fitness opportunities. There is a 5km (approx, I would estimate shorter) path between the two that would make a beautiful run path. It is also the only path I saw anywhere which is actually flat! The views are sensational. In Riva, it is also possible to run upwards to the villages behind it, including to the medieval village Canale di Tenno. 

In Malcesine (across the water from Limone), one can run on the trails leading up Monte Baldo, or take the lazy route and cable car to the top then run down! These trails are a little less steep than the ones behind Limone, as the land rises less fast. There are also run paths/hiking paths in Arco.

Monte Baldo above Malcesine
Other active opportunities...

Lake Garda is surrounded by dramatic peaks of several ranges. These mountains present a multitude of opportunities for hiking (and trail running), however much of it is very steep and very exposed. The north of the lake also lends itself to mountain biking, with precisely the same benefits and drawbacks of steepness and exposure.

We also saw many, many road cyclists (and also triathletes!) There is a great cycle path from Torbole to Arco, and Torbole to Riva too. Be aware that cycling on the roads seems risky (not that I have firsthand experience) and even more so in the tunnels around the lakes- they are often narrow and terrifying even in a coach, never mind on a bike. From Limone I don't think its possible to cycle out on roads that don't pass through these tunnels, so a better bet would be the quick ferry to Riva or another town as a start point.

There are numerous Via Ferrata in this area of Italy. We actually did a Via Feratta, see link for the post! The cliff notes are- get a guide if you've never done it before, know the safety rules, know the gear. Northern Lake Garda is also popular for rock climbing, with a huge number of sheer and interesting cliffs in easy reach of the towns.

Dolphin 81s race preparation

Windsurfers

Lago di Garda has an incredible amount of watersport possibilities. Not least, lake swimming is absolutely sensational- cold but beautiful, clean and clear water. The lake winds that run down from Torbole create opportunities for parasailers, windsurfers, and sailing. We saw a dingy race for Dolphin 81s whilst there- the boats were moored in Limone, but sailed out to catch the winds to race. We also saw paddleboarding on offer in Torbole, Riva, and Limone, and I'm still sad I missed out on this. I may try and get paddleboarding in Loch Lomond soon!

More extreme sports are possible too- paragliders can be seen launchings from the top of Monte Baldo (across the lake from Limone above Malcesine) and base jumpers from the cliffs above arco. The paragliders have to come down fast in swirls so they dont end up in the lake- thats how sharp the drops are!

I hope this helps those thinking of visiting the area, and makes those who weren't thinking of it want to go now!

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Do you have any information to add?

Do you run on holiday?

11 Comments:

  1. This post is amazing! I need to go to Limone Sul Garda...Absolutely gorgeous!

    It also fits in well with my "Where to Run" page on my blog. Would you mind if I linked to this from my page?

    The idea of running in such a beautiful location is motivation in itself...along with the scent of citrus. Lucky you.

    I always like to run on vacation. It's a great way to start the day as well as explore and really get to know the place you are visiting.

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    1. Thanks Jessie, of course you can :)

      Its stunning there, truly. And yes, my number one favourite thing about running abroad is just exploring!

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    2. Cool, thanks! I added it :)

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  2. I've been there!! Amazing :-) I've been to Lake Garda 6 times when I was younger with my family. We stayed in Camp Eden near Salo and it was lovely. Great for swimming! We visit Limone a few times. Everywhere is just beautiful. I wish I had been a runner back then though, missed out on some great trails clearly!

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    1. Yeah swimming in the lake is very special (cold though!). Yes there are gorgeous places to run. I wasn't a runner when I was younger so shudder to think how much I must have missed out on various places!

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  3. WOW! Amazing places!! 4 years ago I went to sea beach. It was really a memorable moment for me. I've a plan to go again in this year. Many thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

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    1. Its gorgeous isn't it :) Glad you had a great swimming experience !

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  4. This looks amazing! Absolutely beautiful, and sounds like great places to hike/run.

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    1. It was just stunning- the lake running into the mountains is basically precisely the place I want to be!

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  5. Great post, I cam across it while looking where to run in the area. I'm in bardolino next week. Any advice for running near monte baldo? its more accessible for me, and looks like it holds some good trail runs, but can't find much information on where to find trail heads, routes, clime, etc

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    1. Hey unknown poster!

      This map has route numbers from Malcesine up the Monte Baldo: http://360gardalife.com/download/trekking.pdf and http://360gardalife.com/ has quite a few route descriptions also on it (http://360gardalife.com/en/sport/trekking/archives) with trail head, distance, time, and km climbed.

      You can get trail maps from tourist information, so should be able to do the same certainly in Malcesine (potentially especially from the cable car station?) if not Bardolino. I struggled too to find info on running from Bardolino TO Monte Baldo, but there's definitely a lot on the mountain itself. Be careful, as some of the paths are popular with mountain bikes (and some may even be aimed at bikers). There are also hiking maps available to buy on amazon for the area :)

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