Gelato in every direction

Sonoma Index-Tribune columnist Bill Lynch.


When you think of Italy, what food comes to mind? Pasta, of course. But, when you walk along the streets of most villages and cities frequented by tourists, the most common food offered is gelato.

Verona had its share of gelaterias, but the next stop on our Italian adventure surely set a record.

Heading north and west of Verona, we followed one of the rivers that flows out of Lake Garda, located about a 45-minute drive north and west of the city.

It is Italy’s largest lake with 90 miles of shoreline. It offers fishing for trout, chubb, carp, salmon, eel, pike, perch, and whitefish. The most amazing thing to me however, was that with all that water, and all the fish, I saw very few people fishing.

The restaurants served pike and trout allegedly caught in Garda, but I never saw anyone fishing for them. I concluded that nobody had time to fish. They were too busy making Italian ice cream, aka gelato.

Never before have Dottie and I see so many gelato shops. Everywhere we looked there were people walking, sitting, talking and eating gelato.

This was particularly true in Sirmione, an old Roman walled town nestled at the very end of a narrow isthmus that extends into Garda’s southern end. There is a drawbridge and a castle that marks the entrance to the town.

We stayed right next to the castle at the Hotel Grifone, a classic old-boutique hotel with charming rooms and the best breakfasts in Italy.

With us on this part of the trip were Sonomans Fred and Pam Gilberd. A day after our arrival, we were joined by Sonomans Chad Overway and Jeanne Montague.

Sirmione is one of those ancient towns where the streets were made for horse-drawn carts, narrow and hemmed in on both sides by 16th-century buildings.

My directions to our hotel included a right turn at an intersection marked by gelaterias on three of the four corners.

Between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200, wealthy Romans built lakeside villas on Lake Garda, some of them enormous. Sirmione’s Grotti de Catullo, built around 87 B.C. by Gaius Valorous Catulius, covered several acres and offered a magnificent view of the lake and the Alps in the distance.

I assumed Catulius was a gelato maker, but actually he was a poet, who must have really liked gelato.

Garda is not as well-known as Lake Como, but it is well worth a visit, even if you don’t care for gelato.

Meanwhile, back in our home waters, the sports fishing season for Dungeness crab opens off the Sonoma coast tomorrow (Saturday). Capt. Rick Powers of Bodega Bay Sportsfishing offers combination crab and rockfish trips that allow you to bring home big limits of crabs and tasty rockfish and lingcod. Call Rick at 875-3344 to book a trip on his party boat.

Inside San Francisco Bay, there is fair to good striped bass fishing right now. Call Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael for the latest reports, (415) 456-0321.

Steve Kyle and his granddaughter, Charlotte, fished the Rogue River last week with guide Jim Andras. Charlotte out-fished her grandpa as usual.