Having a prime position on Lake Garda, Salò inevitably has a certain holiday feel about it. With a reputation as the most elegant town on this lake, there are plenty of charming places to be found alongside the tourist magnets.
A Salò institution, this popular pasticceria welcomes any excuse to roll out the kitsch. Fans of its jazzy wrappings know to head there for Easter chocolates.
It’s known for its caffè too, where regulars are greeted by Signora Elvira. Helped by her son Alessandro, she proudly serves her brother Orazio’s pastries and chocolates.
Apart from coffees, teas and cakes, aperitivi are served with a selection of nibbles. The house non-alcoholic aperitivo is very sweet mix of pineapple and grapefruit juice with a secret ingredient and is popular with those who fancy something other than a prosecco or Spritz. In winter, specialities of cioccolato and pralines are served inside; in summer the awning provides shade for a relaxing pause with a lemon or cedro based treat. (The citron is Lake Garda’s fruit speciality).
Keep an eye out too for bottles of cedrino, a digestivo similar to limoncello but made with citron. It used to be made by pharmacists who would wrap the bottle in paper and sign it as a guarantee of authenticity, As a modern variation, Vassalli print their father’s name on their bottle’s paper cover.
Inevitably, many people are tempted to enjoy a lake view when eating in Salò. I prefer to enjoy a coffee or aperitivo in one of the waterfront bars and then move to one of the streets off the lakeside to eat.
Bar Italia has a prime position on the lungolago. Serving good aperitivi and simple, cold, light lunches, their salads are popular. But their best sellers are glasses of wine and cocktails, especially Aperol Spritz and the ‘Hugo’ (prosecco, elderflower syrup, mint and lime).
The bar has a small shop selling some good food and wine from around Italy.
It has to be surprisingly chilly for the outside tables not to be the first choice but the interior is modern with some stylish booths past the bar.
Aperitivo finished, leave through the back door which takes you out to the parallel street and go to eat at…
The front room of this osteria is wonderful: a big, heavy bar, beautiful tiling and simple wooden tables.
A well-researched Italian wine list and a wide and ever-changing selection by the glass makes this the bar of choice for locals and visitors who are in the know.
The osteria has been in its current form for 20 odd years but was allegedly the oldest locanda within the city walls (it no longer offers accommodation).
It has an all Italian, seasonal food menu. So lots of lake fish from May to September and hearty Lombard meats, perhaps spiedo Bresciano or guinea fowl in the winter. No special dishes for tourists, but they are particularly welcoming to solo diners. In the centre of their upstairs room, there’s a large table where diners who want to mix with others can sit. It’s a great way of getting to chat to the locals.
Alberto, who owns it with his wife Sara, runs things with multi-tasking flair – chatting to drinkers, serving and discussing wines, organising waiting staff, efficiently taking payments and trying to accommodate people who haven’t booked. No lake view, but entertaining banter from the Orologio’s spirited regulars.