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Garda, Lake Of

GARDA, LAKE OF (the Lacus Benacus of the Romans), the most easterly and the most extensive of the great Lombard lakes, being only surpassed in the Alpine region by those of Geneva and Constance. Save the extreme northern extremity (Riva, which was secured from Venice by Tirol in 1517), the whole lake is Italian, being divided between the provinces of Verona and Brescia. Its broad basin orographically represents the southern portion of the valley of the Adige, though that river now flows through a narrow trench which is separated from the lake by the long narrow ridge of the Monte Baldo (7277 ft.). Nowadays the lake is fed by the Sarca, that flows in at its north end from the glaciers of the Adamello, while at the southern extremity of the lake the Mincio flows out, on its way to join the Po. The area of the lake is about 143 sq. m., its length is 32 m., its greatest breadth is about 10 m., the height of its surface above sea-level is 216 ft. and the greatest depth yet measured is 1916 ft. Its upper or northern end is narrow, but between Garda (E.) and Salò (W.) the lake expands gradually into a nearly circular basin, which at the southern extremity is divided into two parts by the long low promontory of Sermione, that projects from the southern shore between Peschiera and Desenzano. Owing to this conformation the lake is much exposed to sudden and violent winds, which Virgil alludes to in his well-known line (Georg. ii. line 160): fluctibus et fremitu assurgens, Benace, marino. The most dangerous of these winds is the Borea or Suer, that sweeps down from the north as through a funnel. In the southern portion of the lake the Vinessa, an E.S.E. wind, is most dreaded. The Ora is a regular wind coming from the east which, on reaching the lake, blows from S. to N. The steep grey limestone crags of Monte Baldo, on the eastern side of the lake, contrast strongly with the rich vegetation on the western and southern shores. The portion of the western shore that extends from Gargnano to Salò is the most sheltered and warmest part of the region, so that not merely does it resemble one continuous garden (producing lemons, figs, mulberries, olives, etc.), but is frequented in winter, and has been given the name of the Riviera Benacense. The lovely promontory of Sermione, at the southern end of the lake, has also an extremely luxuriant vegetation, while it contains many remains of buildings of Roman and later date, having been the Sirmio of Catullus, who resided here and celebrated its beauties in many of his poems. In 1827 a boat with paddles set in motion by horses was put on the lake, but the first steamer dates only from 1844. At the south end of the lake, E. and W. respectively of the promontory of Sermione, are the towns of Peschiera (14 m. by rail from Verona on the east) and of Desenzano (17 m. by rail from Brescia on the west), which are 8 m. distant from each other. On the west shore of the lake are Salò, Toscolano, Gargnano and Limone, while the rugged east shore can boast only of Bardolino and Garda. At the northern tip of the lake, and in Tirol, is Riva, the most considerable town on the lake, and 15 m. by rail from the Mori station on the main Brenner line.

(W. A. B. C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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