Meditating in a magical spot

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What a view…

I love the excitement and adrenaline rush you get from adventure sports.

But, perhaps more, it is the solitude and quiet that attracts me to spend time in the great outdoors.

A walk to a tiny 17th century church and hermit’s dwelling therefore provided a perfect contrast to the high-octane activities I’d be enjoying in Lake Garda.

And the expedition proved as satisfying, albeit in a different way, to the daredevil downhill biking and water sports adventures I’d be indulging in.

Eremo di San Valentino is a magical spot – a place to sit in silence and contemplate life.

The remote building shelters under a dramatic cliff, blending into the craggy surroundings like a hidden oasis of tranquillity.

It has a peaceful, poignant and almost timeless feel, as if it has been immune to the centuries of rampant modernisation around it.

Add that to the glorious views of the glistening blue lake and the church seems tailor-made for self-reflection.

Our route to reach Eremo di San Valentino started in the pretty town of Gargnano on the western shores of Lake Garda.

My brother Adam and I walked along ancient cobbled lanes, passing religious shrines and grand houses with their terraced gardens of lemons and olives.

We reached woodland with a real Mediterranean flavour before ascending through more rugged terrain on a path signposted “dangerous – experts only”.

Rocky outcrops emerging from the vegetation – jagged platforms to perch upon like mountain goats surveying nature’s wonders below – were minor detours we couldn’t resist.

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Eremo di San Valentino

But they were merely a prelude to the main event and, as the scramble upwards on a narrow track became ever more steep and troublesome, we suddenly arrived at the remote religious building.

It felt like emerging into a different world and a forgotten age.

We were experiencing the same magical spot hermits must have enjoyed more than 300 years ago.

I took a moment to sit quietly and contemplate our week-long activity holiday in Lake Garda – and I was struck with a realisation.

In the 17th century mountain bikes, paddle boards and adventure sports didn’t even exist.

But the simpler joys of the great outdoors did – solitude, wilderness, nature.

I must never forget that, I thought as I sat peacefully.

James Forrest is Canvas Holidays Active Ambassador. You can read more about his adventures in Lake Garda here. We offer a choice of campsites around Lake Garda – read more about them and book your own adventure! 

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