We finally pinned it down to Lake Garda. I spent hours and hours researching where to go as there are so many gorgeous destinations to choose from. I could waffle on here about my thought process, but really I fell in love with the hotel I eventually chose, Hotel Leonardo da Vinci in the beautiful town of Limone. Limone, in Italian, means lemon and the town is surrounded by lemon and lime groves and is located on the south shore of, in my opinion, the worlds most beautiful lake. Being on the south side meant a much longer airport transfer but boy was it worth it. The journey from Verona airport was approximately two hours but as most of it was along the shore of the lake it was breathtaking, we drove through lovely little towns on the hotel drop offs which we made mental notes of to visit.
Upon arrival at our hotel we immediately knew we had made the right choice. It was set back from the town, approximately 20 minute walk away, but there was a frequent mini bus service. The hotel was beautiful, sparkling clean, friendly staff and massive! It had pools, tennis courts and even its own beach. The food in our hotel was wonderful and the restaurant manager Johnny was fabulous. He remembered guests names, was always on hand to help and he ran an exceptionally tight ship. Reading trip advisor nearly 13 years on, it seems Johnny is still doing a great job, he is frequently mentioned!
|Beautiful Limone set against the Dolomites|
It is hard not to natter on and on and bore you all with probably far too much detail about Lake Garda, I don't really know where to begin and will probably use far too many superlatives but we absolutely and genuinely had the best holiday here. Limone is beautiful, not to big but has plenty of restaurants and little bars to frequent. We were half board in our hotel and as the food was delicious, we didn't venture out for dinner but had plenty of evening strolls in the glorious sunsets. We were also incredibly lucky to be there during a fireworks display, which set against the backdrop of the Dolomties to wonderful classical music was amazing. The ferry service which operates from town to town is cheap and reliable, we sailed across to Gardone Riviera, which is the setting for the first ever Lake Garda hotel and we visited Malcesine which was bigger than Limone and a lot busier. Sirmione was one of my favourite towns, it has a beautiful 12th century castle and is just full of charm. We also had one of the best pizzas we have ever tasted here, along with the obligatory gelato!
We did a LOT of excursions on this trip, the Crystal reps were very good and the trips were great value. We visited Verona, went up the Dolomites, had a tour round the north side of the lake and best of all spent the day in Venice. Verona surprised me, it was one of our favourite places, we had the best panini (as boasted by the cafe owner) in a tiny little cafe off the square where the arena is. Of course we visited Juliet's balcony, an impossibly romantic place where all the lovers who visit scrawl their names on the walls to show their devotion. We just wished we had bought tickets to the opera in the amphitheatre that night but we just did not have the time.
|Inside the Verona Amphitheatre|
|Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo|
Venice, well what can I say except one day is just not long enough. Yes, you have guessed it, it is added to our list of places to return. It was so beautiful and just lived up to every one of my expectations. From stepping on the ferry transfer to St Marks Square, to the gondola trip we went on, I loved every second of it. It is a sight to behold and not one bit smelly as I had been led to believe. We even experienced road rage 'canal style' when another gondolier invaded our path, it was hilarious, another thing I love about the Italians! They are crazy!
If you get a chance to go to Lake Garda, I urge you to grab it with both hands. You will most definitely not regret it. Italy is a wonderful place for families and although we visited before we had the kids, it was evident everywhere we went that children were welcomed with open arms. Lake Garda even has it's own theme park Gardaland but we have not visited it, looks great fun though.