Lake Garda - a trip report!
We have just spent a lovely week in Lake Garda. We booked an allocation on arrival deal, originally the agents being Lastminute.com, but the holiday being sold on behalf of Inghams.
we felt we had a bargain at £299 each, for 3 star half board in Garda.
The tickets arrived 3 weeks before departure and showed the Hotel Royal and Suite on there, which turned out to be our hotel. We were booked into the Royal.
Inghams use First Choice for their flights, who are not our favourite charter airline (do we have one?) as they tend to be a bit chav like - sorry I find the whole charter airline thing very annoying - they are just trying to sell and make more money rather than supporting you through the flying experience - my opinion, but I find First Choice particulary bad.
We checked in fine at Manchester and the plane boarded early. We all believed that the flight would leave on time. The captain then comes on and says that due to air traffic delays into Verona we would not get a slot to take off for 50 minutes! - we are all boarded and waiting to go. So we have to sit cramped on the aircraft for all this time until we take off. The reason for us all being put on the aircraft is given that if they can get an early slot they will go early so if we are all on and ready this allows them to do this!
Anyway flight leaves and it is only a short one at 1 hour 55 minutes.
we arrive in Verona and after passing through all the necessary luggage reclaim, go to our reps and get allocated to the coach for the journey to Garda, which takes about 45 minutes.
we arrive at the hotel and are allocated our room on the 1st floor. The room is perfectly adequate. 2 single beds pushed together, a sofa seating area, desk and chair, sufficient wardrobe space and drawers and an adequate bathroom - shower, bidet, sink and WC. the room is clean.
as its still only mid afternoon we head into Garda itself to explore. The Hotel Royal being 10 minutes walk from the Lake and the main centre. We wander down to the Lake and walk along past the harbour and look at the boats and enjoy a glass of beer by the lake.
In the evening we went down to dinner and were allocated a table for the whole of our stay sharing with another couple. Dinner sittings are at 6.30 and 8 - we prefer 8 but the majority of hotel guests seem to prefer 6.30 so its quieter at this sitting. you get your own salad and vegetables from the buffet first. the second course is a pasta or soup that you have chosen from a menu the night before, on your first night we were unsure if you could choose, but heard soup mentioned, so we all got ourselves a bowl of soup!
the main course usually again is a choice of 3 dishes, but we were allocated one option on the first night.
you then got your own dessert from the table- usually choices of mousses and cakes, with canned cream to squirt over the top if you wished!
you could order drinks to go with your meal which you paid for at the end. no adding tabs to hotel room, but the prices were reasonable at restaurant prices- 11 to 18 euros for a bottle of wine.
as i said you get the menu left on your table at dinner for the following evening and you select what you would like. If you miss dinner you can choose at breakfast as well.
the next morning we went to breakfast. this is served from 7.30 to 9.30am and is a buffet of breads, jams, cheese, ham, boiled eggs, cereals and cakes. Tea or coffee served to you at the table by the waiter in a pot.
the meals in the hotel were perfectly good and adequate. We were very pleased with the quality. We chose to eat out on 3 nights as this is what we like to do, and only for this reason. If we had been paying full price for our holiday, we would have probably eaten in , but as we got such a bargain we didnt feel the need. we enjoy the ambience of different restaurants and being able to get out and about.
Garda nightlife is very low key, not a lot happening. there was a bar on the lakeside that seemed to have a singer each evening and also there were people playing music in another square area, but that was it. Hotels did not seem to have any entertainment, ours definately didnt, dont know if thats because we were there at the end of the season or if that's how it always is.
there was a large pool area at the hotel with sufficient sun beds, although the area looked a bit tired, and needed some cosmetic gardening work done as there were weeds growing through the concrete. we didnt use the pool area, but it seemed inviting enough should we have sunbathed.
on the sunday, our first full day, the day was cloudy and quite cool, so dressed in jeans and jumpers we walked into Bardolino. This is a pleasant walk along a paved walkway and took about 50 minutes. Bardolino is a lovely pretty town like Garda, with narrow streets with shops, bars and restaurants. Very pretty harbour area too. We wandered round and had lunch and then took the boat back to Garda in the afternoon.
luckily for the rest of the week the sun shone, maybe a bit of breeze at times and a few clouds. There were also a couple of rain storms on a couple of evenings about 8pm but they didnt affect us too much!
We had decided to hire a car for a few days so we could travel around the area, which we did. the best deal was booking online with Avis for 3 days - the Avis car hire place being within the tourist information office on Via Don Carlo Gnocchi (the road where the Royal and Suite hotels are located) we tossed a coin as to which direction we would go in on the first day, Monday, and this was south, so we headed off for Sirmione. A beautiful place, probably our favourite on the lake. with a lovely little town on the peninsula with a castle. we wandered around the area, again picked an excellent restaurant for lunch called Valentinos - beautiful food very well presented. The area was fairly busy due to its popularity. You travel into Sirmione as far as you can and you reach a car park and then walk the rest of the way. The car park was one where you collect a ticket and then pay on your return before getting into your car at a cashpoint, and then put the ticket in the machine to raise the barrier to let you out.
we then drove to Salo on the west coast of Garda. Our guide book had told us that it was a difficult place to park and it was, it took us a while to park the car but we eventually did and had a wander into the town, a nice lakeside walk with a few bars and prominent buildings. Salo is built in an inlet and this was pleasant. we followed the one way system and tried to park by the hospital which was recommended to us, but it was full, so we carried on a bit further and a right hand turn took us to a small parking area, which we found to be only a short walk from the main lakeside promenade.
Tuesday - we drove north to Limone and Riva.Both towns are very picturesque. Parked easily in both, there were car parks where you took a ticket and then paid on return for how long you had stayed. Limone has little back streets that you can wander through with shops and restaurants and a pretty harbour area. Riva was a bit more 'grand' with a square area and the harbour, a clock and shops. Again a lovely place. To the left of the town as you look at the lake there was a nice park area that you could walk through and there were bathing areas on the side of the lake.
Wednesday - we drove to Malcesine and joined the early morning queue for the funicular cable car to the top of Monte Balde, the cost is 17 euros return to go to the very top (you need hard euros they dont accept credit cards). as we were early we queued a while, about an hour. they fill the cars with plenty of people you are quite packed in. when we reached the very top, although we had left a lovely warm day at the lake, it was very cool, so if going wrap up warm or have layers you can add! the views are spectacular though. on the way down we stopped off at the mid way point, you have to take 2 separate cars (changing at the middle point), here it was warmer and in fact the views were probably better as the lake and the towns looked a lot clearer. we noticed that the queues had receded for the cable car by this time, it was about 1pm so perhaps a better and quicker time to go up. on returning to Lake level we wandered into Malcesine and looked around, again a similar sort of town to the others, with little cobbled streets and a nice harbour area where we grabbed lunch. on the way back to Garda we called in at Torre Del Benaco, parking by the castle and wandered a little way into the town to sit and take in some sun with a cold drink.
Thursday - we took the bus 6 euros 60 each return to Verona (bus 62/64).It takes about an hour and you go through some narrow village roads to get there.you can buy your tickets from the ticket office at the bus station and need to validate them in the yellow machines when you get on the bus. you get off the bus in Puerto nuovo and then walk the few hundred yards into Piazza Bra, we went into the Arena to look around which cost 6 euros each and is well worth it to see the amazing architecture. we then wandered around Verona visiting the different Piazzas - Piazza Erbe and Del Signori. Piazza Erbe has a market in the middle and some lovely statues and buildings surrounding it, Piazza Del Signori has some buildings and a statue of Dante. I prferrred Piazza Erbe as it had more hustle and bustle. Via Mazzine is worth a walk down to gaze at the designer shops. you get the bus back to Garda across the road from where you got off it.
we ate out this evening at El Graspo on the junction of Via Don Carlo Gnocchi and Corso Italia (just opposite the exit of the underpass on the lake side)- a fish restaurant with no menu, that served fish in small portions throughout. 35 euros each. small expresso, liquer and cakes to end the meal. seemed to be 35 euros per person including wine and water. on the table you have a bucket which you put the bits you cant eat - bones, etc into after each little course. The staff are good and tell you what they are giving you. The menu changes each evening depending on what fresh fish they have. The owner plays mine host and seems to enjoy a few drinks from the locals who frequent the restaurant. We noticed he passed one table the Grappa bottle also. We were given a free bottle of wine when we left which had the restaurant on its label. if you go they dont accept credit cards so make sure you have the euros!
Friday - we walked around Garda market - a very big market with loads of stall selling everything you can imagine, it was very busy and obviously attracted Italians and tourists alike. we then took the boat to Peschiera del Garda, the reason for going there was because we wanted to have a trip on the lake and this seemed the best way (for us) to do it. Peschiara was an hour from Garda and took in Bardolino, Cisane, Lazise on its way, so we got to see all these places from the Lake. We then took the 4.15 boat back to Garda that went via Sirmione, so a 2 hour trip on the boat, but we were able to see Sirmione from the lake. we arrived back in Garda at 6.15. that evening, our last, we ate out at Miralago restaurant on the lakeside - again an excellent restaurant with superb food.
We enjoy a glass of wine and the house wines in all the places we went to was excellent. you could buy a 1/4, 1/2 or full litre at good prices. cheaper than the bottled wines. Prosecco is also good if you fancy a sparkling aperitif. A lot of people were drinking Aperol spritzers, I tried this but couldnt really see the attraction! The coffees were good, if you like a milky coffee like a latte, you should ask for a latte machiatto - if you ask for a latte you will get just milk. the ice cream is what the Italians are also renowned for, my other half had a couple but I am not so keen so cant really comment or recommend.
We tended to buy bottles of wine and grappa from the local supermarket and then sit and have a drink in the early evening on the balcony before dinner. We got to try the Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella this way - buying the 5 euro bottles to get a better drink at a reasonable price! The Bardolino grappa was also good and we used to have this too when we returned from dinner as a night cap. the local Asturo Nazurro beer is also good, if a bit gassy.
that was our holiday. We had a great time and although we did a lot came back home feeling very relaxed. We really enjoyed Lake Garda and wouldnt hesitate to recommend it. Our highlight was Sirmione which is a beautiful place.
We really enjoyed this holiday. We are both 40 years old, we are not into late night partying and drinking, but enjoy a lovely meal and a few drinks for our evening entertainment. We also enjoy travelling around and seeing nice places. if you think you are too young to go to Garda then think again, its a lovely area with great things to do and see for all ages.