Earlier this year, after ten years together, my partner and I finally tied the knot in a beautiful and intimate ceremony close to our home in the New Forest. After finalising the details for the big day, we started thinking about honeymoon destinations. Like a lot of couples, we’d always imagined jetting off to some far-flung exotic escape – until my husband suggested we also look at locations closer to home. We’d both always wanted to visit Italy, and when we saw the spectacular views of Lake Garda – the dramatic Dolomites banking up on either side; the striking architecture; the sunny Mediterranean climate – we were sold.
If you are visiting, or thinking of visiting, Lake Garda, then hopefully this post will give you some useful information that may help you enjoy your stay even more. And if you’re not visiting, then it might just inspire you to take a closer look!
Flights and Transfers:
We flew direct to Verona from Gatwick with British Airways for £132 for both of us – this excluded a checked bag each. We paid an extra £70 each way for bags (cheeky bastards). The flight back from Verona cost £104. Living in the south of England, we’d wanted to fly from Bournemouth or Southampton, but neither airport flew anywhere near Lake Garda. Verona airport is the nearest to Garda, and you can get to the northern edge of the lake, where Riva Del Garda sits, by car in around an hour. Our hotel, Lido Palace, offered to send a taxi to collect us from the airport for around €230, but it was much cheaper, around €180, to jump in one of the cabs outside the airport. Although we were tired from the travelling, the beautiful Italian scenery more than made up for having to spend an hour on the road.
Being our honeymoon, we obviously wanted to splash out, so we booked seven nights at one Riva Del Garda’s most luxurious establishments, the five-star Lido Palace. The Palace opened its doors in 1899 and over the years has lay host to a plethora of high-profile guests including royalty ‒ oh, and me, of course. The classical Italian design is spliced with more modern, industrial features and decor – think wrought iron and Jackson- Pollock-esc art meets marble and ornate scrollwork. The five-story building boasts 42 luxury rooms, two restaurants, a superb spa (with an indoor and outdoor pool), a gym, and around an acre of beautiful, well-established gardens. We booked a premiere double room – which is the most-standard room – at the cost of around €339 a night, which worked out at about €2,450 for the whole week; not cheap! But well worth it! The room was large and immaculately clean, with spectacular views out onto the lake and surrounding mountains. The decor, although very clean and modern, was a little bland for my liking, and although there was a fully-stocked mini-bar there was no tea and coffee making facilities – a British tourist’s worst nightmare. That tiny gripe aside, I can’t fault our room or the hotel as a whole. The staff were fantastic, and the food in the restaurants was top-notch; we particularly enjoyed breakfast (they had soya milk – yay!). If you’re anything like me – a lover of all thing water and being pampered – then you’ll also love the spa. More on that later…
Seven nights bed and breakfast in a premiere double rooms starts from €339 a night.
Thing to do, places to see
The beautiful town of Riva Del Garda is just a stone’s throw away from Lido Palace. A short walk along the northern edge of the lake and through gardens – and you’re in the town centre. As well as dozens of shops, restaurants and gelato stores, there are plenty of things – new and old, relaxed and energetic – to do! Here’s a list of just a few things we did:
The views over the lake are spectacular, and one of the best places to take them in is up at the Bastione. Perched up high on the edge of the Rocchetta Mountain, the military fortress was built in the 15th century and is one of the icons of the town. The trail up to the fort starts right over at the western edge of the town, at Monte Oro Street, and takes between 15-30 minutes; we did it in about 20. The paved path zigzags gently, so even those with lower fitness levels should be able to make it up – with a few rest stops of course! Once at the top you can take a look around the fort, enjoy the views and savour an ice-cold drink in the little cafe. For those who are feeling brave, you can continue up the mountain to the tiny Santa Barbra chapel. But be warned – the chapel sits around twice the height of the Bastione, and the climb, which takes at least 1 hour, should only be attempted by experienced hikers and people with very good fitness levels; my husband and I are pretty fit and have done some hiking in the past, but we didn’t fancy it!
After deciding not to risk our lives hiking up to Santa Barbra, we headed back down to the town in search of the museum, La Rocca (no, I’m not eighty years old; I just like history). At the cost of around €6 each, the museum is host to a massive collection of photographs depicting the culture and lifestyle of Lake Garda over the past hundred years. There’s also an art gallery displaying works from the 15th Century to modern-day, and an archaeological floor showing artifacts from the Copper age, and pre-Roman and Roman times. Again, the views over the lake and town from the top of the keep are fantastic.
If you’re not a fan of wandering around a museum and prefer the more glamorous side of life, then a private boat trip around the lake will be right up your street. We took a one hour trip for two around the northern part of the lake. There are many companies offering boat trips, but the one we went with, Taxi Boat Experience, chartered a small, luxury motorboat with a lone driver for the cost of around €30. The trip we chose took us to a beautiful waterfall and past the town of Limone before heading back to Riva Del Garda. The pics of the waterfall, Limone and the stunning scenery, below, speak for themselves!
In-between all the sightseeing, it’s nice to grab some down-time – and there’s no better place to get this than at Lido Palace’s CXI Spa. As well as two pools and a luxury sauna and steam area, you can enjoy a full range of relaxing spa treatments. As part of our honeymoon package we booked a couples’ rituals of well-being treatment – a 110 minute treatment in a private room which included our own private steam room, a full-body exfoliation, and a couples’ whirl bath and a full-body massage! Bliss! And well worth the €350 per couple.
On our second-to-last day we decided to venture out of the town in search of some new views. And they don’t get better than from the top of a mountain. Monte Baldo rises up over 7,000 feet above the town of Malcesine and offers some of the best views over the lake and surrounding Alps. Luckily, there’s not need to go all Edmund Hillary as there’s a cable car which takes you all the way to the top of the mountain in around 30 minutes (including waiting time). Prices for trips start at around €10. I think we paid a round €20 each for a return trip. You can find out more about the cable car and activities on the mountain here http://360gardalife.com/en/cable-car-malcesine-monte-baldo
Now for the important stuff – food and drink:
We ate in lots of great places but a few of our favourites were;
For Pizza – Ristorante Pizzeria Maffie.
Huge pizzas, good beer and wine selection, beautiful building, friendly service.
Price range: ££
For Traditional Italian Food – Piccadilly Bar.
Specialises in Brushetta, super-friendly owner and staff, great little location, relaxed atmosphere.
Price range: ££
For Gelato – Gellaterio Al Pozzo.
One word: heaven.
Price Range: £
For Coffee – Notting Hill Cafe.
Quirky decor, great selection of coffee and tea (and they do soya milk), yummy cakes.
Price range: ££
For something special – Il Re della Busa at Lido Palace.
Elegant al Fresco dining, amazing food, fine wines, stunning views.
Price range: £££