I had the delightful opportunity to visit Lake Garda and saw a whole lot in 24 hours.
Getting there: Take a bus to Salò or drive the 2 hours from Milan. Once there you can either drive to these destinations or take a boat. You can hire a boat that will take you from one place to the other.
Stay: Hotel Bellerive is a gorgeous 4-star hotel in Salò directly on the Southern Shores of Lake Garda. My room looked over the rooftops of this quiet village. The breakfast was incredibly delicious and the servers were there to fulfill your every need. You can leisurely walk along the lake to see the quaint downtown village shops and museums.
Visit: Gardone Riviera and Vittoriale degli Italiani. Gardone Riviera historic waterfront has beautiful villas that line the waterfront among the hotels. But just up the hill was where famed poet Gabriele d’Annunzio made his home his castle, complete with a navy warship embedded into the hills. This place is truly incredible to see and offers spectacular views of the lake. The legendary war hero and poet wanted to surround himself with beauty and that he did. A cross between a quirkier Hearst Castle and a Mediterranean villa; every little detail, the kennels for his dogs, gardens with little lemon houses, the overwhelming amount of art and artifacts in his home, satisfies the curiosity and creates conversation.
Eat: Il Fagiano at The Grand Hotel Fasano. This is a 5-star experience. I was traveling with travel directors from around the globe and many of them said this was in their top five meals of all time. I took two pictures and shared them on my Instagram from this meal and I can remember exactly the taste, divine. I enjoyed every moment of it. You will not be disappointed.
Visit: Sirmione and step back in time. Scaliger Castle and its drawbridge welcomes visitors to this medieval village. Walk along cobblestone streets to see the buildings built from lake stones and sand. Visit the famed thermal spas as you walk past the former home of Opera Diva Maria Callas. Visit the Roman Ruins or stop into Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore. This was really a beautiful church and I actually stopped taking pictures out of respect for the parishioners who were there.
Eat at: La Speranzina Restaurant & Relais in Sirmione. Offering sweeping views of the lake I tried their steak tartare and they had these delicious #gluten-free crackers made from amaranth, fresh perch from the lake and delicious tiramisu.
Since my first trip to Italy all I have longed for was another Italian cappuccino. I have had multiple conversations with others about our love for the coffee of Italy. My former co-worker from France begrudgingly but completely agreed; The Italians do it better. And my recent trip confirmed that: from the hotel coffee machine to the café on the corner Italy’s coffee is delicious.
During my first trip there wasn’t a cappuccino that I didn’t try. From Rome to Florence to Venice, any chance I broke the rule of cappuccinos only at breakfast and drank until I could drink no more. But this time I had little time and a lot of stops on the itinerary, so I did what my lovely guides and hosts did. Well, most of the time.
My first morning was the breakfast buffet at the NYX Hotel in Milan. (Side note: if you’re an American reading this you would die of shock of how wonderful these buffets are compared to our sad hotel breakfasts). After gathering my plate of fresh, delicious treats I stood in front of the ultimate sacrilege: an automated cappuccino machine. Desperate after being up 36 hours traveling the previous days and unsure if there was coffee service, I filled my cup. Gratefully there were actual waitstaff who brought me a cappuccino. But not before I had finished what was a really terrific cappuccino, actually, better than most chains-that-will-not-be-named. Yes, even the Italian automated machines are better.
Outside the Duomo I expected a less than stellar experience being a high tourist area. Before lunch we popped into this cute place, literally called Caffeè and sidled up to the bar. That is the one thing that the coffee culture offers in Italy: fast bar service. There is no need for a to-go experience when you can simply walk up and get a quick shot of espresso or cappuccino. The speed in which the baristas delivered our varied drinks was outstanding with a glass of water on the side. Oh yes, I was falling deeper into my coffee stupor.
Next destination was Lake Garda and the Hotel Bellerive did not disappoint (again these breakfasts are a whole other post). The waitstaff brought me coffee with steamed cream. It’s why you’re seeing multiple pictures of this. If there were a perfect cup of coffee, it was here. The perfect temperature and the cream. I savored each delicious cup. Later after lunch I would have another first, shot of espresso. This is not something I normally drink. But the little cup, with the little bit of sugar and the cream was just a little slice of heaven. Rich, dark, almost like a dessert in the way of satiating a sweet tooth, but with coffee.
Now that I’m back, I’ve been told that if I truly want to dive into coffee, I must go to Naples and enjoy the coffee culture there. So it’s now on my next spring trip list. But I’m afraid I may never come back. Maybe I won’t…