This post is long overdue as I went to Italy on the first May Bank Holiday. I promised myself to write about it before I go on another adventure. Well, I just got back from a weekend in Cornwall so I’m slightly behind!
My boyfriend Myles and I went to Lake Garda because he bought the trip as a present for my 30th birthday (which was back in November).
We flew from Gatwick Airport to Verona (arriving around 10:30 am), where we picked up a hired car. I really wanted to get Fiat 500 since we were in Italy and that’s exactly what we got. As a bonus, it was a glittering dark blue colour and we got free 4 gigs of Wi-Fi to use over the weekend with our insurance.
It was only a half an hour drive to the lake and the first town we stopped at was Peschiera del Garda. We parked right by the boat hire place which was handy as Myles was planning to hire a boat for the next day. After a quick chat, we reserved one for 10 am and went for lunch. We found a lovely floating restaurant nearby and I had my first giant portion of pasta. Since I was in Italy all my gluten reservation went out of the window. Strangely enough, I don’t react as bad to wheat in Italy, so it wasn’t much of an issue.
After lunch we decided to drive around the lake and check out the nearest towns. The idea was to find the best places to stop at the next day when on the boat. To tell the truth we thought the lake was a lot smaller. It took us a good 3 hours to do a lap and it was worth it! The scenery kept changing every few miles. The further North we went the closer to The Alps we were, driving past some epic landscapes on the way. The North part of the lake is slightly cooler and windier, that’s where we saw hundreds of windsurfers and sailors taking advantage of a gorgeous day.
Myles asked me if I wanted to go windsurfing. It was freezing with the wind, I couldn’t imagine even dipping a toe in the water (i.e. freshly melted snow). Instead, we watched a couple of guys trying to awkwardly sail a small boat, turning it on a side a few times and barely making it from the shore. They were both in the water in the first 3 mins of getting on board. I wasn’t prepared for that. Rather we laid on a warm wooden pier and watched everyone go crazy catching wind and flying around for a bit.
Driving on the other side of the lake was a little less picturesque as some of the roads were in tunnels and not along the water. We found a supermarket and stocked up on food, so we could make sandwiches to take with us the following day and cook dinner.
Around 6 pm we made it to the apartment, where we were greeted by lovely Diana, who showed us the place. Myles found it on Airbnb a few months earlier, such a gem! Once we got in and out on the balcony we were blown away by the view, the mountains were a lot closer than looks on my pictures and the photos don’t do the justice. Throughout the weekend the view kept changing by the hour revealing new shades and patterns. Honestly, I could have sat there for 3 days and would have been perfectly happy watching the scenery! The apartment by itself is extraordinary. I loved the style and attention to detail, we kept checking out bits and pieces admiring the combos and smart ideas. So happy Myles selected this place over another (it was also a surprise, but I accidentally found out about it few weeks prior when we were stuck in Ghent trying to find a place for the night).
As expected we were too tired to go out, so I made dinner. Since we were in Italy and I wanted to make something quick I cooked pasta with oyster mushrooms, spinach, rocket and peppers. There was some yummy olive oil left for us at the apartment which was lovely, as we didn’t buy any that night.
I have an extensive morning routine so I got up very early to meditate and do all other things I normally do. I love waking up early, it is such a special time of the day. I don’t know if its the quietness I like or the fact that no one else is up. There is something in the air and I actually feel lucky that I can be awake to witness it. Especially the sunrise. How often do we see the sunrise nowadays? Holiday or not I love waking up early and on holiday especially so, I don’t want to miss a thing!
The plan for the day was to rent a boat and spend a whole day on the lake. We made sandwiches to take with us for the boat, brought all the warm clothes we had (it was a sunny day but it was chilly in the morning) and got to the rental place by 10 am.
I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never spent so long on a boat. I’m generally not very good with motion and get motion sickness everywhere including car, bus and even when I sit on a surfboard trying to catch a wave, so you can imagine I was slightly worried. Although we were on the lake and not on the sea, so I was hoping I won’t feel it this time.
Renting a boat was one of the main reasons we got to Garda and Myles was very excited. I will be honest the first hour was not fun at all as it was still really cold, windy and kind of scary. Myles was speeding and I wasn’t used to being on a boat flying so fast. I tried every seat looking to find a spot where I could feel that I won’t fall overboard and cocooned myself in a blanket. It was windy and I don’t thrive in it to say the least, but luckily this didn’t last for very long and I managed to enjoy myself once I got warm and comfy. It did get warmer after a while and we found a beautiful castle to look at so the mad speeding stopped (phew!)
Rocca Scaligera is a 13th-century castle located on the peninsula of Sirmione. I’ve never seen a castle from the water and it was fun to have the whole view to ourselves. We hang out in front of it for a bit feeding a duck family for some time until we realised we were on the way of other boats who also wanted to take photos in front of the castle. Ooops!
We were told that the best place on the lake is by the islands and that is where we went next. There was a special way to go around them so we spend some time watching other boats coming in and out before making our way to Salo. I didn’t know it was Salo and I kept seeing boats with that name wondering what it means in Italian because in Russian it means ‘pig fat’…
The idea was to go to Salo for lunch, however we underestimated how difficult it was to park. Since I have never parked a boat I asked Myles what I should do. The best advice he had for me was to look cool. The first rule of sailing. The strategy didn’t work, the rope was too short and we struggled to hook the boat to the pier, luckily we were helped by another family who parked next to us. In the group attempt, we made it. Then we found a waterfront cafe and spent an hour there totally melting into the seats, it was finally very hot and sunny!
On the way back to our boat we saw another one for sale and Myles spotted a pretty black bird with the white face who made a nest up there. It was such a cute sight. I wonder how long the boat has been for sale for.
Once we hopped on board we drove to a peaceful bay next to one of the islands, dropped the anchor and without any wind we managed to catch 4 hours of sunbaking time. Myles even went for a dip. In the ice cold alpine water. BRRRR!
I drove the boat on the way back! Now I know that the safest/comfiest seat is actually the driver’s. I wasn’t scared at all and loved going really fast. The boat had a powerful engine and we were flying! I’ve never driven a boat before, this was definitely a life highlight! I want to always drive a boat on holiday from now on.
We returned the boat at 6 pm and exhausted by the sun, wind, and adrenaline didn’t even go out for dinner. We managed a short drive to Sirmione and I found some vegan dark chocolate gelato. WIN! Who needs dinner when you can have VEGAN ice cream? Well, it works on holidays.
It was a meant to rain the next day. The temperature dropped and the view of the lake was different again. The crispier the air the more clarity there was. So glad we went in May I was thinking that morning.
We didn’t think of anything better to do than to go on the cable car hoping to check out the lake from the top of Monte Baldo. The rain started just as we got in the cable car, which was rotating, promising us to fully appreciate the unique panorama of Mt Baldo and Lake Garda. A half way through the rise the rain turned into snow. We arrived at the top of the mountain to witness a full-blown blizzard! We couldn’t see more than 5m ahead. Of course, there was no view and I pat myself on the back for changing flip flops into trainers 20 mins prior. The temperature dropped from +13 to 0 C.
I’ve grown up in Russia and I don’t usually get too impressed by snow, but Myles seemed to get really excited. Even locals who worked in the cafe at the top were taking pictures, apparently, this never happens in May! Having nothing better to do we built a snowman and made our way down. It was funny to think that only yesterday we were sunbaking and swimming.
The rain completely changed Garda. We couldn’t see the mountains and the other side and it looked like we were on the ocean.
Once we got back to the apartment, the rain stopped, the sun came out and we had the most stunning view yet in front of us again! I kept taking pictures on the same spot but unfortunately, the level of the detail is lost. It’s a lot more spectacular in real life.
It was our last night in Italy and we went back to Sirmione for dinner. We found a lovely restaurant, which served vegan pizza and decaf coffees with soy milk. It was extra yummy it might have been the best pizza I’ve ever had! Although it’s hard to say as I like pizza a lot! Before leaving that place when looking for the toilet I went through a small door to find a corridor which led me to a huge hotel lobby. I came back laughing. I asked Myles: ‘Do you know what is behind that door?’ The waiters were all laughing at me!
The next day was our last day on the lake. We left about 11 am and drove to Verona. As always having zero plan and 2,5 hrs before needing to go back to the airport we left the car in the centre somewhere and went for a wonder. I’m not sure how big Verona is but once parked we walked for about 10 mins and found ourselves underneath the Juliet balcony.
I thought this was a metaphor and didn’t realise someone assigned one specific balcony to a fictional story. It was packed so we quickly moved on. While walking around we found the amphitheatre and I remembered to send my family a postcard. It has become a bit of a tradition and I know my sister enjoys getting these. Not all of the postcards I send arrive, fingers crossed this one will. The last hour was spent indulging in more pizza and melting in the sunshine before driving pack to the airport. It was only 20 mins away so we weren’t in any rush.
It was so good to have the Fiat 500 for the weekend, we both thought it was a perfect size car for the trip for two of us. We did come back 3 hours later than we were supposed to, but the lovely Italian guy didn’t really mind it and he didn’t even charge us anything extra.
I’m impressed Verona is a short 1,5hr flight from Gatwick and Lake Garda only a half an hour from the airport. It is definitely one of the places I’d love to go back to. It’s also really close to Milan and not too far from Venice, both of which I would love to see!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures. The next blog is going to be about an almost spontaneous visit to Cornwall. Subscribe so you don’t miss any of my posts!
Have a beautiful day, Marina xx