For the second long weekend in May, our personal travel planner – Suzie – organised an extended long weekend in Lake Garda. We took the early flight from Gatwick to Milan on Friday morning (which meant waking up at 3:45 AM, w00t!), then drove for 2.5 hours or so, up to Riva Del Garda where we checked in to the Parc Hotel Flora for four nights.
Driving in Italy is not always the greatest fun. Italian drivers are rude, arrogant, love to speed, and they tailgate like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We tried to take a photo of how close they drive – this is the best one that we got. Bare in mind that at this point we were driving at around 130km/h (which is the speed limit on Italian highways):
On the plus side, it’s always a bit of a laugh to drive a left-hand-drive manual – changing gears with your right hand is downright weird when you’re not used to it!
As usual, the food in Italy was overall quite lovely, but our stand-out favourite place to eat – especially for Nick – was a restaurant called Al Volt. The concierge at our hotel had recommended it to us on our first evening, and it was so good that we ended up eating there again on our final evening. The food was deliciously prepared, the staff were friendly, but most impressive of all were the red wine glasses – each one was almost the size of a human head.
On Saturday morning, we rode the Mount Baldo cableway up to an altitude of 1,800m, and had a walk around the peaks. Unfortunately it was too overcast to get a view of the lake, but we did get a decent view of the start of the alps.
We also grabbed a cache while we were there, dropping off a travel bug that I’ve been holding on to for a few weeks. Suzie was the one who spotted it and dug it out from under the rocks – her first cache!
Nick, Suzie and I signed up for some downhill mountain biking on Sunday morning, but when we got to the rental store, we discovered that the other three people that were supposed to be joining us had piked due to the inclement weather. Usually they wouldn’t go up less than four starters but upon seeing how keen we were, they decided to make an exception. Originally we had signed up for a tour called The Skull but since it was our first time, and it was raining pretty heavily, our guide decided to take us on a slightly easier route.
It was so, so awesome! I was amazed at how much easier it is going over huge, rocky, staircase-like drops when the bike does absorbs most of the shock for you. I was well impressed by how solid they, and yet our guide told us that we were only riding the “cheap ones”, retailing for only $3,000! “Only”!
Lately, our luck with travel seems to be working against us, as wherever we go it rains! And for the first three days of our stay, this was exactly what we got – drizzly rain in the mornings, followed by overcast afternoons, then cool evenings. But our luck finally changed on Monday – the sun came out, the skies were a beautiful clear blue, and it was as warm as a freshly baked brownie!
We made the most of the sunshine by driving down to another town called Limone, where we rented a speed boat for four hours and did ourselves some touring. I can’t emphasis enough how much of a difference the sunshine made – it was like being in a totally different place! Of course, being sunsmart Australians, we did our very best to stay out of the direct sunlight.
We all had a go at driving the boat, and it was awesome fun. At full lock (and full speed of course), the boat turned so tightly that we almost thought it would tip! But try as we might (and of course, some of us tried harder than others… no names mentioned…), the boat stayed upright, which on reflection was probably a good thing.
Nick and I jumped overboard for a swim at one point, and it was freezing cold – we didn’t stay in for more than a minute! Not one to miss out, Suzie braved the water as well, but Kristy decided to give it a miss – she was the wisest of us all, I think!
Usually our vacations are non-stop from start to finish, as we try to cram in as much as we can into every day – so it was great to escape to Lake Garda and have Nick and Suzie show us how to holiday a somewhat more relaxed pace.
View the Lake Garda photo album on Picasa or Facebook.