Lake Garda gastronomic experience with Archers - Part 4

Date published: 27 Aug 15

Venice and Verona

Venice

Our first meeting point in VeniceThis was an early start and long journey but definitely worth it. An excellent guide explained the history of Venice, how and why it is expensive, and the best way to get the most out of a one day visit. We have only briefly visited once before so promised ourselves a trip on a gondola. Our guide offered to arrange things for us all if we wanted – a gondola trip at €22 for half an hour, a boat trip around the islands at €16 for an hour. He also offered to book lunch at a little restaurant off the main square at €15 each for two courses plus wine. It sounded good to our little Cosmos group so we all went for the three options.

It was a perfect option as it saved wasting time standing in queues and trying to find somewhere decent to eat. The guide pointed out the basics first

  • If you sit for food or drink, you will pay
  • If you stand for coffee or a drink it is much cheaper
  • If you want to sit down, visit a church which is free.

Bridge of Sighs and GondolasBut, we did buy an ice cream in St Mark’s Square at €2.20 for one scoop so not bad really. It was over 30ᵒ so exceptionally hot on the day we were there, even on the boat trips, but is crowded, lots of steps and narrow streets and few places to sit.

It was fantastic, of course, with stunning architecture, art works and beautiful Italian glass sculptures worth breaking into the credit card for, especially as they will ship them home for you. No, I didn’t this time but I have the details of a very nice chap to contact when the time is right! We decided a 3-4 day break would be a good way to really enjoy Venice.

Verona

Traditional VeronaWe had a great introduction to the history of Verona with excellent tour guide Ambrish. He explained about the architecture, why the Arena (amphitheatre) was built, and the development of street lighting, aqueducts and take-away food in Roman times. He was interesting and very knowledgeable then repeated it all again in German – brilliant.

It is a lively, bustling city and on Friday 26th June there was a motorbike convention with hundreds of them arriving in town square with horns blazing and flags flying – spectacular. We joined the guided tour for an hour from 1.20pm (included in our package). This is worth joining as the guide explained the finer details you might not notice plus took us to see the balcony of Romeo & Juliet (supposedly).

The oldest external fresco still intactSo busy there, in the little courtyard, where you can either have a photograph with Juliet on the balcony or just sign your name on the graffiti wall.

Drinks/food were not actually as expensive in the main square as we thought they might be, but it is cheaper in side streets away from the centre. There are some decent public toilets in Palazzo della Ragione courtyard, clean and well cared for with an attendant for 70 cents. This visit was perfect preparation for our trip to the Arena the next day, and it was exciting to see the scenery just sitting around outside during the day before the performance (see photographs).

Aida in Verona

The Arena (amphitheatre)Our hotel manager was brilliant. I actually read the tourist guide when we arrived – ok, I don’t always read it properly – and guess what? Aida was on in Verona on our free Saturday. It was €308 for two of us, including the coach pick-up around the corner from the hotel, and it was all booked for us over the phone at reception. I could not believe our luck that this all coincided with the trip.

For the week of our stay, it had been hot and sunny. Saturday? Dark clouds gathered as we arrived in Bra Piazza around 6.45pm, as did the official sellers of plastic raincoats at €5 each. Very ominous. As we entered the Arena, the rain started. Our sturdy British stoicism came to the fore as we sat, huddled, while thunder, lightning and torrential rain targeted the audience.

Aida scenery outside ArenaAfter half an hour, it was so bad they crammed us into the lower corridor as water poured down steps and dripped off our less-than-adequate raincoats. There is no cover over the Arena so if the performance cannot start due to bad weather, they have to refund your money but only if delayed by two hours. If they start then stop due to rain, there is no refund. With an audience of up to 10,000 you can see this might be a worry.

After lots of mopping up, the performance finally started at 10.20pm, only one interval instead of three and lightning still flashing in the far distance. It was spectacular, a superb performance with incredible number of performers on stage and an impressive set that takes up a quarter of the Arena. By the time it started, many were already soaked to the skin, my dress dripping wet and very damp knickers (the joke of the week for the rest of the Cosmos group!) for the journey back, arriving at 3.30am.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. And the addition of the storm before just made it an even more memorable evening.

If you want a relaxing holiday in the Italian sun watching others exert themselves, then this tour is probably a bit ‘busy’. If you actually want to fit in as much as possible, and enjoy some different experiences in this beautiful part of Italy, then I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Archers Holidays features the ‘Lake Garda’s Gastronomic Experience’ based at the four star rated Hotel Continental, Lake Garda and includes excursions to Venice, Verona, a cookery class and wine tasting excursions.

The holiday includes  a day excursion of a cookery class with an experienced Italian chef using local ingredients to make home-made pasta and sauces with participation from the class. The class takes place at a villa on the hills near Bardolino (hour’s drive from Lake Garda) with lunch/wine included of what is prepared. A half day excursion is also included to discover the wine tradition of the region Veneto. Along the Gardesana road to reach the Valpolicella, a wine growing area where some of the best northern Italy wines are produced. The visit to the vineyard "Tenuta Ugolini" includes a demonstration by the owner to show visitors the methods and the techniques of making wines. Enjoy the wine with a tasting session and also a snack all whilst surrounded by the magnificent panoramic view of Valpolicella.

Priced from £781 per person for a departure on 30 September 2015 to include return flights, airport transfers, seven nights half board accommodation and all excursions.

Read more

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Archers Holidays
 

Enjoy reading other articles and reviews on this subject.
Read more

What are your thoughts?

Discuss this article on our Forum

Create a new thread

Comment on this article and you could win a £25 M&S voucher

To leave a comment, please Sign in

Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • Sandra-Stitchell
    almost 2 years ago
    Loved reading your blog as we have just booked for next June to stay in Bardolino, and are looking forward to trying the wines and enjoying the scenery. Lake Garda has been on my bucket list for years, we were supposed to go last year but were persueded to try Sorrento instead. No regrets about that trip as it was fantastic as I am sure this one will be too.
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Sounds like a great trip despite the damp knickers. Good blog.
  • SilverTravelUser
    almost 3 years ago
    The extras were really quite reasonable - most of our 'extra' budget went on the trip to Aida so that was just a one-off. Would definitely go again on this trip!
  • scarter
    almost 3 years ago
    Wow! Sounds quite an adventure.

    It's great to have an idea on costs for extras etc as it makes it so much easier to budget.