Trip report: Lakes and Verona/Vicenza

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Jul 7th, 2006, 02:25 AM
  #1
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Trip report: Lakes and Verona/Vicenza

Thanks to everyone for advice during our planning stage. We had a great trip although we changed things quite a bit while we were in Italy, the first time we have ever deviated from a well planned trip.
We were away for 11 nights so I will just report basics, emphasizing the surprising or the superlative.
Depart Dulles for Milan (6/23): I booked Virgin Atlantic to Heathrow, then Alitalia to Milan, nonstop on Alitalia return to Dulles. This saved about $900pp from nonstop both ways on Alitalia. Lesson learned: I will never fly Virgin Atlantic again. The seats were miniscule and it was the most uncomfortable overseas flight we ever had. Very little leg room. Even ambien didn't work.
Arrived Milan, driver from Hotel Florence, Bellagio, picked us up. We had room 24 with 2 balconies, gorgeous view on the lake. Only negative about the hotel: no a/c, and we were in the midst of a heat wave. Second night they brought in a fan but even with the cross ventilation it was very hot. Did the usual - - walking about town, visiting villas, ferries to other towns, walks to Varenna, had dinner at Mistral, the one star Michelin restaurant at Grand Hotel Serbelloni next door. Dinner twice at Hotel Florence, right on the water, just lovely.
At the ferry terminal in Bellagio, there were some pamphlets with walking tours in the suburbs.We found those to be very good and did two of them. Lunch at Silvio during one of them was a real highlight. We were there for the Festival of San Giovanni so we watched the fireworks from our balcony on Sunday night, quite a treat.
At the end of our third night, we realized that we were too exhausted to drive to Lake Garda the next day and were having such a lovely time in Bellagio. So we walked next door to the Serbelloni and asked if they had a room for the next two nights. Yes! So we moved there the next morning, had a/c at night, pool during the day, wonderful room, two very romantic dinners at La Terrazza. Had a nice ferry ride to Piona and visited the monastery there.
On 6/29, we finally had to leave because we had tickets to Aida at the arena in Verona. Had a hotel car drive us to Eurocar in Lecco and we took it from there. Worst part of our trip: driving into Verona and trying to find the hotel in the historic center. We stayed at the Hotel Victoria, which was a great location for walking around Verona but the map they emailed was not easy to follow nor are the street signs. Finally found it without running over any pedestrians and they told us there was no room in their garage so we had to drive the car to a garage on the other side of the river and walk back in the mid day heat, not fun at all. Had a good size room (they called it a suite) with a computer. Great fun at the opera that night. Amazing to be with 20,000 other people. I am a season ticket holder to the Metropolitan Opera, this was something I was really looking forward to. And we really enjoyed the experience, although the musical aspect of the whole thing was not the highlight to be sure. Had dinner at 1:00am after the opera, another highlight for us old folks (well, 57 and 62 year olds, maybe not really old folks). Next day we walked all over including the walk to the top of the hill above the teatro romano where the museo archelogico is. What a view! One of the best dinners of the trip at Arche. Bouquets given to all the women, mine was an orchid.
After lunch we talked about the last part of our trip, which was supposed to be going to Bologna. Decided again to change and see if we could go to Lake Garda. With the help of the computer in the room, I was able to find a few places to call. We ended up staying one night at Villa Michelangelo outside Vicenza and then the next two nights at Park Hotel Querceto in Malcescine.
Next morning we drove to Vicenza. It was just wonderful but it was a ghost town (Saturday lunch time). So we had the place to ourselves...I hope it is not always like that...what a pity if it is. I was so happy to see so much Palladio. Back to the hotel, it is in a parklike setting, reminded me a little of Tuscany. Relaxed in the late afternoon, had a nice dinner there. The next morning we visited Villa Rotunda and the "dwarf villa".
After checking out, we drove to Lake Garda. The drive along the water was difficult because of all the cars parked along the road, this being a hot Sunday afternoon. Finally got to the hotel which is midway up the hill above Malcesine. Very tiny room but a lovely terrace overlooking the lake. Almost everyone else was German, which was the case everywhere we went on Lake Garda. Such a different feeling from Lake Como! Food not so great at the hotel but by then we had so many wonderful dinners, it didn't matter.
Next morning we took the cable car down to Malcesine and the ferry to Riva for lunch and walked around, stopped at Limone on the way back. Late afternoon at the pool back at the hotel. Next day we took the cable car up to the top of Monte Baldo and had a good hike! Left Malcesine early afternoon, stopping at Locanda San Vigilio for a fabulous lunch right on the water. Drove to the Villa Malpensa next to the airport, got there around 6pm, dropped off the rental car and sat by the pool for an hour or so to unwind from the drive. Dinner at the hotel which had a really fantastic wine list, then to the airport in the morning for the uneventful flight home.
We usually like to pack in alot of sightseeing in our trips, do as much as possible. Well, not this time, being on the lakes really slowed us down (as did the heat, I am afraid). The scenery is really breathtaking and we had maximum exposure at the hotels we stayed in.
Happy to answer any questions for any planning a trip there soon.
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Jul 7th, 2006, 02:34 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Nice report. I wondered what the Florence would be like in a heat wave--the lakefront is supposed to get breezy at night, but I guess that's not enough in a heat wave. (We stayed in a non-AC hotel in Lugano during the 2003 heat wave and it was also just too hot.) How did you feel about the staff at the Florence? I thought they were fine (I stayed in room 22), but there have been some mixed comments about them recently on TA.
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Jul 7th, 2006, 03:00 AM
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I thought the staff was fine. Some were more friendly than others but generally no complaints at all. One young woman at the front desk was particularly helpful and honest about various excursions. The staff at the restaurant were very nice. Great bartender.
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