Staff Review

Lake Garda & Verona


by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

I previously visited the Italian lakes of Como, Maggiore, Lugano and Orta and was enraptured by their beauty (I also enjoyed going back to Milan after many years), so my recent trip to Verona and Lake Garda would complete the picture.

The largest of the lakes in Italy with different resorts to suit everyone, Lake Garda is located to the east of the other major lakes, close to the city of Verona. This trip not only included some spectacular scenery, but some of the most memorable meals to boot… we not only had a chance to lunch in Verona, at the delightful Palazzo Victoria, but I had a special guided tour of the Villa del Quar, just outside of Verona and sampled some of the gastronomic cuisine prepared by their Michelin starred restaurant “Arquade”. I would strongly recommend staying here during the summer opera festival to get away from the heat and crowds of the centre of town – or stay longer and use this as a base to visit the Palladian Villas of the Veneto, the Medieval towns of Mantua, Padua and Vicenza, or the vineyards of the Valpolicella and their famous wines.

In the evening light I set off from Verona towards the eastern shore of Lake Garda, a mere twenty minute drive. My overnight stop was at the sumptuous Villa Cordevigo, a 16th century Venetian villa with 23 beautiful rooms and home to Giuseppe D’Aquino’s Michelin starred restaurant “L’Oseleta” where Kirker clients receive a complimentary 30 minute wine tasting and a three course welcome dinner; an unbeatable end to a busy day.

Blessed by wonderful spring weather the next day, I set off to visit some of the quieter, less well known resorts of Lake Garda: Malcesine, Torri del Benaco and the most romantic setting of Punta San Vigilio, the home to one of my favourite hotels, Locanda San Vigilio – just 14 bedrooms, each individually furnished with antiques and paintings and with one of the most picturesque trattorias on the lake. Regrettably there was not much time for lunch as a busy day lay ahead with the prospect of another gastronomic meal in the evening…

Dinner at the Castel Fragsburg did not disappoint, less than two hours’ drive north from Riva del Garda above the spa town of Merano, Castel Fragsburg, has welcomed guests since 1899. This 20 room, elegant hunting manor is now one of the most charming hotels in the region, boasting a terrace with stunning panoramic views of Merano and the Alto Adige Valley as well as the orchards of South Tyrol. The 1* Michelin restaurant serves delicious food and is famous for local specialities with a Mediterranean twist – the perfect place to relax.

The following morning, after a delicious breakfast of fresh berries, local cheeses and a large selection of homemade breads, I descended the 700 metres to the better known west coast of Lake Garda. The resort town of Gardone Riviera has been popular since the 19th century and many parts have not changed since the times of Italy’s famous poet Gabriele D’Annunzio; it is blessed with a subtropical climate, sheltered by the mountains and there are many parks and botanical gardens to visit when you tire of messing about in the water. If you enjoy gardens the charming hotel Villa del Sogno would be the place to stay here, with its own garden and outdoor swimming pool overlooking the lake below.

My personal favourite hotel in Gardone would be the Grand Hotel Fasano and Villa Principe, located right on the lake with a small pebble beach close by where you can swim in the lake itself, the hotel was originally built as a hunting lodge for the Austrian Imperial family, and is very elegantly furnished – and also boasts one of the best spas in town.

My overnight stay was just a stroll away at the Villa Fiordaliso, a neoclassical marvel with facades of Siena stone, long rows of lemon trees and a lounge decorated with Venetian stained glass, only five bedrooms (no lift) all with names of tropical flowers, a real gem for a romantic break. This hotel is more a restaurant with rooms, it has a 2* Michelin starred restaurant and dinner is served in the garden overlooking the lake, weather permitting - reservations are absolutely essential, and the Kirker Concierge would be delighted to book a table before you travel.

My last day, and just two resorts left to visit. A five minute drive from Gardone Riviera I visited the small harbour town of Salo, as all good guide books tell you, Salo has the longest promenade on Lake Garda and possibly in the whole of Italy. All along the leafy promenade are cafes, restaurants, hotels and occasional shops, interspersed with some very attractive piazzas. We have I am delighted to say, picked the loveliest of the hotels on the water front; the elegant 4* Hotel Bellerive, the rooms are light and airy, most with views of the Marina, the staff are lovely and welcoming – this is a resort where I would happily return for my next summer longer holiday.

Last stop Sirmione, the most famous of all the towns on the lake. The small historic town is located on the tip of a long peninsula protruding from the southern shore of the lake. It has natural thermal springs and was a spa destination even in Roman times. The historical centre of Sirmione is pedestrianised; and although its narrow winding lanes can become busy in peak months, the beauty of staying here is that you have the place to yourself early in the morning and in the evening once the day trippers go home, a bit like Venice. The hotel Villa Cortine is a real oasis, perched above the town at the end of the peninsula it stands in its own extensive park. Kirker can arrange tickets to the Verona Opera Festival including return transfers from Sirmione or one of the other lakeside towns if you prefer to be based in a peaceful setting, but still be able to enjoy one of the most important events in the Veneto calendar.

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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