Travel // Lake Garda and Venice, Italy

3 more days until its back to reality for me! The past 5 days I’ve spent in glorious sunshine appreciating the last proper sun I’ll get for the rest of this year. Italy is by far one of my favourite places in the world and I always look forward to going back. The last time I was in Italy was 2016 with the hubby and we spent a week between Venice and Florence. This time I went with my mum, nanny and great aunty so it was a very different trip! My nanny always wanted to go to Venice with me and as she’s now 77 we thought now was as good a time as any.
It was a very early start on Sunday morning as our flight was at 7:30am so it meant a 4am alarm. Once we’d got through security we made our way to the BA lounge courtesy of my mum. This meant we could chill, grab a drink and some brekkie before the flight. Definitely made the early start not so bad! 
Once off the flight we then grabbed a coach into Venice for 8 euros each and then grabbed a train to Desenzano del Garda. We had tried to book these before but had a few issues so just booked these when we got to the station – unfortunately these came to $33 each way as we hadn’t got them before. Either way… we got to Desenzano and basked in the sun. We stayed in a nice little apartment I’d found on Airbnb which did us for 2 nights. (See link here.) It was fairly basic and was just like the pictures on the listing and did the job. It was right in the centre near the Duomo, 2 mins from the lake and was located right above a bar – the perfect location. The bar ‘Sisi Drinkery’ was owned by the same guy who lets out the Airbnb so we enjoyed a great drink on the house before bed. First time I’ve ever had dry ice in my prosecco! 
Desenzano was gorgeous! I was so surprised by the weather… during the day it was a gorgeous 20c but it did get nippy in the evenings so made sure to wear a coat. Our first evening was spent strolling along the streets and harbour and finally settling down for an Aperitif. We had a lovely dinner at Gattolardo suggested by our Airbnb host. I’d definitely suggest it if you’re around. It’s tucked away at the end of an alley and is a little room that gets filled up quick. We shared a meat and cheese platter to start followed by ‘a taste of pasta’ which included a beef filled pasta as well as a smokey cheese filled pasta. It was absolutely delish and not too pricey either!
When researching what to do around Lake Garda I’d seen that the area Sirmione was well known for its natural spa. For a girl’s trip this was perfect! We started the day with a yummy coffee and got a boat across to Sirmione which only took 10 mins. A return ticket was only 6 euro each. 
Sirmione was picturesque… The houses were all painted different colours and being right on the lake it was so pretty.
So to the spa! Terme di Sirmione. It was a lovely experience – there were so many different rooms and pools to try out. My favourites were definitely the sauna pool, sensory showers and then the outdoor main pool. As its a natural spa I had thought there would be more of a smell of sulphur but it wasn’t too bad! Everyone was given a little blue swimming cap to wear and you couldn’t get into the pool without it on. Between pools and rooms you had to wear your dressing gown and flip-flops. If you are  going to the spa make sure to bring your own flip-flops otherwise you will have to buy some. I’d read up about this before we went so we grabbed some 5 euro flip-flops from a little shop in Sirmione before getting there. We only got a 2 hr ticket as we wanted to explore Sirmione but you can buy a 5 hr ticket. The weather was lovely so we spent a little time chilling on the sunbeams looking straight out over the lake – heaven…
After the spa we grabbed a yummy lunch at a little trattoria – the pasta in Italy is so yummy! 
We finished off our day trip to Sirmione with a tasty gelato. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but make sure not to go for all the plumped up looked gelato – this has more than likely been pumped out of a machine and won’t match up to a proper gelato. Always go for the flatter looking gelato and you’ll be in for a treat. I went for caramello – I’ve got such a sweet touch and it didn’t disappoint 🍦
The boat trip was a lovely experience on the way back – I mean look at those views…
I’m definitely heading back to Lake Garda with the hubby and we’ll be exploring the area more – I’d love to do some cycling around the area, explore some of the many vineyards and do some walking around. We had to be conscious that my nanny would get tired quite easily so we tried to keep the walking to minimum on this stretch of the holiday.
Tuesday morning we caught the train back to Venice. After a half hr delay and me ordering a hot milk instead of a latte 😱, we eventually got back to Venice and got a vaperetto down to Rialto and met our Airbnb host who walked us to the apartment. Last time I was in Venice it had been March and rained nearly the whole time. Seeing Venice in the glorious sun was amazing… It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. No cars or bikes and its just people in the little alleyways with boats and gondolas  zooming along canals. If you ever get the chance make sure to go!
Our Airbnb was such a great find. The only draw back was that it was up 3 steep staircases which weren’t the best for my nanny but once at the top it was worth it! It had been finished off so well and everything was operated by having the key card in the wall. There were 2 lovely shower rooms and 3 bedrooms. The kitchen was kitted out nicely and there was a teapot! This was a hit with the 2 Irish and 2 British – you defo can’t start the day without a cup of tea 😋 (See link here for Airbnb.)
So what did we do in Venice? We got lost in the little streets – or as my nanny would say the ‘twittens of Venice’ 😝. The first afternoon was spent scoping out the local area – we were a little 3 mins walk from San Marco but you wouldn’t think it when you’re up in the apartment. It was so quiet! My mum, aunt and nanny were keen to explore all the shops so went into them all! A bit of a different trip in Venice than when I was here with the hubby but still a nice break.
Our first evening dinner was spent in Rossopomodoro. It was suggested by the Airbnb host as an easy pizza dinner. I hadn’t realised it was an Italian chain and they have them in the UK too! I had the Parma e provolone stravecchio which was delish! We polished it off with a litre of house white. I love in Italy how when you order the house wine it comes in 1/4 litre, 1/2 litre and 1 litre 😊.
We then made our way back towards the apartment but stopped by a little bar and grabbed a hot choc – love finishing the evening with one!
Wednesday was our final full day in Venice. I woke up early (well 7:30am which isn’t that early really!) and popped down to San Marco with my mum to see it nice and empty. We had a little walk around and enjoyed the peace. There’s something about Venice when it’s empty of tourists.

After a delicious breakfast of croissants from a place just around the corner called E. Rosa Salva (see link here) we made our way down to Doge’s Palace as it was my mum’s first time in Venice and it is a must for your first time. You can’t take pictures inside but took a bunch outside. The art inside is amazing and just takes your breath away. I won’t bore you with a history lesson here but it is full of history for those among us that love a bit of history. The Tintoretto tour was on which cost an extra 2 euro in the Doge’s apartment which was eye opening to art in Venice. One of the best bits in the Doge’s Palace is The Chamber of the Great Council – it is so vast and the walls and ceiling are both breathtaking. Make sure to also walk over the Bridge of Sighs and check out the prisons.

After about 2 hours at the Doge’s Palace we made our way over the Rialto Bridge and slowly over to the Friary – Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. This was on my nanny’s list of places to go and also the hotel her and my grandpa had stayed at 30 years ago! After a yummy sandwich lunch opposite the Friary we went to the find the hotel for my nanny and had a delish coffee.

On our slow strolls around we found some lovely little shops – I popped into a little art workshop where I got a couple little cards I’ll get framed. I met the old artist Biasin and he showed me how he made all his different prints which are made using old manufacturing processes of old artisans. If I had a little more money to spend I would have got one of the larger originals but I’ll just have to go back!
We also stopped by Amorino near the Rialto Bridge (see here) and had the most amazing looking ice-creams – they make them out to look like flowers and topped with a little macaroon. 

After a little chill time we went to Harry’s Bar for a pre-dinner Bellini. Although it is extortionate (each Bellini is 22 euros!), every first trip to Venice has to have a trip to Harry’s Bar to have a Bellini in place Bellini’s were invented. With a drink you get a bowl of olives and also an extremely yummy chicken and mushroom cake – so good!

We then strolled over to La Calcina for dinner. We had booked but there hadn’t been any need as it wasn’t that busy. It’s about a 20 minute walk over from San Marco but you get to see some lovely sights. 

The restaurant had been suggested by my Aunt’s friends and it didn’t disappoint. It was the best meal of the whole holiday. Being in Venice it was a little pricey but worth it. We all had the Gnocchi with prosecco, mushrooms and king prawns. DELISH! We sat outside on the decking over the water looking out over Giudecca – what a setting. As it was a little nippy, each seat had a lovely red blanket to keep us toasty if needed. The meal was finished off with a little limencillo.

Not wanting to head back we stopped off at a tiny little bar around the corner from the apartment for a final Prosecco.

It was a lovely few days that went by so quickly! One of the best bits of the holiday… the sun and not having to wear a coat during the day!

My last holiday – the California road trip – seems like a lifetime ago although it was only 4 months ago so a week off was needed. As with everyone, you need a break from work! Working hard lets us go on these little trips away so we keep on working…

Not too sure what will be our next proper trip so it’s time to get something in the diary to look forward to 😊

Who else is a fan of Italy? 
Been to Lake Garda or Venice? What was your favourite bit?

Cathers x