Travels to Lake Garda, Italy

We spent the Easter weekend exploring the Italian Lakes and chose to go to both Lake Garda and Lake Como. We landed in Milan Malpensa, picked up our rented our very Italian car (a tiny little Fiat 500) and made our way over to Desenzano, a little town on the south west shore of Lake Garda, where we had booked our hotel for two nights.

There were a lot of motorways and very un-scenic views involved in this almost 2 hour drive to Lake Garda, but when we finally saw the beautiful Lake glistening in the sunshine in front of us we were very excited to have arrived. We parked, checked in, changed into more appropriate clothes for the gloriously sunny, 24 degree Celsius day, and headed out to walk around to see what Desenzano had to offer.

We walked up to the lake and onto the pebbled beach and I was amazed to see how crystal clear the water was as the soft waves pushed it in and out. It felt very much like going to the seaside in the South of France. We sat on the pier with our legs dangling out over the water watching the swans and ducks go by and taking in the peacefulness of it all – before heading off to find a somewhere to eat lunch in the sunshine.

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Desenzano del Garda
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Desenzano del Garda in the sunshine

We wondered through the streets passing the colourful little buildings with their colourful shutters and on the windows until we found Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo facing the gorgeous Porto Vecchio and the Lake.

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Ponte Vecchio
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Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo

After a long lunch we set off to see the Castello di Desenzano. It sits grand amongst the colourful low rise buildings that surround it.

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Castello di Desenzano
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Castello di Desenzano
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The beautiful little streets of Desenzano
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Pre-dinner drinks at Piazza Cappelletti

Overall Desenzano is a peaceful, gorgeous and colourful little town. I would definitely recommend staying here if you go to Lake Garda.

The next morning after breakfast we set off to a Vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting (which will be blogged about soon) before spending the rest of the day in Sirmione. Sirmione is a little town with a lot of history. It is a thin, long road that goes into the Lake and at the end of this road, you walk across a moat, through a castle entrance to then enter the old Sirmione town.

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Castello Scaligero
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Sitting on a pier to take in the gorgeous views

The old town is buzzing and full of people, like ourselves, being tourists and exploring.

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The busy Sirmione Old Town
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Found a spot in the Square in the sunshine for some drinks and nibbles before exploring the castle

We ended up finding a suntrap in the Square by the Ferry Port where we decided to stop for a drink – but every time you order an alcoholic beverage somewhere in Lake Garda, you will get nibbles to go with them – usually some crisps and olives but if you go between 5pm and 7pm you will get bread, bread sticks (they LOVE a bread stick), cheese and ham. It was lovely just sitting in the sun and watching the world go by around us.

There were gelaterias on every corner, thermal baths and spas, colourful shops and restaurants everywhere you look and some ginormously large lemons – all the things that Sirmione is famous for.

Unfortunately we didn’t try any lemons and we didn’t have a chance to go into the thermal baths, but we did have a fabulous time walking around the old town and going into the castle to see all the views.

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Views from the castle looking out to the Lake
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More lake views from the castle
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Views from the top of the castle looking down into the old town
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Views from the top of the castle looking out to the lake
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More lake views from the castle

If you do have the chance, definitely go for a day to explore this gorgeous area of Lake Garda.

Where to go? What to do?

  • Have a day to stroll aroundย Desenzano town
  • Go to Castello di Desenzano
  • Find a vineyard to do a winery tour and wine tasting
  • Try some Lake Garda Lemons
  • Enter Castello Scaligero in Sirmione
  • Go to a thermal bath (historically used by the Romans here) in Sirmione
  • Take a boat ride around Sirmione
  • Have an Aperol Spritz (or other beverage) during aperitivo time
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride along the Lake
  • Have lots of pasta
  • Relax

 

Where to stay?

We stayed in Hotel Bonotto in Desenzano which was perfect for what we needed it to be. It is a well-priced 3 star hotel with wifi, free parking, a safe in the room, breakfast included and it is a 2 minute walk from the lake. What more did we need?

The staff were great at helping us out to find our way around, giving us tips on where to go, and helping us out with what we needed for our stay.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant on the top floor which has floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace overlooking Lake Garda as well as the castle and rest of the town. Breakfast is continental with a choice of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and boiled eggs as well as the teas, coffees and fruit juices. There was one morning when I was at breakfast and there was a bottle of prosecco as one of the drink options in the buffet, but it was a little too early for me, plus we were off to Onepio Vineyard afterwards.

Below are photos of our room and gorgeous views from the roof terrace at breakfast.

http://www.hotelbonottodesenzano.it/en/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194965-d2090589-Reviews-Hotel_Bonotto-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

 

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Street Food – Istanbul, Turkey

My gorgeous girlfriends and I got our back packs on flew to Istanbul in May this year for some exploring. We managed to see loads of historical sights, visit the two big bazaars and do some shopping. This post is about all the street foods I tried while I was there.2015-05-03_14.45.31

Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels) – Found at the Ferry Port on the Asian Side20150504_194533

20150504_194553Emma, Astrid, Esme and I got a ferry across from the European side, where we were staying, to the Asian side, where my friend Hannah lives, as she was having a garden party at her house that evening. As we got off the ferry onto the Asian side, we saw a couple of these Midye Dolma street vendors. Obviously we had to try them. They opened up the mussel for us, scooped it all into one shell, squeezed some lemon onto it, and then it was served.

They make a rice mixture and then stuff it into the mussels to cook – it tastes very much like a seafood risotto or a seafood paella. DELICIOUS!

It costs 1 Turkish Lira for 2 mussels (ยฃ1 = 4 Lira at the time) and they are such a good tasty little street snack.images (1)

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Corn on the Cob and Chesnuts – Found around Sultan Ahmet20150503_181931

To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the grilled corn that I got. It was cold and the kernels was so hard and tasted like they were probably cooked in the morning and just laid out all day. They sprinkled it with salt which didn’t melt and infuse into the corn and instead lay over it dry. I doubt I will be rushing to have one of these again, but if you are to try these I would suggest asking for a freshly cooked one. Not my favourite. 2 Liras for 1 corn.

Islak Burgers (Wet Burgers in English) – Found in Taksimdownload (1)The Islak Burgers are found lining the streets of Taksim. You will see them in the windows of most of the shops. Emma, Astrid and I had one of these on our way home after Hannah’s garden party. It was surprisingly good.

It was a bun similar to a McDonalds cheeseburger bun, with a very thin meat patty inside, but what makes it a “wet burger” is that, not only is there tomato sauce on the inside of the bun like a normal burger, but it is absolutely covered in a tomato sauce. The sauce doesn’t taste as strong with flavour as a tomato ketchup. It had a lighter taste to it. This sauce somehow gave the burger bun a chewy texture, like the texture of a bagel.

A delightful midnight street snack AND it was only 2 Lira!images (2)

Simit (Turkish Pretzels) – Found all over the streets in Istanbulimages (3)These are great if you are hungry and on the go. It costs 1 Lira for one. Plain chewy-bagel-type-pretzels that are sold on every street corner.

Overall a fab place to visit and many interesting flavours. I still need to go back and try to famous fish sandwich which is also a street food.

Istanbul, I’m coming back.