Bardolino is simply enchanting
WHETHER you're looking for a short break with fabulous food and plenty to do, or a summer holiday that combines beaches with breathtaking scenery, Lake Garda is the ideal choice.
The largest lake in Italy, measuring some 34 miles in length and plunging to depths of 340 metres, it is located about half-an-hour from Verona.
The lake itself is divided into two distinct areas by the surrounding landscape. While the south has more beaches and is surrounded by gently undulating hills packed with vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards, the dramatic north is mountainous with sheer cliffs plunging straight into the waters and buildings clinging to the rocks.
This being our first visit, we opted to stay in Bardolino on the south-east of the lake, which has one of the shortest transfer times from Verona airport. Within 45 minutes of landing, we were checking into our hotel and admiring its seriously enviable location.
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Four-star Park Hotel Gritti sits on the lake-front just a short stroll from the town centre. It boasts a large outdoor swimming pool, as well as an indoor leisure complex.
We stayed in one of the recently-refurbished privilege rooms, complete with marble bathroom, flatscreen TV, DVD player, minibar with free soft drinks, luxury toiletries and balcony.
It's the finishing touches which define a hotel and here we were treated to a complimentary bottle of Prosecco and box of chocolates on arrival, as well as a large bottle of mineral water in our room each day.
Breakfast is served in two restaurants – offering options for both early and late risers – and there is a half-board option for those who prefer to dine-in.
Bardolino itself is simply enchanting, with the town really coming to life as the sun sets spectacularly over the surrounding peaks – and we couldn't resist dining out each night.
We joined the locals sipping glasses of bright-orange Aperol Spritz at one of the lakeside cafes before heading into the maze-like alleyways to find our dinner.
The range of restaurants in Bardolino is second-to-none and you can't fail to be impressed by the fresh seafood on offer, as well as Italian classics, like al-dente pasta with delicious sauces and crispy pizzas topped with cured meats and local olives.
Wine is taken very seriously in the region, with Bardolino red and the local Chiaretto rose both being the perfect accompaniment to any meal – and great value, too.
If you've still got room for dessert after all that food, Bardolino is also home to the most incredible gelateria I've ever visited – Cristallos.
And with all that fabulous food on offer, it's a good job there are plenty of activities to help you work up an appetite.
Bardolino is linked to the towns of Garda and Lazise by an excellent promenade. It's about a 35-minute stroll to either resort and well worth it, for the boutique shopping and historic buildings.
Temperatures here soar in July and August and thankfully there are plenty of jetties and beaches allowing access to the crystal-clear lake, which remains (relatively) ambient throughout the year.
Watersports in the south include speedboats, canoes, pedaloes, waterskiing and jet skis, while the north is reserved for non-motorised activities, such as windsurfing.
If you're keen to explore further afield, there are regular buses and ferries which make travelling between resorts a breeze.
Crystal Summer flies to Verona from seven UK airports between May and September. A seven-night, half-board stay at the Park Hotel Gritti, with flights from Manchester and transfers, costs from £718 per person. Visit www.crystalsummer.co.uk or call 0871 2308180.