Lake Garda gastronomic experience with Archers – Part 1

Lake from our balcony We spent a week at Lake Garda, Italy as a special interest trip with Archers Holidays and what a great time we had! The programme includes a day trip to Verona, a day in Venice, wine tasting in Valpolicella region plus a cookery course with an Italian chef. It was an excellent opportunity to make the most of the visit with coach journeys each way from our hotel at the northern end of the lake, enjoying fantastic scenery along the way!

It was a good flight time, leaving Gatwick at 10.15am. On Easy Jet you have to be able to fit all your bags into one hand-luggage case, unlike Ryanair, but that is ok as long as you know beforehand. It was an excellent flight, comfortable atmosphere in the plane and a very smooth journey. Eight of us were collected at the airport for the Hotel Continental in Nago, near Torbole at the northern end of Lake Garda.

View from Hotel Continental It is a long-established family owned hotel, part of the Tonelli chain, a good 4* recently up-dated over recent years so a mix of modern and traditional style. There are 94 rooms, the Classic generally used by tours operators with king-size double bed, a few to sleep three people, all with shower and balcony. They do have 8 rooms with a bath as well if you prefer. For UK guests there are tea and coffee making facilities in the room as experience told them “Brits” were always asking for this anyway!

There is one disabled-friendly room that usually sleeps three, but they take out the extra bed to make more room to move around. The bathroom is spacious – still a shower cubicle to step into, but the door opening is wide, and they have a seat to fit inside. All floors have lift access and wide corridors, and you can actually get into the hotel straight from their garage with a lift to reception. More unusual is the self-service laundrette on the 2nd floor with washing machine and tumble drier for guests. There is a small but well-equipped free gym (not just upper body-building equipment) and a lovely relaxing massage area, so you can book an hour for €60. There is an outdoor, heated swimming pool plus a small indoor pool 30ᵒ and Jacuzzi.

We liked having a table allocated to you for the week for meals as there is no potential for a bun fight at breakfast. As a group of 8 on this trip, they put our tables next to each other which shows how much they plan accommodation for guests. There is a good selection of foods to choose from for breakfast, with the chef on hand to cook eggs or omelettes, and you can press your own fresh orange juice. There is a good salad bar to start with before dinner then a starter, main course and dessert with three options for each course.

From Nago viewpoint As a special, March to May and September to November, they have a buffet with live music and dancing downstairs twice a week. It is too hot to be down there during the summer as everyone keeps dashing up and down for some fresh air apparently! But, it is a great space, traditional wooden furniture and a real dance floor in the middle. When we were there in June, there is live music in the courtyard until 11pm with a ‘happy hour’ from 5-6pm with a different tempting special offer each day.

We were amazed how cheap a glass of Prosecco is at €2.50 in most places, and a spritz cocktail with Prosecco base is not much different in price. This is definitely the drink that becomes an easy habit as it is light, refreshing and easy to drink (often) so it is the mature person’s alcopop I think. When you are out and about, bars that offer the spritz include a bowl of olives, crisps and nuts at no extra charge. Although there is a limit to how many crisps a person can eat in one day, there is clearly no such limit on the number of spritz drinks you can down.

Northern end of Lake Garda When we arrived on Wednesday, we had some free time so just strolled around the village of Nago to find the view of the lake we could see from our balcony. We found the Hotel mit Charme with a wide terrace overlooking the road down to the lake. The lovely helpful barman recommended the dry Lugano wine, soft and easy to drink without food – he shuddered in disgust at the thought of them offering sweet wine when I said I only wanted a dry wine! This was a perfect first afternoon, sitting in the sun watching the activity on Lake Garda, sampling the local wines and big fat smoothtasting olives grown in this northern area which is as far north as they grow. We decided to stay for a second glass of wine as recommended by the barman.

The Hotel Continental is a really pleasant environment in which to spend a relaxing holiday, or as a good base from which to explore the Lake Garda region, though not lake-side. All the staff are excellent, very efficient, and this is one of the friendliest hotels we have stayed in.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cosmos Tours and Cruises.

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