The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate glass structure in Hyde Park, London. It was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 and…….what?
Not THAT Crystal Palace?
Which one then?
Ahh, the Kristal Palace Hotel on Lake Garda.
Riva del Garda is a medieval Italian town which has it’s claim to fame as the northernmost town on Lake Garda. This lake itself, is the largest in Italy and is so vast that it looks like the open sea at times.
As much as I love the English Lake District, the Italian Lakes make them look like puddles after a sharp shower, whilst the surrounding mountains makes Scafell look like a mere pimple.
The town of Riva is very pretty with alleyways, red-cobbled pedestrianized areas, a large public square and terraces which overlook the lake and mountains.
It has many shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from, many of them at the lake-side near the moated castle. A magnificent church stands in the centre close to the jetties where ferries ply to and fro around the lake’s towns and villages.
It is a mecca for sports enthusiasts with cycle, mountain bike, and e-bike hire to take advantage of the many cycle tracks.
The narrow road and many tunnels around the 100 mile plus perimeter of the lake are dangerous for cyclists and there are old cycle/walking tracks built into the cliff-like mountainsides.
This road and tunnels featured in the James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’, during an exciting and spectacular car chase.
A new cycling/walking path is being constructed around the whole perimeter of the lake, some of it recently opened, clinging perilously to cliffs above the water.
By 2021 you will be able to walk or cycle around the entire lake off-road. It is costing hundreds of millions of Euros and is paid for by the EU ( i.e. you and I) so make the best of it.
Riva is also a centre for water-sports with schools for sailing, paddle-boarding, windsurfing, kite-surfing and more all available.
Don’t run away with the idea that this is a place just for the young and for sports enthusiasts. The town is also eminently suitable for just relaxing and taking in the sights.
It is worth knowing that any alcoholic drink order at any café or restaurant will come with a complimentary snack tray of crisps, olives, nuts or tiny pizzas.
In it’s quiet residential suburbs, around a ten minute flat and easy walk from the centre of the old town, is the modern, quite low rise, Kristal Palace Hotel.
This is a vision in glass and grey steel. It has an adults only policy.
It is one of a number of very good quality hotels in the locality owned and run by the fourth generation of the Tonelli family. They take a personal interest in the hotels and are often present, chatting to guests, ensuring every need is catered for.
The Kristal Palace is 4 star Superior rated, has only 58 rooms and has some outstanding facilities.
Notable are the heated rooftop pool and whirlpool, surrounded by a sun terrace with a ‘Sky-bar’ and restaurant.
The pool is simply lovely and has pearlescent tiles which split into rainbow colours in the sunshine, adding to the glamour.
The roof and pool have astounding 360 degree views of the lake and mountains.
On one side are olive grove clad hillsides, to the others are the vertiginous, sulphur and grey coloured cliff sides of the mountains, softened by greenery, and latterly Lake Garda itself.
This is a visually stunning place to spend any time, day or night.
Breakfast may be taken up here, buffet style, although there is a dedicated egg chef on hand to create any egg dish to your requirements!
How many hotels can boast this feature?
In the evenings (and some mornings) there is free, laid-back live entertainment up on the roof. Soloists, duos, trios and quartets feature some brilliant music from jazz to blues to soul to Latin and more.
The nightly happy hour at the rooftop bar is the place to be, with cocktails at 3Euros and other drinks reductions, it is a very amicable and cool place to chill and make friends.
The hotel has immaculately maintained grounds and internally, a further restaurant – ‘Live’, where evening meals are taken.
This is a beautiful, marble dominated room, with a theatre style kitchen behind glass screens.
Food served in the restaurants is locally sourced from the Lake Garda area and the Trentino region. The high quality of the food here has meant that the hotel has featured in the Michelin Red Guide for several years, including 2018.
The ever innovative and changing five course evening meals include a wonderful fresh salad bar and a ‘guest of the kitchen’ mystery starter to commence the meal, as well as complimentary Prosecco.
I cannot describe or list the huge amount of courses we consumed over the week
and do them justice. The quality, flavours, freshness, variety and artful presentation just left us and other guests spellbound each evening.
How this restaurant does not have a Michelin Star I do not know. Come on Michelin Inspectors, get your act together, it fully deserves one.
All of the staff have been trained the ‘Tonelli way’ and are a pleasure to meet.
They are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and attentive. Many have been with the business for quite a number of years and take such pride in their profession.
There is a piano lounge bar on the ground floor and a well equipped fitness centre, which, due to the fantastic weather we had, we never ventured into.
Our room was an immaculate and spacious affair in cornflower blue and cream with a white oak wooden floor.
The beds were very comfortable with lovely white linen and pillows.
Our sit-on balcony had a table and chairs which overlooked the garden and hillsides.
The large bathroom was totally tiled in white and grey veined marble whilst the shower had a monsoon head fitment which was a pleasure to use. The air-conditioning was a boon in the heat-wave weather.
Fluffy towels, dressing gowns, slippers, pool towels and flip-flops were provided.
Cycles can be provided by the hotel, free of charge, as are daily activities such as aqua-aerobics, yoga, hiking and others.
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and all rooms have flat screen TVs.
A free shuttle mini-bus runs from the hotel into the town centre by arrangement.
It is also a five minute flat and easy walk to a small park at the lakeside, which has shingle beaches and free access to supervised lake swimming.
We were on a Riviera Travel ‘Lake Garda, Venice and Verona Tour’, one of the chief attractions for us being a seven night half-board stay at this particular hotel throughout the holiday.
This meant a settled base and no early morning packing and moving on.
As well as the guided trips, there were two whole days free to explore on our own
and this was a bonus, for we love to go off on local transport to find little gems of our own off the beaten track.
Our coach on trips to these cities as well as a lake tour and a visit to the Dolomites was always spotless and on time. The driver was courteous and very professional.
Our tour guide Werner, was a fountain of knowledge. What he doesn’t know about this region isn’t worth knowing. He was an extremely interesting chap and helped make this such a memorable holiday.
I would highly recommend this trip and especially this hotel.
I have been with Riviera Travel on a few holidays now and I have complete confidence in them. Riviera Travel are a ‘preferred partner of Silver Travel Advisor and I can fully understand why.
For an English version of the hotel’s website go to;