This article was originally published in Emersons Green Voice and sister publications (April Editions).
Over the years, I've had the fortune to travel to Italy many times. In fact, it's one of the first holidays I remember taking as a young child.
Although I could write about Italy into the early morning and beyond, I only have 500 words to capture the best for you. And as each city within Italy is vastly different, I'll also be concentrating on one destination in particular. Nope, it's not Venice, Florence, Pisa or even Rome, beautiful as these cities may be.
Instead, I'm going to focus on Lake Garda, the largest of the three lakes in northern Italy.
It was my 24th birthday - not exactly what you’d call a milestone - but I’d spent the months leading up to it deep in stress at work. A birthday treat and luxury vacation was calling out to me. And I definitely found luxury in Lake Garda.
I’d chosen to stay at Casa dei Pescatori in an ancient town called Sirmione and opted for one of their deluxe suites. This afforded me lakeside views, my own balcony and a jacuzzi spa bath. During my stay, Spa Termale Aquaria was also calling my name and once again, I found luxury; this time in the shape of indoor and outdoor saunas, steam baths, experience showers and an intensive back massage.
At this point, I should mention that my vacation wasn’t completely spent basking in self-care. In true globetrotter fashion, I made sure I visited the local sights, learned about the histories of the town and ventured to Malcesine on the northern part of the lake to take in the views from the top of Monte Baldo. These views really were sublime and some of the best I’ve seen in Europe.
Sirmione itself has a fair amount to offer those of you who are interested in Italian history. It’s said that the name Sirmione derives from the ancient Greek word “syrma” meaning tail or train, and from the Gallic words “sirm” and “ona” meaning aquatic hotel. There is also a royal connection to the town as Queen Ansa of Desiderio chose this area of Lake Garda to build a monastery for the Benedictines in the 8th century.
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione is a castle built by the Scaligeri of Verona and guards the only footbridge into the main town of ancient Sirmione. Although the castle is now just a shell of what it may have once looked like, the views from the top of the turrets are worth climbing the 146 steps for.
And if you venture on further into ancient Sirmione, you’ll find the Roman ruins of Grotte di Catullo beside the coastline. It’s a chance to once again step back in time and appreciate the wonders of the once dominant Roman empire.
So although I went in search of simple luxury in Lake Garda, I found so much more. Ancient Italy’s beauties opened its arms to me and reaffirmed that I had been right to spend so much time exploring this incredible country.
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