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Last Minute Holidays As Seen On TV3’s SundayAM, 24th July 2016

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Looking for a break in July or August? Check out my top picks for last minute holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.

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Availability to the popular destinations (Spain & Portugal mainly) in July and August is always scarce, and this year is no exception. However, there is increased capacity with Aer Lingus and Ryanair so airfares are quite low. In fact Aer Lingus have a seat sale with up to 25% off European flights during August & September, if booked by midnight on Monday, 25th July. If you are prepared to go off the beaten track and stay somewhere further from the resort centre, you can pick up good deals on last minute holidays. I found that Italy is better value than Spain and Portugal at the moment, here are my top picks.

Last minute holidays as seen on TV3's Sunday AM

Italy Deals:

Crystal Holidays are offering a  2* Hotel in Lake Garda, the Miravalli, from €340 per person on the 6th of August. This is a basic hotel but located in the heart of Garda, so it’s perfect for anyone who just wants to use the hotel as a base. If you want to upgrade your hotel, Topflight have a Summer sale until the 29th of July with savings of €420 per person. They have Sicily, Lido di Jesolo and Sorrento on sale in August as well as Lanzarote, the Algarve and Madeira.

I like the 3* Astoria Hotel, Sorrento, it’s €789 on the 7th and 14th of August. It is situated right in the heart of Sorrento, it is great value for such a fantastic location. All of Topflight’s prices include flights, transfers and checked baggage. Click here for more details.

Last minute holidays as seen on TV3's Sunday AM

Family Holiday:

Menorca is surprisingly good value for the next few weeks. With short day time flights and very family friendly, it is an ideal choice for a family holiday. Sunway are offering package deals where transfers and checked baggage are included, staying in the popular Binimar apartments. They are a nice low rise complex, close to the town centre and the beach and have a small splash park on site. The price for 2 adults & 2 children on the 31st of July and 7th of August is €1876. Click here for more details. Last minute holidays as seen on TV3's Sunday AM

Mid to late August:

With some kids back in school as early as the 24th of August, the last week of August is best time to pick up a bargain holiday. The Aer Lingus sale has some great airfares so you should be able to pick up a package deal to Spain or Portugal for less than €400. If you fancy Greece, Falcon Holidays are offering a week package deal to Zakynthos from €399 on the 30th of August, staying in the popular Katerina Palace Hotel. Click here for more details.

Last minute holidays as seen on TV3's Sunday AM

ClickandGo.com have matched the low airfares with some good city breaks too. I like this one in Madrid, it combines sightseeing, sun and shopping all in one! Fly with Aer Lingus and enjoy a three night stay in a four star hotel for only €247 on the 15th of August. Click here for more details.

Tapas Madid, Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert

5 Tips to find a last minute deal:

1. ClickandGo.com have a ‘dealfinder’ on their website where you can select sun holidays or city breaks within 30 days, 60 days etc and it will list all holidays that they have available.

2. Use Ryanair’s fare finder’ and Skyscanner’s ‘everywhere’ searches for any destination under a specific price range. Use hotel aggregators such as Trivago & Tripadvisor to search many accommodation websites for the same hotel.

3. The Irish Travel Agents association’s website combines top travel agents offers so you don’t need to search lots of different websites. And I offer my best last minute deals in my best travel deals post which is published every Tuesday on thetravelexpert.ie 🙂

4. Compare like with like. Remember a package holiday with a Tour Operator such as Falcon Holidays or Sunway includes airport transfers and checked baggage. A 20kg checked bag to the Canary Islands with Ryanair is €100 during July and August, so that ‘cheap deal’ you thought you found, might not be so cheap after all.

5. And finally always check with your local travel agent – they are searching late offers day in, day out and will probably know immediately what is the best value at any given time.

 

All prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEurope

The Ten Best Movies To Showcase Italy

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Planning a holiday to Italy? Check out the ten best movies to showcase Italy, to get you in the mood!

Italy is a country that is brimming with culture and stunning places just waiting to be explored. Over the past one hundred or so years, we have been blessed with some truly brilliant movies which showcase its beauty perfectly. Take a look at my favourites and see if they whet your appetite.

Roman Holiday | Under The Tuscan Sun | Only You |

Eat Pray Love | A Room With A View | Life Is Beautiful | The Talented Mr Ripley

 Letters to Juliet | Quantum Of Solace |The Godfather

Roman Holiday

Although set in the 1950’s, Roman Holiday is one of the best movies to showcase the magic of Rome. You will follow the stunning Audrey Hepburn around Rome as she explores top sights including The Spanish Steps and The Mouth of Truth for the first time.

The Travel Expert finds a great deal to Rome

 

Under The Tuscan Sun

Diane Lane, recently divorced, renovates a run down Tuscan villa to help transform her life. A romance and journey of self discovery ensues and the Tuscan countryside is the ideal place to make this happen.

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Only You

This romantic comedy staring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr is the perfect movie for anyone who is looking to see Italy’s highlights. Set in Rome, Venice and Tuscany this movie is an Italian lovers dream. The ride along the Amalfi coast and the hotel stay in Positano (Le Sirenuse) is a spectacular advertisement for this coastline.

Sorrento, 24th October holiday by The Travel Expert

 

Eat, Pray, Love

A divorced Julia Roberts takes a trip around the world to rediscover her true self. A three month start in Italy where she learns the language and some Italian cooking has inspired many people to copy her journey.

Pescheira de Garda Italy

 

 

A Room With A View

Florence is the setting for this romantic period drama. Helena Bonham-Carter is perfect as the impressionable,  young English lady. Florence and the Tuscan countryside combine to make this a worthy award winning movie.

Florence by The Travel Expert

Life Is Beautiful

This oscar-winning, foreign language film is about a Jewish book keeper in wartime Italy. Set in Arezzo, this Tuscan masterpiece sees Guido protecting his son from the horror of the holocaust by cleverly using his imagination.

The ten best movies set in Italy by The Travel Expert

The Talented Mr Ripley

This moody thriller is set all over Italy. It is one of the best movies to showcase various Italian cities with Venice,Rome, Palermo and Naples all featured. The scenes along the Amalfi coast are enough to tempt you to book a plane ticket!

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Letters to Juliet

Although most of the film was shot in Tuscany, Verona is home to Juliet’s balcony and where Amanda Seyfried finds a 50 year old love letter. Of course she has to trace its owner and hence the Italian journey begins.

The ten best movies set in Italy by The Travel Expert

 

Quantum of Solace

No one could forget the opening scene of Quantum of Solace. A car chase around Lake Garda followed by the dramatic Palio race in the Piazza del Campo, Siena. This race is held twice a year. Entrance is free but if you want to see the race properly, book a room at least a year in advance, over looking the square.

The ten best movies set in Italy by The Travel Expert

 

The Godfather

Part of the iconic Godfather is set in rural Sicily. Unlike my other choices, this doesn’t show Sicily at its best! There are no stand out sights and no glimpses of the cliff top town Taormina. However, somehow the countryside is fascinating. The movie is such a classic that it has been the reason for many visits to Sicily since it’s opening in 1972.

The ten best movies set in Italy by The Travel Expert

Sarah

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Sorrento, 13th May, 1 week, Flights & 4* Hotel, €559!

Amalfi Coast

What better than a week in stunning Sorrento to start of the Summer! Chill out, relax and enjoy the stunning scenery or explore the Amalfi Coast and neighbouring islands.

The Amalfi Coast is one of those places that if you haven’t seen it, you just have to go! The views from the coastline combined with colourful hilltop towns make it a bucket list favourite. Sorrento is one of the biggest resorts along the coast and also one of the liveliest. The streets are crammed with al fresco eateries and plenty of designer shops. Sipping a cocktail as you watch the stylish Italians pass you by, is a nice start to the evening. And a nice meal in one of Sorrento’s fantastic restaurants is a nice way to end it. It is not all about Sorrento though, you simply have to explore the neighbouring resorts too. Take a water taxi to Positano, Amalfi or Ravello and admire the local villages. Visit the isle of Capri or if you are feeling adventurous, take a trip to Pompeii or even climb Mount Vesuvius!

Sorrento dining, by The Travel Expert

I found a fantastic deal in the 4* Grand Hotel Flora.  This is situated in an excellent location, only ten minutes walk to the centre of Sorrento. Highly rated on tripadvisor this hotel is not only a great choice to explore the Amalfi Coast, but is great value too! Fly from Dublin to Naples with Aer Lingus on the 13th of May and spend seven nights here for only €559 per person.

Grand Hotel Hermitage Sorrento, by The Travel Expert

 

Click here to book flights to Naples: €127pp

Click here to book hotel: €432pp

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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Bank Holiday Weekend in Florence, Flights & Hotel, 29th October, €288

Florence

Florence, one of Italy’s most beautiful cities is historic, charismatic and of course romantic! Enjoy the bank holiday weekend in Florence from only €288!

 

Stroll along the banks of the Arno, browse the jewellery shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, or marvel at the Tuscan countryside, if Florence doesn’t bring out some romance in you, I’m afraid nothing will!  I love that the city is so walkable, yes there are numerous art galleries, cathedrals and museums to see, but everything is so close together that you will be surprised how much you can manage in a few days.

Duomo, Florence by The Travel Expert

The cathedral or Duomo is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. As you climb the narrow staircase the red roof tops peer through the small windows. Once you reach the top, the views of Florence are staggering. The Ponte Vecchio bridge is full of vendors and street artists and for me, is the heart of this great city.  The cities top attraction, the Uffizi gallery has one of the largest collections of art in the world and attracts a huge crowd. Make sure you book tickets online beforehand to skip the queue! If you have the time, take a day trip into the unique Tuscan countryside, visit nearby Sienna, Chianti, San Gimignano and admire the remarkable scenery.

Fly from Dublin to Pisa with Ryanair on the 29th of October and spend three nights in the Villa Lucrezia Firenze for only €288 per person. Rated very highly on tripadvisor and awarded a gold level from Greenleaders, this is the place to stay for a traditional Italian welcome. My advice is to stay longer if you can, and take in the tuscan countryside, but hey if you don’t have the time don’t panic, once you go to Florence once, you will definitely come back for more!

 

Click here for more details:

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to availability.

 

Sarah

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Lake Garda, 9th July, 4* Garda Village, 2ad & 2ch €2529

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Still looking to book a Summer holiday? Lake Garda ticks all boxes, it’s got scenery, sights and plenty of style!

Lake Garda has so much to offer, from quiet lakeside towns to bustling resorts. Take water taxis across the lake and visit the popular towns of Riva and Limone, explore the nearby city of Verona or simply relax and enjoy the scenery for which Lake Garda is renowned.

 

There are so many different resorts to choose from but my personal favourite is Sirmione. It’s situated at the south of the Lake, which is handy for visiting Gardaland as well as being close to Verona.  Sirmione is situated at the tip of a long peninsula that juts out into the Lake. The old town has a fairytale like castle that sets the tone and gives a magical feel to the place. Take time to explore the narrow streets which are buzzing with local shops and Italian eateries.

The Travel Expert discusses Crystal Holidays Discovery Packages to Italy

The Garda Village apartments are situated close to Sirmione near the lakeshore. They are bungalow style apartments in a large complex with plenty of facilities. They have kids clubs, a large swimming pool and plenty of on-site entertainment. Personally I would recommend a car ( there is free parking on site) but they also have a shuttle service to take you to nearby attractions, if you don’t fancy driving. There are so many things to see and do nearby but if travelling with kids, Gardaland is a must. This is one of Europe’s leading theme parks and is a great day out for all the family. I would also recommend a  visit to the amphitheatre in Verona, but for more information on Lake Garda check out my blog by clicking here.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert offers a family deal to Lake Garda

Fly from Dublin to Verona on the 9th of July for only €389 per person. This includes airport taxes and 20kg checked baggage per person. The Garda Village 1 bedroom standard bungalows are €973 for seven nights. You can also choose to upgrade to the comfort bungalows (bilo) which are €1,169.  These are slightly bigger and more modern than the standard bungalows. This is excellent value for a family holiday during the summer months and one that all the family are sure to enjoy!

 

Click here to book flights: €389 per person

Click here to book accommodation: €973

 

Like what you see? Click here to see all my travel deals in one place!

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to availability.

 

Sarah

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Sardinia, 28th October, 3 Nights, flights & 4* Hotel, €197

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Sardinia is often overlooked by Irish holidaymakers and I am not sure why? It is full of white sandy coves, stunning mountain back drops and of course amazing Italian food…

With a direct three hour flight from Dublin and a short a 10 minute airport transfer and you can be enjoying nice Italian food in the old town of Alghero, with one of Italy’s best beaches beside you. The old town has cobbled stone streets, plenty of great shops and some fantastic restaurants. There is also a beautiful white sandy beach which is not something that many of the other Italian resorts can boast about.

If you like designer shopping then take a visit the Costa Smeralda, if only to window shop and see how the other half live! You might spot some celebrities while you are there, this is a very popular hang out for the rich and famous! If that doesn’t float your boat, take a trip to the neighbouring island of Corsica and marvel at the stunning scenery – it is well worth a visit.

Fly direct to Alghero and enjoy some great value staying in the Alghero City Hotel  This hotel is in a great central location, close to the town and beach, and receives good reviews on tripadvisor.  Prices on the 28th of October for three nights are only €197 per person including flights – so what are you waiting for?

 

Click here to book flights: €116

Click here to book hotel: €81

 

Like what you see? Click here to see all my travel deals in one place!

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to availability. To ensure you receive my weekly best travel deals please click here to sign up to my newsletter.

 

Sarah

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Destinations

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast

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Sorrento is a firm favourite with Irish holiday makers for many years,  it is not difficult to see why.

Sorrento is the largest resort on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, but still retains it’s old world charm. Complete with cobblestone pedestrianised streets, it is the perfect place to explore at your leisure. The historic buildings house everything from designer shops to local souvenirs so there is plenty of choice for even the avid shopper. The town comes alive at night with numerous al fresco dining options so you can admire the well dressed Italians as they pass you by.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

It is not just the town of Sorrento that draws thousands of tourists to this coastline each year. The neighbouring towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are all highlights and have to be seen. In fact if you are confident behind the wheel, I would recommend hiring a car and driving the Amalfi coast. Marvel at the breathtaking views across the bay of Naples with houses and hotels nestled perfectly on the cliffs edge. Stop off at small hilltop villages and sample some local dishes, it has to be one of the worlds greatest road trips.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

There are numerous sights to see in this part of Italy, the ‘coast with the most’! Take a trip to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii or if you are feeling energetic  enjoy the panoramic views from the top of Mount Vesuvius. It is a three hour climb, round trip, but worth it for the profile picture alone!  There is nothing like a boat trip when you are away and no visit to Sorrento would be complete without sailing to the isle of Capri. Take one of the many ferries from Sorrento or pre book an excursion, either way Capri is a ‘must see’. Visit the blue grotto, the summit of Anacapri or try celebrity spotting in some of the designer boutiques in the centre of the island.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

A stay along the Amalfi coast should be on everyone’s bucket list and staying in Sorrento is a good base to explore the area.  Go on spoil yourself, I dare you not to fall in love with the place.

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeSunseekers

Tuscany, Italy

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The contrast of the countrysides rolling hills mixed with the stunning cities of Florence and Pisa make’s Tuscany an irresistible choice for any traveller.

There is so much to see here, the problem is where to start! I have holidayed in Tuscany numerous times in various cities and towns and loved it each and every time. There are regular direct flights from Dublin to Pisa with Ryanair and they won’t break the bank so its probably the most direct route to take. I would recommend getting the Ryanair coach from Pisa airport direct to Florence and spending a few days there first. Florence is Tuscany’s capital city and when walking around it, you get the feeling that it deserves to be! The Tuscan countryside is so beautiful that it would almost be a shame if its capital city didn’t have that certain heir of grandeur. Although the largest city in the region it retains its old world romantic charm. It has one of Italy’s must see Cathedrals or Duomo, the magnificent Basilica di Santa Croce, the famous statue of ‘David’ by Michelangelo and of course one the largest collections of art in the world in the Uffizi Gallery. I would recommend doing an organised city tour to avoid long queues and will enable you to see most of the sights in the shortest time. If you would rather go it alone make sure you at least pre book the Uffizi tickets online, the queues can be over 2 hours long during peak summer months. Florence is not only known for its artistic charm, it’s really quite romantic too. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge, one of the most photographed places in Florence, is lined with vendors, hoping the magic of this city will entice the spellbound tourists to purchase something for their loved one.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about Tuscany

From Florence you can take a train to nearby Siena which is only just over an hour away. In my opinion, this is another ‘must see’ if visiting Tuscany. It is one of my favourite places to visit. The old town centre is pedestrianised and is so easy to navigate. It doesn’t have that big city feel but there are numerous sights to see and it feels almost relaxing, strolling through the streets picking up souvenirs, a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Florence. Siena has been declared a World Heriage site by UNESCO and after a visit to the Piazza del Campo you will see why. The Palazzo Pubblico or town hall stands magnificently beside the Torre del Magnia. Climb the 400 steps to the top to see the red roof tops of Siena and the surrounding countryside, it is breathtaking. This is also the famous location for the Palio horse race which takes place twice every summer. Ten horses with bare back riders race around Il campo each representing their own district, dressed in various colors, it really is a magnificent sight. For any movie buffs out there you may recall this from a scene in the James Bond’s movie, Quantum of Solace. Like most of the Italian cities and towns, there are loads of typical trattorias and osterias. One of the best lies in the heart of Siena. Unfortunately the secret is out so its usually thronged with locals and tourists but make sure you visit, you won’t be disappointed, Losteria on via de Rossi.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about TuscanyFrom Sienna, get a hired car. There is a fantastic train service to most of the larger towns but to experience the Tuscan countryside properly you really need a car. The freedom you have to stop at small walled towns and villages and sample the local produce, for me is one of Tuscany’s highlights. The Cypress trees, old country cottages and the striking sunflowers means the journey is the destination. Driving the Chianti region, stopping at various towns and sampling the local wines is another highlight. We came across Montepulciano, one of the oldest hill top walled towns while driving one day and to this day it’s one of my favourite spots. Although not exactly undiscovered, it’s not as well known as some of its neighbours so it doesn’t attract as many tourists as the famous San Gimignano just down the road. However, regardless of the large influx of tourists the medieval walled town of San Gimignano is town you just have to visit. The fourteen towers dominate the landscape and give a dramatic feel as you get closer to it. Like most of Tuscany’s towns it is also pedestrianised but although easy to navigate it can be extremely busy in the summer months. I would recommend staying there for a few days or even overnight to get a true feel for the place. Alternatively visit in the late afternoon when the numerous Tour buses have left. Because of the nature of the walled town it gets dark very early and is not the best place to see the Tuscan sunset. Its neighbour on the other hand, Volterra, is the perfect spot. Only a half hour drive from San Gimignano, but its situated perfectly to enjoy a late drink as the locals meet in the open square to discuss the events of the day. You get the feeling you are seeing the true Tuscany here while taking in one of the best sunsets in the world.

Top tips for taking the best holiday photos

You can drive back to Pisa from here as it’s only an hours drive and visit the famous leaning tower before flying home. Pisa however, for me lacks the grandeur of the other Tuscan cities. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Leaning Tower, I think I would probably skip it altogether. The great thing about the Tower and its surrounding buildings is that they are so close to the airport that you can really do a quick visit on your way home. There are four buildings, one of which is an impressive Cathedral but really a few hours is all you need here to tick the box and get the souvenir photo.

 

Sarah

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DestinationsSunseekers

My Guide to Lake Garda, Where to Stay and What to Do.

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For a long time now Italy has been one of favourite holiday destinations. I have stayed in Lake Garda twice, with and without children and loved it both times. Check out my handy guide to Lake Garda, with tips on where to stay and what to do.

Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is extremely popular with Irish visitors. There are direct flights to Verona from Irish airports during the summer months, as well as flights to nearby Milan and Bologna. It may sound like a cliché but Lake Garda is one of those destinations that caters for everyone. It is romantic yet family orientated, quiet but full of sports activities. It is also perfectly situated to visit some of Italy’s famous cities and towns.
 

 
Lake Garda is just over two hours from Milan and Venice, and only an hour from Verona – so if you are looking for a holiday where you can get out and explore some more of Italy, then Lake Garda is for you.

sirmione, lake garda, italy

If Venice or Milan seem a little too far to attempt on a day trip, Verona is most definitely not. It’s so easy to navigate and has some marvellous sights to see. The amphitheatre or Arena Di Veroni, is stunning, and is remarkably well preserved. In fact I thought it was more impressive than the Colosseum in Rome when I saw it for the first time.
 

 
You can also visit Juliette’s house and call out to your partner from the balcony where Romeo declared his love. If on the other hand you just want to wander, Verona is a beautiful city with plenty of shops and cafes that line its historical streets.

juliettes balcony verona, near lake garda
 

 

Things to do in Lake Garda

As much as there is to do close by, you may find it hard to leave Lake Garda. It takes approximately three hours to drive around the lake, and you will be surprised at how each town differs in style and size. Water taxis are available to most towns and are a great way to explore the lakeside towns.
 

 
The cable car ride from Malcesine to Monte Baldo is a great way to see the lake from above. You will see many jumping off the top of the mountain with parachutes – it is a remarkable sight.  If you just want to relax, there are many man made beaches to choose from, but the sandy beach of Lazise is one of the best on the Lake.
 

 
Gardaland is a must visit if on holidays in Lake Garda with kids – see more on that below, and a new cycle path is due to open in 2021, which I am personally looking forward to seeing.

monte baldo lake garda

Where to stay in Lake Garda

If you are only staying for a short time the choice of location is very important, particularly if you want to do some sightseeing. Generally speaking try to stay in one of the towns at the southern end of the lake if you want to be close to Venice, Milan and Verona.
 

 
If you are staying in the beautiful town of Riva, at the very north of the Lake,  it will take you a lot longer to travel to and from destinations. The town of Garda is a popular choice and attracts many visitors because it is only twenty miles from Verona. My favourite town in Lake Garda is Sirmione.

sirmione lake garda

Sirmione is situated at the southern tip of Lake Garda, on a long peninsula that juts out from the mainland. It is stunning! The old town is dominated by a thirteenth-century fairytale-like castle, the Rocca Scaligera. The fortress is open to the public and is well worth the visit. If you are travelling with kids, don’t despair. My daughter Alex thought it was like Cinderella’s castle, so it appeals to both adults and children. 
 

 
You can choose to stay in Sirmione, but bear in mind it will be very busy with tourists in peak season. A day trip might be a better option depending on the time of year you visit. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more relaxed village to stay in, Bardolino or Limone may suit you.

bardolino lake garda

If you are travelling with kids, Pescheira would be my resort of choice. It’s southern location allows for a short airport transfer and it is also ideal for day trips to nearby cities. Its pedestrianised streets and Roman ruins make an idyllic setting, but its close proximity to Gardaland is the main attraction.
 

 
Gardaland is Italy’s largest theme park and one of the best theme parks in Europe. It is also home to Peppa Pig Land, and Legoland is opening a waterpark there in 2021. If you are staying in Garda for two weeks you may be better to buy an annual pass. This will allow you as many visits as you like, with automatic fast pass entry to most of the rides.
 

 
However, if one day is enough for you, order your tickets online to beat the queues. This saved us forty-five minutes queuing time in July. GardaLand is a super theme park with rides for all ages and I would highly recommend it if you are travelling with kids.

gardaland

Garda is just one of the many beautiful holiday destinations Italy has to offer, but is one that I can safely recommend for everyone. Whether you want to try some fantastic water-sports, visit some stunning Italian cities or simply enjoy a peaceful lakeside setting, Lake Garda has all in abundance.
 

 
Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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