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Thursday, 25 August 2016

La dolce vita!

"...the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets..."

You could mistake this place for paradise. You're surrounded by copious bowls of spaghetti, seawater and sexy Italian men. The city is slow and leisurely, beckoning its locals and visitors alike to "try the finest sprizzato in Italia, bella!" and waste away afternoons in bars overlooking the canals. But you only have a few days in this city so you shot an espresso and your heart is pounding, your head buzzing. You take one last glance at the crumpled "top tips" your friend slipped you and off you head, into the maze that is best known as Venice.

Venice is a city that requires a map. Unless, like me, you find serenity in wandering down the rustic streets boasting ancient brickwork and floral decorated balconies (beware, it is in these streets that you will find topless Italian pensioners hanging out their washing!). Our days were often spent exploring the different areas of Venice as well as touring Doge's Palace, taking boat trips and spending a day at the Lido beach. Although I must confess, a lot of time was dedicated to consuming the fresh cuisine...!

There is little better than the victorious feeling when you stumble across that authentic restaurant with the 60 year old manager who has made it his life's goal to perfect the tiramisu. On our last evening we seemed to walk aimlessly around Venice in order to find that "shabby chic" family owned restaurant - rejecting the typical "best pizza in Italy" restaurants. Eventually we chanced upon a popular courtyard off the beaten track, echoing the quick Italian dialect. When the waiter brought a table out for us and greeted us with a glass of prosecco, we knew we had chosen a good spot for the last night.

You savour every last drop of rosé, every morsel of pumpkin pasta, every spoonful of tiramisu. But still, it is not enough; Italy is addictive and leaves you wanting more. It's not just the food though. You're jealous of the olive toned women who appear unaffected by the heat; their dark ponytails sleek, co-ordinating with their sophisticated wardrobe. The gondaleer men manifest simplicity in their striped t-shirts and leather loafers, their stubble somehow sheltering their alluring demeanour.

If romance is on the cards for your Venice trip, I suggest you throw yourself head first into that fiery bowl of seafood spaghetti. Not only will it save you a lot of heartbreak from that hot Italian waiter, but it has a taste, tenderness and trust that will make you go back for seconds.
(Although I'm not saying the men don't too!)

Yet how are there no fat Italians? Do they live on caprese salads? After only a 10 day solely carb diet, it became apparent to me that the Italians must have a more varied meal plan than pizza and pasta.
Forgetting the round-bellied Italian pensioners, I don't think I came across one 'large' Italian!

After our 4 day luxurious city break, it was time to move on to south Lake Garda. People had forewarned me of its beauty, but I had not been prepared. With temperatures soaring around 34 degrees during the day, the lake couldn't help but bask in the sun too, glistening in all it's pride. Lake Garda is sheltered by mountains and picturesque towns dotted around the Lake, so it's worthwhile driving or catching a boat to the other towns to explore them for a day. We stayed in a resort called "Desenzano", a busy town with restaurants, beaches and apartments not only attracting the tourists, but the locals too.
Our time was spent sunbathing on the roof terrace (as we had not had the chance in Venice), exploring the other towns and jumping in the Lake to cool off. The extensive activities in each place makes it suitable for many ages!
Athough this was only my first trip to Italy, I know I'll be back. There's something so enchanting about Italy, knowing you can sit blissfully undisturbed in the bustling streets. You are anonymous, you are recreated, you are who you want to be. After all, behind those large dark glasses and floppy hat, who's to know you're not a local yourself?