Gardaland Sea Life is a proper aquarium hosting all types of fish and aquatic creatures. For us it was not as entertaining as we thought it might be. It didn’t take us very long to get through the building, and we still felt that it took a little too long. We were getting bored in the end. But the surrounding area quite made up for it. The building seen from the outside was rather stunning.
First time I was in Bibione was in 1990. It was our first time in Italy and I was only five. I remember loads from the time there. “Italia ’90” – the FIFA world cup (football, yes) was going on at the time. Italians took football crazy to a whole new level. I’ll never forget.
I remember some of the people we met. Some of them we still keep in touch with and visit every time we’re in Italy. Some were my brothers’ summer flirts, and probably people they never want to be reminded of ever again. The ice-cream, the swimming pool, the food, the heat, the beach, the sea. It was fantastic.
One other thing that clearly stands out is the funfair. I went back some time, probably in the mid nineties, and this year I returned again. And it had not changed a bit! This time I was standing in the shadow of my Son. It was fantastic! He’s younger than I was when I was there for the first time, so he didn’t care as much for the same rides that I simply loved, at age five. I was a little too handicapped to be able to try anything much, but I had my camera with me and stood cheering on the side. I also walked around and had a look, breathing in the same smells from years gone by and noticed details from a world preserved for decades.
On the eastern hillside of Lake Garda is a small family-run hotel called Due Leoni. The hotel is one big house, looking more like a large privately owned house than a hotel from the outside, but divided into smaller flats that are rented out. We stayed here for three nights, in a perfect, small two-bedroom flat.
The property is framed by neatly trimmed bushed and wrought iron fences. Inside the garden is well taken care of with flowers blooming, green grass and a pool that was just the perfect size and temperature. Furthest from the entrance gate, and on one side of the pool is a small field of olive trees. Across the road and beyond the small parking lot the olive trees continued.
We slept in in the morning. The sun rose late behind the mountains behind the hotel, but soon covered the area in splendid sunshine. Our flat was built so that no sun shone directly into it until late in the afternoon, making the living room/kitchen an invigorating hide-out from the fierce Mediterranean sun. As soon as we were up in the morning, one or two of us walked the few minutes down to the small supermarket to buy fresh bread. Cheese and ham was also cut and weighed while we watched. We ate the breakfast outside while watching the splendid view of the lake and waiting for the sun to reach our table. Soon as the food was gone we walked the few metres over to the pool where we spent hours every day. Sunbathing, swimming, fooling around in the pool and water-gun fights in-between the olive trees kept all three of us busy well into the siesta hours. At siesta the pool was closed and we returned to our flat. Another small and simple meal awaited before we either took a walk down to the lake or collapsed and fell asleep on the sofa or a cool bed, before the rest of the day was spent in and around the pool. In the evening we ate at the local restaurants, freshly caught fish from the lake, or a simple and delicious Italian pizza.
The stay in Brenzone was pure heaven. Husband and I loved it, and Son had the time of his life. He enjoyed the stay in Brenzone far more than the stay in Gardaland resort. We had time for each other, time to enjoy life and time to live. These days we reminisce while eating green salads with italian prosciutto sprinkled with olive oil made from the olives from the garden of Due Leoni.
(I absolutely recommend this hotel – check it out here)
After a few days near Gardaland we travelled further north along the Garda lake up to Brenzone. Brenzone consists of many small villages and we stayed in Magugnano. A very picturesque village with tall mountains running steeply down towards the lake. I was in heaven. Clear mountain air, a crispy greenish-blue lake, fresh locally grown fruit everywhere, and the temperature was just perfect.
We stayed at a hotel called Due Leoni (I’ll come back to that in a later post) where the olive trees grew everywhere around us. We had five minutes to walk down to a small supermarket, where we bought breakfast every day. Giant hams lay on display in a cooler, and were sliced while we watched. Every day started with freshly baked rolls (perfect, but they could have substituted some of the white flour for some whole grain…) and a variety of Italian delicacies; prosciuttio di parma, prosciutto cotto, salame.
In the middle of the village was a small market. I believe this was only open once a week, but we were lucky enough to stumble upon it while out walking. I bought kilos of apricots and nectarines grown in and around the village. They were recently harvested and a kilo worth of fruit often included a small twig or two, and at least a few leaves from the trees; exactly the way I like it! There were all types of vegetables and fruits sold, and these made me dream of spending a month in the area, having time and the utilities to cook every meal from scratch using the best of produce.
The village was vibrant and full of life, as were the surrounding hills. It was a little magical walking in the streets looking at everything around us, knowing that the same streets had been roamed for centuries. Evidence of the long history of the village was found in shape of a small church adjacent to the market square. Murals inside it were about 800 years old, and apparently the church had been built on top of an older church. Every small village in Brenzone had a similar story to tell, all stretching back many centuries, making the area so much more than a gorgeous, adventurous tourist magnet.
The two hotels mentioned in this post were Annia Park Hotel near the Marco Polo airport in Venice. The other was Gardaland resort, connected to Gardaland, which is (if I’m not mistaken) the largest amusement park in Italy.
Annia Park Hotel is absolutely recommendable. It is a bit pricy, but if you arrive in the middle of the night, like we did, and want a comfortable room, guaranteed air condition, and a good breakfast, then this is a good place to stay. It’s very close to the airport with free shuttle going back and forth, but is situated otherwise a bit in the middle of nowhere. I would never stay for a length of time, but for one night it was absolutely perfect!
Gardaland resort had a very cool pirate-themed room, but except for that we didn’t really like it all that much. The hotel has an outside pool (where we all had to wear swimming caps), which is fun for kids and adults alike, but the entertainment planned for kids was much too late in the evening for small “jet-lagged” Norwegians who normally put the kid to bed around 7; the show didn’t start until 9pm. The food was also very good, both the breakfast and the dinner buffet were absolutely recommendable, but as pricy as the rest of the hotel. If planning to go to Gardaland I would next time stay somewhere else.