Travelling can produce plenty of surprises and sometimes those surprises include our accommodation. Just when we've expected a property to be fabulous, it fails to live up to expectations or vice versa so when a hotel or apartment really fits the bill, I think it's worth sharing. To follow on from my previous recommendations of where to stay in the UK, France, Austria and Switzerland, here are a few of my favourite accommodations in Italy.
Fiumelatte (near Varenna), Lake Como, Italy
Sometimes you fluke it with a real winner and booking Fisherman's House at Fiumelatte for our visit to Lake Como this year was one such occasion. Located in Fiumelatte, a small village just two kilometres from Varenna, Fisherman's House has two apartments for rent on the upper level of the house with the owners living on the lower floor.
Our apartment had two bedrooms and a living room as well as a large (fully equipped) kitchen/dining area and a bathroom. The master bedroom and dining area both opened out on to the balcony which was literally right above Lake Como. A small table and chairs on the balcony was our favourite spot to sit and enjoy the views which were nothing short of spectacular. Free parking is available about 200 metres from the house and complimentary WiFi is included.
Walking to Varenna is easy - either along a footpath beside the main road or via a walking path. A small shop which sells all the basics including fresh bread and milk, is located across the street about 50 metres from the building. For me, the big selling point was the location - you couldn't get any closer to Lake Como if you tried. I definitely plan to return to Fisherman's House again in the near future. (Read more about Fisherman's House here)
Update: I again stayed at Fisherman's House for a week in June 2015, during a particularly hot spell. The days were consistently above 35C and we definitely missed having air conditioning. The high temperatures also made walking to and from Varenna less appealing but there is a multi-level car park in Varenna (charges apply) which we used on a couple of occasions.
St Georgen (near Bozen/Bolzano), Italy
We usually stay with my husband's relatives when we visit Bozen but on one occasion it wasn't convenient so we needed to find somewhere else and Messnerhof Apartments turned out to be a good choice. The apartments are part of the family home with the family living downstairs and the apartments upstairs.
Furnished in traditional Austrian-style pine, the apartments are modern and well-equipped. The open-plan layout means the double bed, fold out sofa bed and kitchen/dining area are all in the same room, but as our children were older when we stayed there, having a quiet room for them to go to sleep in wasn't a concern.
Messnerhof is situated 4.5 kilometres above Bozen with fantastic views of the city. The property is a working farm amidst vine-covered slopes, making it a really relaxing rural getaway just minutes from the city of Bozen/Bolzano. (Stayed 2008)
Read more about Bozen and the Süd Tirol region
Baveno (near Stresa), Lake Maggiore, Italy
This hotel definitely lived up to its name. It has a fantastic location right on the lake and I had a superb view from my room's balcony.
The hotel rooms are large and furnished in gold fabrics, really giving them a 'regal' appearance. A small private garden and jetty are in the hotel grounds and there is also a lake-front swimming pool with the obligatory sun lounges and umbrellas. There were no tea and coffee making or ironing facilities in my room, and WiFi is only available on a pay-per-use basis - EUR5 for one hour.
The breakfast was typically Italian - not a huge choice of cereals but lots of cold meats and bread, although there was a range of yoghurts and fruit for those of us that don't go in for the full cooked breakky to start the day. I stayed here whilst on my Trafalgar Best of Switzerland Tour. (Stayed 2012)
Salo, Lake Garda, Italy
There are lots of different holiday parks to choose from around Italy's biggest lake, Lake Garda, and we have stayed at three different ones but our favourite is definitely Weekend Camping. My most recent stay at Weekend Camping was in July 2015 when my husband and I spent three nights at the park.
Selva, Dolomites, Italy
This is definitely one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. Our room was lovely, the staff very friendly and helpful and the meals were superb. Accommodation at the Hotel Savoy is reserved on a half-board basis which means both breakfast and dinner (a 5-course feast, no less) are included during your stay.
The meals we enjoyed at Hotel Savoy during our stay in July 2015 are some of the best I've had, and with the hotel's great location right in the Val Gardena region of the Dolomites, I'll definitely be heading back.
Read my full review of the Hotel Savoy | Click here to check latest prices
Levanto (near Cinque Terre), Italy
If you 'Google' accommodation in Levanto, a town just a few kilometres from the Cinque Terre, you'll be inundated with rave reviews of Villa Valentina. After spending four nights there in June 2015, I know why. Villa Valentina is owned by an American expat, Paula (she married a local man), who is the epitome of a great host. The property consists of four self-catering apartments and a number of bed and breakfast rooms and it was in one of the B&B rooms that we stayed.
Furnishings are of the highest quality and Paula's eye for detail is evident. Our bed was one of the comfiest we've slept in and our room made a homely base for a stay in Levanto. Other features in the room included a large wardrobe, desk, TV, free WiFI, tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge with complimentary beer and soft drink, and a large bathroom.
Each morning, Paula serves up a delicious breakfast in the breakfast room which includes her home baked goodies such as frittatas and cakes, as well as cereal, breads, fresh fruit, yoghurt, etc. Eggs can be cooked to your liking. The breakfast room is also stocked with complimentary nibbles and wine from 5pm to 7pm each day, and a coffee machine (for those real Italian coffees) is available for use all day.
As a local, Paula is a wealth of knowledge on what to see and do in the area. She provided great tips on where to visit, where to eat (she even booked a restaurant for us), and gave us details on ferry and train times and suggestions for visiting the five villages of the Cinque Terre. Her tip to visit Portovenere, a beautiful village that wasn't on our original sightseeing list, was the piece de resistance of her advice, though!
A lovely enclosed garden at the back of the property is a great place to sit and relax at the end of a day's sightseeing. There's a BBQ provided for guests to use, as well as a gazebo, hammocks, and plenty of places to sit.
Although it is a good 20 minute walk into the centre of Levanto (15 minutes to the train station), I would have no hesitation in staying at Villa Valentina again. There is ample free parking at the front of the property and Paula will advise you on the best place to park your car should you prefer to drive in to Levanto. From Levanto, trains regularly travel to all the Cinque Terre villages and beyond. Highly recommended. (Stayed 2015)
I have personally stayed in all of the above accommodations and would gladly return for another stay. All of the stays were paid for by me. For more accommodation options, please visit the Holidays to Europe accommodation directory but note that I have not personally stayed in any of the properties unless specified here.
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