Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

Italy travel informationWhat is it that makes Italy one of the most-visited countries in the world? The articles below will give you an idea of what this amazing country has to offer the holiday-maker and why it lures us back time and time again.

Just the name Amalfi Coast conjures up images of turquoise blue water, bobbing fishing boats, gelato-coloured houses lining the cliff faces and the well-to-do sipping coffee or cocktails on bouganvillea-draped balconies. The coastline, south of the Italian city of Naples, has long been a dream destination for many but it’s not just highly regarded by sun worshippers and tourists. UNESCO listed the Amalfi Coast as a World Heritage Site in 1997, confirming its status as a uniquely beautiful part of the world that is worth preserving.

On UNESCO’s list of World Natural Heritage sites, the Dolomites is the name of the mountain range that stretches from close to Lake Garda in northern Italy to the Austrian border.

I’m not sure why it took me so many visits to Europe to finally make it to Lake Como, Italy but I can say it was definitely worth the wait! After visits to Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, other popular lakes in Italy's north, in the past, I thought I knew what to expect but I was in for a surprise. 

Just like Australia's Gold Coast, the Lake Garda region in Italy's north is home to an abundance of theme parks and one of them, Gardaland, has become a family favourite in our household. Gardaland is like a smaller Italian version of Disneyland (or even Australia's Dreamworld) with lots of rides, rollercoasters and shows to suit all ages. Other theme parks around Lake Garda include Movie Land Studios, Caneva World (think Wet 'n' Wild) and an animal-themed park, Parco Natura Viva.

Within reach of the ragged Dolomites, Bozen (or Bolzano as it is known in Italian) is a little known city to many Australians. The capital of the northern region of Süd Tirol (South Tyrol) sits alongside the Adige River in a steep valley on the A22 autoroute which runs between Innsbruck and Verona.

I love visiting gardens so when I had the chance to visit the palace and gardens on Isola Bella during my Trafalgar Tour, I grabbed the opportunity. The tour included a one night stay at Bavena near Stresa, right alongside Lake Maggiore which borders both Switzerland and Italy.

Unheard of by many Australians, Italy's largest lake, Lake Garda (Lago di Garda in Italian), is a great place to base yourself for a few days R & R. I've been lucky enough to visit Lake Garda on three separate occasions and the spectacular scenery never fails to impress. The lake is popular for swimming, boating and windsurfing, and the lakeside villages with their colourful houses and shops, add to the beauty.  With mountains either side, and its close proximity to Venice and Verona, Lake Garda really is the perfect destination.

Back in 2011, my son went to Italy on a school exchange for two months. After learning Italian all through his school years, it was a good way to immerse himself in the culture by living with an Italian family - and hopefully improve his own grasp of the language before he continued his Italian studies in Year 12. 

Even those who are not avid readers of Shakespeare are likely to have heard of Romeo and Juliet, the tragic love story that the old Bard wrote and which was set in Italy's northern city of Verona. Whilst the characters are said to be fictional, Juliet's 'house' and in particular, its balcony, are one of Verona's key attractions. But it's not the only thing to do in Verona, as I found out on an afternoon visit.