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20 THE MAYO NEWS

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

THE MAYO NEWS 21

TRAVEL FEATURE RE
MICHAEL DUFFY
EDITOR

HE erratic nature of our own Irish weather has meant it is now par for the course that couples and families from all over the west of Ireland are seeking some guaranteed sun through short holiday breaks on the continent. Despite austerity and seemingly endless economic gloom, many of these breaks are relatively affordable and the lure of some guaranteed sun and warmth after a two hour ight is just too good to turn down for many. Of course, here in the west we have the luxury of having many of these holiday destinations on our doorstep thanks to the continued expansion of Ireland West Airport Knock. Flights to holiday destinations in Spain and Portugal have been particularly popular over the last number of years but for those who perhaps want a little bit more culture and variety than the typical sun holiday, the new ight to Milan-Bergamo in northern Italy is the perfect option.

minutes) from the city of Milan and the Lake Garda region. Following our transfer through the ved beautiful Italian countryside, we arrived as in Sirimione on Lake Garda which was absolutely buzzing on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. (We later found out that that particular Sunday was the traditional start to the summer season in Lake Garda and families from all around the region traditionally make it their business to travel to the areas hot spot for some al fresco dining and general relaxation). taly Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy ges and is home to roughly 11 lake villages hs. which all thrive in the summer months. ona The bigger cities of Brescia and Verona are too only short drives away.

the real Italy


y EASIER SAID THAN DONE Jimmy Norman (Galway Bay FM) and Hilary Martyn (Galway Independent) learned how to cook pasta from scratch with the help of an Italian chef at the Al Rocol homestead.

Getting to know

SLIGHT DETOUR
OUR generous hosts allowed us a couple ple of hours to relax and take in the sights and sounds on Sunday evening, and, as luck would have it, Mayo were due to play Dublin in the National League Semi Final so following on from some intrepid pre-trip research, I and my colleague from the Sligo Champion, Emma Gallagher, set off to try and nd The Fiddler of Dooney Irish Bar. Proprietor, Michael, informed me in an e-mail that he could open his bar at 4.30pm but unfortunately for us, his bar was located in Desenzano, on the other side of Lake Garda from Sirimione. However, the concierge at our beautiful Hotel Continental (www.continentalsirmione.com) informed us of the relaxing Water Taxis which travail Lake Garda at regular intervals and sure enough, within a half and hour, we had located The Fiddler of Dooney in the heart of the hip district of Desanzano. Michael went on to tell us he was Colleary originally from Bellaghy, just over the Mayo border in Sligo, who had settled in Lake Garda some 18 years ago. His pub is the only Irish pub in the Lake Garda region and was the perfect place to swap stories from home while watching a hugely entertaining, if ultimately fruitless trip to Croke Park for Mayo. Michael was indeed a mine of information on the whole Lake Garda district and a visit to his homely pub is a must if in the region. Having enjoyed another beautiful boat trip back to Sirmione, our group met for a quiet exquisite meal at the Arcimboldo restaurant (www.ristorantearcimboldo) where much of the famous local cuisine fresh from the lake was on the menu. Our host also informed us that she had played host to a number of Irish weddings over the last number of years, and one could hardly imagine a more beautiful setting for a wedding than the Sirimione region. A memorable rst evening in Lake Garda was rounded off by watching AC Milan and Napoli play an important league game in Serie A, in one of the many Cafe style bars in Sirimione.
y DINING AL FRESCO Members of the Irish delegation of journalists chat with local tour guides during lunch at the Vittoria Restaurant in Sensole, on the shores of Lake Iseo.

DAY TWO
ne can hardly imagine a better way to shake of the lethargy after a busy rst day than a motorboat trip on Lake Garda. Our guide pointed out many of the private islands on the lake which are owned by some of Italys wealthiest families including the Beratta family, who are world famous for their rearms manufacturing. The whole boat trip felt like we were part of a set on a James Bond movie and our disembarking from the boat near the drawbridge of the famous 14th century Sirimione Castle was indeed spectacular and is the most signicant defensive structure on Lake Garda, having been restored to its original splendour. It now plays host to a large amount of fruit stands

BRESCIA TOURISM
AS a guest of Brescia Tourism in the Lake Garda region of Italy, I recently had the pleasure of taking a ight from Knock to Milan-Bergamo, in the company of ve other Irish journalists, to savour the delights of one of Italys most beautiful districts. The ights from Knock leave at a perfect time on Sunday morning and after a very manageable two hour ight, we arrived in Milan-Bergamo in the early afternoon, before catching a transfer to the famous Lake Garda region. Milan-Bergamo Airport is perfectly situated as it is equidistant (roughly 45

STATISTIC

STATISTIC

BRESCIA

IS HOME

TO ITALIAN

GARDA
LAKE IN

LAKE

SOCCER

GREAT
ANDREA

IS THE

LARGEST

PIRLO

ITALY

and outdoor cafes and leisurely strolls along its narrow lanes are hugely popular with all visitors. Like food and football, wine too plays an important part in the tourism economy of Lake Garda and there are several wineries slowly building a reputation for excellence. Our group paid a visit to the Provenza Winery in the nearby province of Lugana. Provenza is a typical example of a family run winery which was founded in 1967 by Walter Contato and is still run by his sons Fabio and Patrizia. Our charismatic guide Aldo provide a fascinating insight into the pain-stalking procedure that is wine production before the group retired to the plush Provenza Showroom to sample some of the best wines on offer by Provenza. Lunch on Day Two of the trip was certainly one to remember as we dined in the exclusive Organerie Restaurant of the 5-star Grand Terme Hotel, which

offered exquisite food and a quite breathtaking view right on the shore of the huge expanse that is Lake Garda. It was with heavy hearts that our group then left the Lake Garda region to move further south to the more quaint surroundings of the Lake Iseo region. All of group vowed to return to Lake Garda in the future. If Lake Garda is full of the glitz and glamour of the Italian lifestyle, then Lake Iseo is much more reserved and subdued. Our base here was the village of Sulzano, and the beautiful Hotel Rivalago, which again was blessed with spectacular views of the Lake Iseo and the surrounding mountainous region. Our evening was a truly unique one as we spent it at the Al Rocol winery as guests of the Vimercati family, who operate a truly unique family business. We spent the evening preparing our own truly original Italian dishes in the Vimercati kitchen. For starters we cooked

a beautiful Tomato Pie from scratch, including a pastry lled with tomato, mozzarella and parmasean cheese, parma ham and basil. We then made our own Tagliatelle pasta from scratch, a truly unique experience, which was to be accompanied by a pork llet with gorgonzola cheese and broccoli; before nally making our very own Tiramisu. Its true to say we were a hungry crew by the time everything was prepared but the evening was a real eye opener in terms of how much time and preparation is need to cook a proper Italian meal. All the ingredients are of course sourced locally and we were able to wash down the meal with wine also produced on the same Al Rocol farm. The Vimercati family have been running this business since the 1600s and along with seeing the winery and cooking your own food, there are now 35 bedrooms here so you can stay and become totally immersed in Italian culture in the beautiful surroundings of the Francicorta Hills. For more see www. alrocol.com.

DAY THREE
ur nal day again began with a relaxing boat trip, this time on Lake Iseo, which is the fourth largest lake in Italy and is much more inuenced by mountainous terrain than Lake Garda. The little villages here are far removed from the glamour of Lake Garda and mostly rely on traditional industries such as shing and boat making. The mountains make for truly stunning scenery too and our lunch in the Vittoria Restaurant in the tiny village of Sensole was one of the more relaxing moments of a hectic trip. The last duty of our magnicent guide Roberto Ricca was to transfer us to his

home city of Brescia, home to famous soccer names like Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli. Brescia has some 200,000 inhabitants and is extremely rich in Italian history. To some extent, the city has lived in the shadow of the more illustrious Milan and Lake Garda but architecturally its town squares are stunning and it has a whole host of important museums which are extremely popular with tourists. We were taken to visit the Santa Giulia Museum and Unseen Twentieth Century Exhibit, the Daimler Collection. This was indeed a stunning collection of art which includes some 230 works by around 110 international artists, which range from 1909 up to now. Alongside classic examples of Constructivism and Concrete Art through Minimalism and Conceptual Tendencies the exhibition also presents installations, photographs and videos by renowned contemporary artists. We then spent our nal night in Brescia dining out on the cobbled streets at the magnicent Al Frate restaurant, before returning to Hotel Ambasciatori to relax ahead of our early morning return ight to Knock.

CONCLUSION
SO when thinking of booking a few days away this summer, rather than heading straight for the packed resorts of Spain and Portugal, why not take advantage of the easy access from Knock to the Lake Garda and Lake Iseo regions and spend a few days living it up in true Italian fashion. Flight prices with Ryanair from Knock are extremely reasonable and there are all levels of accommodation available depending on your budget. For style and substance, there are not many Europeans that do it with such effortlessness as the Italians, you really will not want to come home.

y An aerial view of Sirimione, Lake Garda.

y The imposing architecture of Brescia.

y Views from a boat trip on Lake Garda.

y The entrance to the 14th century Sirimione Castle.

y Life in the slow lane on Lake Iseo.

y Francesca Vimercati and Lisa Hughes (The Star) make some Tiramisu.

y The beautiful Hotel Rivalgo in Sulzano.

y An exclusive island home on Lake Iseo.

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