WHEN you’re a rich, sexy film star, the world’s your oyster.
But time and again, the Italian Lakes pull back their fair share of celebrity visitors, not to mention the millions from all walks of life who visit each year.
Gorgeous George Clooney heads for Lake Como, but it was Lake Garda that drew me and my own hunk – husband, Dave – for a look-see.
The Inghams Chalet Hotel Galeazzi on the Gardone Riviera was our pick and they couldn’t have rolled out a bigger red carpet if Mr C himself had rolled up. Despite not arriving until the small hours on our flight from Edinburgh, we were met with cheery smiles, a hot snack and a choice of drinks.
Chalet Hotel Galeazzi really is the home from home it aspires to be. Our spacious room had an enormous double bed and large sofa. Furnishings are traditional and complement the parquet flooring and wood-beam roof.
We had a view over Lake Garda and on a small balcony at the rear we could enjoy a drink while looking towards the lush, green mountains.
Guests meet at 7pm for drinks and canapés followed by dinner at 7.30pm. A choice of quality complementary wines is offered with dinner, making the stay close to all-inclusive but without the premium cost.
With super service, food and scenery, it was hard to drag ourselves away. But when in Rome, well, northern Italy . . .
Lake Garda is around 30 miles in length and there are numerous picturesque towns and villages along the shore, from Riva Del Garde in the north to Sirmione and Desenzano in the south.
Away from the lake, trips are available to Venice, Verona and the Dolomites, amongst others.
Our first excursion was to Verona, which was dominated by an amphitheatre, now used for star acts such as Adele and Duran Duran though from late June opera is on the bill.
Tucked away in a small courtyard is the balcony immortalised in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Folklore says if you touch the statue of Juliet on the arm you will be lucky in love. Obviously my husband didn’t have to do this, but I did . . . I’ll keep you posted!
Il Vittoriale House and Gardens is a hidden gem in the hills above Gardone. Their creator, Gabriele D’Annunzio, was an eccentric poet and war hero.
Around every corner there was something to take your breath away – be it an amphitheatre, a huge, blue horse statue or a First World War gunboat – along with hundreds of statues, obelisks and a couple of waterfalls.
A 20-min walk to the south of Gardone is the town of Salo with boutique shops and cafes on the waterfront, and a market every Saturday.
Our hotel offered a free boat trip to Sirmione, a vibrant town at the southern end of the lake renowned for its ice cream with one gelateri boasting 250 flavours!
The most-visited town on Lake Garda, Sirmionie is the site of one of the largest Roman ruins in Italy. A tower marks the founding of the Red Cross after a Swiss businessman helped casualties during the nearby battle of Solferino in 1859.
There are ferry services covering Lake Garda. Although not particularly cheap, they are reliable.
We took a rapid service to Limone, a lovely town perched between the lake and the steep foothills behind.
As its name suggests, it is famed for its lemon groves and we spent a good while – and Euros – in the many food shops.
With so much to see and do, Lake Garda is a real star… with or without Mr Clooney!