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Verona and Lake Garda – a great two centre holiday in Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

THEY are only a half hour journey apart but, for a memorable holiday full of contrasts, Verona and Lake Garda go together like Romeo and Juliet.

Of course, that”s what a lot of the tourist trail in the ancient Italian city of Verona is all about. The story of the two young lovers had been going the rounds for a long time before Shakespeare came along.

But he spun it in to a classic in which the pair belonged to rival families, one supporting the Pope and the other Emperor Frederick I.He set the scenes of the ball , the balcony , the secret marriage , the farewells , the suicide of Romeo and then of Juliet all in Verona in around 1302.

Shakespeare wrote this in 1597 without ever visiting the area. Verona later obliged by finding the buildings where these events might have taken place and tourists have been flocking for decades to see the balcony, Romeo”s house, Juliet”s tomb, etc.

But perhaps even more impressive than all this is the very real Roman amphitheatre, commonly known as The Arena, which dominates the city. The third largest in the Roman world after the Coliseum in Rome , it is 500 ft. long by 420 ft. wide and 100 ft. high. It could accomodate nearly 25.000 spectators.

Its origin is believed to date from the end of the first century and musical performances are still given in the theatre as it has perfect acoustics.

Verona was always an important city because of its strategic postion and in the Middle Ages was regarded as the key to northern Italy. So it abounds in architecture and fortifications which reflect the various stages of its history.

An example is its main art museum housed in what was once a castle – Castelvecchio – which was the most important military construction of the Scaliger dynasty which ruled the city in the Middle Ages.

The abbey of San Zeno is said to be the greatest example of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy, and is composed of three stages: the actual building during the ninth century, its renewal between 1120-1138 and an enlargement which followed in the same century.

After filling your head with history you can relax alongside the scenic paradise of Lake Garda which used to be a big favourite of wartime PM Winston Churchill, who liked to capture its beauty in his paintings.

Another part of the magic of Garda is dining out beside the lake at night. It is regarded as one of Europe”s most a href=”http://www.deutschgluecksspiel.de/” charming lakes – over online casinos/a 30 miles long and ranging from 1 – 10 miles wide throughout its length, and  over 350 yards in depth in certain areas.

Ferries cruise between the villages that dot it and you can cruise the ferries all day at reasonable prices taking in spots like upmarket Riva, at the north of the lake, and the beautiful village of Limone, named after its plantations.

You can take a ride in a cable car up Monte Baldo for a stunning view of the lake at the resort of Malcesine which offers an incredible panorama at a height of 1850 m.

The most famous town on the Lake is Sirmione which is home to the “Rocca Scaligiera” castle which is one of the main attractions of the Lake. Built by the Scaligieri who were warlords of Verona and Lake Garda, and who during their time prior to the Venetian conquest of the mainland ruled most of modern-day Veneto.

The economy of Lake Garda embraces wine production, fine cheeses and small artisan workshops as well as tourism. In the winter everything closes down. Best times to visit are during the spring and autumn months.

In the summer months, the climate of Lake Garda can be very hot and humid, and often these months the high pressure of southern air clashing with the colder mountain air can create thunderstorms on a regular basis.

Also, the roads around the Lake can be a bit overrun with motoring tourists rather like the Lake District in England. A good time to use the ferries.

Portimao – a small city big on what matters most

portimao portugal

 

Portimao offers a quiet unspoilt corner of southern Europe

 

ONE of the joys of travelling is finding a place that offers everything you could want and which hasn’t been flooded by hordes of other tourists in search of the same thing.

That place for me is Portimao, on the Algarve, Portugal, which I have had the pleasure of getting to know now at all times of the year and have never found disappointing.

Portimao is such a low profile place that tourist guides can’t decide whether it’s a town or a city. I lost count of the number of guides and websites that referred to it as a town when I read about its history.

In fact it was made a city in 1924 by the then President of the Republic, the famous Portuguese writer and politician Manuel Teixeira Gomes, who made a point of honouring the town where he was born during his brief two-year stint as seventh President of Portugal.

With a population of around 50,000, it’s a small city and that is part of its charm. You can wander around its centre and see all its key sites in an hour. It is unspoilt by the omnipresent brand names that plague other cities and has just small shops selling lace, shoes, jewellery, ceramics and wicker goods.

There is still a Moorish charm about the city centre and then there’s the nearby riverfront, where a series of squares – Largo do Dique, Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes and Praça Visconde de Bivar – are filled with outdoor cafés overlooking the wonderful Arade river and its bridges.

The tourists who flock to this part of the world all year around for its superb climate tend to be farmed Doing so increases the performance of deleted data recovery lookup. out along the coast surrounding the city allowing it to retain its quiet dignity. It’s a wonderful place to stroll around and have a drink or a meal in friendly, relaxed establishments.

The area was once ruled by Romans and then Moors but modern Portimão came into being in the reign of King Afonso V in the fifteenth century.It was ideally placed to enjoy the fruits of the boom in international trade stimulated by the great Portuguese voyages of discovery and prospered as a haven for ships plying the African coast.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. The earthquake of 1755 which decimated Lisbon also destroyed much of Portimao starting its economic decline. Its most historic building, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception –  had to be rebuilt after the earthquake but still boasts a Manueline door from the original fourteenth-century structure

portimao portugal Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Church of Our Lady of Conception

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception

Things got better towards the end of the 19th century with the return of trade, exports of dried fruit, milling, fishing and the fish-canning industry, activities which would continue into the 20th century.

Now the tourist industry dominates. The old fish canning plant is a museum and once mighty industrial chimneys no longer belch smoke. But they have been conserved to make life easier for the huge storks who take them over once dormant – and now provide photo opportunities galore for tourists.

portimao portugal riverside

Portimao riverside

portimao portugal museum

Portimao museum

Clube Praia da Oura resort, Allbufeira, Portugal

We spent a week in November at the Clube Praia da Oura resort at Albufeira. The resort is positioned on the beach with historic Albufeira town a scenic two mile walk away.

It consists of 561 self-catering apartments, all with views 0f the Atlantic or the hotel”s gardens and pools.It has two swimming pools, sauna, bowling green, bars, disco, restaurant and barbecue terrace.

There are walkways down to a small beach and the landscaping of the hotel gives it a pleasant tropical ambience.

Some of the units in the Clube Praia da Oura are a bit outdated but rooms are spacious and comfortable with good catering facilities. It is worth finding out exactly where your room is as some undoubtedly have better balcony views than others.

 

Sister Act

There is a sister resort just over the road – the Oura-View Beach Club – and then there is a 4-star hotel nearby, the Oura Praia Hotel. All are owned by Petchey Leisure and in November were all offering rooms for between 20 and 30 euros a night on booking.com.

There is a good mix of restaurants between the three complexes and it is certainly worth noting the times of happy hours and taurus horoscope love usually has many love affairs. special evening promotions. The hotel”s two-for-one steak night offers good eating at good value.

The famous Albufeira strip is just a short walk away and in the winter this is a blessing as a lot of bars and restaurants are still open at a quiet time of year.

It’s not guaranteed sunbathing weather although we did get a couple of days on the beach.  It is pretty much guaranteed to be mostly mild weather and hordes of German and Dutch visitors drive and fly down to the Algarve at this time of year to beat the winter blues.

The Algarve offers fascinating coastal walks which abound in vibrant colours and there are also hill walks to be enjoyed. You can see what the coast and the weather was like in my separate report on Albufeira.

For a budget break from the cold at this time of year it is hard to beat the Algarve coast of Portugal. There are great connections from the UK to its gateway airport of Faro.

Airport transfers are cheap if you shop around meaning you can spread your net for hotels which are as much as an hour”s drive away. Check out www.cheapesttaxis.com/

It”s not hard to find good family accommodation for around 25 euros a night.

 

http://www.visitalgarve.pt/