It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
While Americans are in love with Italy, chances are that most have yet to discover Lake Garda and the Dolomites. Our Gordana Sirota, and her team of colleagues, recently learned how to visit these Northern Italian gems like a local.
Why do you think these are under-the-radar destinations for many Americans?
Italy is full of world-class places. While Lake Garda and the Dolomites may not be on the main tourist route, they’re great for returning travelers in search of diverse natural beauty, culture, cuisine, and a multitude of attractions. In winter, the Italian Alps have some of the best skiing anywhere. With Milan as the starting point, you’ll get world class cultural events, art, high fashion, outstanding design, food, outdoor adventure and nature at its best.
How did you get around?
We flew the extremely comfortable Emirates A380 from New York to Milan. After a weekend in Milan, we headed north-east to the Lake District by car. Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake, and we used it as a base to explore the region for the next two days, passing colorful villages, rolling hills and the Italian Alps in the horizon. On our final leg, we drove a further 45 mins to the base of the majestic Dolomites, and took a surprise helicopter tour over the Alps, which landed in the national park in Madonna di Campiglio.
How did you spend your time in Lake Garda?
Beautiful Lake Garda is one of the nature’s gems. Its crystal-clear waters are surrounded by palm trees, olive groves, beehives and vineyards. On our way, we stopped in Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We toured the famous Arena, a Roman amphitheater which hosts a world-class summer opera festival. Sirmione was another highlight. We joined the packs of tourists carrying gelatos and wandered the narrow streets, admiring the castle, thermal spas and Roman ruins. Finally, we squeezed in a visit to Cantine Ferrari, Italy’s premium sparkling wine producer since 1902. The visit wouldn’t be complete without a proper sparkling wine tasting!
What did you do in the Dolomites?
Summer in the Dolomites is peak for hiking, biking and outdoor adventure. The town of Madonna di Campiglio, one of Italy’s largest ski resorts, turns lush in warmer months. We started off with a helicopter ride to Madonna which gave us a birds-eye view of the Alps and its striking rock formations. We hiked to Mardis Valesinella, a series of stunning waterfalls that intertwine along the mountainside. We even got a chance to visit with Hotel Chalet del Sogno, one of the top ski-in/ski out chalets in the region.
We know you ate well. What restaurants or dishes stood out?
Every meal was an event. The Michelin-starred Ristorante/Armani in the Armani Hotel Milano had an exquisite samplings of seafood and risottos. At Oseleta, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Villa Cordevigo, each wine was handcrafted on property, each morsel intensely thought out. Our amuse-bouche looked like a cherry, complete with stem. But when popped in the mouth, it was a rich, smooth fois gras. And finally the rustic charm of a picnic with the gracious owner of Hotel Chalet del Sogno. The spread was full of local meats, cheeses, and fresh breads. We even sampled a pesto made by a local who forages the ingredients and prepares it herself.