However, upon check-in, I realised that my bf's answer to the Mediterranean was, in fact, a 9 day trip exploring the Veneto region in Italy! I hadn't suspected a thing, and after trying to scan the 'fabricated Kristiansand flight document' at check-in and being told our actual destination, was filled in on many a back-story and realised my beau's capability of deception... the increased no. of grey hairs over the past few months now fell into place.
I was bowled over and maintained a smug grin for the entire journey. Needless to say, Italy enchanted us. We started in Venice, before moving to Verona (with a lunch stop in Vicenza), from there to Lake Garda and finally to the hills surrounding Verona before returning to Marco Polo airport.
Venice features on many a person's bucket list and is definitely worth a vist, however, it is riddled with tourists during the peak summer, so we would suggest going in spring or autumn to enjoy it with less crowds. That said, we had a lovely start to the holiday, with caprese salads, pizza and prosecco for lunch.
With my architecture studies, he knew that Vicenza would interest me, and our itinerary included a lunch stop en route to Verona. This is where one can find many works by the eminent Andrea Palladio (most famously, the villa 'La Rotonda' and 'Teatro Olimpico') and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Verona was magical, and for both of us, our favourite destination of the trip. For the first night, we checked into a lovely B&B situated just over the river, in a pleasant residential area. It was only a 10 minute walk to the old town, and we spent the early evening wandering along the Adige river, admiring the buildings and caught other tourists photographing what was supposedly Juliette's balcony. There was also an opera recital happening just down the street from our restaurant. This was a trattoria that our hostess had recommended, which overlooks the Adige and has a perfect view of the castle. Here, we had our first taste of local wine and truffle-infused polenta.
Our second night held even more in store, including a surprise upgrade to a luxury hotel on the other side of the city, a stone's throw from the Arena di Verona. An invitation to check my bf's suit pocket revealed 2 tickets to Verdi's Aida opera showing that evening. [Chandler voice from Friends: "Could this trip GET more romantic?!"] The whole experience holds such special memories and may even have included an engagement ring (oo la la!).
I don't want to ramble on for too long, but to mention the final few nights - Lake Garda is only an hour's drive from the city of Verona and really awed us with the contrasting landscape, mountains and clear waters. Here, we managed a bit more 'down time'. At this point I knew the rest of the itinerary and I think my bf -- sorry, now fiancé -- could finally exhale. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the quaint town of Malcesine, the very decadent Locanda San Vigilio restaurant near Garda and generally splashing about in the water. We took a drive further south towards Sirmione, but realised that we found the mid to northern parts to be much more beautiful and less busy.
We ended the journey in the hills north of Verona, where you can take in a bit more of the countryside and visit the Valpolicella wine region. We had sampled a couple of wines from this area while at the lake, but now had a chance to explore it ourselves. A friend had recommended a few of his favourite winemakers and we managed to part with more Euro's than intended at one of the vineyards. But for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, totally worth it!