Children’s Cooking Class In Italy

Children’s Cooking Class In Italy

children's cooking classItaly is a great place for a family vacation.  There is so much to see and do, and Italians love kids!  That’s why the towns are filled with parks, amusement centers, and other venues that are very family friendly.  Of course a trip to Italy would require visits to museums and churches, but when you’ve go kids you’ve got to add in some fun kid friendly activities.

What better way to add a bit of hands on fun than a children’s cooking class!aLast week my grandson Jett and I spent half a day at a children’s cooking class in Vicenza.  The class is offered by these two lovely ladies, Monica and Silvia.  It’s held at Silvia’s house in Rettorgole a small town in the province of Vicenza.  The Province of Vicenza is located in north eastern Italy in the Veneto region,  It’s just a 45 minute train ride from Venice and is home to some of the greatest examples of Palladio’s architecture.

chidren's cooking classMonica and Silvia offer cooking classes for children and adults.  We attended the children’s cooking class along with 5 other children and their moms.

For the children’s cooking class Monica and Silvia planned several easy dishes including gnochetti, little rolled pasta balls similar to gnocchi but made with durham flour instead of potato.  We also made bread balls stuffed with cheese and prosciutto, dough pinwheels stuffed with zucchini and prosciutto, and a delicious tartlet.

The ladies were very helpful and helped the children with the preparation of each dish.  Actually in our case they were extra helpful and very  vigilant.  Jett is allergic to eggs and dairy so they provided him with egg and dairy free alternatives.  Monica and Silvia were also very careful with the cooking utensils.  They made sure that Jett’s utensils did not come in contact with the other children’s things to avoid cross contamination.

The children’s cooking class was about 4 hours long.  After the children made the dishes Monica and Silvia cooked everything and served it all to us for lunch.  It was a wonderful experience.  In fact Jett and I had such a good time I’m looking forward to doing a cooking class with these ladies next time I’m in town.

Here are some of the highlights of our class.

children's cooking class

children's cooking class

Making the prosciutto and cheese stuffed bread balls.  We used  Vegan cheese for our bread balls as well as the pinwheels we also made.

We rolled out the dough for the pinwheels stuffed with zucchini and prosciutto.

Jett really enjoyed using the rolling pin!  [spacer height=”-20px”]

children's cooking class

children's cooking class

Making gnochetti using the wooden mold.  Jett was and expert at making this tiny rolled pasta.  He caught on real quick and made the entire tray by himself!

children's cooking class

children's cooking classMonica helping Jett roll out the cookie crust for the tartlet.

The kids all took turns slicing up fresh fruits to top the tartlets with.  Jett of course managed to snack on a few berries.

Ready to reserve your Children’s Cooking Class with Monica and Silvia?  Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan your family’s Italian vacation!!


Bolzano -Italian Alps or Dolomites? – Winter or Summer?

Bolzano -Italian Alps or Dolomites? – Winter or Summer?

BolzanoYou might as well admit it.  When you think Italy you probably don’t think of tall snow capped mountains, skiing, or other winter sports, right?  Well you should.  Italy has some fine winter resort towns complete with ski runs, awesome mountain views, clear mountain lakes, and fresh Alpine air.  One of those towns is Bolzano, or Bozen in German.

Where you may ask is Bolzano.  It’s the largest city in northern Italy’s province of Sudtirol or South Tryol.  Now is that part of the Italian Alps or the Dolomites?

BolzanoOk, short geography lesson here.  The Alps is one of the great mountain ranges of Europe.  It stretches from Slovenia and Austria on the East all the way to France and Germany on the West.  It passes thru  Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Monaco along the way.  Quite obviously  the part the passes thru Italy is called the Italian Alps.  Now the Dolomites are technically part of the Alps but this specific mountain range is on Italy’s Northeast corner just a 2 hour drive from Venice while the area commonly referred to as the Italian Alps are in Northwestern Italy closer to Milan, Turin, and Como.

Both areas have fine ski resorts although the Dolomites offer a larger variety of slopes where as the Alps are mostly intermediate slopes.  But it’s said that although both ranges have awesome mountain views those in the Alps are more breathtaking.   If you’re having a hard time deciding which part of the Italian Alps to visit, you should consider visiting both and deciding for yourself.

Summer or Winter?  When should you visit?  Well if you’re a skier and love winter sports then of course winter is the time to head for either mountain range.  Both ranges offer a variety of winter activities.  But if you’re like me and don’t ski nor do very well in cold weather then Spring, Summer, or Fall are the best times; unless you want to go to the winter market!

I’ve been to Bolzano in the Spring and Fall when the weather is perfect.  Not cold and not hot.  There are many things to do in and around Bolzano in the warmer weather.  You can hike, ride horses, explore the mountain, visit the museums and churches, and hang out at the piazzas for some truly wonderful cuisine.

Bolzano is really the best gateway to the Dolomite resorts located in the Ritten Renon area.  That’s the sunny plateau located above the city of Bolzano.  From Soprabolzano or Oberbozen (quite literally upper Bolzano) you can explore  little mountain towns and hike the mountain trails all the way to Rittner Horn or Corno del Renon.

In this article I will mostly talk about the city of Bolzano and a little bit about Soprabolzano.  Those are the areas we hang out in.  We don’t ski and don’t take very long mountain hikes.  We’re more of the dinning and people watching sort.

BolzanoPiazza Walther

Also known as Walther Platz, Piazza Walther is the largest square in Bolzano.  It’s located about a 5 minute walk from the Bolzano train station.  You can’t miss it, there’s this huge statue of poet Walther von der Vogelweide in the center.

The square is bordered by colorful hotels and you’ll find the Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral across the street.


bolzanoThere are also many cafes and restaurants in the square, it’s the perfect place to people watch!  In the winter the Piazza is home to the largest Winter Market in the area that is visited by millions of tourists and locals.  It is also home to the large flower market in the spring and summer.

We usually stop there from the train station.  We love to sit at one of the cafes and order a cappucino to wash down some fresh apple strudel.

I love the mix of Italian and German cuisine in the area!  One of their specialties are dumplings!  Yummy!

bolzanoVia Portici/ Via Museo

Behind Piazza Walther is the busy Via Portici.  Stroll down here and you’ll feel like you’re strolling thru a Bavarian town lined with colorful Bavarian style buildings.

The streets are filled with outdoor vendors on warm weekends and lined with all sorts of shops year round.  Whatever you’re looking for you’ll probably find it here.

Further along the street turns into Via Museo, this is where you’ll find one of the gems of Bolzano.  Ötzi the Iceman.

Yes, this street leads to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.  A museum that serves as the final home to the Copper Age Mummy called Ötzi.

Admission – €9 for adults, €6 kids or family pass €18 family pass for 2 adults and children under 16.

The 5,300 year old mummy was found quite by accident in the Schnalstal glacier in 1991.  He was uniquely well-preserved along with his clothing and the implements he had with him.  He turned into a media sensation and today is still revealing some of his ancient secrets as scientists from around the world study his cloths, tools, weapons, and body.

bolzanoYes, you can see him in a freezer built just for him.  It keeps him preserved in the same conditions he was surrounded by when he was entombed in the glacier for 5000 plus years.

You can gaze at him thru a small port hole in the large freezer as much as you want, but pictures are forbidden.

But you are welcome to photograph this artist rendition of him.  The face was fashioned using modern day technology after studying his skull.  It’s a technique used by forensic anthropologists world wide.



bolzanoYou can see his clothing and tools displayed in sealed cases not far from his body.



bolzanoThere’s also a small inter active section where you can try on a replica of his clothing and braid twine.



The four floors of the museum are dedicated to everything Ötzi.  Displays other than his body, clothing, weapons, and tools show the foods he ate and the results of tests and exams they have done to answer some of the questions about who he may have been, what he did, and how he died.  It truly is the place to learn everything you want to learn about one of the world’s most famous mummies, who according to studies was more than likely murdered 5,300 years ago.  There you go an unsolved prehistoric crime!  Definitely worth a visit!


Walking Paths, Bridges, and Parks

The Talvera River runs right thru the heart of the city just a short walk from the Archeological Museum.

There are bridges that span the river at various points and walking paths and parks along the river’s edge on both sides.

It’s a great way to spend the day relaxing, walking, or biking.  The parks have several recreation fields and playgrounds.  The kids will love it! And don’t forget the views up the mountains!  Awesome!














If you haven’t gotten enough of the markets head to the other side of the bridge.  Here you’ll find vendors selling everything from carpets to clothing and purses.  Further along it becomes a foodie’s delight!

You’ll find stalls selling ready to eat foods like rotisserie chickens.  And lots of stalls selling veggies and fruits, sausages and speck, flowers, and cheeses, and even sweets.  It’s a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to enjoy at the riverside.


bolzanoRenon Cable Car & Soprabolzano (Oberbozen)

Not to be missed is a ride to Soprabolzano on the Renon Cable Car.

The station is located about a 5 minute walk from the main train station in a different direction than Piazza Walther.  (Walk out of the station and head up the street on your right.  You’ll run into a round building with cables behind it heading up the mountain.  Buy your tickets in the building then up the escalator or elevator to the boarding platform.  Tickets are €4 each way.  Remember to validate your ticket before heading into the cable car.)

bolzanoThis cable car ride takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views of the city below as well as the mountains you’re heading towards.





The cable car takes you to Soprabolzano   Here you will find resorts and restaurants as well  environmentally friendly public transportation to take you to the Alpine villages scattered in the mountain.

bolzanobolzanoThe Railway Renon is a historic narrow gauge rail system that runs west to east from Maria Asunta to Collalbo with stops along the way.  It stops both ways at Soprabolzano.  Tickets cost €3.50 one way or €6 roundtrip.  You can enjoy the mountain views along the route and stop at any of the stops where there are trailheads that lead to mountain hikes.

The railway uses a mix of restored cars and modern ones.  The views along the way are worth the ride even if you never get off the train.

Soprabolzano is also the hub for the buses that will take you to all the villages of Renon.  It’s an excellent way to get around.

Up on this high plateau and beyond you can enjoy winter and summer activities.  Winter activities of course center on snow so sking, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding are all very popular.  In the summer you can swim,  ride horses, hike, bike, and even go llama trekking.  So there’s really something for just about everyone.

bolzanoI prefer to have drinks and snacks at the balcony of one the hotels right by the cable car station.  There you can relax, drink some local wine, enjoy the beautiful views, and watch the cable cars pass by.


Other Places of Interest include a beekeeping museum on Renon.  A couple of castles in Bolzano, some churches in Bolzano and on Renon, a historical farm, and an art museum.  If you like malls there’s one not far from Piazza Walther.  If you get a Big Mac attack you can satisfy your craving at the McDonald’s on the side of Piazza Walther just across the street from the Cathedral.

Getting there:

If you have a car you can easily make the drive to Bolzano.  It’s a 2 hour drive from Venice.

If you want to rely on public transportation it’s a bit trickier and longer.  You can catch a train to Verona Porta Nuova from just about any major city, but the further away you start the longer the ride.  At Verona Porta Nuova transfer to a regional train or a Frecciargento (fast train) for a direct ride to Bolzano.  Regional trains cost $16 per person each way and takes 1  hour 40 minutes to get there.  The fast train cost $36 per person each way for 2nd class and takes 1 hour and 27 minutes.  Be sure you get off at Bolzano Bozen that’s the main train station.  The other 2 stops will take you further away from the city center.

Where to Stay:

There are many hotels, B&Bs, and hostels in Bolzano to fit most any budget.  You’ll also find budget to luxury accommodations in the villages of Renon.

Getting around:

The best way to get around Bolzano is by public transportation, specially if you plan on heading up to the villages of Renon.  You can save money with a RittenCard which gives unlimited access to all public transportation in the area as well as free admission to  area attractions including the Ötzi museum.  RittenCard also gives access and discounts to many other activities and festivals on Renon.

The card is virtually free, it’s included in your room fee and is given to you at check-in.  The card is good for 7 days and must be validated each time it’s used.  If you’re staying longer than a week a new card will be issued to you before the first one expires.  What a great deal!


Ready to book your Bolzano getaway?  Call us at Savvy Nana Travel we turn plans into memories!





Noventa Di Piave Designer Outlet

Noventa Di Piave Designer Outlet

noventa di piaveI bet when you think Venice the last thing on your mind is an outlet mall.  And why should it be?  I mean you’re not going to Venice to go shopping at an outlet mall right?  Well if you’re a fashion lover and love discounts the Noventa Di Piave Designer Outlet should be on your Venice to do list!

Most fashionistas and just about anyone else knows that Italy is one of the world’s fashion hubs.  After all it’s home to Versace, Dolce & Gabana, Fendi, La Perla, Cosabella, Cavalli, Prada,  and my favorite Gucci, and more.  Designer boutiques line the sidewalks along Rome’s Via Condotti and Milan’s Via Montenapoleone where shoppers go to gawk at the latest fashions or splurge on luxury items.  So it only follows that a country  home to a host of designers and brands have it’s very own designer outlet.

noventa di piaveSo don’t be surprised to learn that Italy has quite a few designer outlets and factory stores that are scattered in the outskirts of its major cities.

I’ve been shopping at The Mall, the Dolce & Gabana Factory Store, and the Space Outlet aka the Prada Outlet located about an hour away from Florence for years.  In fact The Mall was my favorite designer outlet until my first visit to Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet right outside Venice.

You might be wondering why on earth would anyone want to go to a designer outlet in Europe when we have our own outlets here in the US.  I have to admit many of the shops in Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet are the same ones we have at our local outlets.

Yes you’ll find Michael Kors, Coach, and Ralph Lauren at the Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet, The Mall, and other Mcarthur Glen outlets in Italy; but you’ll find so much more!  I know many of our US outlets also have Armani, Gucci, Prada, and other Italian Brands but trust me they are not the same.   You’ll find that brands like Gucci have products available only in particular regions.  So there are items sold only in the European markets and you won’t be able to find them in the US or any other area.

Also the European outlets have shops we don’t have in the US.  Shops like Desigual and Loro Piana just to name a couple of my favorites.  Noventa di Piave Outlet is home to 150 stores, some familiar others not; but all offer some very good prices!

noventa di piavenoventa di piaveNoventa di Piave Designer Outlet is one of the prettiest outlets I’ve ever been too.  It’s decor is designed like a colorful Italian village with colorful facades and even a gondola on display.

noventa di piave

You’ll even find several fountains tucked in courtyards in front of the shops.

They make great photo backgrounds!



noventa di piaveThere are a couple of areas that kids will love too.

There’s the covered play park with slides, tunnels, and swings.

noventa di piaveAnd there’s the splash fountain in the middle of t he restaurant area.

My grandsons loved the kid size benches in front of this fountain.





noventa dia piave

And don’t worry you won’t starve.  There are 9 restaurants in the outlet along with several food trucks or kiosks scattered around.  Venchi, one  of my favorite gelato and chocolate shops has a location here.  So after lunch you can drop in for a double or triple dip gelato!

Oh and before I forget tourists get a tax refund when you purchase a total of  at least €155 from the outlet stores.  Just be sure you get the refund form from the cashier when you pay.  You can take the forms along with your confirmed flight itinerary to the refund office in the outlet or present it to the airport tax refund office at the airport before you leave.  (To get the refund the items you purchased must be in new and unused condition in the sealed bag they were placed in at the time of purchase.  The airport tax refund office may ask to see the items you are claiming. So do this before you check in bags.)

Anyway if you’re a shopper and love big discounts, a fashionista, or just someone who has an extra day in the area and nothing to do, drop by the Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet.  Getting there is easy if you’re staying in the Venice area.  There are shuttles from Venice,  Mestre and Marghera that run directly to the outlet and back.  Shuttles run about every 30-50 minutes and cost €15 per adult roundtrip.  Kids 4 and under are free.  Or you can rent a car and explore the area, there’s lots of places to see!  Try Verona, Padova, Vicenza, Lake Garda, and even Bolzano!

noventa di piaveTrust me you won’t regret it!

This may have been my first visit to Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet, but I know it won’t be my last!

Ready to book your Venetian holiday?  Call us at Savvy Nana Travel!  We’ll help you plan the




Car Rentals in Italy



Sottomarina – A Venetian Beach Holiday

Sottomarina – A Venetian Beach Holiday

sottomarinaI bet when you hear Venice the last thing you’d associate with it would be the beach.  I know, when you think Venice you picture  San Marco, Murano Glass, Museums, Operas, Carnivale, and possibly even pigeons.   And I don’t blame you!  Venice is all those things and more.  But what many foreign tourists don’t realize is that Venice has beaches too.  I do not mean dip your toes in the Venetian lagoons, yuck!  (Seriously don’t do that!) But think about it, Venice is surrounded by water, namely the Adriatic Sea, so there’s bound to be a beach right?  Actually there are quite a number of beaches in the area, but one of the most popular is Sottomarina.

Sottomarina is a small seaside village in the Comune of Chioggia which is part of the Metropolitan City of Venice in Italy’s Veneto region.  What a mouthful!  Suffice it to say Sottomarina is just outside of Venice and is easily accessible from Venice via public transportation.  I’d recommend a car as getting there (or any other beach in the area) on public transportation can be a long and arduous trek.

If you must go via public transportation then the best route would be the bus 80E which leaves from Piazzale Roma (Venice’s one and only land transportation hub not far from the Santa Lucia train station) every half hour.  The ride takes about an hour.  Or if you have the time and the inclination you can make your way to the Lido via water bus (the Lido is one of the thin strips of land in the Venetian lagoon) then transfer onto a bus for a long ride to Pellestrina where you then transfer back on to a ferry to get to Chioggia then back on a bus to Sottomarina.  To be fair this is the scenic route where you get to see little fishing shacks and small local restaurants along the way.

sottomarinaSottomarina makes a fine day trip from Venice, either way you go, or it can be a great spot for a Venetian Beach Holiday for a few days of relaxation on the beach.  However  you get there and whether you’re there for the day or the weekend Sottomarina is a great place to visit. But here are a few things you should know before you go!

Sottomarina is a beach resort town and has lots of hotels, shops, bars, clubs, and restaurants that should fit just about any budget.

Like any beach town Sottomarina has its season, it’s not year round.  Hotel availability and  prices will vary depending on the season.  The summer season starts in June and goes thru September with August being the peak season.  So that $75 per night room with breakfast at the end of May will be $250 per night with a minimum 3 night stay come June; and the price goes up in August.

By the time August rolls around it will seem that everyone in Italy is in Sottomarina!  And they probably are!  You’ll find that many of the large cities including Rome have been abandoned by its local residents in August.  It’s a great time to visit Rome  as long as you’re prepared for the scorching heat.  Rome is super hot in August which is why most of its residents flee to the beach towns along the coast.  But it’s not just the Romans that run to Sottomarina, it’s a popular resort all summer long with tourists coming in from neighboring Germany and Austria.

Having said that one of the best times to go to Sottomarina is before the season starts.  We went in April and May.  Many of the restaurants along the beach were still closed in April, but many were open by the last week of May.  Of course there were less people on the beach in April but things started to get pretty lively in May.

sottomarinaMost Sottomarina beaches are private.  This means that to use them you must either be staying at the hotel it belongs to, you’ve rented one of the cabanas, or you’ve rented a lounge chair and umbrella for the day.

Many of the hotels will include the use of 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella with the nightly room fee.  You just ask the beach attendant to set it up on the sand where ever you want it set up.

Day rentals generally run about €5 per item and the beach attendant again will set it up where you want it.

Cabanas are usually rented by the season and are all booked the previous year.  The cost can run upwards of €1000 per cabana for the whole season.  Cabana rentals come with lounge chairs, umbrella, and even a picnic table.

Now the strip of sand between the private beaches and the water are generally public beaches.  You’ll see a marker in front of the beach chairs that marks where private property ends and the public beach begins.  You can’t set up your rented chairs and umbrellas beyond this marker.

If you don’t want to pay the cost of the private beach then you are definitely welcome to your patch of sand in the public beach.  In fact you can set up a mat or towel even on the private beach area and you generally won’t be asked to leave because you are a potential customer and might grab a cold drink or meal from the restaurant that’s sure to be part of the private beach.

sottomarinaAs I just mentioned most private beaches belong to a hotel and have a restaurant on site.  The hotel may actually be located across the street from the beach.  Many but not all of the restaurants have a children’s play area.

sottomarinaI love this!  It keeps the kids busy while I enjoy my lunch or snack or just my wine!




sottomarinaThe restaurants on the beach offer a variety of food including burgers and of course pizza.  But we love the Frito Misto, fried and breaded fish and seafood.

sottomarinaAnd the steamed mussels!

Now the restaurants on the beach are not really for fine dining, at least not during the day.  Many of them are actually family owned and run.  So you can expect reasonably friendly service and surprisingly good food!

sottomarinaThe one we ate at, I just can’t recall the name, serves some of the best tiramisu we’ve ever had!  Our waitress, Francesca, said her aunt made it daily (and her cousin takes reservations at the hotel part of the business).

sottomarinaExpect vendors!  Lots of them as the season winds into full gear.


They sell everything from jewelry to kites!  We ended up buying a kite because we were awed by the vendor’s talent of flying all his kites at the same time!

You can even have a massage on the beach for about €20![spacer height=”-20px”]







But our favorite vendor by fare was the gelato guy!  Yes, the Italian version of the Good Human man!

sottomarinaHe serves up some awesome gelato!

And his prices are very reasonable too!

We paid about €4 for this delightful and delicious sundae!

sottomarinaBy the way the beaches, hotels, and many restaurants in Sottomarina are dog friendly.  So even Snookie and Bruno had a great time on the beach!

So if you find yourself with an extra day or two in Venice or even if you just hear the ocean calling on a hot summer day, take a trip out to Sottomarina, you won’t regret it!


Ready to book your Venetian Holiday?  Call us at Savvy Nana Travel we’ll help you plan your dream vacation!



Gardaland – An Italian Amusement Park

Gardaland – An Italian Amusement Park

gardalandLocated in the outskirts of Verona in the Veneto region of North-Eastern Italy is Gardaland Resort , an amusement park complex adjacent to Lake Garda.

First opened on July 9, 1975 Gardaland Resort has grown and now is composed of Gardaland Park, Sea Life Aquarium, Gardaland Hotel, and Gardaland Adventure Hotel.  The hotels offer themed rooms such as the Prezzemolo room, pirate and princess rooms, and more.

Although it’s adjacent to Lake Garda the Amusement parks and hotels don’t face the water.  In fact if you’re in the park you don’t even see Lake Garda.  You’re in a totally different world!

gardalandWe had took the grandkids to Gardaland last spring, it’s about and hour by car from my daughter’s house in Vicenza.  We had a great time!  The park has something for kids of all ages.

It’s sort of Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags all rolled into one huge theme park complete with a castle guarded by Prezzemolo a long eared green dragon.  Prezzemolo also serves as the park mascot![spacer height=”-20px”]




gardalandgardalandTo get inside the park you go through the gates and walk through a lighted tunnel.  It’s actually pretty cool!

You’re welcomed into the park in a variety of languages.  On the other side of the tunnel you’ll find yourself right at the entrance to Peppa Pig Land.


gardalandPeppa Pig Land is the newest addition to Gardaland Park.  It opened in the Spring of 2018, in short just a few days before wewent.

This area as you can well imagine is geared towards toddlers.  There are 4 rides in this area:  Train, Boat, and Balloon Rides, and Peppa’s house.




And of course there’s the souvenir shop that stocks everything Peppa Pig.  You might want to talk your toddler into waiting for a Peppa Pig souvenir until you’re ready to go home.  You don’t want to carry it around the park and you’ll have to pass the Peppa Pig shop on your way out anyway.  That’s what we did!

Once you’re done with Peppa Pig Land you’re ready to head for the rest of the park.  Of course if you don’t have toddlers you might want to skip the Pig Land and make your way down to the thrill rides.  Whatever you decide don’t head down the hill without a park map.  If you didn’t get one at the ticket office you can get one at the kiosk right out side Peppa Pig Land.

Just to be clear so you’re prepared the park is built on several levels.  You start out at the top and head down to the lower levels.  Just remember what goes down eventually must walk back up.

gardalandWhen you get down the hill you’ve got choices to make.  On your left is the entrance to Fantasy Kingdom where you’ll find basically rides geared for the younger kids.

gardalandLike Prezzemolo’s Tree and the Volaplano which rides you around the area on track built above the walkways.


gardalandOpposite Fantasy Kingdom is the medieval area where you’ll find a 2 story carousel, restaurants and snack bars, and Prezzemolo Land.

Prezzemolo Land is basically a splash pad with water slides, water cannons, and the big water dumping bucket.  You’ll find changing rooms near the splash pad to change into dry clothes after cooling off in the water.  And if you forgot the kid’s swimsuit there’s a kiosk right in front to sell you one![spacer height=”-20px”]





gardalandIf you’d rather the kids not get wet you can let them burn off some energy at the playground next door.

There are also built in trampolines for the kids to bounce on in this area.  And I believe there’s a train stop around to catch the Transgardaland Express.  You might want to hop on for a tour of the park and catch the view of Lake Garda beyond.

But seriously the kids didn’t go to the park to ride a train or romp around the splash zone.  They went to RIDE!

Depending on their age there are adventure and thrill rides that should suit them. [spacer height=”-20px”]



gardalandYounger kids will enjoy the Ramses ride.  I know our boys loved it.

This is where Disneyland meets Universal Studios, sort of.  This ride is a treat!  You ride around a high tech Egyptian tomb (or is it a village) in a car and shoot the bad guys with a “laser gun” mounted in front of you.

It brings to mind the Mummy ride they once had at Universal Studios Hollywood and the Buzz Lightyear ride in Disneyland.  [spacer height=”-20px”]



gardalandAround this general area you’ll also find the Kung Fu Panda Academy where there’s a small roller coaster and the Noodle Bowl ride, it’s the same thing as Disney’s teacups, but you’re spinning around in a bowl instead of a cup!



Other rides in this category are the San Andreas 4-D ride, the Colorado Boat rides, the Mammut a train/coaster ride, and the Jungle Rapids raft rides.

You’ll find the other rides dispersed through out the park.  This is why you need a map!

Most of the rides I just mentioned are located pretty much at the lowest level of the park area.

Some of them are located above and you can get to them directly if you go straight from the bottom the hill you came down on when you first entered the park.

I know it’s sort of confusing even with the map, but the folks working there, specially the security people are very helpful even though many of them don’t speak English.  They try very hard to point you in the right direction!

gardalandThrill seekers will not want to miss the Shaman.  This coaster has 2 loops and some pretty high drops.

There’s also the Raptor, Oblivion Black Hole, and Blue Thunder roller coasters.  Believe me this park is not lacking in thrill rides!







gardalandPart of the theme park experience is junk food!  You won’t be disappointed here!  You’ll find familiar favorites like burgers, hot dogs, pizza, as well as gardalandkebobs, shawarma, and crepes!  Healthier choices include salads and fruits.


You can dine with dinosaurs at the T-Rex, have tea at Aladin, burgers and dogs with the pirates at Bucanieri.

Now how much do you think all this fun costs, surprisingly it’s quite reasonably priced.  Specially if you compare it to the cost of other theme parks around the world.  Have you seen the admission price at Disney lately?  It’s over $100 a day per park! Ferrari World in Dubai cost a pretty penny as well, I think we paid about $75 each for admission a few years ago.

Well admission into Gardaland starts at €36 for one day if purchased online.  At the ticket counter that same ticket cost €40.50.  They also offer 2 day passes, season passes, and afternoon tickets (these are just about half price and allows you to enter only in the afternoon about 4 hours before closing.)   Season passes start at €49 for a basic Junior Pass and €50 for a basic Adult Pass.  For and extra €5 you get unlimited parking.  Season passes also give the pass holder certain benefits such as €5 admission to the Aquarium, and discounts at the restaurants and gift shops.

My daughter picked up season passes for her family, she’s already been back to Gardaland 3 times and the season’s still young!

So if you find yourself in the Veneto region, this includes Venice, and you and the kids need a break from all that culture (admit it, everyone needs a break from museums and churches), then head over to Gardaland.  You won’t regret it!

Ready for to head for Italy?  Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan your Roman Holiday!  Contact us for more info!  808-372-7734


Verona – Day Trip or Destination?

Verona – Day Trip or Destination?

veronaVerona is a city on the Adige River in Italy’s Veneto region.  It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region, and the 3rd. largest city in northeast Italy.

The origins of Verona remains a mystery.  One theory is that due to the geographical position of the city, it was a key stop for people  traveling along the Via Claudia Augusta from Eastern Gaul across the Alps then onto to Rome.  The theory supposes that Verona is short for Versus Romae which means “In the direction of Rome”.  Over the years the name was shortened and mispronounced to become the current city name of Verona.

veronaRegardless of its somewhat mysterious origins one of Verona’s claim to fame is the romantic legacy endowed upon it by none other than poet laureate William Skakespeare.  It is not certain whether the 16th. century poet/playwright ever visited Verona, but his love for the city is clear.  The city is the setting for 3 Shakespearean plays; Two Gentlemen from Verona; The Taming of the Shrew; and most notably the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

The story of star crossed lovers, feuding families, interfering clergy, and early deaths may or may not be true; the matter is still up for debate.  However there is no debating that Verona deserves her place as one of northern Italy’s must see cities.  The only debate in my opinion is whether or not Verona deserves to be a day trip from Venice or a destination in itself.

Depending on how much time you have in the area Verona can be both.  If you have several days planned in Venice and you must stay in Venice then by all means make Verona a day trip.  It’s about a 45 minute train ride from Venice’s St. Lucia train station.  Trains to and from Venice stop in Verona about every half hour.

The least expensive way to get from Venice to Verona is via regional train.  The cost is about €6 each way.  You can opt for a more luxurious ride on one of the fast trains if you  feel like splurging.  A first class seat on a Frecciarossa or Frecciargento is about €24 each way.  Honestly the travel time is almost the same but on the fast trains you’re guaranteed a comfy seat.  You may find yourself standing in a crowded train car if you catch a regional train.  But either way you’ll get there!

On the other hand if you have several days to stay in the area and don’t have to stay in Venice then Verona would be an ideal base from which to explore the Veneto region.  Again it’s a 45 minute train ride from Venice making Venice an ideal day trip from the city.

Choosing Verona as your destination has several pros, the first being hotel costs.  As you may know hotels in the city of Venice itself are very expensive, even the lowest rated ones.  Expect to pay over $100 a night at the cheapest Venetian hotel.  It’s $500+ a night at the 5 star luxury hotels like the Daniele and Cipriani (hotel rates are seasonal so off season rates will be slightly lower).

Another point in favor of staying in Verona is that there is no need to haul luggage over cobble stone streets and bridges.  When one stays in Venice one has the honor of hauling one’s luggage to your hotel from the train station, Piazzele Roma, or where ever the water taxi drops you off.  Of course if you’re staying  in a luxury hotel they’ll send someone to fetch you and your luggage (it was awesome when we stayed at the San Clemente Palace Hotel a service you’d expect when paying well over $300 a night in the off season).  And of course you could hire one of the porters from the train station assuming you can find one.  I’ve no idea what that cost, I’ve never had to hire one.

There are many things to see and do in Verona, both in the modern city and the Centro Storico.  The Centro Storico is the historic center of the city, it’s probably also the most touristy party of the city.  If you have plenty of time you can use Verona as your base and explore the area.  There are amusement parks, zoos, shopping malls, and an outstanding outlet mall in and around Verona.

Other than Venice you can take day or half-day trips from Verona to cities like Padua (Padova in Italian), Mantua, Treviso, Chioggia, Lake Garda, Bologna, and more.  If you want to wander further afield you can easily get to Bolzano, Revereto, Belluno, Ravenna, and Rimini.  Verona is really a great place to start from with it’s centrally located train station.

But before you wander off to other cities take at least a day to explore Verona.  It really is a destination worth exploring.  Here are some must see and do sights in Verona.

VeronaPanoramic Train Tour

One of the easiest ways to get an overview of Verona’s historic center is to hop on one of these little trains.  You can catch it on Piazza Bra across from the Roman Arena.  Trains run from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The train tour costs €5/adult, €3/child 5-15 years, or €13 for a family with 2 adults and 2 kids over 5.


The train takes you around the old city.  The tour takes about 25 minutes and makes no stops.  There is a audio narration in several languages including English during the tour.  The narration highlights points of interests as they pass like Castel Vecchio, Arco Dei Gavi, Porta Borsar, the Duomo, and a couple of other churches.

It’s a great introduction to the city and gives you an idea of how to get to the sights you want to take a closer look at.  Like Juliet’s house – the train doesn’t pass the house itself, but it points out the street you need to take to get to the house.  The same goes for Piazza Delle Erbe.

If you prefer, you can skip the train and grab a day ticket on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus.  It’s a great way to get around the city!

veronaVerona Cathedral

Also known as the Duomo the Verona Catherdral is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is officially called Santa Maria Matricolare.  It is the seat of the Verona diocese.

It was built on the same site where 2 earlier Palaeo-Christian churches stood before they were destroyed by an earthquate in 1117.  The current cathedral was built in the Romaneque style and consecrated on September 13, 118.

The current interior dates back from the renovations done in the 15th. Century.  It features a nave with two aisles divided by tall pillars of  red Verona marble, which support Gothic arcades. The first three chapels on each side are in the same style, and house mostly Renaissance artworks by Veronese artists.

The church is a lovely mix of two styles Romanesque and Gothic.  It’s worth a stop if you’ve got the time.



veronaSant’ Anastasia

This church in the oldest part of Verona was built by the Dominican Order.  It was designed by the Dominican friars Fra’ Benvenuto da Imola and Fra’ Nicola da Imola.

Construction on the current church began in 1280 and finished in 1400.  It was constructed on a pre-existing temple build by King Theoderic the Great and since 1307 was co-entitled to St. Peter of Verona, the martyr and co-patron Saint of the city.

The interior is home to several tombs and frescos and sculptures by notable local artists.   [spacer height=”-20px”]





veronaCastelvecchio Museum

This museum houses a collection of sculpture, statues, paintings, ancient weapons, ceramics, goldworks, miniatures, and old bells  mostly from the Romanesque period of Verona.

The collection includes:

  • Sepulchre of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, basrelief from 1179.
  • “Crucifix”, a 14th-century tuff work by the so-called Master of Sant’Anastasia, from the church of San Giacomo in Tomba.
  • “St. Cecilia and Catherina”, from the same Master of St. Anastasia.
    Equestrian statue of Cangrande I della Scala, coming from complex of the Scaliger Tombs.
  • Madonna of the Quail by Pisanello
  • Madonna of the Rose Garden by Stefano da Verona or Michelino da Besozzo
  • Crucifixion and Madonna dell’Umiltà by Jacopo Bellini
  • Madonna with Child by Gentile Bellini
  • Madonna of the Oak by Girolamo dai Libri
  • Holy Family by Andrea Mantegna

Not only does this museum house some interesting collections, but the building itself is of historic and architectural interest.  The museum is housed in the medieval castle built in 1355 by the Scala family, the ruling family of Verona of that time.  It was successively modified by future invaders such as Venetians, the French and the Austrians. During the second world war Castelvecchio witnessed the dramatic Verona trial (Processo di Verona), in which Mussolini condemned to death the traitors of the regime together with his own son in law.

veronaJuliette’s House and Balcony (Balcone di Giulietta)

Located between Piazza Bra and Erbe, sort of, is Juliette’s House.  It’s an easy walk from either piazza, just follow the signs and the crowds, they’re all heading to the same place.

As I mentioned the actual existence of these doomed lovers is still debatable but the names Montague and Capulet were two real-life important aristocratic families from Verona. Dante Alighieri mentions them in his Divine Comedy.

Real or not these lovers are icons of the city and the most famous spot(and arguably the most crowded) in Verona is Casa di Giulietta or Juliette’s House.

As the story goes it’s the home of the Capulet family. It is here that Shakespeare’s Juliet would have lived, and today it is a museum dedicated to her. Juliet’s house dates back to the 14th century, and the Capulets’ emblem can be seen on the external façade.

Sometime in the 20th. century the house was abandoned and the city of Verona purchased it from the dell Capello family.  The house and courtyard were renovated in styles inspired by the middle ages and the museum and of course gift shop dedicated to all things Juliette (and Romeo) came to be.

It’s pretty campy I admit, but it’s a hoot anyway! Specially if you’re a romantic or a Shakespeare fan.  I’m not exactly a romantic but I do enjoy the Bard.

From the courtyard you can see Juliette’s tiny balcony where she according to the Bard utters her famous line “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”


I could almost hear Romeo declare “What light from yonder window breaks?  It is the east and Juliet is the sun!”  I just wonder exactly what bushes he was supposed to be hiding behind!  Perhaps he was ducking behind the tourists!  By the way rumor has it that the city added the balcony in 1936 to attract more tourists!

Anyway in the museum is home to the furniture used in Franco Zefirelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo & Juliet starring Olivia Hussy and Leonard Whiting.  (By the way it’s my favorite version of the play!)  The bed displayed in “Juliette’s bedroom” is the one Ms. Hussy used in the film.  The museum also displays artwork from the period in which the lovers supposedly lived.  It’s definitely a fun way to spend about a half hour or so.

In the courtyard surrounded by hoards of people is Juliette’s bronze statue.  Urban legend has it that touching the statue’s right breast will bring one luck in love.  Hence the shoving match to grab the poor sculpture’s breast and snap a photo.

The notes behind her are notes from couples written in a multitude of languages.  Again urban legend says that couples leaving their names written here will grant them eternal love.  The wish of course granted by the fictional Juliette!

I told you the place was campy!  Entrance to the courtyard and shops are free.  There is a small fee to enter the museum.

veronaVerona Arena

Ok if pushing your way into Juliette’s courtyard is not your idea of fun, or you’re a more serious tourist who’d rather see real historical sites, then wander over to Piazza Bra and have a look at the Verona Arena.

The arena is a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century, 30AD to be exact. It is still  used today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances and concerts performed there .

It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, nearly 30,000 people was the housing capacity of the Arena. Nowadays, for security reasons, the maximum attendance is 15,000 people.

Enjoying an opera at this arena is on my bucket list.  The opera season runs pretty much all summer long.  Seats start as low as €18 for any open spot on the stone stairs.  You can rent cushions at the arena or you can spring for assigned seats with cushions.

During the day you can buy a ticket to see the arena on your own.  Hour long escorted tours are also offered for about $35 a person.  Click here for tour information or to book your tour.

veronaPiazza Bra

Piazza Bra is the largest Piazza in Verona, with some claims that it’s the largest Piazza in Italy.  I’d don’t know about that, but it’s a huge piazza.

It’s home to many restaurants and cafes and to 3 important buildings; the Verona Arena, Palazzo Barbieri, and Palazzo della Gran Guardia.

The Palazzo Barbieri is the Town Hall and the Gran Guardia is used as a venue for conferences and exhibits.

veronaThe Piazza itself plays hosts to large events and exhibits.  When we were there last month we were lucky to stumble upon an exhibit by the Carabinieri.  They displayed the vehicles they used thru the years.  The boys loved it! Actually the big buys aka my husband and son-in-law got a kick out of it too!  In the winter the Piazza hosts the Christmas Market, one of the best winter markets in the country!

VeronaPiazza delle Erbe

I have to admit this is my favorite piazza in the city. In ancient times it was the town’s forum, meaning was the heart of the city.

During ancient times the forum was almost always located in the actual center of the city and was where everything happened.  It served as a public area in which commercial, religious, economic, political, legal, and social activities occurred.

Today Piazza delle Erbe is probably the social pulse of the city.  It’s surrounded by bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops.

veronaBut it’s also filled with sculptures, fountains, and ancient buildings including the ancient town hall, the Torre dei Lamberti, the Casa dei Giudici (“Judges’ Hall”), the frescoed Mazzanti Houses, the Baroque Palazzo Maffei, decorated by statues of Greek gods, the crenllated Casa dei Mercanti (“House of the Merchants”, also known as Domus Mercatorum), now the seat of the Banca Popolare di Verona.

Other buildings, the tall houses of the Ghetto, are reminiscent of medieval tower-houses.

The square’s most ancient monument is the fountain (built in 1368 by Cansignorio della Scala), surmounted by a statue called Madonna Verona, which is  a Roman sculpture dating to 380 AD.

Pretty much where ever you look in the square you’re eyes are sure to land on some piece of art.

I especially enjoyed the frescoes painted on the buildings’ outer walls.   Sometimes you have to look up to see them!

As I said this Piazza teems with restaurants and cafes.  It’s a great place to have lunch or dinner and soak up the atmosphere.

And last but not least do not leave this city without a trip to Amorino!


veronaAmorino Gelateria

Amorino is a gelato franchise with locations worldwide.  They have 2 in Verona.  One in Piazza Bra and the other on Sant’ Anastasia which is actually right at the top of Piazza delle Erbe. (In Italy they have locations in Venice, Milan, and Florence too)

They have gelato in lovely flavors made from fresh organic ingredients.  You can choose as many flavors as you what and they will fashion it into a rose on your cone or in your cup and top it off with a macaroon.  Can it get any better than this?


veronaReady to plan a romantic trip to Verona?

Call Savvy Nana Travel, if you can dream it we can plan it!

Call me 808-372-7734