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About: Giovanni Fossati

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Wedding Planner or No Wedding Planner

Wedding Planner or No Wedding Planner


Let’s start with full disclosure because I am an upfront kind of person. I am a Destination Wedding Planner and so, my conclusion, may not come as a massive surprise but let me share with you the fact that I have over a decade of experience in the job and so it’s very possible that I have planned more weddings than you and I can talk with quite some degree of expertise in the field.


Being an upfront kind of person and a straight talker (even more so with age it must be said!) I can confirm to you that it is possible to plan a wedding without a Wedding Planner. I think we can all agree that it’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take years of study to organize however it does require a good amount of time, patience and organization. Now obviously if you have a Wedding Planner it’s a service that you pay for and so you might think that, in order to save money, you will simply give your own time, patience and organization to your special day. But let me put it to you another way. Have you ever bought a preprepared sandwich ? You know for a quick lunch or pic-nic or something to keep you going through the day. I think we can all agree that we can all make a sandwich and so save some money right???? But it takes a bit of planning, you need to have already shopped for the ingredients, you need a bit of time before you leave to prepare the sandwich and so, more often than not, we opt to buy something while we are out – and lets face it, any food prepared by someone else always taste better! Of course the main difference in this comparison is the ‘extra’ cost for the service. You’re quite right, it does cost a bit more than the price of a BLT to have a Wedding Planner but then you are going to get SO MUCH more.


I have recently had the perfect example of a couple who thought, ‘how hard can it be?’ and started their planning journey independently. They had got a really long way before they came to me, so much so that I jokingly asked ‘what is it you think you need me for’? They had the venue, florist, caterers, décor hire and various other services already lined up. But as we talked I discovered I knew the venue and I pointed out a couple of details, like the fact that the road access was really quite steep (so steep I had left my clutch on hill the first time I visited) and parking was limited for the caterers. I was able to make them access if it was really feasible, pointed out extra services they would need and of course the extra costs that went with it. Without going into the nitty gritty I picked their wedding apart. We started from scratch in a new venue, they love it more (it has the most AMAZING lake view) and they will spend less. As the groom said to me ‘we were looking at it in a macro kind of way but once you get past that the micro really requires some expert knowledge’.


Another couple who married 2 years ago had found and fallen in love with a venue that I often work with. Since the venue staff speak really good English they couldn’t see the need for a wedding planner – at a macro level. But once again when they got down to the smaller details they discovered some things had been a bit lost in translation and they were anxious they were not being understood and were not going to get the day they dreamed of. To return to the analogy of the pre-prepared sandwich it didn’t just feel like they were shopping for the ingredients but growing the tomatoes from seed! I stepped in took a weight off their mind, allowing them to start to get excited about the big day instead of living in a constant state of anxiety because a run up to your wedding in that state isn’t going to allow you to enjoy it as you should.


There are other times when I need to be a translator of course because not many couples speak Italian and not every Italian speaks perfect English while mine is still pretty good even after 24 years here  😉 But what I often find is that I also need to be what a friend of mine referred to as a ‘cultural translator’ and this can happen even if the venue speak English. For example the Italians may tell you that an Open Bar in included. How exciting does that sound for a British Wedding ? Too good to be true possibly ? In fact that the Italians refer to as an Open Bar is simply a fully stocked bar, it DOES NOT include the drinks. That could be a very expensive misunderstanding indeed.


And then there is quite simply the fact that you know with total certainly that you have someone who’s got your back. Someone who’s checking the small details, keeping an eye on the time, coordinating with the venue and the photographer for the cutting of the cake followed immediately by fireworks. Even your closest of friends who you rely on totally could be forgiven for having a drink and enjoying the company of the other guests and not remembering to check every detail. A professional will instead be there only for that purpose and in so doing will take the responsibility of the running of the day off your shoulders allowing you to simply enjoy the moment because it should never be forgotten, that it is YOUR DAY, and if you are not able to enjoy it then something has gone terribly wrong.


How to protect the cost of your wedding in Italy

How to protect the cost of your wedding in Italy


This topic is particularly close to my heart and that of my couples for next summer with Brexit coming up. My bride and grooms for next year have committed to their wedding on Lake Garda next summer based on a series of Euro costs which I am able to confirm for them. What I am not able to confirm for them is what the rate of exchange will be after the exit from the EU next year.


So I have been wondering, amidst all the doom and gloom forecasts for the rate of exchange, what I can do and how I can best advise my couples in order to avoid a nasty shock next summer.


Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic wand and I am by no means a financial expert (just ask my accountant, bless him, he’s very patient) but it has occurred to me that the following might be something to look into but I am open to hear any other tips that I can pass on.


Pay more upfront.

We don’t know what the rate of exchange will be tomorrow but we do know what it is today so you could consider making more payments than a simple deposit now.


Open a Euro account

I have no idea how it works but if you can open a Euro account then you can put your money in there already in Euros.


Borderless Account

For some time now I’ve been suggesting my couples use TransferWise to send their money over. They have better than bank rates and lower fees for making the transfer. They also have a Borderless Account where, if I have understood correctly, you can deposit money already in Euros. You can even use their euro rate tracker to get notifications of when the rate tips up in your favour so you know the best time to make that deposit.


Order your Cash already

Another tip from a brides Mum a few years ago was CityForEx who specialize in money exchange. Quite a few things need to be paid once you are here in Euros. Order them now, yes it means keeping them under the mattress but when we’re talking about larger sums the rate of exchange difference can add up to quite a few pizzas when you are here.


Please, please, please seek advice from someone who knows about these things. I repeat I’m no expert but the important thing I want you all to know is that there are options available and with the precarious state of the pound right now it’s wise to look at options.


What to do on Lake Garda

What to do on Lake Garda


There is much to do on Lake Garda. Obviously there’s eating, drinking & sunning yourself, well, that’s enough for many visitors but for those of you looking for something more to do here are some ideas to help you.


In Gardone there is a small adventure park with zip lines and rope bridges perfect for children and there’s a range to suit all the ages.


Also in Gardone is the Vittoriale this historic villa was built by Gabriele d’Annunzio, a famous Italian writer. He was held in house arrest by Mussolini when their opposing political views caused Mussolini concern. He house therefore also became a script in itself where d’Aunnunzio shared his views. The grounds are amazing and have stunning views of the lake. It’s also possible to take a tour of the interior of the house.


The Botanical gardens in Gardone is a magical garden of Eden and has a lot of variety in a compact but really interesting space


For the fit there is the ‘mountain’ of Pizzocolo to climb & conquer for stunning views of the lake. I managed this in 2020 and the view was really rewarding. Cycling is also a huge sport in Italy and many places hire bikes here are some ideas for itineraries


Take a walk around the national park that surrounds La Rocca di Manerba which has stunning cliff top walks. The views from here are literally a 360° of the lake, right up to the north but also across to Garda and Bardolino and to the south Sirmione and Desenzano.


Visit the Isola del Garda which is a private island in the lake with it’s own fairytale castle. Many of the resorts have boats trips running with guided tours on the Isola. If you’d like to arrange a guided tour this local company can help


Around Moniga there is indoor Karting and at Desenzano outdoor karting


In Sirmione there is a lovely Thermal Spa. It takes the natural thermal waters from Lake Garda and has a number of indoor and outdoor pools from which to enjoy them. It’s particularly lovely at nights as you wallow in warm waters, outdoors, watching as the sun goes down and lights come on across the lake.


In Cola the other side of the lake there is a park with 2 really large outdoor thermal pools, let’s call them lakes. This is more suited to a family day out with children than the one in Sirmione but it’s also different in atmosphere being more natural and set in a stunning park with massive trees surrounding you.


Another Thermal park that is more like a water park is in the Valpolicella area, again well suited to families with children.


Also in the area of Cola there is a safari type park. Here you can drive in with your hire car, much like on a real safari, so you can drive past areas where animals are roaming freely. There is also another part where you can leave the car and walk about to explore some more closely


Towards Lazise on the other side of the lake Gardaland which is the Lake Garda version of Alton towers . Also near there is Canava water park and also Movieland which also has rides and tends to be less busy than Gardaland


There are also other water parks around the area one of them is


Another adventure park the other side of the lake is


Inland there is a special place called Parco Sigurta you can hire bikes or a golf carts to get around the incredible grounds in and a maze to get lost in. Stop into the medieval hamlet of Borghetto sul Mincio for lunch while you are there. The speciality of the area is tortellini.


There are a number of golf courses around the lake if that’s your sport of choice and here’s a handy link


To the north just behind Riva are the waterfalls of Varone, be warned, go prepared to get wet because there’s a lot of spray. This is a great place to spend an hour or two but not longer but you could combine it with a walk around the cliff side on the walking/cycle path from Limone, this is a beautiful way to enjoy views of the lake.


If you like walking there are many treks around the lake and up into the hills and mountains which will give you great views over the lake. Also lovely to do is the cycle path from Limone which clings to the mountainside and in places simply hangs out over the edge, the views are amazing.


Then there is the lake itself of course. There are many water sports to enjoy from hiring your own speedboat, pedalos, SUP, canoeing and in the north of the lake wind & kite surfing. A day trip on the ferry somewhere is fun, each town has it’s own atmosphere and wonderful alleyways to explore and always incredible views. And there’s always plenty of gelato and don’t forget to try a Spritz. There are also vineyards and plenty of them have guided tours and tastings that you can book to sample the local wines.


Further afield if you are here for more than just a few days you can reach Milan, Venice, Verona (my favourite) and Bergamo which is less well known.


Travelling to Lake Garda, Italy

Having lived on Lake Garda in Italy for many years now I have some tips that I thought I would pass on to you regarding traveling in Italy and specifically Lake Garda. Some of these are very important, some are good to know and others are simply my cheeky observations. I’m sure if you’ve not travelled in Italy before this will be of interest and use. I have also discovered over my ‘many’ years here that even frequent visitors still don’t pick up all of the local customs.


One thing before we start though, please make sure you are up to date on the requirements for traveling to Italy as per this blog


I’m starting with the most important should you intend to drive here yourselves or hire a car when you arrive.

Speed limits : 130km on motorways, 110 Dual carriage (20km less in the rain) 50km through towns and villages. Be aware there is only a 5% tolerance on these.

Motorway tolls : are due on all motorways in the north of Italy.   You collect a ticket getting on to the motorway and pay the correct amount when you exit. If you don’t have cash there are machines that take bank and credit cards.

Headlights : you must always have your dipped lights on during the day both on the motorways and A roads, it’s therefore good practise simply to always put them on.

Documents : you must always travel with your driving licence and passport, should you be stopped you must be able to produce them immediately.

High vis jackets : if you have stop on the side of the road (as opposed to a car park or lay-by)  and get out of the car you should always have a high visibility jacket on.

Zebra crossings : This is relevant to pedestrians as well as drivers. In my previous life as a holiday rep in Garda I used to tell my guests that these were actually the Italians idea of chic geometric graffiti. They do usually indicate the point on the road with the best visibility but it is rare for the Italians to stop for you. If a car does stop check the plates, it’s probably German.

Chains : should you be travelling out to visit the lake during the winter in some areas it is obligatory to have snow chains in your car from the 15th Oct – 15th April. This doesn’t apply to Lake Garda but it’s something to be aware of if you are planning to travel further afield.

You can find more information of the British Consulates website page or

Trains : train travel is cheap and efficient in Italy. Tickets can be booked in advance and seats can be reserved which is a good idea if you will be travelling at peak times. There are two things to note here. Many trains don’t have a bar of buffet cart so travel prepared, at least have some water with you. Your ticket once bought must then be ‘validated’ on the platform before you board the train. Look for a little wall mounted yellow machine which will stamp your ticket.




The Italians, to my great delight, take their food very seriously. While there are of course many places to eat to suit all pockets and tastes I’d say you have to try quite hard to have a really bed meal here. It’s a matter of pride. It’s certainly true that if there’s an Italian or two already there eating you have a good guarantee.

Cover charge : this is a small charge applied the minute you sit down and covers the dirtying of the tablecloth and breadsticks and so forth.

Homemade pasta : this really does taste better so if you find somewhere offering this you should consider it.

Wine : Lake Garda is surrounded by vineyards and there is a really amazing choice of excellent wines without straying from the area. All the restaurants will be able to advise you on what’s local and the great thing here is they don’t mark up ridiculously on the price. Equally they can also get hold of some really good more economical wines and ofter the house wine is great.

Selections from the menu : an Italian meal consists of an antipasto (starter), primo (pasta or risotto), second (main) and dessert. You’re by no means obliged to order all of these (though the temptation will be strong !) but if you are picking and choosing from different parts of the menu be careful to point it out when you order if you’d like to eat at the same time.

Times : most places open from 12.00 – 14.00 and 19.00 – 22.00 there are variations but they do tend to stick to these times for the most part so late lunches or early dinners are not always possible.

Tipping : always a conundrum. Basically here in Italy the Italians rarely leave a tip and some of this is to do with the fact that a cover charge has already been paid. If they do leave a tip it’s for outstanding service / food etc. The reason for this is that being a waiter is considered a profession here with a ‘living wage’ so there is no need to feel obliged, that said it’s a lovely gesture if you’ve been well looked after.

Cafe culture

The cafe culture is alive and thriving in Italy and never more than around Lake Garda with so many beautiful views to take in, as you sit in the sun. People watching is also a really great way to pass some time over your coffee, beer or Spritz.

Coffee : an important part of daily life here and as individual as the person drinking it, there really are a 100 variations. Good to know is that a café will get you a little black espresso, a latte (an often used term in the UK) will get you an odd look and a glass of hot milk as my brother-in-law discovered on his first visit! A cappuccino, according to Italian laws of digestion, should not be ordered past 10am. If you want more tips on how to cafe like a local check out this link

Tea : is where the Italians let us down. They drink it black or with lemon and don’t like to too strong. Consequently it’s not really what we are used to. I regularly have family & friends bring me over tea bags from the UK. If you are a tea-o-holic too you might want to consider bringing some with you.

Aperitif & funny orange drinks : I have often been asked what I’m drinking if I order one. It could be one of two things. Very much in fashion at the moment is Aperol Spritz or Pirlo, a light cocktail (seen drunk by even the most macho of guys) of Aperol, prosecco and soda water. It’s slightly bitter but quite refreshing in the heat. There is also a Campari version of this which is even more on the bitter side. The other possibility is a crodino. This is a non alcoholic drink that it sort of savoury really, again it’s slightly bitter and I really haven’t found a good way to describe it so you’ll just have to try one. I’m also told 😉 that it’s nice with white wine added to make it into a longer drink. The new aperitif is called an Hugo, prosecco based again it has syrup of sambuca and a slice of apple.

Snacks : some ground work is necessary here. Take note at each bar of the snacks on the table. Most you see will have been given free with your drink but you have to choose your place wisely. Often you’ll get olives and some crisps but there are a few places that you can practically lunch at so keep your eyes peeled. It’s also about the time of day that you order it and no, they do’t come with coffee. I’ve seen many a person looking hard done by when they order an 11.30 coffee and their companion who orders a small beer gets all the trimmings!


Swimming : it’s perfectly fine to swim in the lake, many do. Personally I’m a big fairy (my mothers term for me) and I can therefore only venture in during the height of summer when it’s really hot because it’s a bit chilly for me.

Beaches : the beaches here around the lake are always pebbly so some jelly shoes for those with delicate feet really do help. They are available everywhere here if you don’t have some to bring.

As a weather indicator : being so close to some stunning mountains does mean that we sometimes get some spectacular summer storms. Don’t be put off, the south of the lake gets a lot less than the northern resorts of Limone, Riva & Malcesine and they are also short lived. What’s the lake got to do with this ? It will probably change colour and get darker before the rain arrives so if it’s getting cloudy keep your eye on it.

Ferries : the ferries here run back and forth around the lake all day long but do check your timetable to be sure of the return time as they don’t run late into the evening.


Water : tap water is drinkable although the high mineral content means it has a taste we’re not used to. Bottled water is readily available and cheaper than back home. There are also many public water taps which have fresh spring water where you can fill up your bottles. If it’s not drinkable it will say ‘acqua non portabili’. It’s not usual for restaurants here to serve tap water but they should if you ask.


Shops : many shops close for the long siesta (along with banks, post offices and petrol stations). The traditions are changing and through the summer and in tourist resorts more stay open throughout the day but it’s not a give so always check.

Chemists : they also close for the long siesta and have a day off during the week too however one in the area will remain open and each chemist will display the list so you know where you have to go.

Tabacco : can only be served to over 18s and is not on sale everywhere but only in Tabacchi shops which have a sign outside with a big T on them. Out of shop hours you can only get cigarettes from vending machines for which you have to produce ID. Being Italian machines they recognise Italian ID so either decide to give up before you come or remember to stay stocked up.


Exchange : as most of Italys other tourists belong to the Euro there is now very little request for travellers cheques and in fact some banks no longer change them. Those that do will probably how a limit of €250 or €500 so please be aware.

Banks : open from the early morning until lunch and then for a short period in the afternoon but it varies. ATM machines are common place but there will be a daily limit which is usually €250.


A note of thanks goes to my ‘English mafia’ circle of friends who all had something to say on the various subjects – but mostly on the Spritz v’s Pirlo!



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