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How to choose your Destination Wedding Planner

You’ve decided to get married in Italy – now what ?

There are some brave couples who decide that they do not need a wedding planner even if they are planning to tie the knot abroad, in a country they don’t live in and where they potentially don’t speak the language. For those of you who would like a little more security and a lot less stress you’ll be looking for a wedding planner. As one of my couples who started on their own said ‘We were looking at the macro Ginny but the minute we looked at the micro we were lost!’.

So if you are looking for a wedding planner how do you go about finding the right one for you? Here are some steps I’d suggest.

Search on line

You can use google, Facebook and Instagram even Pinterest to find some names for potential wedding planners. There are going to be a lot so take some time and don’t stop at the first page. A quick look here will give you an idea of the kind of weddings they plan but also read the text, that will give you an idea of what it would be like to talk to this person. Make a short list.

Look at work experience and, hugely importantly for a Destination Wedding, local knowledge.

There are a lot of wedding planners about and it might be tempting to think that since the job is the same just get a quote for the one that fits your budget.

But what you need to know, at the end of the day, is that you are going to get value for what you pay. Does this person really know the area you want to get married in? How many weddings have they planned there? Have they worked in that location before ? Are they going to know the answers to the questions that you don’t even know you have yet ?

Check the reviews

This is going to be the best way to understand if other couples have found they got value for the investment they made in this wedding planner. First hand experience is the best way for us to trust that something is really as good as you hope so read the reviews of those who have had that experience.If you’re not quite sure, ask if you could have the contact details for 1 or 2 of the previous couples to speak to them directly, ask the questions you might be too shy to ask the planner herself.

Have a one to one chat

I know that your planner is probably in Italy and you are probably not, hence your search, but if we’ve learnt anything since 2020 we do now all know how to ‘meet’ on line. And it’s important, you know how sometimes you can strike up a relationship over e-mails with someone, maybe even the phone and then when you meet them they don’t quite feel like the same person, it’s discombobulating (I’ve been waiting for ages to find a context to drop that into! Finally found it). So have a video call and get a ‘feel’ for the person. By the time you say ‘I do’ this person is going to feel like part of your family, make sure the fit is going to be a good one so you can approach your wedding day with joy and excitement.

Pricing

Hiring a wedding planner is an investment. It’s like hiring a surveyor before you buy a house. And like everything there are going to be a range of prices out there. It’s important that you are sure you’re going to be getting value for the money that you spend, you worked hard for it. But at the same time don’t begrudge the cost, remember that you are paying for peace of mind that someone with more experience than you is going to guide you around the pit falls and we all know that experience costs money. That said a wedding planner can also save you money. A good planner can anticipate what you’re going to need and help you to understand what you can actually afford and also make sure there are no uncomfortable and unexpected last minute costs.

In the end…..

Choose someone that you trust. Someone that speaks your language and I don’t actually mean literally (although it often helps) but someone who speaks in a way that you know they ‘get’ you. You must be able to trust your wedding planner so you can enjoy the process of planning the wedding and on the day itself cherish every moment of this very special day.

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Wedding websites

Wedding websites : Free vs. Lane Created Weddings

 

Wedding websites. What are they and why do I need one? There are a lot of things to consider when deciding whether a wedding website is best for you and what type to get. We’re going to try and make it simple for you!

 

What are they?

 

Wedding websites are an online space that can assist both you and your guests with anything from planning to organising and sharing to streaming. Traditionally wedding invitations were used to communicate to the guests all the useful information that they might need but more and more couples are using websites for this. Why? Well one of the reasons is that you can provide you guests with even more information, links to take them to exactly the right website page or map etc but also because they can be updated as the planning moves along and this is particularly useful for a Destination Wedding when planning for the couples but also for the guests generally starts earlier.  However not all wedding websites provide the same level of functionality but they all have the same aim in mind – to make your big day even more special.

What does your wedding website need to do ?

 

A wedding website doesn’t need to replace your wedding invitations, but if you want it can. It should be the one place that your guests can go to in order to find out all of the information they might want. The obvious is the date, location and time of the wedding but you can go so much further. For a Destination Wedding there’s a lot of information you can add. For example your guests will appreciate suggestions of how to travel there, which airports are closest, which resorts to consider staying in, recommended hotels, airport transfers, what to do for the rest of their stay when they are not involved in wedding activities. If you are going to provide all of this what you need to be looking for is something that is easy to navigate – because if it’s not easy your guests will call you instead of using the website. It’s great if the website has an online RSVP so guests can choose to reply directly on line. If there’s a guest list manager this will assist you greatly in managing your actual numbers and later the seating plan and other logistics that might be involved like transport to and from the venue. And the website can help you even after the wedding day if there’s a gallery where you can load your favourite photos from the day to share them with everyone who was there in a quality high enough for them to be able to download them for themselves.

Free vs. Paid

Free 

There are many types of free wedding websites available that can be found simply by googling free wedding websites. Many simply offer the functionality to build your website and show guests some basic information about your big day, others may include RSVP’s and galleries often at an extra charge.

Benefits 

  • Free!
  • Can be easy to set up

Drawbacks

  • Lower functionality
  • Requires time to set-up
  • May not suit your vision of your wedding website
  • Often extras come at a charge

Lane Created Weddings 

Lane Created Wedding’s websites on the surface may look similar to their free counterparts, however they can do much more.

The main benefit being, friends and family can stay close through a number of features such as Update Feeds. This brilliant feature enables you to share memories, pictures and like and comment on everyone’s posts. Another feature that will bring your guests closer together is Live Streams for those family members that can’t make it due to distance, health or other circumstances.

Additionally to these Lane Created Weddings offers the same basic functions as the free ones. Including but not limited to; galleries, RSVPs, gift registries and information about your big day.

A full set of the available add-ons, prices and information can be found on the website.

www.lanecreatedweddings.com

Benefits 

  • Higher level of functionality and customisation
  • Ease both with time and effort
  • Visually stunning websites
  • Custom domain (e.g. www.yournames.co.uk)

Drawbacks

  • Costs more than the free alternative

At the end of the day when choosing a wedding website provider it really does depend on a number of factors, what your budget is, what you need it to do and how comfortable you are setting it up for yourself. It is important to make these decisions prior to purchase but also go and ask the providers if they can make your perfect wedding website come to life, they might be able to give you a clear idea of the best route for you.

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Eloping to Italy

As things ease up in the UK in terms of getting out and about and the possibility of jumping on a plane to somewhere warm gets closer there may be some of you out there who are thinking ‘we want to elope to Italy’. If that’s you please read on.

As a fellow eloper myself I understand the desire to just make it about the two of you, no fuss, just something beautiful and intimate between the two of you that you can share the photos of with everyone when you have a party on your return home if that’s what you want to do.

So the first question that you should be asking yourself is it even possible ?

The answer, happily is yes. Italy is among the countries that have an agreement with the UK & Ireland to recognize a marriage that takes place in Italy as legal in the UK & Ireland. Once you are married and have your certificate there is actually no need to take further action but if you want to it’s possible to register it once you return home. Before your wedding can take place however there are documents that need to be completed and these take some time. At first glance it might seem like quite a lot but taken in baby steps it’s just a series of checks to go through and it’s not difficult. This does however as I’ve said take time and that was my impulse in writing this blog today because if you want to do this you need to move now. I have had a couple make that last minute decision and get their paperwork done within 2 months start to finish, but it was quite a rush.

Therefore my advice would be first to call your local registry office and explain that you’d like a Destination Wedding in Italy and ask them how quickly you could get an appointment. This is always going to be the first step because this is the office that can issue you with your Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) and from appointment to issue of the certificate there’s usually a 3 week period. Once your certificates have been collected you‘ll need to send them and your Statuary Declarations (which you can get done while you’re waiting for your CNI) to be legalized in Milton Keynes. This is a legal confirmation that the signatures on the documents are legal and recognized. Only then does the paperwork come to me here in Italy so that I can translate the CNI and get that translation legalized before leaving it all with the town hall. You see, I said it would sound like a lot. But I promise you that broken down into baby steps, which I’ll do for you by e-mail, it isn’t rocket science. But it does take time and you can understand from the above that the minimum lead time that you would need would be 2 months and then it would be very touch and go. I know from couples who are already booked for this year that some registry offices are working as normal but others have a back log and could not immediately give you that first appointment.

It’s because of this that I say, if you’re thinking of eloping overseas this summer the first thing you do, right now, before you even make a definite decision, is to call your registry office and see what sort of timeline they can give you. Then sit back and consider whether that can work for you and the time you’re going to need to take off (remember you need to be here in Italy at least 2 working days before your wedding), let the reality of the fact that this might actually be possible sink in and then start to get excited about the idea. How fun would that be ???? It’s at that point that you e-mail, DM or call me and say ‘Ginny, we want to elope to Italy’ and then I will get you moving right away, making that little bit of magic happen somewhere in Lake Garda.

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Wedding Traditions

Wedding Traditions

As far as a single event goes a wedding is possibly one of those which has the most traditions connected to it and I personally had never questioned them until fairly recently and I certainly never asked myself ‘Why’ ? Or for the matter where did that come from? And honestly it’s really only as I wrote this blog I’m asking myself why that is? I am no rebel by anyone’s standards but I will question something if I don’t see the sense in it or just don’t really want to do whatever it is. But I had never done that for weddings. I imagine I’m not alone in this and I’m guessing it’s simply that the traditions around weddings are so deeply seated that they have become almost more than a tradition, more of an unwritten law, not far from being set in stone.

 

As a Destination Wedding Planner now I give my couples permission to have the wedding that they want and if that means doing away with any traditions that don’t serve them then out they go. I’m not saying don’t have them at all but I do think that it’s OK to decide not to do something if it doesn’t feel right for you. At least for your Wedding Day you shouldn’t have to be constrained or feel obliged to do something that you don’t want to. For us it’s quite easy to do because the moment you take your wedding overseas your guests are not quite sure how the day will be and consequently the preconceptions disappear because no one is certain any longer what to expect. Will it be the same as a ‘home’ wedding? The guests simply don’t know what’s ‘normal’ where you are in the world and if you are going to ‘go local’ or stay more traditional. Let me give you an example, here in Italy they don’t have speeches so if you don’t enjoy public speaking and the idea of your wedding speech filles you with dreed, don’t do it. You simply say ‘they don’t do them in Italy’ and you’ve taken the pressure off. That said there are many traditions that no one wants to do without and others, whether you decide to have them or not, that are simply fascinating in their history.

 

A White Wedding dress is a classic example of a tradition that nearly everyone sticks to but where did it come from? Many, many moons ago there wasn’t money for a different dress for your wedding, you simply wore the best dress you had. Or if you did buy a new dress the idea was that it would be used again although it was possibly a more elegant version of the clothes that you already had. Its general accepted that it was Queen Victorias marriage to her beloved Prince Albert that started the western culture of a White Wedding dress that lives on today. It quickly became a status symbol to be able to afford to buy but then more importantly launder a white dress given that a white dress simply wasn’t practical to actually keep white and therefore only for the better off.

Wedding rings are another much loved and hard to part from tradition. The use of a wedding rings can be traced back to the Greeks & Romans where the ring, made of precious metal, was part of the dowry but they later became of symbol of the promise of fidelity. Originally a ring was only given to the Brides and in fact that was the case for my parents but modern couples generally both choose to wear a ring as symbol both of the commitment on both sides but also in a wider sense they are showing the growing equality between genders.

Something old, something new, something blue – what ? The idea behind these is that the brides wears something old to connect her with her previous single life, something new to represent the future ahead of the couple and the blue is to represent fidelity and love. It’s actually a lovely nod to the transition taking place between the couple because, as is often the case, even for couples who have lived together for years and who perhaps don’t expect ‘being married’ to change anything much, there is actually a subtle shift in the relationship. I personally found that I felt the commitment more keenly and I remember being surprised by the simple pleasure I took in being able to call Lorenzo ‘my husband’.

The Best Man, well that’s an eye opening I can tell you. General folk law has it that local lads looked for a wife amongst local girls in their village however if there were no young lasses that took their fancy they might look further afield to neighboring villages. This attention wasn’t always welcomed, in fact far from it apparently. There are tales of grooms kidnapping their soon to be wives and this is where the Best Man comes in because, let’s face it, if you’re off kidnapping a feisty young lass, hoping to steal her away from her family and possibly other suitors then it’s a 2 man job. Hence the Best Man! Who then stood by on the day, possibly armed, to make sure that everything went ahead as planned. So while we may have kept the tradition I’m really rather glad that we’ve not kept the original reason.

Bridesmaids instead were there to confuse evil spirits who might have wanted to curse the marriage, the more young women who were all dressed in a similar fashion the more likely the evil spirit was to choose the wrong one or just give up! These days of course brides rely on their best girls to help them stay calm, get ready and to do up all those little buttons down the back of the wedding dress – professional tip : a fork is really handy for this!

The throwing of the brides bouquet, which seems a little odd given the time and consideration gone into choosing it, has actually replaced an earlier tradition which I have to say I’m very glad we’ve done away with. In days gone by the wedding guests use to try and touch the bride as she was so ‘lucky ‘. Even better was to tear a piece of the brides dress off as a keepsake that was considered to be good luck. This eventually led to the wily brides tossing the bouquet at her guests and scarpering before they could attack her dress! If you don’t want to throw your bouquet or what to keep something to remind you of your bouquet you can have a silk replica made that will stay forever beautiful.

Confetti is a good one, in Italy the word confetti actually refers to sugared coated almonds and it seems these might actually be the reason confetti is called confetti. In the middle ages it was not uncommon to throw the sugared almonds or other sweetened nuts or seeds over the happy couples heads as a symbol of fertility. This in itself probably stemmed from the ancient Roman tradition of breaking wheat cakes over the brides head. The Italians actually still use sugared almonds as confetti but luckily they are no longer thrown over the bride & groom. Instead they are given, usually beautifully presented, as part of the wedding gift that they give to their guests, what we call favours. Italians moved on from expensive confetti to throw over the couple to cheaper and easier to source rice and this is still used today (often by the kilo !) whereas the UK offers many variations of confetti, coloured paper, bio degradable options and of course the ever romantic petals either fresh or dried.

 

Are there any traditions that you simply can’t consider not having at your wedding or any you really want to ignore ??

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Virtual Site Visit to Lake Garda

Virtual Site Visits to Lake Garda

 

In this crazy world we still live in travel is an issue which makes planning ahead for a Destination Wedding tricky. I am going through the initial stages with a few couples right now who are looking to book for 2022 but they’ve not seen the venues and we don’t yet know when they will be able to see them in person. So, I’ve come up with a work around, in life I have discovered that I am quite good at work arounds and I’m rather pleased with this one.

 

My couples may not be able to travel here to Italy but I am lucky enough to already be here as I live on Lake Garda and so I have been travelling to the venues and, once I’m at the venue, I video call the couple and I can move around the spaces and point out where each part of the day can happen, explain how the guests will move between ceremony, aperitif and dinner. In this way I walk them through the spaces and answer any questions that come up for them much as if they were here in person.

Last week I went to one of my very popular venues. Effectively this location is a beautiful curated garden that is literally at the waters edge and looks out across the lake and to the Isola del Garda. Here it’s possible to have both your wedding ceremony (civil ceremonies are recognized here as are of course symbolic) and the follow seamlessly on to the aperitif and wedding breakfast.

What is there to be said about Italian food that you don’t already know. It’s delicious, so full of flavour and a crowd pleaser as well which does make it easier when you are having to choose a meal that will fit well with all of your guests preferences. In fact I would say the only difficulty is deciding on which of the dishes to have and if you really can’t decide then the Italians are happy to serve you both. That could in fact be the only issue with Italian food, there’s too much of it but it’s too delicious you don’t want to not eat it. But I think there are worse problems to have.

And just as night should follow day a brilliant party should follow any good wedding breakfast and this location is perfectly set up for it with an outdoor dance floor and some impressive speakers. The bar can open and the stories that will be relived again and again can unfurl through the evening. It’s difficult on Lake Garda to find locations where the party can go past midnight but this venue has that possibility. Tues – Thursday it can remain your private party, for a supplement, and you can party on till 3am, long past my bedtime ! At the weekend the venue is a club and you have a number of choices. There is a separate seating area kept for those of your party with the will to boogie some more and here you can provide drinks for your guests who can simply join in with the other fun seekers or there is the 1st floor wine bar which can be hired for the remainder of your party. There are always options, it depends what you are looking for.

If all of this sounds like the prefect venue for you and the photos have you wishing you were there right now then drop me a line and I can tell you more about it. And just to make sure that no one misses out after I did the virtual visit with my couple I also did an IGTV and Facebook live so you can check either of those locations to ‘walk’ through the venue yourselves.

 

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Fun little touches for your wedding

Fun little touches for your wedding

After you have done the obvious task of choosing your date, location, ceremony and the larger planning tasks you will have some time to turn your attention to the smaller details and this is where your guests might get the first sneak peak into how you plan to style your wedding.

Every couple wants their wedding to be unique, special for them and a reflection of who they are as a couple and rightly so. Following your choice of wedding venue there are further elements for your wedding where this is obvious and easy to do, your wedding dress of course would be a major one. Personalizing your vows for the ceremony, your choice of music both for the ceremony and later reception, your flowers and colour scheme are definitely going to be high on your to do list. Once decided you can give space for creativity in other details for those extra little touches which can make the day totally yours and unique. Here are just a few to consider :

 

Your wedding invitation for example. In these more conscious times you might want to save paper and go digital as many couple have or you might think to send something that could be repurposed, like an invitation tea towel so your guests can be reminded of your wedding both before and after the wedding while pottering around their kitchen. I still have a tea towel invite sent to me by one of my couples and I love the reminder of their day that last for years afterwards.

 

If you are expecting your day to be sunny and warm (and if you choosing Lake Garda then I’m guessing it will be) then a fan for each guest or at least the ladies can be placed on the chairs for the ceremony. These can also be personalized with your names and the date of your special day and there are many companies offering this service and it’s also a great ‘take home’ that can be used again and again. I also had a couple who simply made their order or service into a fan by printing on card and sticking it onto a wooden handle. Simple but very effective.

 

Another lovely idea is to use small photo frames with either each guests photo in or their name as a place setting. Again they can either keep it as it is or repurpose the frame with a photo of the day. Another lovely idea is your guests name carved in wood which again serves as both a place setting and decoration, there are a number of companies who will produce these for a very reasonable price. In both of these cases the place setting then also serves as a wedding favour.

 

Alternatively for your wedding favours why not make it something you know they can all use on the night, like a miniature bottle of Limoncello which is very popular here. There are even a few companies now who will, for a very reasonable fee, personalize your label for you. I’ve also had a very creative bride who painted her own shot glasses for the guests which again was useful on the night but a lovely reminder to be able to take home after the event.

 

Guest books are lovely and of course you want to remember everyone who came and shared your special day with you but there are different format that’s you can consider rather than a paper book. For instance your guest book could instead be a print of yourselves that everyone signs. Other couples have had a print/painting that everyone can leave their thumb print on instead. These kinds of things are then easy to display somewhere in your home rather than a closed book on a bookcase which I suspect doesn’t get opened so often.

 

But at the end of the day the important thing to remember is that your guests are coming for you. They want to share this very special day with you and so, if there is something that comes easily to mind (or a google search) that really reflects who you are and what you want to share with your guests then great, but it should not be a stress. Not one of your guests want you to not enjoy the run up to your wedding in a state of panic over the place settings. Remember this at every moment of your planning so that on the day you are able to simply enjoy the moment.

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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.

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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.

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What to do on Lake Garda

What to do on Lake Garda

 

There is much to do on Lake Garda. Eating, drinking, sunning yourself, well, that’s usually enough but for those of you looking for something more to do here are some ideas to help you.

 

In Gardone an adventure park with zip lines and rope bridges perfect for boys and a range to suit all the ages. http://www.rimbalzelloadventure.com/en

Also in Gardone is the Vittoriale http://www.vittoriale.it for history the historic villa and the amazing grounds of lovely views.

The Botanical gardens in Gardone get a lot of variety into a compact but really interesting space http://www.hellergarden.com/it

 

For the fit there is the ‘mountain’ of Pizzocolo to climb 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 http://www.gardaworld.com/Lake-Garda/EN/1/81/Mountain-bike.html

 

Take a walk around the 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 through the week to get there.

 

If you’d like to arrange a guided tour this local company can help http://www.tickets-tours.com/lake-tour

 

Around Moniga there is indoor Karting http://www.internationalkartindoormoniga.it/gallery and at Desenzano outdoor karting http://www.southgardakarting.it/en

 

In Sirmione there is a lovely Thermal Spa http://www.termedisirmione.com/aquaria-sirmione-en.jsp?language=EN

 

While in Cola the other side of the lake there is a park with outdoor thermal pools more suited to a family day out http://www.villadeicedri.it/en and there is also https://www.aquardens.it in the Valpolicella area.

 

Also in the area of Cola there is a safari type park www.parconaturaviva.it

 

Towards Lazise on the other side of the lake Gardaland which is our version of Alton towers http://www.gardaland.it/resort/index-en.php . Also near there is Canava water park and also Movieland which also has rides and tends to be less busy than Gardaland http://www.canevaworld.it/en

 

There are also other water parks around the area one of them is  www.parcoacquaticocavour.it

 

Another adventure park the other side of the lake is http://www.jungleadventurepark.com/Default.aspx

 

Inland there is a special place called Parco Sigurta www.sigurta.it 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.

 

There are a number of golf courses around the lake if that’s your sport of choice and here’s a handy link http://www.golfgardalake.com/golf-courses-garda-lake.html

 

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.

 

Then there is the lake itself of course. 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. Pedalo and motor boats can be hired and there’s plenty of gelato and don’t forget to try a Spritz.

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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 travelling 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.

DRIVING IN ITALY

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 http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/staying-safe/driving-abroad or http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/touring_tips/italy-san-marino.pdf

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.

 

 

Restaurants

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 therefore most places can offer a very local house wine and they are usually really reasonable both in taste and price.

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.

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 well 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 wait to pass some time.

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 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/6246202/Italian-coffee-culture-a-guide.html

 

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. 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.

The lake

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 : 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

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’.

Shopping

Shops : many shops close for the long siesta (along with banks, post offices and petrol stations). The traditions are changing and through the summer 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.

Money

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.

 

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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