Phil & Karen Vatter – Italian Lakes (June-July 2017)

Everything was truly amazing. I’ve never had a holiday like it and it felt great to be honouring my parent’s legacy and their last wishes which was “Go somewhere special together – hang the expense! I’m so glad that TWJ recommended a “Lake View” junior suite, it really made all the difference, but the hotel was spectacular it was just super spectacular!

We had our honeymoon at Lake Garda 32 years ago, very, very cheaply, but vowed that we would always like to go back because we were so impressed with this area of Italy. So we had our second honeymoon this year and I promised my Dad especially that I would do it in style – TWJ ensured that this happened.  I’ve never felt so special – from the start of my journey (which started in early 2016) talking to TWJ with my exact requirements which I was assured could be managed by them (and it was) hassle-free and delivered within our budget.

Everything was stunning, Lake Maggiore (couldn’t do Garda in the same style) was like paradise; the hotel and our junior suite with its spectacular view overlooking the Lake and the facilities, but more especially, the wonderful staff who couldn’t do enough for us. This is what it must feel like to be Posh and Becks, but all of the time! Although we were only there for a week, there was so much to see on our doorstep, or to be more accurate, a boat ride away. The longest journey each way was 40 minutes. We went to Isola Bella where the palace and the gardens took my breath completely away (and that’s a first), followed by Isola Madre, Villa Taranto and Isola Superiore dei Pescatori which I would urge you to see on separate days as we did. Each one is very different and very beautiful in its own unique way, even though the boat is cheaper by just a matter of a few Euros if you island hop all 3 at the same time, but (in my opinion) you would have missed the total beauty of each island, each garden and be very, very tired at the end of it and probably quite grumpy too – the weather was amazingly hot making the lake sparkle and shimmer.

Each island is known for its garden and although I’m not really a gardener, but if you are, you would absolutely love it – lush, verdant and colourful all at the same time. All the facilities within each location were beautifully and passionately kept clean and tidy. The food, as you would expect in Italy was absolutely fantastico – we treated ourselves twice to dinner in the hotel with a reserved table and on the first occasion were seated in the conservatory of the hotel which was just like being seated in Cinderella’s palace. The hotel has a history of catering for people since the 1800’s and is relatively untouched with original features and as we were on the second floor, the corridor was treated as an art gallery, as were most of the other floors. On our last evening, we were seated on the terrace overlooking the most stunning gardens which you are always welcome to walk around at any time, with nothing being off limits. They are a feature in themselves together with the fountains and a clock that plays classical music on the hour and are particularly stunning at night.

Gardens on Isola Bella

Gardens on Isola Bella

The nearest town, Stresa was 10 minutes walk away from the hotel along the promenade which of course, all Italians like to walk in the evening. Fantastic selection of restaurants (one growing all their own salad leaves, tomatoes, herbs and aubergines) and reasonably priced gelato, my personal favourite Tiramisu, my husband’s Zuppa Inglese and lots of well priced gift shops with a huge amount of “Made in Italy” products which made the gifting feel special too. The Murano glass was beyond beautiful and I was simply spoilt for choice, from tiny and exquisite pieces to huge chandeliers and everything in between.

Duomo in Milan

Duomo in Milan

The spa, included in the price of the hotel, although small, was perfectly formed and offered lots of different treatments, some of them specifically cosmetic and others with more of a medical feel. Two outdoor pools in beautiful gardens with a life-guard and pool-side service of snacks, drinks and I had a smoothie (Royal Pink), definitely P&B by this time!

We travelled all the way from London to Stresa by train without a hitch at all, so although it sounded like it would be a long time, there was no stress at all as TWJ made sure that we had reserved seats and enough time between changing trains and in some cases, stations, to get there and allowed for delays, of which there were none, even when we went to Milan for a day trip.

At the end of the holiday I felt relaxed. I would love to go again and would have no hesitation in booking another bespoke holiday with TWJ as I felt that they really listened, did not promise something that they weren’t prepared to deliver.

I loved the TWJ travel wallet and luggage tags we never felt like we were ‘just a customer” or that something couldn’t be done or that they were trying to hard sell me at any time. I’m so pleased I found TWJ after trying some other “bespoke” (which really should have been advertised as “behave!”) companies which had started me thinking that I had to compromise with what I wanted to do with my Dad’s hard earned over the years legacy and ultimately my holiday of a lifetime (so far – I hope!) I certainly enjoyed a very special holiday indeed.