Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Italy by Seventeen Trains

I realise that over the last couple of years this blog has evolved from 'what I've done' to 'what I like'. I've recently reviewed books, models and kits; now it's time for a holiday.

Mrs R and I have just returned home after a ten day trip to Italy by train, organised by Great Rail Journeys. Though they run some tours aimed it seems at the enthusiast market, the rail component for majority is just a pleasant means to an end. So it was for our holiday to Lake Garda. The link should tell you all about our itinerary, so what else can I usefully say? 

To start with, from the moment the first enquiry is made, the office staff are unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable. The process of booking was made easy and good guidance given in the literature sent out. We were impressed with the phone call from our tour manager the weekend before we left to check that all was well and give us the opportunity to ask any last minute questions. Check in, security and passport control at St Pancras was a breeze. The hotels were all spotless, but the family run Hotel Desanzano was a cut above the high standards of the others. Our tour manager Carolyn was fabulous, helpful, organised, reassuring, friendly and with a wonderful sense of humour. Italy is wonderful, the Italians friendly and very willing to help. English to a good standard seems to be pretty widely spoken in Northern Italy. The guided tours were pitched just right, not being dumbed down nor too highbrow. There are two long days on the train, Paris to Desenzano, and Desenzano to Strasbourg. Italy, even the north is a long way away, the miles have to be put in at some stage. The journey can be eased by taking good pack ups and plenty to read, for those sections where the stunning alpine scenery doesn't take the eye. Enough words, have a look at what awaits.

I suppose that having extolled the virtues of the holiday I should mention the cost. It is the most expensive holiday that we've taken. Last year we holidayed in a simple but pleasant cottage in Cornwall for a week, again travelling by train. This years trip to Lake Garda cost about double the Cornwall jaunt, but was for three days longer, included excursions and most meals with a higher standard of accommodation. As such I'm minded to think that it represents better value for money. It's certainly the best holiday I've had.