Panama has represented for us a journey of contradictions; on the one hand there is Panama City with its skyscrapers and its multi-ethnicity, and is the most important financial center in the world, and on the other hand, the uncontaminated and wild nature of regions unknown to mass tourism.
Why did we choose Panama?
It all started on our last trip to Colombia when we stopped in Panama City for a day. We had 8 hours to get a taste of the city and, luckily for us, we took the right taxi.
Miguel told us about a magical place, so much so that we could only
return to Italy, prepare for the journey and return to
this land known only as a tax haven. With hindsight I can’t say for sure if I
would go back again. I don’t
think I appreciated it, but it was an adventure at least.
The first real roadblock was the language – they speak
in a mixture of Indios and Latin American idioms. We
often found ourselves in difficulty, especially outside the tourist circuits.
If like us, you also travel with a child, I advise you to avoid self-directed tours and above all to organize tours in Italy before you leave. Planning
them in the moment you certainly spend less, but you
risk finding yourself in the hands of people who are not suited to managing
families. We don’t
normally give advice like this, but in this case I think it’s appropriate.
It is a chaotic city, full of construction
sites, skyscrapers and banks of course, everything but quiet and clean. For our stay in the
city we have chosen La Concordia Boutique Hotel which boasts an enviable
position. The family suite will leave you breathless, I’m sure.
The first day we couldn’t have started
better … we went from the skyscrapers of Panama City to the ruins of Panama
Viejo, the old capital, today a UNESCO heritage site, represents the first
European settlement on the Pacific coasts.
We walked through the historic center,
Casco Viajo, among its colonial buildings and its nerve-racking traffic. A
jewel between past and present, but we were too busy to let ourselves be drawn in. Such a shame.
Bridge of the Americas
dedicated the second day to this adventure. Flavio was
thrilled to see some exotic birds, monkeys, crocodiles and iguanas. Me, not so much, but the
things we do for our children!
We crossed Lake Gatun (an artificial
lake) aboard a fast motorboat and then dove into a tropical
paradise to have lunch on a houseboat. The place was wild, but it was nice
to live so differently from our everyday life. This was all in the shadow of the Great Bridge, of course.
San Blas Islands
On the third day, our journey to the
Caribbean coast and the discovery of the archipelago began. In this area there
aren’t many hotel facilities, so we spent the next 3 days on the boat. Yes, you got it
right, three days and three nights in a beautiful catamaran! The
alternative was to experience wild nature (including structures).
It was the first time that Flavio had been on
a catamaran and the first few hours did not go very well. However, as time went on it got better and
everything was fantastic. The secret is to involve
children in activities that keep them occupied and above all, do not let
them go into the cabin if the vehicle is in motion.
You can find more sailboat tips here.
In these islands we met the Kuna (local
population) and ate fresh fish all different times of the day and night. There
is no nightlife, they are rural islands so before going, make sure you are certain you want this kind of holiday. These islands offer breathtaking scenery,
white sand and turquoise water, all in a frame of palm trees that touch the
water. There ate 378 coral islands. Only 49 are inhabited and few are equipped for
The most beautiful islands are without
doubt Kuanidup, Isla Coco Blanco, Narasgandup, Isla Perro Grande and Isla Perro
If you want to visit these wonderful islands I recommend going between December and February. There are blue skies, a small breeze and brilliant sea colors.
Whenever I think of my vacations in Barbados I always feel a little sad,
because there really is no other island like it. Many different journies and
memories united by a feeling – I really left my heart in Barbados.
The first time I
set foot on the island was in
from the decks of the Royal Caribbean while on my honeymoon. I’m not a big fan
of cruises, maybe because you are on board the ship for too long. I have no clear memories of that half-day
in Barbados and to be honest, if it weren’t for the geo-location of the photos, I wouldn’t even be able to
distinguish one island from another.
My trip to the
Caribbean in 2017, on the other
hand, I remember very well, and it was this time without a doubt that solidified
that we would one day move there.
As I have already described, Barbados is
different from the other Caribbean Islands.
is probably because it has not
yet been invaded by tourism, or perhaps because the islanders are still
strongly connected to their
Barbados: the Pearl of the Caribbean
square kilometers of land, rarely touched by hurricanes due to its location,
Barbados is the pearl of the Caribbean islands. The island is small –
something to bare in mind to avoid being disappointed.
The side of the island which faces the ocean is full of wild and windy
beaches, a far cry from the heavenly postcard-perfect images we imagine when
thinking of Caribbean beaches. The hotel accommodation is very nice and
low-cost, but if you want to avoid the wind and walking hundreds of meters to
the beach, then this area is not for you.
The north-western part of the island is where you will find luxury
resorts and villas, where you can really see paradise. But beware, as many
hotels to not accept children, and even very few of the beaches offer
opportunities for them to play.
So here we are in
the south, the real Barbados; the pulsating heart of the island where
magic, tradition and white sand come together to make your holiday unique.
is the area which offers the most genuine experience of Barbados.
For our own vacation, we rented a villa 100 meters from the beach,
located in Oistins, a fishing village famous for its fish market, where you can
find any type of fish at prices you’ve never seen before (for example, $7 for a
lobster!) This location fully
represents the Caribbean soul of the island. A few tourists and many native
Barbadians flock to the beaches to swim at around 6pm.
The beaches are
white and the water is transparent. Here you will find one of the most famous
beaches: Miami Beach (or Enterprise beach). Particularly suitable for children
because of the natural pool between the rocks and loved by surfers because the
eastern part of the beach offers the perfect waves. This beach is surrounded by a beautiful palm
wood, where you will find various vans selling drinks and food. Among these I
recommend Mr.Delicious, who
makes the best fish cakes on the island (1 barbadian dollar is worth about $0.50 USD) and the best Coconut Punch. On the beach you can
rent umbrellas and sun beds for $5 USD.
At the weekend, the area turns into a big dance hall. Oistin’s Friday Night Fish Fry hosts clubs
and loud music. Children can play
and dance undisturbed, and
you can eat as much fresh fish as you like. But don’t expect linen tablecloths!
For a truly
unforgettable breakfast, I
recommend the Surfer’s Cafe, which is a unique little cafe with a terrace
overlooking the sea.
If, like us, you’ve decided to rent an apartment, you will have to do some shopping. The Oistins supermarket is well-stocked but avoid buying Italian products – you will spend exorbitant amounts. Also, if you make friends with locals, you will know that in all shops there is one price for Barbadians and another for tourists, which is usually tripled. So if you want to rent a car to get around
the island, you should ask the
owner of the house to do it for you.
There are two
other things I want to say about this fantastic location. The first is that
wherever you are on the road, you just need to raise your arm to get on a bus
that, at the cost of a Barbadian dollar, will take you anywhere. The second is
that the hotels have free access, so you can safely enter their beach, use the
swimming pool, showers, bathroom and sun loungers as long as you buy drinks from their bar. This seemed like a good compromise to us.
will often see islanders
coming out of the water with a net
full of fish. All you have to do is ask, and they will cook it right there on the beach (for a fee, of course).
Wait, we haven’t
finished with the pearl of the Caribbean islands yet: discover the most
beautiful beaches in Barbados here.
This time, we decided to rent a car at the airport, and our holiday was transformed.
We decided that every day we would visit an undiscovered beach, and it was perfect. So – let’s see what we can do in Barbados for eight days!
One – Oistins
Beginning your holiday on this wonderful beach is a great idea. Children can play in the bay in the bay, and if you also want access to the sea you can go to the front of the palm grove where the sea is not bordered by rocks. The palm grove area also has picnic tables and equipment for exercise if you want to keep fit while on holiday. But the most important thing about this beach which you must keep in mind is Mr. Delicious, a company in Barbados which boasts the best fish cakes on the island, along with the very fresh and delicious Coconut Punch. It opens at 10am and has free WiFi. This beach is also very popular with the population of Oistin.
The Oistin fish market
Friday night is all about Oistin and its
fish market, bars and barbecued fish, all to the beat of Caribbean music; lights,
colors, laughter and smiles. It is an extremely peaceful place, and
children will really
enjoy it. There are locals who walk around
with a monkey on their shoulder – be careful of this because once
you have taken a picture
with them you will be charged $10.
In addition, from 8am to 3pm, you can buy fresh fish at really ridiculous prices. Remember to ask for fish scraps and go to the dock behind the market – the sea turtles are hungry!
Two – Bottom Bay
that Bottom Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados, and they are
right! Barbados is usually surrounded by an emerald sea, but this beach is full
of bright blue colors. Before going down to the beach, take a walk on the upper
cliff (this can be found on the right of the stairs to the beach). The view
here is magnificent, but watch out for strong gusts of wind.
This beach is very wild and has no kiosks, so
remember to bring everything you need with you, including food and drinks.
cliffwalks, a walk through the villas of Long Bay to the sea is not to be
missed. The view is breathtaking and, hidden from the
eyes of passers-by, there is a small dreamlike beach, the famous Shark Hole. Here the
water is always calm, even when the sea is rough.
Three – Needhams Point and Hilton Barbados
This beach is named after an important
historical area, which has become the island’s heritage. In this area there are
three beaches: Pebble Beach, Drill Hall Beach and Neeshams Point Beach (this is the most beautiful, because
of the white beach and turquoise sea).
Here you will also find the wonderful
Hilton, which is absolutely worth a visit. I shouldn’t mention this, but from the beach
you can easily access the hotel and enjoy an afternoon in the beautiful hotel
swimming pools, taking advantage of the bar and restaurant services.
Four – Silver Sends
the airport lies the beautiful area of Silver Sends, where you will find wonderful villas overlooking the sea in an old-English style
and pristine beaches. This area is also a paradise for amateur surfers (for
the advanced as they call them, there is Bathsheba). This part is
frequented by many young people, and modern villas alternate with very modest local residences.
At the entrance of the beach there is a beautiful park and a bar/restaurant. A great day can be spent here.
Five – Speightstown
This city is known as ‘Little
Bristol”; it is colorful and full of shops and activities. This place is worth a few hours of
walking around before going to the Nikki later, as we did when we visited. The beaches are wonderful, but there are few areas equipped with sunbeds
and umbrellas. On the main street there is a small counter which sells Vegan products and fruit
extracts, which I highly recommend.
This is the
most fashionable Beach Club in Barbados. It is
frequented by a classy
types of people and above all, it is an elegant and a very
“in” place. Children are allowed but they may not use the pool. The sea is the only
option for families like ours, but the club is worth the experience anyway. The
restaurant is excellent, with local and international cuisine, and we strongly
advise booking ahead as it is very popular.
What surprised us most was the
attention to detail. Everything has been chosen to create a unique and elegant
atmosphere. The staff are very kind and helpful, and attentive to every need. A beautiful addition to the
atmosphere is the DJ positioned at the pool bar who plays beautiful music.
Six – Animal Flower Cave
Here we are
in the most northerly part of the island where there aren’t any Caribbean
beaches, but many majestic cliffs. It actually resembles Northern
Ireland more than Barbados. To get to the caves, you have
to go down a narrow staircase, but what you will find down there
is magnificent – caves carved by the sea that draw hearts and circles in the rock. You
will be accompanied by a guide who will stand by you at all times. At
the ticket office, they ask you if you want to swim or not, and you should do it! You’ll be taken to a cave with quite high water, and swimming in the cave is a
wonderful sensation! It was too bad that when we
went it was raining and the water was very rough, so they didn’t bring
us closer to the edge.
Outside the caves
Outside the caves there is a bar and
restaurant with breathtaking views (as well as prices of course) and in a hundred
meters walk you arrive at the lookout point, where there are cliffs as
far as the eye can see. If you sit down to get a drink, your
children will be able to
play in the playground or chase the goats
and sheep (who don’t
have wool and with a long tail).
here by public transport is not the best option, as it took us about an hour
even by car.
where I left my heart! Bathsheba is paradise
for professional surfers,
and is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the island. Dense vegetation, wild landscapes and unspoiled nature; in some spots it feels like walking in the
Bathsheba deserves an entire day but if you
are not a great lover of the ocean, then even an afternoon will be enough.
Along the beach there is a beautiful palm
grove with an English-style lawn and picnic tables. It is a shame that people who visit the
place leave a lot of garbage behind them.
Seven – Holetown
Here we are in the most exclusive and
luxurious part of the island. Here you will find famous designer stores and highly-starred
restaurants. This is a
predominantly white area, inhabited mostly by English and natives of Barbados.
This area represents the image that the world has of
Barbados: beaches, palm trees, coconut trees and sun. The beaches are beautiful
and everything seems like a dream. The beaches are well-equipped and the
villas overlook private beaches.
Day Eight –
After a week of discovering the most beautiful beaches (here you can find the most suitable for children), we decided to rely on Tiami Catamaran Cruises for a catamaran trip. The cruise departs from the port of Bridgetown at 9am to the island of Speightstown. The catamaran was very large, with an open bar and a relaxation area for sunbathing. The crew were friendly and helpful, and contributed well to the fun atmosphere of the morning.
The most exciting time
highlight? Definitely swimming with the turtles off Gibbes Beach. Flavio managed to touch one and did nothing but talk about it for the
next 7 days.
It’s a shame to have discovered the Tiami
on the last day of vacation, because they organize fabulous tours.
Throughout the morning we were served cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, and at lunch
we ate local products in buffet style. Highly recommended!
you have our wonderful vacation in Barbados. If you need any more information
on the island of Barbados you can contact us.
On our tour, we got to know the island from North to South and East to West.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the coast overlooking the ocean is the most beautiful if you are looking for breathtaking cliffs and very high waves. This is the best known spot for surfers, but I assure you that there are wonderful places even for a family that does not like getting up on the board!
Here are some places that you absolutely can’t miss.
Long Bay (Shark Hole)
This cliff is fantastic; hidden in the cove there is a small secret beach where, despite the high waves and the impassable sea, you can enjoy clear and calm water. In short, a real paradise. The area is very popular with locals so you will easily find fishermen on the cliff and families on the beach.
Here is another place that will leave you
breathless. The sea an almost blinding shade of blue.I have only seen a color like this once in my
life, in Cancun.
But before going down to the beach, I suggest you take a walk in the field in front of the parking lot, there is a wonderful view and you can take some great pictures. You can’t buy food or drinks here, so make sure you bring everything you need!
The Most Beautiful Views Barbados: Bathsheba
This is where I left my heart – I was dazzled by the beauty. Here nature is still unspoiled, and the vegetation is very rich. At Bathsheba you really feel like you’re in the Caribbean.It is difficult to reach by public transport,so I advise you to rent a car.
This beach is not as beautiful as the others, but the palm grove and cliff certainly make a pretty sight. Even here, despite the very rough sea, the colors are sensational. Unlike Bottom Bay, there is a barin the palm grove where you can enjoy an aperitif or cool off.
I am sure that in the North there are many pristine and beautiful beaches but, if you look at the map of Barbados, you can see that the north is beaten and has very few roads. It’s definitely a good reason to come back in a few years!
Dubai is a very dynamic city, with 365 days a year of sunshine and warmth, luxurious hotels and Caribbean-like beaches. The city is full of Bedouin traditions and futuristic skyscrapers.
Surrounded by the Garden of Allah, a desert in which people are said to ‘find themselves’, is a city full of contrasts. Arab tradition on one side, with its souks, belly dancing, mosques, falcon hunting and western modernity, and the other side with ski slopes inside shopping malls, horse races and artificial lighting.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when visiting Dubai:
In case of emergency you can go to the hospital for free, but in all other cases (eg. Toothache, minor illness) you have to pay in cash or by credit card. Remember to take the prescription with you if you regularly use medicines.
In a restaurant or a bar, even if there are free tables you have to wait to be seated.
Christian holidays are recognized only from a business point of view (window displays, gadget sales, special menus, etc.), so even at Christmas everything will be open as normal.
Smoking is allowed in outdoor areas, and is prohibited in restaurants, hotels and shopping centers.
Nudity or being shirtless is absolutely forbidden everywhere – if you want to get fully tanned, you can do this comfortably at home.
Criminality does not exist.
Women should avoid transparent, tight-fitting clothes or revealing necklines, and short pants are better avoided. Men may not walk around without a t-shirt. In public, bare legs should be avoided by both men and women.
Children are loved and respected. Wherever you go you will be treated with the utmost respect and you will have all the services you need.
Dubai cannot be navigated by foot – you will beed to drive or use public transport. Bus stops are enclosed and air conditioned.
If you decide to visit Bogotà with your children, it is very important that you read this article.
Bogotá is a very special city and going there needs preparation; not just physical but also psychological. Unlike other South American cities, it has some small hidden secrets that you need to know. Here isthe official website of the city.
This city is divided into districts, so it is essential when choosing a hotel to choose the right one, especially if you visit Bogotá with your children. The districts are nothing but a clear and linear social classification expressed by neighborhoods. Understanding how the city’s citizens think will help you to get around. I have written an article explaining in detail how these regions are organized: you can find it here. Make sure you read it, it’s important!
2 Bogotà with your children: bars
Children can’t get in any kind of bar or club after sunset. Resisting is pointless because they do not make exceptions. If you want to have a nice evening and have a drink after dinner, make sure you choose a place where you can stay with your child, otherwise you will be invited to leave.
3 Geography of Bogotà
Bogotà is a city which lies 2700 meters above sea level – this already shows how thin the air is. Moreover, it is very polluted so if you or your child suffer from asthma, make sure you always have medication on hand. This altitude also makes it different from other Colombian cities, so always take a jacket with you. The temperature is generally between 16 ° and 20 °. If the sun is out, the temperature rises but the evening is always cool. If you visit Bogotá with children keep this in mind.
4 Do the grocery shop
If you need to buy food at the Bogota supermarket, make sure you are in section 3 or 4. The prices are much lower. For more details read here.Be careful, you will be attracted by the wonderful colors of the fruit. There are some to be consumed with caution, like the Pitaya. This beautiful and very tasty fruit, also known as dragon fruit, has powerful laxative powers (and when I say powerful, I am not exaggerating). In Colombia the dragon fruit is yellow and not red like its Asian relative, and the taste is sweet. Never eat more than half.
5 Bogotà whith children: where to play
Most shopping centers have a floor dedicated to children with skating rinks, sports areas and mini-cities where children can have fun doing all the jobs of adults. You have to pay to enter these playgrounds, but it is absolutely worth it. Places are taken care of in every detail and the activities are fantastic. If it happens to be a rainy day, then you know what to do.
Now you are ready to discover this wonderful city … I hope you have a great trip!
Italotreno has a younger, more dynamic and less business-based market, but in my opinion it is less luxurious, and more standard.
I think the best thing I can do is to present the facts, and then you can decide for yourself. I have my mind made up, but I will let you be the judge of what is best for you.
Italotreno Executive Club
This is presented to us as “the best travel experience in Italo’s most exclusive environment”. I think this is exactly the point – in comparison to the other services it is by far the best, but in terms of overall luxury, there is a lot to be desired.
The websites advertise different services such as Wi-Fi, catering, Fast Track, lounge, and personal screens. A service for underage customers travelling alone called Italo Junior is available for a small fee.
The seats are comfortable, with about 18 eats in each carriage, some in closed cabins. When the train disembarks there is a welcome service in which you are offered water, fruit juice or prosecco in a paper glass.
The catering is provided by a small box containing a cold puffy pastry and a vegetable snack pastry. You can choose a sweet or a salty snack or two. The cleaning service is not impeccable; they don’t take the rubbish until they have finished in First Class, which is about an hour. The bathroom is not just for the executive but shared with First Class, and unfortunately for me, the smell of the bathroom was very unpleasant.
Would I travel with Italo’s Executive Club again? Absolutely, because First Class is like traveling in economy class by plane; people shouting on the phone, taking off their shoes and eating tuna cans intoxicating the whole wagon. I know what you’re thinking, you are wondering what route was – it was Rome- Milan.
This travel is on a different level of quality. I’ll begin by telling you that the executive carriage accommodates only 8 seats, and each armchair is 1.5 meters from the other.
This service was created to meet the needs of the top managers of big companies but I can tell you that it also caters to mine.
The carriages have the luxuries of all the national newspapers, unlimited drinks, snacks and coffee espresso Illy. Furthermore, if you need to work, there is a meeting room with 6 seats and high-definition monitors, which can be used for a small fee.If you are hungry, you can enjoy the exclusive restaurant with gourmet dishes by chef Carlo Cracco. I ate a delicious duck in orange on real dishes with real cutlery and glasses – no plastic or paper.Buying the Frecciarossa executive ticket gives you the access to the lounge, so no more waiting in a crowded bar.
I have given you a brief overview of my experience, and it is clear to see which service I preferred – I believe that luxury is important and if you are willing to pay more than economy class, you expect different services. It must be said, however, that Italo has a younger clientele and less showy, so the differences are there.
What to do on Lake Garda with children when you only have two days?
The lake is big, there are so many places to visit, the hotels pop up like mushrooms – so how can we get around? In this article you will find a complete guide on what to do, where to stay and where to eat.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and covers three regions: Lombardy, Trentino and Veneto. It’s beautiful from any viewpoint, but if you’re wondering what area to choose when you have a child, the answer is clear.
The Venetian part (in the province of Verona) is more or less the perfect place for a child, because it hosts the largest amusement park in Italy: Gardaland. Over the years, many other attractions have appeared near the park, so if you only have two days you should focus on this area. Peschiera del Garda, Castelnuovo del Garda, Lazise, Bardolino, Garda, Torri del Benaco, Brenzone and Malcesine are the areas in the province of Verona which are hosts to the lake.
What to Do on Lake Garda
Gardaland and Gardaland Sealife
There are so many things to do here, but what could be better than the biggest amusement park in Italy? Gardaland is exactly what every child dreams of. In this park, every cartoon becomes reality. Colors, scents, music and games all come together in one place.
If you buy the Gardaland Express pass (a magnetic bracelet which allows you to skip the queue) you can easily get around the park in one day. The attractions are divided into three categories: Fantasy (blue), Adventure (green) and Adrenaline (red) and each is a breathtaking adventure.
Next to Gardaland Park there is Sealife, the interactive aquarium of Gardaland where more than 5000 species of sealife are hosted. Here you can find fish from all over the world, from Lake Garda of course, to the oceans.
The aquarium visit takes about an hour. The entry fee for this is not included in the ticket for the park.What will impress you the most is the proximity of the fish; in some cases you can almost touch the water (but don’t!).
This park is composed of 3 areas independent of each other – The Aquapark is the largest water park in Italy. If, like us, you decide to visit Lake Garda in August, this park is an excellent idea. MovielandPark is a theme park dedicated to the world of cinema. MedievalTimes is a medieval arena where there are tournaments every day.
Jungle Adventure Park
Avoid this place if you suffer from vertigo, because you will find paths suspended on ropes, and many other adrenaline-type activities. Depending on the age range of your children you will be able to access the adventure trails, but if you do not like these kinds of activities there is also a botanical trail and a fitness trail.
Where to Stay on Lake Garda
There are two Gardaland hotels, but if you prefer to stay elsewhere the area is full of other luxury facilities. But if, like us, you are looking for something really special, I suggest you to book an apartment in a castle from the 1400s. There is a park of forty thousand meters surrounding the castle, a swimming pool and a lake view.
We spent three intense days here with a rigid itinerary and no time to take a breath, but as you know, the opportunity to meet tourism agencies from all over the world only happens once a year.
That is why this year, we decided not to get a hotel in Rimini, or in Riccione, but to move to a more peaceful area, and this time we really did our best.
Less than 30km from Rimini is San Giovanni in Marignano, by all means a small town where you can eat typical local produce and take walks on rock bridges.
I know, it looks like a fairy tale right out of the Brothers Grimm.
My husband and I drove by car, tired from the day we had had (what was I thinking, deciding to leave on the day of the fair and not the day before?) until we finally arrived in Tavullia.
You all know this place, right? It’s where our Valentino Rossi was born.
Well, this village is like a thousand others, but covered with flags. Just when our eyes were getting used to the country here we came to San Giovanni in M. where time stops and catapults you to the Middle Ages.
Everywhere you turn, you see stone houses, flowers and bridges. The contrast is strong, I have to admit. Flavio would have loved this place, but making him skip school to spend 8 hours at the fair would have been unfair, don’t you think? In short, we immediately understood that this place would give us peace after the storm of Rimini, and indeed it was.
Riviera Golf Resort and Golf Club
The Riviera Golf Club is in a fantastic location. Surrounded by greenery and, of course, by the golf pitch, it is an oasis of peace after the chaos of the fair.
Thinking about it now, this location is a clear contrast with this whole part of the coast.
The structure is elegant and extremely refined, and the suites are wonderful. There is no single structure, but green areas where the rooms were built.
Huge tubs in wonderful bathrooms, spacious walk-in closets and stunning views (of course if you like to watch people play golf and watching the pool light up at night). The room service is very fast and, if I may say so, the piadina to accompany the wine for an appetizer was very much appreciated.
For me, the spa has always been the needle of the scale to see if a hotel deserves the stars it sells.
I am not a professional, but like everybody else, I have my standards and let’s be honest, who likes to go to a spa that smells like mold. Would you agree?
Well, the spa of this hotel is phenomenal! Very nice dressing rooms, well-kept bathrooms, clean showers and bathtubs, what else can I say? It’s beautiful.
It also offers submerged sun beds with an exterior view, and a glass roof that opens. The only flaw is that there is nowhere to sit and have a herbal tea in all of the rooms, to have a herbal tea you have to go to the beauty center, which is not very comfortable.
Breakfast in Riviera Golf Resort
The buffet is very vast, but you may have to wait a little while before the staff refill the empty trays (too bad a structure like this gets lost in small details).
I’m not sure why, but inexorably, when I’m at the hotel, I want to have a savory breakfast. Then of course, I skip lunch and end up as hungry as a wolf at dinner time. Maybe one day I’ll learn.
Where to Dine
The hotel offers a restaurant that seems eye-catching, but we preferred to take a walk in the beautiful village.
We used Tripadvisor to choose the restaurant (you will find our Trip account here) but this time we were not particularly satisfied.
We had dinner at Osteria Spacciodivino. A characteristic place with very kind staff. But the dishes, what can I say… it might be better to just have an appetizer and avoid the first course, which we didn’t like at all! But that of course, was only our opinion..
Who doesn’t love Harry Potter?
And above all, who wouldn’t want to live just one day in his fantastic world? Well, it is possible! Just by visiting the Warner Bros Studio‘s Tour of London! The fans of the little wizard will love it and I’m not just talking about little fans – this destination is fun for adults too.
When you first enter the Studios you are taken to a room where you are shown an interesting video about how the idea of making a film inspired by Rowling’s books came about.
Then the real tour in the magical world of Harry Potter begins, leading you to the wonderful Great Hall.
Built in 2000 especially for the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the set was then used for the next 6 films in the saga.
The spectacular hall contains, the costumes of the students in each of the four houses of Hogwarts, plus two very long tables set elegantly for dinner.
At the end of the room you can admire the teachers’ table and their costumes. An amazing start to the tour, which is then followed by a journey through various scenes which are familiar to fans of the films.
Here you will explore scenes such as the dormitories and sitting room of the students of Hogwarts; Professor Dumbledore’s study, Hagrid’s hut, and the hall of Malfoy Manor the Forbidden Forest inhabited by huge spiders, and so much more!
The sets and props are the original ones used for filming.
Seeing everything that created the scenes of the films and how much work there is behind every detail does not take away the magic behind Rowling’s stories; but rather gives further value to the wonderful films.
What You’ll See on the Tour
Platform 9 ¾
Most of the scenes in the film were shot in Kings Cross Station in London, however for the final episode a part of the station was recreated in the studios.
The Hogwarts Express provided the backdrop for one of the first ever scenes in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and then, ten years later, for the last shot of the entire series in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
The real locomotive and passenger carriages have been used throughout the UK to create external train views; while a special set of internal carriages has been used for all scenes taking place inside the train.
Dolores Umbridge’s Study
Great attention was paid to the creation of the all-pink office of the Ministry of Magic official, including the collection of plates with various moving kittens.
Over 130 plates were created for the office and they photographed and filmed real kittens with crystal balls, witch hats and balls of wool.
No small task!
This is probably my favorite set, although it’s hard to choose. The original design of the street combines the rich details of the Harry Potter books, with the inspiration of the streets described in the works of Charles Dickens.
Diagon Alley hosts not only the Gringotts Bank, Flourish and Blotts and Mulpepper’s Pharmacy, but also the dusty Ollivanders shop, where, you may remember, Harry’s wand chose him.
During the shoot, the store housed over 17,000 individually labeled wand boxes.
The Art Department
This section of the tour ends spectacularly with small-scale reconstruction of Hogwarts castle.
The shots of this meticulously constructed model have been combined with digital effects to create unforgettable realistic views of the exterior of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
A team of 86 artists and staff members built the first version of the Hogwarts castle for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
If you are in need of refreshment by the end of the tour, you can always give the Butterbeer a try at the Studios coffee shop.
I didn’t actually taste it myself, but I was told that it was very sweet, and obviously non-alcoholic!
Ticket costs and useful information for Harry Potter
It has to be said that the visit is not cheap and there are also family packages, but it really is worth the money.
The Studios are located about 1 hour from London, so it would be worth your while to compare agencies and to get a package which includes the bus journey from central London plus the entrance ticket.
Alternatively, you can take the train.
The whole tour lasts about 3 and a half hours.
The Studios are usually quite crowded, but it is very well managed and the flow of people will not bother you. I would also recommend to book in advance.
Keep in mind that the shops inside the studios are full of temptation, but the prices are very expensive!