Nearly 5 years ago now I got the opportunity to work in Italy for a summer as a restaurant host in a hotel called Grand Hotel Gardone. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love Italy as a country – the place, the people, the language, the food! So for me it was insane to think that this beautiful country could be my home for the summer.
It all started quite randomly – my step mum, Fiona, was doing a bit of work in Salo for an Italian company and met a few people, one of whom knew the owner of a hotel in Gardone. I sent an email to the owner and just like that they got back to me with an offer, which I wasn’t hesitant to accept!
5 years is quite a long time ago so you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you about this now. Two reasons; it was an experience that gave me a lot of amazing memories that I will never forget (and some of which I will share with you) and, I am hoping to go back to visit this year.
So just like that my summer transition from college to university went from worrying about my results and which university I was going to be accepted into, to making new friends, learning new skills and exploring a beautiful country. I was nervous when I arrived at the hotel but who wouldn’t be? I couldn’t speak any Italian and I had no idea what to expect but my welcome couldn’t have been any nicer! Barbara on the front desk knew exactly who I was and gave me a huge welcome hug. She showed me to my room before the restaurant manager collected me and my step mum for dinner on the veranda. It was great to meet some of the people I would be working with and see how the restaurant worked ready for my first day. Fiona and I went for a walk and found a nice little bar where I tried by first Aperol Spritz (it’s an acquired taste but after the first couple I became an advocate), before saying goodbye to each other for the summer.
I’m hesitant to get into too much detail about the actual job as I would prefer to share with you details of the beautiful town but it turned out to be the best experience I could’ve hoped for. After a few days I had truly settled in, made friends with the girls on reception and the waiters and chefs in the restaurant, albeit the girls had to do a bit of translating for me. We ate ice cream, drank spritz, went to parties and chilled on the veranda. It was a dream.
I worked a split shift so spent the afternoons exploring and of course sunbathing. The town of Gardone was beautiful; relaxing but buzzing with tourists and locals at the same time which is what I love. I went for walks and explored Il Vittoriale, a stunning hillside estate overlooking the lake that oozed with character and style. The gardens were beautiful, so peaceful and there was an amphitheatre (I would love to spend my summer evenings listening to music and watching theatre here).
Another of my favourite places was La Torre di San Marco or ‘the tower’ as we called it. It is a beautiful venue with rich history and style (an amazing location for a wedding). We went there in the evenings to enjoy the music, piano playing and cocktails, rain or sunshine. Later on in the evening it turned into a club outside with a DJ and areas to sit and talk, lots of people dancing and having fun. It was just a magical place.
On our days off we would explore other places around the lake, eat lunch, drink spritzers and enjoy the sun. There’s just too much to tell you in one post so look out for more posts coming up to discover some of the great towns and villages that exist along the lake and my trip to Verona but if there is one message you take away from this post let it be that you absolutely need to visit Lake Garda at least once, one day.