Hotel Heaven

December 30, 2006

Do you believe in karma? If so, them this might amuse. If the Sanatorium was Hotel Hell then as we left Innsbruck we were heading to Hotel Heaven.

Leaving Innsbruck we managed to get horribly lost. Mands, our trusty navigator, was heard to swear on more than one occasion. However, we eventually broke free from Innsbruck and headed for the Brenner Pass. Strangely just before we left England Mandy’s father mentioned that he’d once walked the Pass during his Army days. The story revolved around scheduled leave, free rail tickets and a sense of curiosity. Those of you who know him will see how these things could fit together :-)

The Pass itself was fairly unremarkable. It’s a good road, the scenery is wonderful but, in all, it just was. So, from Austria and into Italy, country number seven according to Ian’s notes!

We were booked into a hotel on the west shore of Lake Garda. As with all of our overnight stays, Mands had booked this online before we left. It, and the other hotels were checked, cross-checked, price-checking and reviewed via independent sites any booking was made.

This hotel was, well, odd. The price was high, but then Lake Garda is. The photos were fantastic. The reviews were almost non-existent. There was a slight nervousness about the lack of reviews, but those photos …….

Image from the hotel’s website

We got lost finding the hotel, that was obviously the theme of the day :-) When we found the place they said they used minimal signage to stop people finding the place by accident. OK said we. Later we understood.

The hotel turned out to be a converted monastery with less than 20 rooms. The owners had bought the property almost ten years previously and had spent a significant amount of time restoring it. They’d opened as a hotel only three months ago. The remains of original frescos lined the stairs, sleeping labradors snored gently by the front door. The receptionist picked up a walk-about phone and took us on a tour of the hotel. She asked us to think of the place as our home rather than a hotel. She was perfectly serious.

Our intention had been to use the hotel as a base for exploring the area. We wanted to look around Lake Garda, people had spoken highly of Verona and Padua so we planned to spend time there also. In the end we did none of these things, in fact we didn’t leave the hotel for the full two days. Other guests said the same sort of thing.

Well, we’d planned to go and see things but it was so nice here that we just stayed.

Instead we slept, swam, gossiped with other guests, slept more, ate, explored the olive groves, ate some more and then slept.

Just off the dining room

Much of the food came from the grounds. All of the olive oil came from their annual single pressing of the olives. Strawberries and blueberries from the kitchen garden appeared each morning for breakfast. Early pumpkins and courgettes must have been in season as starters of fresh pumpkin ravioli and a courgette mousse were on the menu. Don’t be concerned, we didn’t turn into vegetarians. A balsamic steak with parmesan and pine nuts followed on one night, and a pistachio crusted rack of lamb on another.

One oddity on the dining side was a lack of wine list. On ordering food we were asked if the manager could select an appropriate wine to accompany the meal. We agreed, if a little nervously. The wine turned out to be wonderful and from a vineyard within 5 miles of the hotel. When we checked out and got the bill it was certainly a reasonable price also.

We reluctantly checked out two days later, vowing to return at a later date. Next stop, Venice.

The view from the hotel



  1. Interested in your trip, but how did you get from Greece to Cyprus. I cannot find a passenger/car ferry that does this route. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Liam. It’s not easy, and I’m not sure the route we took is even still running.

    Louis Line Cruises often operate a 4 day island cruise for about 10 weeks in the summer. The cruise is out of Limassol, via one of the islands, into Pireaus. They then turn around and return, via a different island.

    The ship they used to use, the Princessa Marissa, has a car deck that will take a small number of cars and transit vans. When they run this cruise they sometimes agree to passengers, accompanied by cars, onboarding for the second half of the trip. When we came over in 2006 there were about half a dozen other with their cars, all relocating to Cyprus.

    It’s the only legitimate way that I know to bring your car yourself. There’s plenty of container companies that will ship it for you. Our fallback was to get as far as Pireaus and see if we could get someone to transport it from there.

    There are people who talk about coming, via Turkey, into the north of the island. Some have done it successfully, but there is a considerable risk. The northern ports are not considered to be legal ports of entry therefore there may be problems, either at the border or when trying to register the car in the south.

    Louis Lines may be able to tell you if they intend to run the cruise schedule in the summer and if so, whether they’ll accept cars.


    Getting information out of the UK agents may be easiest;

    Best of luck with this. Let us know how you get on!

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