I’m glad to be back home in Nice sitting on my desk overlooking a good view from my window but I still have the Italian hangover from my birthday treat last week. I would like thank everyone who greeted me on my 28th birthday last 31st of May. It’s amazing how many people remembered my special day (and thanks to FB as well). Grazie mille from the bottom of my heart!
Since I had to be in Milan the day after my birthday, Mark and I planned to go on a mini spa break 60-min from the fashion capital of the world. And our destination: Lake Garda.
Lake Garda is nearly a 5-hour drive from our home. We are already used to long drives and as Mark always say, “B, kung san-san tayo nakakarating“. This time last year, we drove from Nice to Barcelona (about 7-8hours) but its incomparable to our 12-hour snowy journey from Geneva last winter. We’d been to a lot of places around Italy and France on our used and abused blue car! Too bad I can’t drive and I wish, as much as Mark does, that I can drive too (I know, I’m meant to be driven, lol). Thanks to Mark who’s always up for these kind of things and I do my best to be a good passenger too (y’know, keeping the driver entertained the whole time!).
Of course on a long drive, it’s important to be as comfortable as you can be.
- Good night sleep prior – check.
- All essentials stuff packed – check. (It’s very uncomfortable knowing that you left something at home)
- Filling breakfast – check. (We had freshly made orange, apple, carrot juice at home followed by egg-cheese-muffin sandwich and pain au chocolat pour moi! I know it’s buttery but one won’t hurt!)
- Cash, cards, and coins – check.
- Water – check.
- Comfy clothes – check. Mark was wearing his new skinny jogging pants from Zara, cotton polo shirt and his Nike rubber shoes (I don’t know what it’s called). And I was wearing:
A Leopard Cross Tank top by Le Hatchery (new – €60 including shipping from Australia) with a red bra underneath from another Australian brand, Gilly Hicks (from my closet – €39 and that’s £34 when I bought it in London), dark green shorts from H&M (from my closet, €9.00) and one of my faves, Tory Burch flat canvass shoes (from my closet – €90).
I had no make-up on, just my usual moisturizer with SPF 24 and I just pinned my long grown fringe with hair on one side.
After driving on the autoroute (fr) /autostrada (it) for hours, we knew we were getting near our destination as we drove thru the grape vineyards. Remember Guidotti’s vineyard in Walang Hanggan? One of these vineyards was the shoot’s location (diba, Emilia Guidotti lang ang peg!). We left Nice at 9ish and arrived in Cola’ Di Lazise, a small province of Verona southeast side of the lake at around 2ish. We booked 2 nights at the lovely Villa Dei Cedri, a Veneto villa designed by Luigi Canonica of Milan (the architect whose works include Foro Bonaparte, the Milan Arena and the Carcano Theatre) and built at the turn of the nineteenth century (the villa is more or less 200 years old). When the villa was restored, rooms of various sizes were created on the upper floors. As a result, it can host even the most demanding customers in an exquisite and elegant setting. In 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took it over as his residence and used it as the German headquarters for all of northern Italy. The halls on the ground floor of the villa welcome guests in an aristocratic yet relaxing setting.
Upon entering the gates, we parked our car infront the main door and we were welcomed by their friendly staff. The reception has a huge table and what caught my attention was the elegant lobby (as seen on the left photo) with a well-preserved chandelier (other parts of the villa like the grand dining area as seen on the right has chandeliers), high ceilings and antique but chic furniture.
The villa even preserved some of the original furniture dating 150-200 years old!
I find this chessboard interesting. The statues on the lower left side are 400 years old!
The staff took care of our luggage and we were taken to the admin office just few steps from the reception (y’know, the usual check-in process). After that, one of the staff took us to our room as the others took care of our luggage. When we entered the room, I got even more excited!
Our room was just lovely, with satin brown and black bed covers and curtains with a hydromasssage pool in our room – YES, IN OUR ROOM. I knew it before but I wasn’t expecting it could be this nice. Amaze balls.
As explained by the staff, the pool has 3 different types of massages and it has speakers for CD, radio, tv and there’s even an iPhone (4) dock! We weren’t able to use this as we both have iPhone 5, but anyway, it was just fab. The purple lights hanging from the high ceilings as you can see on the upper left photo change colours that give a more romantic, relaxed ambiance.
I also loooooove the bathroom. It has a starry-effect ceiling, his and hers basin over a wooden drawer with white bathroom accessories, towels and toiletries.
Oh, look at the shower – it also changes colour!
As much as we couldn’t wait to try the hydromassage pool, we hadn’t eaten lunch yet so we decided to check out the Trattoria just a minute walk from the villa’s gates but it only opens from 7pm. So we headed to the self-catering bar inside the park.
Mark had lasagna and I had roasted chicken with green beans. For the two meals with drinks, we paid €16.
The Villa dei Cedri is situated in an enormous park and its windows overlook the grounds.
The park will charm plant lovers because it has rare species of trees that are easy to identify, as there are detailed signs under the most important ones (posts are available in Italian and German only). There are also several sun beds which you can rent for €4 (you can ask the hotel reception for the wrist bands or pay cash at the park). Look at this fitting room, isn’t that cute?!
Before heading back to the room, we dropped by at the Centro Benessere to book our treatment and massage for the following day. There are few golf cars in the park, not sure if hotel residents can rent it to tour the grounds but I borrowed it anyways.
It was drizzling and a bit cold (about 14C degrees) so we headed back to the room. But who cares about the cold rain when we had a hot tub in our bedroom?!
We chilled out for a bit having drinks (btw everything in the minibar is free), watching movies on Sky (yes, it has Sky cable!) and really just relaxing and enjoying our time.
For dinner, we tried going back to the Trattoria but it’s fully booked! So we decided to try the restaurant inside the park just next to the villa called Ristorante Villa Moscardo. According to the staff, the resto dated 400 years back!
We made a good choice. The food was just so delicious! We skipped the Hors d’Oeuvre and started with the First Course. I had Paccheri “Villa Moscardo” basil-tomatoes-parmesan cheese-pecorino cheese and Mark had Tortiglioni alla carbonara with zucchini flowers, zucchini julienne and crispy leek. For the Main Course, I had Beef fillet grilled and Mark had Slices of beef on a bed of Rucola and parmesan cheese.
The food was really good and we were so stuffed that we just shared Crema Catalana for dessert.
All of these with half a bottle of house wine and water came to €67.
You’ll probably be wondering what was I wearing for dinner. Well, nothing glam as you can see below…taaadaaaaaa…..
Seriously, after the drive, the walk around the park and the hydromassage, I just can’t be bothered to dress up. And we’re on holidays! I think that’s a good excuse. I was just wearing a cheap tshirt I got for around €10 somewhere here in Nice, H&M blue and white stripe shorts for €9.99 and my old blue haviannas as seen on the left photo. Mark was wearing an orange top as well (not shown here). It’s the same outfit I wore for breakfast the next day (as seen on the right). Wearing those only for few hours is OKAY (based on my justification, *wink).
Oh, before I forget, look at this garden view from our bedroom window:
Surprisingly, I woke up early the next day (5am but I tried to sleep and got up just before 7). This was not normal. Lol. I guess I was just really excited about things. Oh, yes – it was my birthday! Thanks to Mark for reminding me. I’ve also got hundreds of FB notifications, IG posts, emails and text messages and I feel so blessed for 28 beautiful years. La vie est belle!
I’ve heard the chirping of the birds as Mark opened the window in the middle of the night. Music to my ears! We headed to the breakfast room at 7:30 but went back to the room since breakfast is not served until 8am. We’re early birds I know!
Breakfast’s served in one of the villa’s beautiful rooms. There was a variety of cereals, cooked breakfast, bread, cold and hot drinks and Italian cakes!
There were also tables and chairs outside, perfect on a sunny morning. It was a bit chilly at 11C degrees so we were sitting near the fireplace.
I felt a bit guilty for having sausage, bacon and eggs (I know I said I’d give up pork) so I finished my breakfast with fruits.
After breakfast, we plunged into the hydromassage in our room for about 30 minutes…
Then we got ready and walked towards the lake. The villa is located at Parco Termale Garda and this park has two small lakes. I wasn’t able to take photos as I left my phone in the room (I had no camera suitable for water). I grabbed some photos from the internet and basically, we spent hours swimming and relaxing at the lakes – yes we tried both!
It was 14c degrees outside but the lake’s temperature is about 34-36c degrees and the hydromassage pool on the lake was 39c degrees. Imagine floating on the thermal lake and seeing the beautiful skies and trees as you open your eyes. That’s what I did. I was floating and swimming almost all over! I just love it! There wasn’t many people as well so it kinda felt like we’ve got the whole place to ourselves! It was a refreshing feeling and I didn’t feel cold at all. The lakes are open from 9am and also open for night swimming on certain days.
We stayed at the lake for about 2 hours and went back to the room to get ready for the next treat in the spa. We didn’t really feel hungry for lunch after the big breakfast (it’s bizzare as I know I get hungry after swimming – promise, I didn’t drink the lake’s water! lol). We had a quick shower then I changed into my pink and white polka dot bikini from Victoria Secret under the bathrobe (btw the other swimsuits were from Arena – well it’s the one-piece suit I used for aqua aerobics and the white top with yellow/green bottom are both from H&M – all from my closet). Speaking of bathrobe, I brought my beautiful cover-up maxi dress but I wasn’t able to use it since it is legal (lol) to wear bathrobes all over the park.
When we got to the reception to drop the keys, the villa staff gave me a birthday card with a freebie at the spa. Awww, grazie mille! Centro Benessere believes “the beauty of things lies in the mind of those observing them”. Agree. Our spa experience started with a body treatment for 60 minutes. I wanted to try the Grape Treatment (regenerating massage rich in antioxidants) but I had Spice Treatment, a tonifying and relaxing massage with essential oils of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and myrrh as recommended by the staff. Mark had a Fango Treatment and described as, “The Dead Sea salt scrub is a skin exfoliant made of salt crystals from the Dead Sea, a body of water renowed for its healing, mineral infused waters. This treatment stimulates the skin, muscles and nerves, cleanses the pores and improves blood circulation and the texture of dull, bumpy and tired skin“. After the treatment, we both had a Tibet Massage for 60 minutes- holistic massage during and after which you will experience a pleasant feeling of warmth, lightness and deep relaxation. Himalayan stones and bundles filled with Dead Sea salts combined with almond oil give you a feeling of well-being and regeneration. This massage has naturally exfoliating, toning, draining, oxygenating, anti-cellulite functions. (Btw, those italicized in this paragraph were copied from the spa’s brochure – just making sure I got the details correct). It was just sooooooooo relaxing….
After the 120-min treatment and massage, we wanted to maximise the spa’s facilities after having a cup of tea at the relaxation room overlooking the indoor pool, we tried the sauna (well I only stayed for 3minutes and Mark stayed longer). I went back to the other relaxation room, had an apple, as Mark went into the steam room. I know we should’ve done these before the treatment, but so what, we’re on holidays. Lol.
The spa also has other services from mani / pedi, facial treatments, waxing and to tanning. Mark tried their UV tanning machine for 15 minutes (gusto daw nya maging Matteo Guidicelli’s colour! lol) and I took these photos. [I'm laughing right now. He's like a superhero/villain in the making, lol]
As expected, he came our darker but too dark that we were both laughing hard (I am until now). Anyways, we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. My skin felt so soft and my hair’s a bit oil-ish after the amazing spa treat. But as you’d notice, we spent a lot of time on water prior to our spa treatment, it is important to keep our hair and skin healthy and hydrated not just during holidays when too much time on water’s involved but also on our day-to-day life. I’d like to share some hair/skincare tips:
- Apply sunblock (well it wasn’t sunny when we were at the lake so I didn’t) and moisturizer or body oil after dipping
- Wax unwanted hairs the day (note: do not use body waxing strips in your face like I did months ago. It peeled off some of my skin, ouch. Use the one dedicated for the face)
- In case you’re over excited in the hydromassage like moi, do not exceed over 20 minutes dipping into 39c degrees; use aroma therapy oils for indoor hydromassage (the villa provided a tropical scent one which we both love)
- I usually tie my hair up when swimming so it doesn’t go all over the place. I also make sure I use hair conditioner especially after dipping into water.
- I had no make-up (no edit, no filter) on most photos I took and posted on this blog. I give credit to having a healthy lifestyle (eating clean, juicing and exercising) for bringing great results to my hair, skin and even nails. Due to that, I have a low maintenance toiletries:
I used to spend €€€ on expensive creams and haircare (I still do sometimes) but currently, I’m happy using these more affordable (and others are free) items shown above: Nivea Soft Body Cream (under €5), Pantene Conditioner (I got it in the Philippines), Oil of Olay Day and Night cream (Php300 each / €5.43), Avene‘s Thermal Spring Water Spray and Avene Trixera facial wash (both were free from my previous trip at Avene; it’s my first time to use this facial wash as I always use La Roche but it doesn’t matter since both are soap-free and paraben free), Veet wax strips for the face and Lux moisturising soap (one of the villa’s bathroom give-aways).
I changed into a blue printed summer dress from Hollister (new, €56), light peach wedge from Guess (from my closet, €150), pinned my hair (since it’s a bit oil-ish from the spa as mentioned earlier) and I put on a red lipstick using Mac (in Russian Red shade, new - €18). I brought my leather jacket (the only jacket I had for the trip; I got it few years ago from Ted Baker for £300/ €352) in case it turned out to be a cold summer night (which it did later on).
That evening, we drove to Verona city-centre, 30-min from Villa Dei Cedri) passing thru the green vineyards and few outlets. We wanted to see the famous Romeo and Juliet’s balcony but we got there a bit late (it closes at 6:30 pm). I don’t feel bad as I know we would visit this place again in few month’s time (*wishful thinking).
We walked around the lovely town and sat in one of the restaurants for dinner.
We had the typical Italian dish – pizza, pasta and risotto with drinks for about €50 :-) Eccellente!
It was just a beautiful birthday. We went back to the hotel and guess what, I even went for a swim in the park’s Picina Termale (half indoor, half open) with hydromassage and colourful lights!
The next day, we had a quick walk around the park after breakfast, packed our stuff and we hit the road to Milan… Say Ciao Milano!
Thanks for reading. If you are looking for a relaxing, romantic, thermal-water-experience and close-to-the-nature break with your loved one, family, kids or friends, I highly recommend this place.
Villa Dei Cedri S.p.a. Piazza di Sopra, 4 – 37017 Cola di Lazise (VR) Italy | www.villadeicedri.com
Standard Rooms (Bed and Breakfast) starts from €180 per night at The Villa. There are also residences inside and nearby the park. For more photos, please click here.
Thanks to my awesome husband for the special birthday treat. Thanks to my supportive family and fabulous friends all over the world for remembering this day. Thanks to all my readers for supporting my blog. My birthday wish is to inspire people but you guys inspire me more :) Thank you Jesus! You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you (Psalm 118:28).
This article is also featured at Snoochie Boochies. Please click here.