Natalie Gruzlewski had what she called her "Cinderella moment" when she went to Italy. She went on a drive through the countryside from Verona to Venice.
In Italy's Veneto region, Verona is one of the country's most beautiful cities. It's also romantic, helped along by being the setting of Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet
Casa di Giulietta, Juliet's house, is just off Verona's main shopping street. Thousands visit every year to stand below the little balcony and those in search of new love, rub the right breast of a bronze statue of Juliet.
The historical centre of Verona has beautiful Roman ruins, so important it is known as piccola Roma, little Rome. Its pink marble arena dating to the first century AD was used for wrestling matches. Now it is a venue for summer opera and concerts. Its interior and acoustics are perfectly preserved.
It has a host of wonderful buildings including the baroque Palazzo Maffei, the 14th century Torre del Gardello and Casa Mazzanti with an intricate fresco-decorated facade. Also worth taking in are the stone bridge, the Gavi arch and monumental Borsari and Leona gates.
Most sights in Verona are closed on Mondays. If you are planning to visit tourist attractions, make sure you purchase a Verona Card, which will get you into the main monuments and churches and can be used as a bus ticket. The Verona Card can be purchased at sights and tobacconists.
A little way east of Verona, Brenta Riviera is known for its centuries-old and privately owned villas. One you can visit is the spectacular Villa Foscarini, built between 1586 and 1605. Not only does it have marvellous gardens, interior frescos, etchings, glass works and stone cameos, it has a shoe museum.
The museum is a tribute to the Rossi family's contribution to the shoemaking tradition, and there are 1500 models of shoe on display. Cobblers began plying their trade in the Brenta Riviera in the 11th century, and today the bulk of women's luxury footwear is made in the region. Rossimoda produces shoes for Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Gucci, Donna Karan and Givenchy, amongst others. Ahh this must be where Natalie's Cinderella moment came to life!
The road running along the Brenta Riviera spills into the Venetian Lagoon, home of the magical city of Venice, which stretches across 117 small islands in salty marsh water. For around 1000 years, Venice was one of the most enduring mercantile sea powers.
There is much to see, including St Mark's Square with it magnificent Byzantine Basillica and Doge's Palace, The Church of San Giovanni & Paolo, Rialto Bridge and there are many canal tours.
The latest addition to the city is the Hilton Molino Stucky, a former flour mill dating back to 1895. Each room has its own heritage and charm and stretch across several wings of the former mill. Picture-book windows, beautifully renovated ceilings with timber beams, precious Venetian fabrics and marble bathrooms are unforgettable.
You could do the drive yourself, but if you hire a car and driver, you get to appreciate more of the scenery.
From Verona to Venice in Italy's north.
Intrepid Travel has 15-day La Dolce Vita small-group tours from Rome to Venice. They depart each Monday from April to November and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays between April and November. You will experience food, wine, style and character. The best times to visit are spring (April and May) or autumn (October and November). They start at $2125 per person plus a local payment of €400.
Hilton Molino Stucky rooms start at around $280 a night.
Emirates has flights to Venice. For the most up-to-date fares, call them on 1300 303 777 or log on to www.emirates.com/getaway.
Prices correct at April 16, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Ph: 1300 364 512
Fax: (03) 9419 4426
Villa Foscarini Rossi
Via Doge Pisani
Ph: +39 049 980 1091
Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
Ph: +39 041 272 3311
Fax: +39 041 272 3308
Visas: Australians don't need a visa to enter Italy for stays of up to 90 days.
Electricity: Standard voltage is 220V. Power points have two or three holes, plugs are the European standard, with two or three round pins.
Time zone: GMT +1.
Currency: The euro which is divided into 100 cents.
International dialling code: +39.