La Finestra Sul Fiume

Valeggio sul Mincio, Italian Lakes & Verona, Italy Book from Eur160

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A rustic B&B in an enchanting riverside setting between Lake Garda and Verona - ideal for nature lovers and romantics
There’s something bewitching about the Mincio river, which meanders languidly though the Veneto countryside, spawning legends of nymphs and sorcerers. It has held magical memories for Pietro Gandini since childhood, when his parents purchased this converted 15th-century mill on its banks, and it instantly cast a spell over us, too.

Now an intimate and restful B&B run by Pietro and his wife Mattea, La Finestra Sul Fiume sits in meadows on the edge of Valeggio sul Mincio, a small town whose castle crowns the hill behind. There are just 5 rustic rooms - 4 in an ivy-clad outbuilding at the water’s edge, another in a self-contained cottage at the top of the lawn. By day, dragonflies hover among the lilies and herons pose in the shallows; come evening, aperitifs are served under a flaming sky as frogs croak in the reeds and fireflies glow like scattered embers. If you can pull yourselves away, you can stroll into the pretty village of Borghetto, explore Lake Garda and historic Verona (both less than 30 minutes away by car), or cycle through fields of poppies. But if you find the lure of lazy days by the river too strong to resist, there are plenty of hammocks where you can lie back with a book and let the birds sing you to sleep.

Highs

  • Blissful gardens, with sofas under a shady gazebo, deckchairs on a lantern-lit jetty, and little islands connected by stone bridges
  • Delicious breakfasts, tailored to your tastes and served under the willows as swans and geese drift slowly by
  • In summer, a section of the river becomes a wonderful natural swimming pool
  • Pietro and Mattea (ably assisted by a troupe of friendly cats) are warm and welcoming hosts, full of insider tips on the region they love
  • A great area for foodies - Valeggio sul Mincio is famed for its tortellini pasta, and there are waterside restaurants a 10-minute walk away in Borghetto. Cookery workshops can be arranged, too

Lows

  • Rooms are homely rather than luxurious, with no TVs or toiletries and showers only in the ensuites; if you prefer sleek designer style, stay elsewhere
  • No bar or restaurant, but eating out is easy around these parts
  • The riverside setting means there are lots of insects (although no mosquitoes) - bring repellent
  • No twin rooms, though most can take an extra bed or cot if you’re coming with children
  • It’s best to have a car to explore the area, though taxis and bike hire can be arranged

Best time to go

La Finestra Sul Fiume is open from March to November, and makes a wonderful retreat any time in between. Spring sees warm days and wildflowers (we visited in May, when the riverbank was lined with lilies and the meadows awash with poppies); autumn brings vibrant colours and the annual grape harvest. Summer can be sizzling in these parts, but you can always jump in the river to cool off.

Our top tips

Don't leave Valeggio sul Mincio without sampling its tortellini - wafer-thin pasta parcels, normally stuffed with prosciutto and pork loin and served with a simple herb broth. Legends abound regarding their invention: some say they were modelled on Venus' navel, others on the turtle motif found on buildings across the Veneto. Valeggio residents claim they were inspired by a love knot created by a soldier under the thrall of a Mincio nymph.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 5
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 15 Nov 2015 - 7 Mar 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Ortensia

Rooms

The 5 rooms - all doubles - have a rustic feel, with beamed ceilings, whitewashed walls and wooden shutters that swing open to reveal beautiful vignettes of the gardens and river. Country checks in calming shades of grey and cream adorn the cushions and curtains, while bird sculptures and a sprinkling of fishing-related paraphernalia reflect the waterside setting.

We stayed in Gelsomino, which occupies a gingerbread-style cottage on the lawn, next to the main mill (where Pietro and Mattea live). Behind the flower-framed door is a sitting area with a comfy sofa, a shelf of books and an open-tread staircase spiralling up to the bedroom; outside is a terrace with a table and chairs. We loved the antique travelling chest, opened out to provide hanging space for clothes, and we slept soundly under the snuggly quilt, soothed by the gentle lullaby of crickets and frogs outside.

The other rooms sit in a separate building a little closer to the river. Occupying the ground floor are Gelso and Ortensia, both with lofty ceilings, sofas and plenty of space. On the floor above are Iris 1 and 2. Wood-clad Iris 1 is the smallest room, with just enough space for a wicker chair and a little wooden table; Iris 2 is slightly larger and has a wonderful view of the water, together with a collection of antique fishing rods arranged artfully above the bed.

Bathrooms throughout are pretty but fairly simple, with showers in tiled niches or plastic cubicles (no tubs, toiletries or bathrobes); be aware that Gelsomino’s ensuite is downstairs, so you’ll need to negotiate the steps on night-time loo trips. All rooms are heated and air-conditioned, and you also get a hairdryer, WiFi, glass bottles of water and, in Gelsomino, a vintage-style radio and iPod dock.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Pietro will ask you about breakfast preferences when you arrive, and will then tailor a morning feast to your tastes - if you want poached eggs and toast, then poached eggs and toast you will get. We tucked into creamy Monte Veronese cheese, pastries from the local bakery (including yummy wholemeal croissants) and juicy grapes the size of plums, along with pots of homemade jam, cafetières of coffee and a jug of freshly squeezed blood-orange juice. But the highlight of it all was the beautiful setting, on individual tables dotted under the willows (if the weather turns, things move under the cover of the gazebo).

No other meals are served at the B&B, but guests are often treated to complimentary aperitifs as the sky and river slowly turn pink. And eating out is no problem in a region renowned for its Slow Food and local produce. Pietro and Mattea can suggest plenty of tried and tested restaurants, including relaxed waterside osterias in Borghetto (a 10-minute stroll away), fish-focused places near Lake Garda and upmarket trattorias in Verona. We headed to the friendly, family-run Ristorante Alla Borsa in the centre of Valeggio sul Mincio and munched our way through enormous bowls of the town’s famed tortellini, together with delicate swordfish carpaccio, creamy ricotta drenched in a bitter chocolate sauce, and pears stewed in local Valpolicella wine.

If you want to splash out, taxis can be arranged to some of the grandes dames of Venetian cuisine. Perhaps the grandest of them all is the triple Michelin-starred Ristorante dal Pescatore near Mantua, which has been run by the Santorini family since 1926 and which serves, in the words of Pietro, “the best of everything”.

Features include:

  • Aperitifs
  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: Breakfast
Activity: Ponte Pietra, Verona

Activities

  • Unwind on a deckchair and watch daily life on the riverbank; doing very little is one of the joys of staying at La Finestra Sul Fiume
  • In summer, a section of the river is closed off to form a natural swimming pool, so take your bathers and join the geese for a dip
  • Ask Pietro and Mattea to arrange bike hire and cycle through the rolling hills and wildflower meadows of the Veneto. The flat Mincio cycle path runs behind the B&B
  • Wander along to Borghetto, perched on a weir and home to ancient mills, pastel-coloured houses and a fortified medieval bridge
  • Lake Garda is within easy reach. Avoid the theme parks around its southern tip and head north to the pretty villages of Torri del Benaco and Malcesine, or hop on a boat to elegant Salò on the western shore
  • Spend a day in Verona, just half an hour away. Admire the Roman arena, gaze at the frescoed buildings lining the Piazza delle Erbe, and head to the Casa di Giulietta to pose on the balcony and swoon at the love letters left by romantics from the world over
  • A 30-minute drive south is Mantua, less touristy than Verona and packed with magnificent Renaissance architecture
  • Sample the region’s wines. Pietro and Mattea can organise visits to the vineyards of Custoza, Lugana and Valpolicella, as well as a taxi to ferry you between them
  • Or learn the secrets of Italian food during a cookery workshop, which might include a market tour, pasta-making and dinner with aperitifs. Private classes can be arranged, too
  • Hit the local green with Pietro, a registered golf instructor who can provide lessons for those keen to improve their swing

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Wine tasting

Kids

The focus at La Finestra Sul Fiume is very much on romance and relaxation, but the sprawling gardens mean there’s space enough for everyone, and Pietro and Mattea (who have a young daughter themselves) welcome kids of all ages. There are endless opportunities for Swallows and Amazons-style adventures, and the natural swimming pool formed along the river in summer is calm and safe.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

A baby cot or extra bed can be added to all rooms. Book Gelso or Ortensia if you can, as they have slightly more space for families than Iris 1 and 2. Split-level Gelsomino is another good option, as the sofa can be moved to create an additional sleeping area downstairs, but the steep spiral staircase means you might want to stop littl'uns venturing upstairs. Be aware that all rooms have showers only (no tubs).

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged - see Rates.

Families Should Know:

The proximity of the water means you’ll need to keep a close eye on roving toddlers.

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes (Verona)
  • Hospital: 30 minutes (Verona)
  • Shop: 5 minutes (Valeggio sul Mincio)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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