Lake view near Cannobio, Piedmont, Italy. Photograph: Alamy
The 17th-century lakeside town of Cannobio is the starting point for countless hiking trails into lush, green hills. I stayed this summer at Villa Costantina, a family-business offering B&B and self-catering apartments, a three-minute walk from the beaches and promenade. Two kilometres from town, walking distance for those determined to build up an appetite but also accessible by bike/bus/car, is Ristorante Grotto Sant'Anna, perched above a deep mountain gorge. I had a starter of smoked salmon accompanied by a wasabi side, followed by fresh linguine with truffle shavings. There's also a wide selection of meat and fish dishes (around €38 a head with wine, dessert and coffee).
We flew to Milan Malpensa, where you can take a bus to Cannobio via the nearby town of Verbania. But it's worth renting a car to explore the Swiss/Italian countryside. • +39 0323 70963, villacostantina.com, doubles from €93 Sorcha Pollak
The Arena during the opera performance, Verona. Photograph: Alamy
Even if you're not a great fan of opera, you can't fail to be impressed by a summer evening at the Arena di Verona. If the lavish productions are not enough, the electrifying atmosphere of a Roman amphitheatre packed with 14,000 people will. As dusk falls, thousands of candles are lit by those in the cheap seats around the upper level and a hush descends as the performance begins. Then comes the next surprise: the acoustics are remarkably good for an outdoor venue. It was an unforgettable experience, made all the better by the knowledge that our seats had cost us little more than a London cinema ticket, and our B&B, all'Opera, was just two minutes' walk away. • Book operat tickets (from €21) at arena.it. All'Opera: bbopera.com, doubles from €90 Rory Foster
Camping Du Lac Bleu, Lake Annecy
At this site, at the lake's southern tip, we were able to choose our pitch at the time of booking. Number 202 meant unzipping our tent to views of the lake framed by the Alps and slipping straight from our sleeping bags into the water each morning. We paddled to the opposite shore in kayaks and waded around the shoreline to alternative beaches. At breakfast each morning a family of swans – and plenty of ducks when they could get a look in – obligingly ate up our leftover baguette, the signets taking morsels from our fingers. And in the evening we moved our camping table a few feet to the water's edge, looking down the lake to the lights of the town of Talloires opposite – a view few restaurants could beat. The facilities were spotlessly clean. • +33 4 50 44 30 18, camping-lac-bleu.com, tent pitch from €125 a week Kate Edgley