Postcard from Portmeirion - La Dolce Vita in Wales

Who thought that La Dolce Vita was an Italian exclusive, couldn't be more wrong. A tiny and artifical village in Wales takes up the challenge and you really feel like you're on the shores of Lake Garda.

To show that architecture can compliment a natrually beautiful landscape instead of destroying it, Clough Williams-Ellis built the village of Portmeirion between 1925 and 1977, near the town of Porthmadog on the Sowdonia coastline. There is a hotel, kiosks, a restaurant and a bell tower all painted in bright and vibrant colours, but no proper shops. Portmeirion was built on Williams-Ellis' private land and has been intended as a hotel village from the start. Visitors can stay overnight in all buildings - if they have pre-booked the stay.

Portmeirion is hard to reach by public transport. If you have to really on public transport, the best way would be to take the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog and take the vintage Ffestiniog steam train from there. The second-to-last stop on the way to Porthmadog is Minffordd - however, there is no sign saying that travellers to Portmeirion should get off the train at this stop. From Minffordd station, it's roughly a 20 minute (1 1/2 miles) leisurely walk to Portmeirion - just follow the signs. This method only gives you approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the village, as you have to catch the last train back. To fully enjoy the village and its surroundings, you should consider hiring a car or finding someone to take you there as Portmeirion is open to the public from 9.30am to 7.30pm.

Many people will recognise Portmeirion from the 60's TV show "The Prisoner", which was filmed entirely on location. The producers had been looking for a surreal and italianate place and found it in Wales. A souvenir shop and a guided "The Prisoner" walk cater for the show's fans.

On sunny days, tourists can really feel like they are in Bella Italia when they stroll through the park (complete with water works and colonnade) and eat freshly and locally made ice cream.
So, if Italy is too far or too expensive for your liking - why not give Wales a try? You'll hardly know the difference!

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