You'll 'Shore' have a wonderful time in Italy's Lake Garda
THE thunder rolled and the mobile home got a good lashing of rain each night, but holidaymakers in Lake Garda awoke to stunning sunshine every single day.
The locals were unperturbed by the weather, in fact they welcomed a break from the sunshine in what has to be one of the greatest natural tourist attractions Italy has to offer.
It was my and my family’s first time as campers, and our home for the week was Del Garda Village – a site that was not too massive, with one restaurant, one bar, one shop and two pools (or four if you count the two baby ones).
Our rep gave us tips on where to get the best ice cream, which islands to visit and which ferries to take. The rep was also on hand to answer any questions we had (where to get the best BBQ meat?).
Al Fresco ask guests to tidy their holiday home before the cleaners move in. Not only does this mean the accommodation is spotless, it also secures the return of their deposit.
We shared our holiday home with four ducks from the nearby lake (just a five-minute walk away).
They quacked happily under our decking for a few days, until they met my son, Sam, who thought he was put on this earth to torment them.
The smell of BBQs, sun cream and pizza had us all in holiday mode before you could say ‘midday sun’. It was hard to pass up pizza at every meal, with delicious smells wafting from every wood-burned oven.
The large supermarket for BBQ favourites is just a 10-minute walk away, with a farmers’ market nearby too.
The camp shop has enough to get by, with a queue each morning for freshly-baked croissants – perfect with our Italian coffee brewing back at base.
Entertainment every night on a family campsite is pretty much expected and the troop of dancers were ready to get you on stage if you just as much as looked at them.
The back gate of Del Garda Village takes you to lakeside eateries and leads you to romantic Peschiera del Garda.
The town offers medieval streets, high-class jewellery shops, trinket shops, food to cater for every budget and the all-important Italian ice cream.
The campsite has an office where you can book anything from abseiling to a romantic dinner for two, or just a taxi, and ours was taking us to a hot spring.
Lake Garda has a lot of hidden hot sulphur springs at its tip and we chose the Thermal Park of Villa dei Cedri, because it was close to us and it looked divine.
Maybe I’m easily pleased, but this was one of the nicest days of my life.
Both lakes and the pools are equipped with Jacuzzis, jets, waterfalls fountains, cascades and geysers – all of which are lit up in the evening.
The two sources of hot springs were only discovered in 1989, and you can almost float in their waters.
The main lake temperature is around 33-34°C – the ideal temperature for wellbeing.
The restaurant isn’t amazing, so I’d suggest taking a picnic and just popping to the restaurant for a drink.
Entry to the Thermal Park was €22 and €14 for Sam, but it was worth it.
We spent most of the day there, and we were all so relaxed that the sound of thunder didn’t wake any of us that night.
If you have never heard of Gardaland (like us) you are in for a massive adventure park treat of Disneyland proportions – I kid you not.
An estimated three million people visit the adventure park every year.
Built in 1975, the park is only a bus ride away from Del Garda Village, with day tickets costing €120 (including entry to the Sea Life aquarium) for a family of four.
We paid about €26 each, because there was only three of us.
The resort covers 64 acres and we walked to the main bus station in Peschiera del Garda in 20 minutes.
Our little fella couldn’t believe his luck when he clapped eyes on the car park – never mind the rides – because it catered for thousands.
The only catch is that everything is in Italian, making it tricky for tourists.
There are seven roller coasters, the tallest is the Blue Tornado which is 109ft-high and will make you feel wide awake and very much alive.
We encountered our first major queue at about 2pm and that was what my child would call an ‘epic fail’, with the heat and proximity to our fellow roller coaster lovers making us long for some shade.
However, as soon as we got on the ride itself, the hardship was forgotten.
The food was not over-priced and Gardaland was clean and safe. It is owned by the Merlin Group – the company who also own England’s Alton Towers.
For Sam, Gardaland was the absolute highlight of our trip.
For my husband and I, the highlight was freshly-baked croissants with coffee on a sunny morning, watching the busy campers, and Sam trying to recapture those ducks.
For more details on Al Fresco holidays, visit the team just off Grafton Street, 18-19 Duke Street, Dublin 2. Alternatively, call them on 01 4331027 or visit their website at www.alfresco-holidays.ie
Lake Garda - The Facts:
1. Sadly, George Clooney does not have a house here, that’s Lake Como.
2. There has been a flourishing and famous tradition of olive oil production on the shores of Lake Garda.
3. Nearby Verona is a beautiful, medieval city packed full of elegant architecture and impressive Roman remains. Try getting tickets for the opera, held in the Roman Arena which was built in the first century AD. Most people enjoy visiting Casa di Giulietta in Via Cappello – the setting for the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but some say it is underwhelming.
4. Sirmione is one of the busiest tourist towns – its entrance alone is enough to take your breath away. Visitors enter Sirmione over a bridge and through beautiful castle walls, and are met with a quaint town full of narrow streets and lanes.
5. Lake Garda is considered one of the best spots in the world for windsurfers, boaters, scuba divers and swimmers to enjoy its glistening waters.
6. The east coast of Lake Garda, where Bardolino wine is produced, extends for approximately 70km with dozens and dozens of vineyards. Wineries are often close to ancient churches, medieval castles and well worth a visit.