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There is no place like Rome when it comes to camping holidays

Aaron and Ruby stay cool by the pool in one of I Pini's two swimming pools
Aaron and Ruby stay cool by the pool in one of I Pini's two swimming pools

THEY say good things come in small packages, and that was certainly the case when we took our annual family ‘glamping’ holiday last summer.

The I Pini Family Park, which is situated just 40 minutes north of the Italian capital of Rome, may be compact in comparison to other places we have stayed, yet we were all agreed – this was one of the most relaxing places we have ever encountered. 

As massive fans of the great outdoors, we have spent the last  eight summers relaxing in some of Europe’s top campsites – avoiding those overcrowded concrete jungles that many Irish families choose.

We stopped for family photo opportunities at the Colosseum (above) and the Trevi Fountain (below)

For me, there is nothing quite like sipping a glass of local wine under the Mediterranean sun, while watching the children outside your doorstep feeding wild deer and playing games with the boys and girls from all across Europe.

Having travelled to Venice, Pisa, Verona, Lake Garda and Florence on previous Italian adventures, we decided last year it was time to visit the heartland of Italy – and set off for the I Pini camping resort, just outside the ancient city of Rome.

Unlike many of the bigger parks we have visited, the I Pini campsite was small in comparison – yet it had all the same amenities.

Travelling with Al Fresco Holidays, the first thing that struck us when we arrived at this beautiful family-run resort is how close its mobile homes are to everything the site has to offer.

Having stayed in numerous resorts similar to this in previous years, we sometimes found we were a million miles away from the bars, restaurants, entertainment and swimming pools – but not in this hidden gem.

Just a stone’s throw away from your lodging are two swimming pools, where my two children spent most of the time.

The main lagoon-type pool – with a soft, non-slip bottom – consists of two slides where even a 40-something like myself can feel like a teenager again.

The other one is a more relaxing, traditional pool where the children dip and flip, and where the adults show off their skills in the daily water polo tournament.

And if, like me, you need to unwind after the competitive match in the water, there is nothing better than joining your teammates and opponents for a cooling ale at the poolside bar.

But the entertainment doesn’t stop there.

Aaron and Ruby pictured in the Vatican City

For the younger ones, there is an absolutely brilliant animation team that keep the children occupied from dawn till dusk.

From painting to arts and crafts, table tennis, poolside games and even trying to break world records for setting the most helium balloons into the sky, there’s lots laid 
on to keep the kids busy.

Evening times are fun-filled for the little ones, too. There is entertainment six nights a week, the animation team always creating something new and exciting – their take on shows like Disney’s The Lion King for example.

The highlight for children though has to be the mini disco that rounds off the evening.

There is nothing quite like watching the toddlers bopping their little socks off to the latest tunes, or getting down to the beat with the resident bongo player.

For the terrible teens too cool for mini discos, there is a games room and an all-weather, flood-lit pitch, where each evening boys and girls from every corner of Europe sport their national jerseys and battle hard on the field in an ‘international friendly’. 

All evening activities take place in front of I Pini’s main restaurant, where the adults can enjoy a fine steak, local pasta dish or even one of the mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas, all washed down with a lovely local wine or cold Italian beer.

The children pictured at the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi fountain

A word of warning though, being the only restaurant on campus, it can get extremely busy. I would recommend you book it or get there early to secure a table in front of the evening’s entertainment. 

However, if you don’t fancy eating out, there is a small supermarket on site where you can pick up lovely local produce, and they even store barrels of wine to fill your own bottle – or if you are like me – the biggest plastic container you can find.

However, the best part of the I Pini campus is its location to the heart of the ancient city of Rome. 

For just €8 per person, there is a daily bus (a 40-minute journey during high season only) that will drop you off in the heart of the city and collect you that evening, allowing you to explore places like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican City and everything else this beautiful city has to offer.

But they say when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and that is exactly what we did on our second day out in the city. 

If you want to avoid those overpriced restaurants and bars, take a short hop across the Tiber river into the Trastevere neighbourhood to find the hidden gems in this city of culture. 

The area consists of traditional Roman bars and eateries as well as a market area, where you can buy everything from handmade goods to local fruit and vegetables and wine.

This may have been our first visit to Rome, but it certainly won’t be our last. We all just fell in love with the small, but extremely friendly and perfectly-located I Pini resort. 

We can definitely confirm that there really is no place like Rome. 

Al Fresco mobile homes are spacious and modern

GETTING THERE:

● We travelled with Al Fresco holidays to the Eternal City of Rome.The company offers great value packages with family-friendly mobile homes at some of Europe’s top holiday parks. 

Another key criteria for selecting Al Fresco parks, is their location. You'll find them in some of the most beautiful settings in Europe, taking in beaches, countryside, mountains and lakes. Some parks are located in holiday resorts or bustling local towns, so you'll have amenities like shops, restaurants and nightlife close by. Other parks enjoy a more rural location, so you'll have loads of space and tranquility. 

Wherever your Al Fresco holiday takes you, you'll never be far from loads of things to do. You can explore thriving towns and villages packed full of gorgeous things to eat, drink and take home and treasure. Thrill-seekers will love theme parks and aqua parks packed full of rides and slides. There's lashings of local history and culture to lap up, or just enjoy the simple pleasure of a day at the seaside.

● Departing on June 3, 2017 (Bank Holiday Weekend), a seven-night stay costs from €359* per mobile home, while a June 24 departure costs from €469*. Prices quoted are based on a stay in a two-bedroom Puccini mobile home, which features decking, air conditioning, a family linen pack and damage waiver.
*Flights, taxes and transfers are not included.
● For more information, or to choose your ideal park in Europe, visit www.alfresco-holidays.ie or phone (01) 4331056.