I've never have considered taking Flea to Italy – when I think of holidays with young children, I tend to either think of staying in the UK, or heading off to France. But after our trip last week, I’d definitely recommend Lake Garda as a great destination for families.
We flew from Manchester to Verona and from there it was a (fairly) simple 40-minute drive to the village of Salionze, and the Altomincio Family Park. We stayed in a Rossini mobile home, which had one double and one twin bedroom, plus an open-plan kitchen/living area.
The accommodation was pretty flawless – new, clean and we’d been provided with linen and towels. Parking isn’t allowed next to the mobile homes so I wasn’t worried about letting Flea run around freely – there are loads of little small playground areas dotted around the park, with slides and swings.
Altomincio is very new and there’s a lot about it that we loved. At one end of the park is a large, lagoon-style pool with soft, curved edges that’s perfect for younger children, with a range of slides and two further swimming pools. Alongside the pool is a restaurant, take-away, snack-bar, supermarket and even a gelateria. There’s also a multi-lingual kids’ club that runs various activities, and a mini-golf course.
We had a bit of a crisis on our first day when Flea was stung in the throat by a wasp. I panicked, partly because Flea is prone to severe allergic reactions, and partly because I’m terrified of wasps. I know, it's pathetic, but true.
I have to say the staff were brilliant when faced with a white-faced woman carrying a screaming child, neither of whom could speak any Italian. The lifeguard hunted down some teeny tweezers and performed a sterling sting-removal operation, while the staff from the gelateria made a fantastic ice cream sundae as a reward for Flea when her ordeal was over.
Wasps aside, we loved the site and spent two or three days just hanging out by the pool, soaking up the sunshine.
But I’m aware we stayed during a week when the parc was fairly empty – I think it would feel VERY hectic in high-season, as it's quite a large site, and some of the mobile homes are pretty close together – close enough for you to be able to see into neighbouring accommodation, and to overhear conversations. Just something to bear in mind!
One of my favourite things about Altomincio is its location – the park is within a few minutes of some great cycle paths along the river, and a short drive from Lake Garda itself. I recommend spending a day at Sirmione, a gorgeous cobbled village with a castle, where you can hire boats to explore the southerly end of Lake Garda. You can also drive to Peschiera, and take boat trips around the lake, which has some stunning scenery.
Another great excursion is taking the train to Venice (you can drive, but the train is faster, cheaper and takes you to the heart of the city). Just wandering around the city is gorgeous, but Flea’s highlight was exploring the canals and back-streets. Depending on your budget you can take a gondola (80 Euros per boat for about 20 minutes), a water taxi (60 Euros per boat for 30 minutes) or hop on the water bus (32 Euros for a one-day ticket).
The view is the same from all of them, but you only get fur-lined cushions and the man with the stripy t-shirt and straw boater on a gondola, I must admit. My other top tip for Venice – if you want to visit the Basilica do it at the very start or end of the day – the queue to go inside snakes across St Mark’s Square, in full sunshine, which is unbearable in the middle of the day.
If you’re looking for theme parks around Lake Garda then your closest options are Movieland and Gardaland. Both are theme parks with rides and attractions and a water park alongside the theme park – you can pay to enter just the theme park, just the water park, or both. For my money, I’d say Movieland is over-priced and most of the rides are really only suitable for under 5s – if you’re looking for rollercoasters, then Gardaland is a much better option.
I would definitely recommend Altomincio as a great destination for families, particularly if your children are water babies like Flea – I think she would have been happy to spend every day in the swimming pool. If you'd like to see more photos from the trip, I've posted a selection on the Who's the Mummy Facebook page.
Disclosure: Our flights, accommodation and car hire costs were met by Thomson Al Fresco for the purposes of this review.