Things to do in Lake Garda when you’re Five

Lake Garda 1
Last week, Flea and I were invited to stay at the Altomincio Family Park in Lake Garda, courtesy of Thomson Al Fresco holidays.

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.

Lake Garda 2

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.

Lake Garda 3

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.

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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).

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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. 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.

14 Comments

  1. 31st May 2011 / 2:13 pm

    I would agree that Lake Garda is extremely family friendly. It caters for all budgets and ages. We had our summer holiday there in 2009, staying in a fabulous hotel/apartment complex in Bardolino (Parc Germano apartments). We visited Sirmione too and found it very pretty, though it was busy in July when we were there.
    Very impressed with the way the staff dealt with Flea’s wasp sting – glad she was ok afterwards.
    Venice is also a family favourite after a short break there in 2008 I think. The ease of hopping on and off water buses made it so much easier to get about when teenage tiredness set in!

  2. Nikkii
    31st May 2011 / 6:59 pm

    Looks fabulous Sally – my son apparently has a flair for Italian – I think I might encourage him to do Higher Italian with the promise of a trip like this… should work huh?

  3. 31st May 2011 / 6:55 pm

    Ooh you know I’m quite tempted. I love the Italian Lakes, and had no idea they could ever be suitable for young children. Hmmm…..

  4. Amy - Pride of Place
    31st May 2011 / 9:51 pm

    We went to Italy on holiday a few times when I was a kid – I find the Italians are very welcoming to children.

  5. 31st May 2011 / 10:49 pm

    Oh wonderful!!! We loved Italy!!! Definitely a place to take kids… for all the “grown-up-ness” around there is so much to do with kids, just walking the streets was heaps of fun!!!

  6. 31st May 2011 / 11:07 pm

    I do think Italy was expensive but maybe that’s a Euro thing – but definitely a part of the world I will return to, with Flea. Just gorgeous.

  7. 31st May 2011 / 11:07 pm

    Oh, absolutely! It’s not that much further than France and there was LOADS to keep Flea occupied, we could have happily stayed for a month.

  8. 31st May 2011 / 11:08 pm

    Definitely.
    Although Flea became fluent in Italian during our trip. And by fluent I mean “spoke English but added an ‘o’ to the end of each word on the basis that she saw the word aeroporto when we landed’.

  9. 31st May 2011 / 11:09 pm

    Yes, Flea was treated like a princess – one of the phrases she’s picked up in Italian was ‘bella bambini’!

  10. 31st May 2011 / 11:09 pm

    I completely agree and that was a real revelation to me – I just wouldn’t have expected it to have worked so well, but it did. Love Italy.

  11. 1st June 2011 / 12:26 pm

    I love Italy but I haven’t yet been brave enough to take my daughters abroad – they’re 5 and 15 months!

  12. 6th June 2011 / 10:48 am

    I am trying to bring myself to try a ‘mobile home’ holiday but I am such a snob. I feel like the fact I can not only see the neighbours I can hear them breath could send me over the edge.
    That all aside it does look fab for the kiddies!

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