Our latest family adventure, took us to Lake Garda in Italy - it was a fantastic week, enjoyed by the adults and children alike. Especially because we made the journey one of the highlights of the holiday!
We had decided not to fly, so set off with an early morning ferry to Calais. The French Motorways, or AutoRoutes, are refreshingly different to our roads. There are good quality rest stops very frequently, ranging from those with restaurants and petrol stations to nice places to stretch your legs and use the toilets! The tolls are easy to use, you pick up ticket when you join the AutoRoute and pay when you leave. By the afternoon we were at our first stop at Chateau de l' Eperviere in Burgundy.
Our stop en route was a welcome one! Although the drive was pleasant and far more relaxing that I expected, it was very hot! When we arrived we headed straight for the pool, a welcome surprise for the children.
The next morning we set off again, this time driving through the impressive Mont Blanc tunnel in to Italy. The views were stunning and the children spent the morning in competition to spot the longest waterfall or highest mountain - who would be the first to see snow?
Arriving at Lake Garda, we stayed in the East, near to Bardolino. There are lots of options in great locations and we chose in a chalet in Cisano. The lake was crystal clear, lovely for an early swim, or to sit and watch the sun set behind the mountains in the evening. Many of the hotels/campsites had man made beaches or private gardens offering some shade, and the shores of the lake were shelving and inviting. There are jetties to swim from and lots of fishing spots for Andy! In fact the fish swim around you in the lake, my youngest was hopeful of catching one himself!
We chose the location for its great links with the wider area. You can easily visit the different towns and markets by bus or car. With in ten minutes there are many large family parks, Gardaland, Sealife, and a large waterpark too, however we loved its proximity to Verona (ideal if you prefer to fly), and to Romeo and Juliet's Balcony.
There is a bus that takes you from the resorts along the east of the lake to Venice or you can take an organised day trip. Our children are young, but the wonder of Venice was certainly not lost on them! As you would expect, it was busy and it was hot, but there were no complaints - only wonder! They were quick to spot what was different about this impressive city, taking a boat transfer on to the island was of course essential but a lovely introduction to the sites. The Gondola ride was family friendly too and a lovely way to see how Venice works, how does the city deal with day to day life without roads? It was fun to spot the different uses for boats and see the stilts supporting buildings. We found a lovely friendly restaurant in the back streets for lunch, choosing from a set menu for 15 Euro. We found a quiet shop where we could see Venetian masks being made and the children were able to try lots on.
In contrast to our day in the city, we also travelled up to Malescine. The beautiful cobbled streets are the perfect place for yet another ice cream, but there are lots of lovely shops and eateries too. Then we ventured on to the cable car. Well organised and with incredible views. I have to admit I was relieved.. 'that wasn't so bad' - and then there was the second leg of the journey! Agh! I am not one for heights at all, and they do pack you in to the cable car, but the views were incredible, and with the rotating cabs you get the breathtaking views from all angles. The top of the mountain is a paradise for walkers and cyclists, but is fantastic for the committedly unsporty too! There is a fantastic restaurant where we had a great lunch before heading back down the mountain.
After a week of so many fantastic experiences, although sad to say goodbye to Italy, we were excited for our next adventure! For many years I had sold the Motorail trains in Europe. Sadly, now there is just a handful of routes left. We were very lucky to get a cabin, but were able to put our car on to the train in Verona and travel overnight to Dusseldorf. The English speaking guides explained the process well when we arrived to check in and when we boarded the train to find our cabin, the hostesses were fantastic, attentive and not intrusive. We ate a lovely meal in the on board restaurant, again catering really well for the children, and the cabins were surprisingly comfortable for the four of us. Breakfast is served in your cabin and the drive home from Dusseldorf to Calais was a straight forward one.
A wonderful destination with so much for everyone. If you would like to hear more, please do get in touch. We loved Italy, and until next time - Arrivederci!