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Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

We try out family-friendly activities around the lake and take a trip to Verona

We are holidaying in the beautiful Lakes – but for once it’s not our beloved English Lake District.

The waters are a clearer turquoise, there isn’t a walking boot in sight and ice creams are in greater supply.

We are in the fashionable Italian Lakes for a slightly chilly October half-term break and I am feeling cosy but a little out of place in my ‘school run coat’.

We are staying on the southern end of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, loved by families and affluent travellers.

Peschiera

Peschiera

And home for the trip is also a family favourite with a great lakefront location.

Bella Italia – a five-star campsite – is a 15-minute lakeside walk from the town of Peschiera Del Garda.

It has four pools (sadly closed at this time of year), the same number of restaurants with well-priced tasty food, playgrounds, a children’s club, ice cream parlour, bouncy castles, fairground rides and more.

For our full review of our accommodation read Bella Italia holiday park and watch our video below.

Our three-bedroom mobile home, a Girasole Suite, is smaller than similar holiday homes we have stayed in but is an ideal base to explore the area.

Girasole Suite at Campeggio Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Girasole Suite

And we start out on the pebbly beach in front of the holiday park before getting on to the water itself – the quickest way to get around the lake’s beautiful towns and villages is by ferry.

The ferry around Lake Garda

You can hop on and off, visiting several spots in a day. Among our favourites were the enchanting village of Lazise with its castle and playground and tourist magnet Sirmione – the most picturesque yet busiest spot on the lake.

Boats at the town of Garda in Lake Garda, Italy

Garda

Another busy spot is Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland, just 15 minutes away.

There are plenty of rollercoasters for older children but younger children are well-catered for too – there’s even a small Peppa Pig Land.

And a Sea Life aquarium next door is a good rainy day option – you can buy one ticket covering a visit to both on the same or consecutive days.

Just a short drive away lies a more relaxing day out. Parco Natura Viva is a zoo and safari park with hippos, giraffes, rhinos and bears among a lovely site.

Riding a golf buggy at Parco Sigurta

Parco Giardino Sigurta

Another attraction worth a visit is Parco Giardino Sigurta. This 600-acre garden has a maze, small animal farm and plenty of space to run around in beautiful gardens. We explore on foot then hire a golf cart for 18 euros to get around the whole site.

Read our full guide here: What to do in Lake Garda with children – our top tips and watch our video below.

Further afield, but still only half an hour away, is Verona.

Our children love the huge Roman amphitheatre, the 2,000-year-old Arena.

Two children outside the Arena amphitheatre in Verona, Italy

The Arena

Others head to this city of Romeo and Juliet to leave love notes at Juliet’s balcony, linked to the fictional star-crossed lovers.

Romeo and Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s balcony

But it isn’t the most child friendly spot with a cramped courtyard full of selfie hunters taking photos at Juliet’s statue and balcony.

You are better off exploring Verona’s pedestrianised centre, the square around the Arena and its riverside walks. It is a compact city and in a day you can see historic churches, castles, museums or stop by one of countless gelato outlets.

To keep younger ones really happy, the city’s new Children’s Museum is a fantastic hands-on place where they can learn about light, water, power and science through play. It is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Children's Museum, Verona

Children’s Museum, Verona

We throw ourselves into the Verona experience with an authentic Veronese feast prepared for us at Locanda Ristori – one of the city’s traditional eateries.

Afterwards we plan to walk it off up the Torre Dei Lamberti – the city’s 368 step tower.

However, the lure of the lift taking us most of the way up is too strong. And from there stretches street upon street of terracotta roofs, spectacular even in the rain.

For all our Verona ideas read: What to do with children in Verona and watch our video below.

As we stroll away from the city, one last ice cream in hand, it isn’t hard to see why this area has been one loved by visitors for centuries.

Our time in the city made famous by Shakespeare and Lake Garda has definitely been a triumph, not tragedy.

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation, entrance to attractions and a Verona Card for this visit. All opinions are our own.

We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy

We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy

We stay in a mobile home at this campsite in Peschiera del Garda

Name

Campeggio Bella Italia.

Where is it?

On the shores of Lake Garda, at the bottom right of the lake, in Peschiera del Garda. Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), the largest lake in Italy, is in the north of Italy between Venice and Milan.

What is it?

It is a large holiday park with mobile homes, apartments, bungalows and camping pitches.

Is it family friendly?

There are little playgrounds/play parks, swimming pools and slides (not open out of season), a children’s club for 4-12 year-olds, as well as evening entertainment like mini-discos.

The site is good for riding bikes, walking and backs on to the lake which you can swim in during warmer weather.

Sport-wise, you can play tennis, football, basketball, beach volleyball and table tennis. And during the summer, guests can do water activities on the lake.

A girl plays on the beach at Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Accommodation

There are four types of mobile home here – we stayed in a Girasole Suite.

It slept six, with three small bedrooms, a kitchen/diner and bathroom with good-sized shower.

Girasole Suite at Campeggio Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Girasole Suite

The kitchen had a hob (no oven), microwave and fridge/freezer. Towels and bedding are provided in the Girasole Suite properties only.

The kitchen diner at our mobile home at Campeggio Bella Italia

There was a sofa bench on one side of the dining table and a TV (no English channels on ours). Outside the mobile home, there was a decked area with table and chairs plus parking space for a car.

A bedroom at our mobile home at Campeggio Bella Italia

It also had a heater/air conditioning unit and the warmth from it was very welcome when we stayed.

Food and drink

There are four restaurants on site and the prices are very reasonable. We ate twice at Le Terrazze, overlooking the lake.

At a restaurant overlooking Lake Garda at Bella Italia campsite

There is also Corte Riga, which has an almost identical menu to Le Terrazze but offers a takeaway option, Trattoria Bella Italia and a diner and takeaway cafe offering fish and chips and burgers which has an ice cream parlour attached.

Nearby

*The lake – the site is on the southern banks of Lake Garda. There are exits on to the shallow pebbly beach and a small pier where you can walk down steps into the lake for a swim.

Lake Garda beach

*It’s a 15-minute walk along the lake to the town, Peschiera del Garda, where you can shop, eat or catch a ferry.

*Gardaland theme park is a 10-minute drive.

*Verona is less than half an hour a way and we had hired a car so visited this city which was the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For our top tips on what to do with children in Verona, read our guide: What to do with children in Verona

*There are other lovely towns around the lake you can visit by car or ferry – we tried Sirmione, Lazise and Garda.

One of the towns around Lake Garda from the ferry

*Supermarkets – there is an Aldi and Lidl nearby, handy if you have a car and want to stock up.

Our highlights

*The park was lovely and quiet as we visited at October half-term in the last week before the site closed for the winter.

*The ice cream parlour – we sampled a LOT of ice cream in different towns on this trip and the ice cream from here was our favourite. Great to walk to for a leisurely dessert after a meal too.

*The park’s position next to the beautiful lake.

*The children’s areas which open in the evening – a little fair and another part with a bouncy castle and bouncy slide.

Combined with evening entertainment and mini-discos, there is a lot to do after dark.

There is also a games room/arcade.

*The choice of restaurants and good-priced range of food.

We ate at Le Terrazze where a child’s pizza was only 4 euros and a plate of adult pasta around 8 euros.

restaurant at Bella Italia campsite/holiday park, Lke Garda, Italy

*The swimming pools and water slides here look amazing. We sadly didn’t get to experience them as we visited out of season and they were closed.

*There are sports facilities like tennis courts and beach volleyball courts plus you can hire bikes.

*The distance from Verona airport – about a 25-minute drive.

Other information

*You can do water activities at the park’s Waterski Centre between May and mid-September. For an extra fee you can try parasailing, paraflying, a banana boat and more.

*You pay extra for wi-fi.

*You pay extra for bedding and towels.

*If your children will be going in the lake, take beach shoes as it is pebbly.

Address

Campeggio Bella Italia, Via Bell Italia 2, Peschiera del Garda 37019

For more information visit the Campeggio Bella Italia website.

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation for the purposes of this review. All opinions are out honestly held views.

RELATED CONTENT:

What to do with children in Verona

What to do with children in Verona

Our top tips for activities on a family holiday to Verona in Italy

How do you take in this beautiful, historic Italian city while keeping both adults and children happy? Read our guide for the best ideas of what to do and where to go.

Verona Arena

This Roman amphitheatre is right in the centre of the city in Piazza Bra square and makes a good starting point for exploring.

It dates back to the first century and is second only to Rome’s Colosseum in terms of its size and history.

You can explore inside, climb to the top, walk inside the walls and across the stage area where Roman gladiators once fought and our children really enjoyed it.

Inside the Arena amphitheatre in Verona, Italy

The Arena is really well preserved and is still used today – it is a world-famous music venue and hosts big operatic shows.

Piazza Bra (also called the Bra)

Verona’s main square, next to the Arena in the centre of the city, is one of the largest in Europe.

There are plenty of places to sit and eat with restaurants and cafes along one side.

Piazza Bra

Piazza Bra

There are historic buildings around it and a small park in the middle with a fountain. It is mostly car free.

Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony

A ten-minute walk from the Arena, through a pedestrianised shopping area, is ‘Juliet’s House’, Casa de Giulietta.

Romeo and Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s balcony

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have been fictional but this house is linked to the star-crossed lovers as it was once inhabited by the Cappello family, a surname similar to Juliet’s, Capulet.

Tourists enter the courtyard and queue up for photos with Juliet’s bronze statue (and rub her right breast for luck in love).

Juliet statue in Verona, Italy

People also take pictures of the balcony where they like to imagine Juliet was wooed by Romeo (although the balcony was actually added at a much later date) so keep a hold of your children as it gets busy here.

Inside the house is a small museum.

There isn’t much for children once they have seen the balcony and statue but the walls outside scrawled with love letters and graffiti are interesting to see.

And it is near Piazza Erbe with plenty of ice cream parlours and a market.

Torre Dei Lamberti

Just around the corner from the famous balcony is the best viewpoint of Verona – from the top of an 84-metre-tall tower.

Torre Dei Lamberti in Verona, Italy

Torre Dei Lamberti

There are 368 steps to the top of Torre Dei Lamberti, quite a way with children.

But there is a lift for an extra euro which takes you almost to the top of the first viewing platform.

And from there you get 360 degree views of Verona.

The view of Verona from Torre Dei Lamberti

The view of Verona from Torre Dei Lamberti

A ticket for the tower also gives access to the an art gallery next to the tower, the Gallery of Modern Art.

Verona Children’s Museum

This bright museum opened in 2019 and offers lots of hands-on fun for children.

Situated on the edge of the city, it is essentially one big space of science and learning, disguised as fun.

The Children's Museum in Verona, Italy

Before you go in, everyone must remove shoes and leave coats and bags behind, so you automatically feel more carefree.

Tickets are for allocated 90-minute slots through the day to make sure it never gets too crowded. Then the staff tidy up again so that everything is neat and clean ready for the next group.

It is designed and created for children – you can build your own mini-houses, milk a pretend cow, learn about light and shadows and play in a ball pit and climbing area.

There’s a also a water section where you can use water to create music, put balls into a whirlpool and more.

The staff are really friendly and helpful. If you have children under 10 they will love it here as ours did.

It also makes a good rainy day activity as it is all indoors.

Castelvecchio

This large Veronese building on the banks of the Adige river is part museum part castle.

Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy

Castelvecchio

There is a lot of 16th century religious artwork here which didn’t hold much appeal for our children. But some of the exhibits had old swords and armour.

And the walk around the castle was good fun. You get a good view across the river to Ponte Scaligero which was rebuilt after being blown up by the Germans in World War Two. And you can walk along the castle walls and into raised courtyards.

Visitors have to leave backpacks in lockers at the entrance.

Have a traditional Veronese meal

The Veronese take food very seriously. There are restaurants at every turn and they welcome children.

Almost all will serve you a plate of tomato pasta or a pizza, if that is what you are after.

For a real authentic experience, we tried Locanda Ristori, a traditional Veronese restaurant just outside the touristy centre near Castelvecchio.

Locanda Ristori restaurant in Verona in Italy

The restaurant was mostly full of locals when we visited on a Sunday lunchtime, which is always a good sign and staff are warm and attentive.

The lovely owner Lia, a former ballet dancer across Europe, is very friendly and passionate about the food, explaining it all to us.

The menu includes a mix of pasta and meat dishes.

The Veronese tradition is a big plate of up to eight mixed meats including tongue, which my husband tucked into. It was served with mashed potato, vegetables and a broth which takes four hours to cook.

Lia serves a Veronese speciality

Lia serves a Veronese speciality

My children just fancied a plain tomato pasta (pasta pomodoro), not on the menu, but Lia was more than happy to make them some and they loved it.

There is also a good selection of desserts, including ice cream and we grown-ups sampled some fabulous wine.

Get a Verona card

The quickest and cheapest way to get into the main sites is with a Verona card, which costs 20 euros for a day and 25 euros for 48 hours.

If you are going to visit the Arena and at least two other sites then you will save money with the card.

It includes free entry to all the attractions above (except the Children’s Museum), all the largest churches and city centre museums.

You can pick up the card at the tourist information office in a corner of Piazza Bra.

Our children were also given a couple of city centre trails to do while we wandered around.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a Verona Card and a complimentary meal for the purposes of this article. All views are our own.

*Have you taken children to Verona? Where did you go? Tell us below!

We take a family holiday to Tuscany in high summer. Can Italy be child-friendly in the August heat?

We take a family holiday to Tuscany in high summer. Can Italy be child-friendly in the August heat?

We take our children to Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano and Volterra in August and try out Airbnb for the first time, read our review of our Italian adventure here.

Famous landmarks around the world are a remarkably hot topic of conversation between our children.

This is thanks as much to the Cbeebies programme Go Jetters as educational efforts on our part.

So when the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes into view, even the sweltering August Italian heat doesn’t cool their excitement.

Children under eight aren’t allowed up the tower and the streets are heaving so we stop just long enough to take it all in.

A toddler girl in sunglasses smiles in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

Posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Alongside thousands doing the same, we get the all-important pictures next to the extraordinarily slanting building, before we grab some pizza and hot-foot it back to our hire car.

We’ve already managed a day in Florence, taking our two on a whistle-stop tour of the city before their legs got tired.

The Duomo cathedral, Ponte Vecchio bridge and glorious Boboli Gardens were ticked off in a morning, before another rewarding pizza and gelato.

Two children stand in front of the Duomo cathedral in Florence

The Duomo cathedral in Florence

We’d bagged a cheap deal in an airport hotel for our first two nights to tackle the cities but now it was time to leave these bustling hotspots in search of the tranquillity of the countryside and the Dolce Vita.

Off to the country and the Dolce Vita

Our home for the next five nights is atop a hill, very much off the beaten track. Literally. A 10-minute dusty, bumpy, beaten track.

We wondered where our first foray into the world of Airbnb had taken us.

This global phenomenon lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests, from small rooms, to shared houses, villas and even entire castles, across more than 65,000 cities. Don’t miss out full guide to Airbnb here.

There were hundreds of appealing options at decent prices, even at peak season and we narrowed down our search using the list of criteria, map view, photos and reviews.

La Farneta with Airbnb

We finally chose an intriguing property on a large private estate in the hidden hamlet of La Farneta in central Tuscany.

Here there are a dozen or so apartments in a classic Tuscan setting, surrounded by olive trees, scorched fields and forests as far as the eye could see.

A family explore the grounds of their Airbnb accommodation in La Farneta, Tuscany, Italy.

Exploring the grounds of our accommodation in La Farneta.

The only sound – apart from our children in the shared swimming pool – was that of crickets in the towering trees of this 230 hectare estate.

The pool was the big draw here. The weather can get so hot in summer I would say you have to have one if you have children in tow.

The outdoor swimming pool at the apartments on the private estate in La Farneta

The outdoor swimming pool at the apartments on the private estate in La Farneta

The owner Gianfausto gave us the authentic experience Airbnb has built its success on – welcoming us to his home, giving us a guided tour and even playing his piano to provide some pleasant poolside accompaniment.

The accommodation wasn’t luxurious but it was authentic and I can’t remember staying anywhere as peaceful.

It may have been 15 minutes from the nearest shop or restaurant but two Tuscan treasures aren’t far away.

Surrounding area

The walled towns of San Gimignano and Volterra provided entertaining excursions. Our children loved the narrow alleys and the nooks and crannies of these picturesque places while the adults could enjoy the sights and sounds of Tuscany.

An aerial view of San Gimignano, an Italian hill town in Tuscany, south-west of Florence

We visited San Gimignano, an Italian hill town in Tuscany, south-west of Florence

Pizza and pasta time!

With every second shop seemingly selling pasta, olive oil or wild boar, food is a big part of any Tuscan trip.

We found several places for a plate of pasta including Osteria Del Borgo in the pretty village of Mensano.

Staying in a remote location meant it was easier to have lunch out and dinner on our terrace with views over the rolling hills as the sun dipped below the trees.

The perfect evening temperature was ideal for a family walk around the estate, roaming the land and spotting the occasional wall lizard or deer.

In conclusion

We knew Tuscany in August was a gamble.

But we discovered it is possible to beat the heat and the crowds and enjoy complete tranquility.

And we ticked a landmark off that rather demanding wishlist.

For more details of how Airbnb works, read our guide here.

Accommodation: Via Airbnb. We received a discount from Airbnb for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

Travel: Flew with British Airways to Florence Airport.