As we sat in the airport, and in an attempt to avoid Luca’s question about how planes stay in the air (magic?), I asked the boys what they were most looking forward to.
Sonny: “To finally try some proper pasta dishes!”
Harsh. As their stay-at-home dad who’s been cooking pasta twice a week for the past five years I could have been offended.
Luca: “Trying out the Spanish I learnt at school!”
Proof, were it needed, that his passion for languages may be to the detriment of his geography.
“The swimming pool and water slides”, they said in unison.
The only time Sonny had flown before was as a baby and he’d cried the whole way home. It was only after we landed that I realised he had my seat belt lodged up his… well, where no one should have a seat belt lodged. But not this time. This time I was prepared. This time I’d read numerous ‘how to travel with kids’ articles. This time I was the guru of junior travel…
Magazines and books. Check.
Drink and snacks. Check.
Hoodie to use as a pillow. Check.
Don’t describe the safety card in graphic detail to a six-year old first time flier. Eh? Really? Oops.
Sonny: “What are these pictures on the seat?”
Me: “Well, that’s what we do if we crash on land, that’s if we crash on water and that’s if the doors blow open mid-air and we need oxygen. Oh, and here’s a boiled sweet for when your ears pop”.
Now sit back and enjoy your flight with Terror Airways!?
To be fair, once we’d made it off the ground he loved every minute of it. I’d forgotten how amazing it is to fly through clouds for the first time. And besides, if he does develop a fear of flying when older (as now seems inevitable), at least I can save him months of regression therapy by just pointing him here.
We flew from Manchester to Bergamo, which if you’ve a few hours to kill is a beautiful city to explore. From here, Altomincio Family Park is a fifty minute drive. Or sixty, if like me you like to acclimatise yourself to driving on the wrong side of the road by sitting behind what Janet took great pleasure in pointing out was a tractor … being towed by another tractor.
I’d heard horror stories of driving in Italy but I found it surprisingly easy, just as soon as I’d unlearned years of British manners. I was only beeped at once, and to be fair, that was only because the bus driver seemed utterly bemused by my ‘no, after you sir’ hand gesture? I thought the royal wave was a universal one but apparently not? The gesture from the driver behind me was though, albeit not one that’s suitable for a family friendly blog.
Despite arriving much later than the advertised check-in time, James, our fabulous Canvas rep and font of all knowledge was there to meet us. He summoned a golf buggy to take our bags (and boys) to our mobile home and even gave us some toilet paper because the supermarket was closed, which, given I’d mocked Janet for suggesting we bring our own, saved me a week of ‘I told you so’s’.
We chose the 3 bedroom Select Plus. The boys shared a twin room and bathroom, and my double bedroom came with its own en-suite. I say mine only because halfway through our holiday Janet sought sanctuary from my snoring in the third twin bedroom. What can you do? Hot weather, cold beer and an unusual amount of exercise does indeed maketh a snorer!
The living room was open plan with a sofa (which converts into a double bed) and coffee table at one end, and a dining table and chairs in the other.
Outside there’s a decking area with table and chairs, sunbeds and a gas powered barbecue.
Bedding and towels can be pre-booked before arrival (at additional cost) if you don’t want to bring your own.
The Canvas accommodation was perfectly situated for us, close enough to the pools and restaurants (5 minute walk) but just far enough away as to not be disturbed by the evening entertainment.
Oh, and contrary to what the website says, the Wi-Fi here is actually free. It’s also available right across the site, including the mobile homes. Perfect, if like me, you’d promised the kids you’d go on a Pokemon Go hunt in search of that rare and elusive Italian Pokemon named ‘Spagettio’, which I may or may not have made up (I did).
Facilities & Activities
The main supermarket is very reasonably priced and well-stocked, including an on-site bakery for fresh bread and amazing pastries. For everything else there’s a separate store selling inflatables, flip-flops and all manner of things you didn’t think you needed until you saw them.
There’s a main bar with satellite TV and games room, a children’s snack bar next to the pool, an excellent restaurant and a pizzeria/takeaway that also serves, and I quote, ‘the best hot-dogs EVER!’
And while I’m on the subject of ‘best ever’, there’s also a gelato bar. Ah, gelato … sorry, where as I? It’s no surprise that 90% of the Italian phrases Luca learnt on holiday just so happened to be flavours of ice-cream. Every bit as delicious as they looked.
The activities on site include mini golf, table tennis, football, bicycle hire, nature trails, a climbing wall, volleyball and loads of playgrounds dotted around the site.
Many of the activities are organised through the free kids club whose staff are so enthusiastic they make the CBeebies presenters look like characters in a bleak Scandinavian drama.
One not to be missed, apparently, is the bike ride to a nearby pasta factory complete with tasting session. I say apparently, unfortunately we didn’t do this trip as someone still hasn’t taught the boys how to ride a bike. I know, I’d also blame the stay-at-home parent were it not me.
But what sets Altomincio apart from any campsite I’ve ever been to is the swimming pools.
In fact, to call it a main swimming pool is to not do it justice. It’s less a pool, more a water park.
For the few months prior to our holiday I’d been taking the boys to swimming lessons. When Janet periodically asked how they were doing, and I’m not proud to admit this, I just made it up. Well, it seemed a
more cowardly better option than admitting I had no idea as I’d spent the entire time sat in the cafe next door. By week six I think I had them somersaulting off ten metre diving boards?!
The week before we left I thought it wise to see how they were actually doing; you know, just in case Janet was expecting to see them cliff dive into Lake Garda. Turns out after a few weeks of lessons you’re still pretty much thrashing about in armbands trying not to drown? Who knew?
So you can imagine my relief when we arrived at Altomincio to discover that not only did the pool have a soft padded floor (yep, padded) but it was knee deep throughout. If you have younger children this makes your time by the pool so much more relaxing.
In the centre of the huge lagoon style pool is a whale structure on which you can climb, slide off and swim through, and running into the pool are three water slides of varying sizes. The pool is surrounded by sun loungers and even though we visited in peak season we never once struggled to find somewhere to sit, no matter what time of the day it was.
There’s also a separate large pool for swimming in and a small pool for toddlers.
Beyond the Campsite
Peschiera del Garda is only a ten minute drive away, and from here you can take a ferry to many of the beautiful towns surrounding the lake, just not before grabbing lunch at the amazing Marco e Daniela Time cafe, which more than warrants its high ranking on Trip Advisor.
We chose to go to Sirmione on the advice of our Canvas rep and we weren’t disappointed. Steeped in history, it has a wonderful castle and Roman ruins, an eighteen hole crazy golf course and we even managed to tick off another holiday cliché by hiring a pedalo on the lake.
Beyond the lake, Altomincio Family Park is only minutes away from Canevaworld with its movie theme park, Aqua park and medieval restaurant and shows, as well as Gardaland theme park which is where we spent our final evening.
Gardaland stays open until 11pm and not only are tickets half-price after 6pm but the queues for the rides are far shorter, only twenty minutes for the biggest and most popular. There’s something magical about a theme park after dark, albeit one of us isn’t quite so keen on the rides as his brother, not you can tell from the photo.
It was a fitting end to a fabulous holiday.
What had begun as a holiday of firsts, ended as a holiday of ‘best ever!’
The food was indeed amazing and far better than any Italian dish I’ve served up at home, or as Sonny put it after each and every meal,
Luca really enjoyed learning a whole host of Italian words and phrases, even if the majority were flavours of ice-cream.
“Best gelato, ever!”
And the swimming pools and water slides were every bit as good as they look in the brochure, if not better, resulting in no less than six,
“Best day, ever!”
But as we flew home and reminisced on a fabulous holiday, what surprised me wasn’t that all the above made it onto their list of favourite memories. Nor was it Janet’s costume mishap on the biggest of the water slides, funny as that was. What really surprised me was that all these wonderful memories were kept off top spot by some simple things that we often take for granted. The very same things I still remember most fondly from my own holidays as a child.
For Luca it was breakfast. And not just because of the fabulous fresh pastries I bought each morning, but that we all ate them outside, together. Something, given the hectic nature of modern life, we do all too rarely back home.
And as for Sonny,
“Staying up late. Playing outside when I’d normally be asleep. Playing cards and being the reigning Pontoon champion!”
Just for the record. the reigning champion bit is debatable, but I’ll let it pass.
And their absolute favourite memory, by unanimous decision,
“Making new friends”.
Because just as football is often referred to as a universal language, so too it seems is playing superheroes, Tiggy of the Ground, and ‘who can strike the funniest pose whilst hurtling down a water slide’.
And to cap it all off, Luca even found a young Spanish girl with whom to swap pleasantries and should she need it, be reminded of how to count to twenty in her own mother tongue?!
It was a holiday packed full of memories for us all, and to quote the boys one last time, it truly was the…
“Best holiday, EVER!”
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All words and opinions are honest and my own.