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Young Children Love Italy’s Lake Garda

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 2, 2017

© Katyspichal | Dreamstime

Age Specific / Kids

Beyond Gardaland, one of Europe’s biggest theme parks, Lake Garda keeps kids happy with swimming beaches, boat rides, castles to explore and a mountaintop ride.

 

Gardaland ride in Italy

Photo: Ustinia | Dreamstime

While many families come to southern Lake Garda just for the theme parks — Gardaland, Caneva World Resort, Parco Acquatico Cavour and Parco Naturo Viva — there is a lot more to do than visit amusement parks that are much the same as those at home.

 

North of the lively town of Garda, and connected to it by a bike and walking path, the beautiful headland of Punta di San Vigilio is occupied by a luxury resort. But the beaches on either side are public. The best is Baia dell Sirene, with playgrounds and cafes, one of the nicest places around the lake to go swimming. The road runs close to the lake’s eastern shore, and along it are other little beaches where you can swim or stop for a picnic.

 

Farther north along the east shore, Malcesine is a hit for its winding cobbled streets that lead ever upward to a stone castle, where adults will appreciate the outstanding lake views while kids explore its ramparts. Rising sharply above Malcésine is the 6,000-plus-foot Monte Baldo, which everyone will enjoy “climbing” via state-of-the-art cable cars (funivia). The second stage of the ascent is in a large cabin that rotates so all passengers can see the 360-degree panorama unfolding.

Sirmone on Lake Garda, Italy

Sirmone on Lake Garda, Italy. Photo: Freesurf69 | Dreamstime

Although it’s more crowded and chichi, Sirmione, on the southern shore, is also a highlight because of the tiny (by castle standards) 13th-century castle that guards its entrance with a drawbridge over a moat. Older children will appreciate the Grotte di Catullo on the end of the point, the remains of an extensive Roman villa from the first century BC. Younger kids will like the little train that runs between the villa and the center of town.

 

At neighboring Peschiera, kids can walk the walls of La Rocca, a fort complex whose grass-topped walls form a bridge over the end of Peschiera’s river-mouth harbor. Also on the walls is a playground, and below a little enclosed harbor is lined by cafes. La Vela is a good lunch or dinner stop — children are sure to feed their bread to the ducks in the water below.

 

The southern shore is ringed with family-friendly hotels and campgrounds that are mini resorts, with beaches, playgrounds, cafes and watersports equipment for rent, and even the modestly priced hotels have swimming pools. It’s easy to get to all the lake towns by boats, which stop frequently, so you can hop on and off to explore. And the boat ride itself is fun for children — and parents, too.

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