Italy’s Garda riviera has all the attractions of the beach, history and culture.
After paddling our way out from the pebbly beach, Isla and Evelyn took it in turns flying down the slide on the back of the pedalo into the cool and refreshing water.
For a brief moment, it felt like we were out at sea, with the waves of the turquoise water lapping our small vessel – until, that is, a large white swan, followed by a family of mallards, merrily swam past.
We were on the shores of Peschiera del Garda, just one of a string of postcard-perfect towns that ring the shimmering shores of Italy’s largest lake.
Our hotel for the week, the Parc Hotel Paradiso, is about 2km from the shores of the lake.
Paradiso’s extensive grounds, which also include apartment complexes, a golf course, half a dozen full-sized football pitches and swimming pools, are amazing for sports enthusiasts.
The hotel is also all-inclusive if you book with Crystal Summer or Thomson Lakes & Mountains.
During the daytime, we used the hotel’s free shuttle bus as a starting point to explore Peschiera, the fourth largest town on Lake Garda.
The 16th-century fortress walls that once repelled attackers now offer a warm welcome to visitors and Peschiera’s cobbled lanes bustle with shoppers, while the elegant promenade is dotted with holidaymakers taking a stroll.
The best place to eat in the town is Vecchio Mulino Beach, a unique restaurant on the shore of the lake that combines casual and fine dining, with waiters tastefully attired in flat caps, white shirts and black ties.
The place has a reputation as one of the best restaurants on the entire lake, serving a selection of pasta, fish and meat dishes, along with signature American-inspired cocktails and typical Italian desserts with a twist.
But nothing can detract from the lake itself.
You can rent a pedalo, boat, canoe, or just take a dip. However, the most comfortable, hassle-free, and scenic way of seeing the ports is by hopping on and off one of Navigazione Laghi’s fleet of ferries from the jetty in Peschiera.
We took the ferry to the picturesque resorts of Bardolino and Garda, but the likes of Limone, Riva, and Malcesine in the north are also just an hour or two’s trip away.
Verona is less than 20 minutes by rail, while the unique city of Venice, the fashion paradise of Milan, and the dramatic Dolomites mountain range are also just an hour or so away by coach.
No family holiday is complete without a trip to a theme park, so we duly set off for nearby Gardaland, which was named one of the world’s top five amusement resorts a few years ago.
It is built upon themed areas, with realms of history, geography, space and fantasy, and features rollercoasters Blue Tornado, Raptor, Mammut, Sequoia Adventure and Oblivion.
Meanwhile, Gardaland’s SeaLife Aquarium takes visitors on a continuous quest to discover the most beautiful creatures populating the planet’s waters.
Isla and Evelyn loved journeying through a succession of themed settings - starting from River Sarca, moving on to the Lake of Garda, going through the Red Sea and all the way to the Indian Ocean.
Thomson Lakes & Mountains, offers a week’s full board in the four star Parc Hotel Paradiso and Golf Resort in Peschiera on Lake Garda, for £714 pp, including flights from Manchester and transfers.
Visit Thomson Lakes or call 020 8939 0740.