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All that's missing is George!

PUBLISHED: 10:46 22 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:55 20 February 2013

All that's missing is George!

All that's missing is George!

Como may have claimed heart throb actor George Clooney for its own but Garda has all the other attractions you expect from the beautiful Italian lakes says Richard Bryson

Como may have claimed heart throb actor George Clooney for its own but Garda has all the other attractions you expect from the beautiful Italian lakes says Richard Bryson




Perhaps the best way to soak up the dramatic landscapes and relaxed air of Italys lakes is to jet in and stay at a villa by the waters edge. But not everyone can follow George Clooneys example.
On the other hand you can visit this lovely region on more modest means, and take the family too.
So while the American actor prefers the peace and tranquility of Lake Como, its Lake Garda that is the main magnet for tourism in northern Italy with a huge array of hotels, holiday homes and campsites on offer. For those on a budget in these straitened times the latter are a good option.
We visited, Altomincio at Salionze near Peschiera, which is new to Thomson Al Frescos collection of holiday sites near Lake Garda. Its quite big with over 600 mobile homes (or emplacements) and a small power station near by. A tower from the latter is visible from the parc but such is the serenity of the surroundings, and the beautiful weather, its never really an eyesore.
We loved the centrepiece of two pools, bars, shops and entertainment areas and were impressed with how well this part of the parc was kept. Go to the perimeters and it isnt quite so immaculate and there is an impression shared by other holidaymakers we met of a camp growing too fast, of squeezing too many homes into not a lot of space.
And if you have noisy neighbours as we did on a couple of nights well into the early hours you either accept your lot or complain and run the risk of being perceived as killjoys.
Weve camped in France and Italy quite a lot and late night noise isnt usually an issue, so perhaps we were unlucky and we did go when the camp was at its peak season busiest in late July.
Certainly our Vivaldi three bedroom home was very well equipped with a decked veranda allowing us an extra room in the hot weather. The open plan kitchen with oven, grill, four burner hob, microwave and large fridge was a real boon. Good showers and comfortable beds (not always a guarantee when you go camping) also made the holiday a pleasure.
Furthermore, prices on site are not unreasonable and the mini supermarket is well stocked. Nice staff about the place too.
Our helpful reps visited us regularly (but were never intrusive) and even let our sometimes bored eldest son access the internet when he got tired of sunbathing by the pool. One of them said the camp was going to develop into one of the best in the Lake Garda region and if the newly added homes like ours (currently placed on gravel drives) are integrated better, like the ones nearer to the pools that sit among green avenues of neat pathways and trees, then I can share his vision.
Altomincio is a mere couple of miles from Peschiera, once a Roman village named Arilica but renamed by the Lombards because of the large number of fish in its waters. Its a holiday resort by the lake thats also a commercial and industrial centre. Its fortifications can be explored and boats of all shapes and sizes can be watched cruising in and out of the harbour.
From here we caught a ferry ride to the gorgeous Sirmione, a spa resort with a Roman villa situated on a peninsula which stretches out across the lake like a green lizard. Theres also a castle and around it are all manner of shops and cafes. Look out for the many ice-cream parlours offering every possible flavour. Willy Wonka would certainly have approved.
We also took in Bardolino, Garda and Lazise but never made the trip we had promised ourselves up to the north end of the lake and Malcesine, where a cable car takes you 1,800 metres up a mountainside for the most jaw-dropping views, apparently. We tried to drive there along the main lakeside road, a journey of roughly 30 miles, but having done 12 miles in getting on for two hours in nose to tail traffic we decided to turn back.
Go by boat, or by car very early in the morning, if you want to seek this place out in peak season.
We did spend a day in Verona (a mere ten miles away) and wandered around the first century AD arena as it prepared for a midsummer opera.
Lunch in the square opposite the arena followed but then torrential rain forced us to head home early without a visit to the Casa di Giulietta where Romeo is said to have visited Juliet on that famous balcony.
Venice can also easily be reached by car or train, as we discovered a few years back on another holiday to the region.You are guaranteed a day of great sites and sights.
The same is true of anyone choosing to make the drive from Calais, especially as you prepare to cross the French/Italian border. Yes, it makes for a two day journey of nearly 1,000 miles but driving through France on their toll roads is usually uninterrupted by traffic jams and if, like us, you go through the Mont Blanc tunnel you get to see some fabulous mountain scenery. The views around our very hospitable stop-over camp at Annecy were also stunning with para gliders descending confetti-like from the snow-tipped peaks.




PACK UP




  • Thomson Al Fresco offers high quality, mobile home self catering accommodation on some of the best parcs in Europe.

  • Prices are from 1331 for six people staying in a Vivaldi mobile home at Altomincio from July 29 for seven nights.

  • Prices are from 264.60 for six people staying in a Vivaldi mobile home at Altomincio from May 1 for seven nights.

  • Richard Bryson stayed in a Vivaldi mobile with three bedrooms. All Thomson Al Fresco accommodation has air conditioning and outdoor decking areas as standard.

  • For more information or to help find the perfect parc and to book, please visit www.thomsonalfresco.co.uk or call 0871 971 0600

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