A Lake Garda Family Cycling Holiday - The Perfect Break With Kids
Easy cycling, pizza, pasta and gelato galore, vineyards, a safari park and lake swimming under azure skies – what more could you ask for on a family cycling holiday?
In June 2016 my boyfriend and I visited Italy for a family cycling holiday in Lake Garda with our three year old daughter Chloe and Freedom Treks chairman Richard, his wife and their two children (Roxana, eight and Rufus, fourteen) enjoyed the same tour in July. Read on to hear about our experiences of this family tour.
Where We Stayed - Peschiera
Richard: After a short flight from London to Verona, we hopped on the bus to Verona station where we caught a fifteen minute train to Lake Garda. Another option is to get a taxi from the airport, which takes around twenty five minutes. After we had checked into our hotel and unpacked, we ventured down to the waterside for a pizza and a beer - a great start to the trip!
Rachael: We really enjoyed staying in the beautiful town of Peschiera, one of the best loved resorts on Lake Garda. Still completely shielded by its original Venetian walls and surrounded by water, our daughter especially loved the ice cream from the main square and watching the ducks from the many waterside restaurants!
Rachael: This was the first cycling holiday with our daughter and throughout the tour we found the mainly flat terrain easy and even with Chloe in a trailer we didn’t struggle with the few small hills as we rode away from the lake. The fact that the route is also very well signposted makes things simpler for the adults too! The other great thing about this tour is that there are three days of cycling, meaning you can enjoy two rest days with the family to enjoy the local attractions. All of the routes are loop tours which adds flexibility to your holiday because you can customise these rides to suit your requirements, making them shorter or longer if required and ending back at your hotel each evening.
Day 1 - After a restful night’s sleep we embarked on our first day of cycling, to warm up our legs. From the outset it became clear that the route for this tour really is devised with children in mind, with cycling predominantly on cycle paths and quiet roads that are perfect for little legs. We cycled through pretty vineyards until we reached Solferino, a beautiful little town that was the site of the famous battle that in 1859 ended the Italian second war of independence. We explored the historic sights and stopped for a drink before we headed back to Peschiera.
Day 2 - The second day included a ride from Peschiera to Sigurtà Garden Park and back again. The route took us alongside the River Mincio along the famous cycleway that leads to Mantua. We cycled through the riverside hamlet of Borghetto, a stunning village with ancient mills and delightful riverside restaurants. We discovered that this was also the place where tortellini was first created! After a short ride from Borghetto we reached Sigurtà Garden Park which offers lots for kids and big kids to enjoy! A maze, ponds, meadows and a play-farm are just a few highlights that we enjoyed. Our daughter particularly loved being able to run around in the park and there were plenty of shaded areas to cool down and have lunch, she really loved feeding the animals.
Sigurtà Garden Park
Day 3 - On the third day, our route took us on a loop out of Peschiera toward the Parco Natura Viva, a zoological park and conservation project, which includes a number of endangered species. We were given a discount per adult for cycling and we were then able to hire a car for €10 to drive around the safari park (remember your driving license!). We were then presented with our Jeep, which was a real highlight and made the safari a bit of an adventure. After the safari we were then able to visit the zoological park and this offered a very inviting shaded picnic area which was perfect for families.
A rather tall resident of Parco Natura Viva, saying hi!
Richard: Kids of different ages will find some days provide a little more challenge than others. Our daughter aged eight found one day took a bit more effort than others, but she coped fine. Our fourteen year old son found the distances easy and great fun.
Rachael: We loved the flexibility of this tour and the fact that all cycling days are optional and we could take rest days to see the sights of Lake Garda, swim in the lake or enjoy the local attractions. We spent one of our rest days visiting Sirmione, a long and narrow peninsula which juts out into the lake between Desenzano and Peschiera. The historical centre of Sirmione is pedestrianised so perfect for exploring with children. We loved the cobbled streets and narrow winding lanes full of gelaterias, beautiful terraces and shops. As always in Italy, we were spoilt for choice with places to eat and the restaurants were so welcoming to children. The Rocca Scaligera, a thirteenth-century castle is worth a visit and the climb to the tower is rewarded by beautiful views over Lake Garda. We took the bus to Sirmione from Peschiera, but we took the ferry back to Peschiera which was very easy and really enjoyable for our daughter.
Richard: A great feature of this trip is that you don’t have to ride every day. We had the option to visit Gardaland (one of Europe’s best theme parks), the Sealife Aquarium or the Canevaworld Aquapark but we opted to spend a day off by the hotel pool in the morning, before taking the train to Verona for the afternoon. Busy with tourists in town for the opera, it was a great place to sit, people-watch and enjoy a glass of prosecco.
Sirmione (left) and Verona (right) are both fantastic options for exploring on rest days
Maps and Route Notes
Richard: Although I have been on a number of cycle tours myself, it was the first time with my family. The quality of the maps and notes meant it was no problem to navigate and supervise the kids at the same time. Personally, we found it easier to use the maps than the route instructions and there were some good map-reading challenges for our 14 year old!
What Were the Bikes Like?
Rachael: We found that the bikes were ideal for this tour. We had 2 adult bikes and 1 child trailer, the bikes are 21 gear hybrid bikes and come equipped with panniers, handlebar bags and water bottles. The child trailer also has a shade and waterproof cover should it rain. We found that our daughter would sleep happily in the trailer in the afternoon on the ride back to Peschiera. There was also lots of space for snacks, water and toys to keep our daughter entertained. There are lots of options for families on this tour including child seats, child bikes (used by Richards daughter) and family tandems.
The bikes and child trailer used by Rachael and her family
Why Is This Lake Garda Tour Great for a Family Cycling Holiday?
Rachael: We decided that our daughter was old enough to experience her first cycling holiday outside of the UK. We chose the Family Lake Garda tour as this incorporated everything we were looking for, short daily distances, staying in one hotel for the duration (therefore avoiding packing/unpacking every day) and lots of fun attractions to entertain our daughter. We had never been to Lake Garda so we were hoping for beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine and lots of sunshine. We were not disappointed!
Wonderful scenery beyond the lake
Compared to the usual package holidays we have experienced as a family before, we did so much more. This holiday really felt like an adventure and was so much more enjoyable than a stay in a hotel resort! We were active each day, getting plenty of exercise and experiencing local cultures along the way. Every day was different, which was a real contrast to our usual package holiday where the days can become very repetitive. Our daughter absolutely loved the holiday as there is something very special about jumping on the bike and not knowing what you are going to experience that day, every day felt like an adventure.
This was by far the best holiday we have been on and our daughter is still asking when we are going to take her back to Lake Garda!
Richard: Peschiera’s location, on the shores of Lake Garda, is a perfect spot. A beautiful little town - very Italian with plenty of restaurants and cafes in which to sit and sip a Negroni or two, Peschiera is an ideal base for a holiday like this. The Lake Garda Family tour worked so well for all of us and was both good exercise, as a cycling trip should be, and relaxing, as a holiday should be. Buenissimo!
A dip in the lake was always welcome to help ease any aching muscles.
If you would like to know more about this tour, please visit the tour page.
Alternatively, make an enquiry online or speak to one of our team by telephone: +44 (0)1273 224066 (Office Hours (UK time): Monday to Friday: 9am - 5.30pm)