We did it! We survived and even had fun! What? Well, we went on a six night vacation with our two daughters who are 3 years old and 2 months old. We have traveled to 18 countries with one child – our 3 year old, and had wonderful experiences- but traveling with two, one of whom is a newborn was daunting, even for us. After careful consideration of many factors we selected Lake Garda, Italy (Lago di Garda). We settled on a two bedroom apartment in the small town of Tenno, Italy which is just up the hill from Riva del Garda at the north end of the lake. It was a great location in that it had a nice view of the lake, was close to a market and restaurants, and plenty to do nearby to avoid long car trips once we had arrived there since our drive from Germany was about eight hours drive time which translated to about 12 hours with stops for the girls.
One theme seemed to carry through our entire visit to this area – the people were just so nice and accommodating. Maybe they could see the looks on our faces at times of desperation and helped us because of that, but I really just think the Italian people of Lake Garda are really freaking nice. It is an area that is frequented by German vacationers so in nearly every interaction we were greeted in German which I then had my typically blank stare or rather poor German response and they would switch to basically flawless English. It was very impressive.
The Things We Learned
Restaurants in Italy have later hours for dinner, starting at 19:00, and usually only serve lunch from around noon to 14:00 or so… not conducive to a nice meal with a three year old who goes to bed at 18:30 usually. However, most restaurants or “bars” have snacks available whenever they are open and have very long hours. We saw some open as early as 7am! Snacks that we found consisted of crepes, sandwiches – cold or hot, gelato and sometimes individual pizza slices. It was great! One morning in Malcescine we had taken the 8am ferry from Riva del Garda and walked a good deal and we all were in need of something to eat and a reset for Dagny and we happened upon a cafe with the owner sitting out front drinking orange juice and clearly not open but we asked and she said of course, have a seat and she proceeded to make us a delicious ham and cheese crepe and I had the best tuna sandwich of my life. She said she has a five year old son and understood our situation, kids are the same in all languages! We found in several places it was best to just ask and we were always offered something, it was amazing hospitality. Everything at Lake Garda centers around the outdoors. Whether it is hiking, biking, or water sports…there is something for just about everyone. We enjoyed several stroller friendly walking paths around the lakes and also the towns were fairly stroller friendly dispite the hills. Just be sure to keep a close eye out, for the bikes up and down the mountain roads, for the random groups of hikers along the road (especially at start of old Ponale Road Path!), and while on a boat watch for the wind surfers and kite surfers everywhere!
As for towns, we enjoyed Riva Del Garda, Limone Sul Garda, and Malcescine very much! Riva was the easist to get around and was the closest to where we were staying. It has a wonderful downtown area with a mix of shopping, restaurants, and history all along a flat lakefront setting. Our 3 year old was a big fan of the toy store which had an amazing assortment of Paw Patrol stuff we can never find in Germany. Limone sul Garda was the prettiest town we saw, after braving the terrifying narrow two lane road cut straight out of the mountain. We will always remember the “BUS!!!” Coming straight at us and after a few minutes seemingly without breathing it passed us safe and sound. The town of Limone was incredible, with its narrow streets, waterfront promenade, and cute little shops all decorated with Lemon signs and decorations.
We traveled to Malcesine by Ferry, a much less stressful means of transport and not too expensive at about 10 Euros per adult, and much like Limone had a pretty old town with shopping and restaurants. It was interesting that in mid May, Limone was typically sunny during mid day and Malcesine cloudy and cooler due to the towering Monte Baldo and its shielding of the early day sun. This made for a nice change however because the small streets and hills of Limone were fairly warm by mid afternoon. The town we stayed in, Tenno, was small and had a beautiful Midevil area with old homes that we enjoyed walked through. It also has some of the best views of the lake from the north side as it is up the hill from Riva. Tenno castle is beautiful to look at but not open to the public… A German aristocrat lives there while avoiding the law in Germany is the story we got as to why.
We will hopefully return to Lake Garda as with six nights there we found there was plenty more to explore still!