Ice cream, Romeo and Juliet, opera and ancient ruins... Italy is the perfect holiday location, writes NEIL CHANDLER
AS you get older, holidays are no longer all about you.
Crazy nights and lazy days are out of the question once you have a little one or two in tow.
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But that doesn't mean you have to forego fun forever.
All of which led us to the Altomincio Family Park on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy.
We stayed at a Thomson Al Fresco Holidays site, a place where you can let the youngsters run wild knowing they are safe.
And there's more than enough to keep them occupied.
Central to proceedings are the swimming pools - a fun "splash" pool with slides and a DJ - plus a proper pool to get little Johnny's butterfly stroke up to scratch.
If you really want peace and quiet, there's a kids' club to keep them entertained while you work on your tan. Or you can let them loose on one of the many playgrounds.
Also on site are restaurants, a pizza takeaway and a fantastic icecream parlour that also sells beer. Our accommodation was a threebedroom mobile home with kitchen/ diner/living room and bathroom. The verandah was the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset, drink wine and watch the world go by while the kids were asleep. We were there during Dutch half-term, which meant the park was full of families who had driven through the night from the Netherlands and started being active, healthy and happy as soon as they arrived.
The trouble with the Dutch is they all appear to be blonde, amazingly good-looking and able to chat reasonably in five languages.
And sporty too - I've never seen so much badminton played in my life.
It made a welcome change for us to be the only Brits in a holiday venue. I've never been a fan of going somewhere abroad only to meet the neighbours from back home.
While the park is very pretty with plenty of activities to keep everyone amused, Italy is a picturesque country just waiting to be explored.
This can involve a drive on its motorways, an experience guaranteed to get the adrenaline flowing. But it's worth it for the sights. First there's Lake Garda itself. At 30 miles long it's Italy's biggest lake, with a spectacular shoreline and mountain views. A water taxi or boat day-trip is highly recommended.
A short hair-raising motorway drive away is Verona, which is an absolute gem. The highlight is the Arena di Verona, built by the Romans and Italy's biggest original amphitheatre after the Colosseum.
And if you're an opera fan - or even if you are not - one of the famous open-air operas is a never-tobe-forgotten event.
Verona was the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Fans from across the world descend on "Juliet's House" to write amorous graffiti on the walls and get their photos taken under the famous balcony.
Never mind that it was built in 1936 as a canny tourist attraction, that the closest the Bard ever got to Italy was London's South Bank or that the lovers were completely fictional.
Italians love food like we love booze and the grub is the highlight of any trip. We visited Peschiera, where you can stroll the Garda shoreline before getting stuck into a fine plate of pasta and a glass of wine.
It's also a good place to investigate one of the many gelaterias you'll find in any Italian town. Italian ice cream simply cannot be beaten, so dive in and enjoy a couple of scoops.
And Sirmione, also nearby, is a stunning medieval walled town you enter via a drawbridge and where cars are banned. It also has its own castle and Roman villa.
Writers Ezra Pound and James Joyce met in Sirmione in 1920 and Maria Callas had a place there too.
But if it's the kids who rule the roost, there's always the nearby Gardaland theme park to enjoy.
The third most popular theme park in Europe, attracting about 3million visitors a year, it's good for children of all ages with six rollercoasters and 32 more varied rides split into sections: Adrenaline, Fantasy, Adventure and Shows.
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It's also said to be one of Mario Balotelli's favourites and he was recently spotted there on holiday.
If it's good enough for Super Mario, it's good enough for us.
PAY £1,234 for six people staying in a Puccini Riviera mobile home, left, at Altomincio, Lake Garda, from August 9 for seven nights with Al Fresco Holidays.
All parcs have a range of entertainment and facilities. To book visit thomsonalfresco.co.uk or call 0871 971 0600. Tickets for Gardaland cost from £21.70 when purchased at gardaland.it.