Review of Bella Italia with Canvas Holidays…Family entertainment at its best!
The sun soaked shores of Lake Garda are new to my family and I’m delighted to report we have had the most wonderful time at Bella Italia on Lake Garda.
Staying with Canvas Holidays we have spent a week in their 3 bedroomed Moda caravan. With its welcome air conditioning and comfortable beds, it’s been a lovely treat, situated very close to Bella Italia amenities such as the pools, shops and restaurants on site.
Although storage is limited in the Moda caravan , clever packing using shallow storage which slide under beds has, to some extent, helped although we certainly needed more to make the most of the unused space. My only real niggle is that the only mirror is in the bathroom which shows your waist up having me guessing or getting unwitting family members to take a quick picture before we go out at night!
On balance would I say the extra is worth it for a caravan? Yes, I would. Having your own toilet and shower facilities is lovely and a good night’s sleep makes all the difference.
We stayed in a tent with Canvas Holidays in Interlaken earlier in this trip and you can read our review here.
Bella Italia is huge! On first arrival it seemed a little daunting but its friendly staff and extensive facilities quickly made it home. If you come to visit some of Italy’s most famous and beautiful places, it’s perfectly situated; 20 minutes from Verona, around 2 hours to Venice and Milan with lots of local options to explore and soak up the ambiance.
Facilities at Bella Italia are comprehensive with a variety of shops including a reasonably priced supermarket, fruit and veg, clothes and toy / souvenir shop in addition to the pool side offerings of fast food, ice cream and sorbet lollies. One evening a local mini market arrived, selling various souvenirs and clothes via local trades people.
In addition there are the all essential washing facilities which were immaculately clean; we made good use of the laundrette at €5.
Pools at Bella Italia
Bella Italia has a number of pools to cater for every need. Each area has been carefully planned, including a splash pool for tinies, a play pool with slides, tipping barrel cogs and shallow pool. For younger guests a separate slightly larger version, seen in our photographs, forms part of the slide pool, where 2 larger swirly slides have kept all three of our brood (aged 5, 8 and 20) entertained for hours at a time. A much larger pool is also a very short walk away, with 3 fun slides in the middle and where aqua aerobics takes place each day.
Now, if all this sounds a little adventurous, there is also a full-sized pool for you to enjoy so long as you have your hat! This seems to be mostly used for relaxed adult and lane swimming – swim caps are sold on site for €2
The ample sun beds at Bella Italia are also an obvious choice, a little holiday reading, punctuated by sporadic dips in the pools or whizz down the slides have given us time to relax and unwind. Yes, it’s peak season so it’s busy. We chose to use the areas early or later in the day which we would do anywhere at this time of year, also avoiding the hottest times of day. It’s worth noting that we did see life guards removing and carefully folding the towels of those who had raced to reserve, but not returned for the sunbeds!
Sitting on the shore of Lake Garda, the site also has its own private beach where you can choose to relax or swim. Word to the wise though, it’s a pebble beach and the Lake itself rather rocky so taking some beach shoes is a must.
Entertainment at Bella Italia
With an absolute opt in or out, no pressure atmosphere, you can literally fill your day or take no part in the comprehensive on-site offer. Loads of free activities are available for adults and children alike at Bella Italia, with kid’s club running daily between 10 and 12, then 3 and 5. Our youngest loved the kids clubs at Bella Italia, coming back with various art pieces, face paint and getting excited over poolside games. I personally liked the awareness of safety with an extra band being placed around her wrist, indicating that she was not to leave on her own but wait with the friendly staff. Previous holiday clubs have indicated that if children want to leave, they will be allowed to do so; the simple act of taking of my phone number meant I was reassured I could come for her in an emergency or if she needed us, giving us all some welcome down time.
The enthusiasm continued into the evening with a mini disco and, the highlight for us, a show the kids club had prepared, Aladdin. More on this later.
Bella Italia itself is punctuated with little parks often shaded by trees, with climbing frames, slides rocking animals and interactive games such as noughts and crosses. Again, these were planned for various age ranges, indicated on the site map, another great touch. In addition, play parks in the evening offer trampolines and rope type adventure playgrounds for a small charge.
For adults the sports programme at Bella Italia included the usual treats of aerobics, yoga and water aerobics amongst others. Canoeing was also offered alongside archery and football, again, something for everyone; they were well attended too, but never once were we so much as encouraged off our sunbeds, the quality seemed to entice plenty. Full disclosure, I was invited to free wine tasting one evening…bonus!
The fun continued into the evening with a variety of local acts, interactive shows and well-known musical performances. Again, these drew a crowd, not always an assumption when camping, as in our experience, people are often happy to chill with their neighbours which on some evenings we were happy to participate in! Examples of shows included The Greatest Showman which gave us chance to sing along, whilst an acrobatic display drew some serious wows. Again, the smallest guests were catered for with chairs increasing in size and an insistence that, should they want to, little ones were at the front to allow them a clear view.
By far the best night we had was the Aladdin show. 50 or more children had been practising with kid’s club for only a few days to put on a super show. This show made Emilie want to join in the next day, a sucker for that sort of thing Emilie and I absolutely loved it but what followed had the whole family excited. We were encouraged to follow the actors on the short walk to the Lakeside, and everyone was then treated to fire-breathing, dancing and the most spectacular firework display. To be completely honest I had moved the children away from the front row thinking that the torches which were to be lit on the bridge during the fire show were going to be some slightly dodgy fireworks! I couldn’t have been more wrong, the display, lasting about half an hour was beautiful using pyrotechnics which had been set up well onto the lake itself so perfectly safe!
Eating out at Bella Italia
There are a number of options for eating in and out using the various outlets on the site. The supermarket, fresh fruit and fresh bread available everyday were delicious and the children enjoyed going down to collect our breakfast, a job I remember fondly from my own camping days as a child.
One evening we decided to eat in one of the onsite restaurants and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful. Very reasonable, with great portions, it’s the best family meal out we can remember for sometime, with somewhere near 40 pizzas to choose from, whilst the range of main meals, pastas and a good children’s menu catered for all tastes. On reflection the long queue for pizza takeaway was unsurprising, and of course we joined it ourselves a couple of nights later!
The prices for food at Bella Italia were very reasonable, with pizza costing around €9 and pasta between €8 and €15 you could also order the usual main courses available in Italian restaurants, steak, chicken and fish; Ste noticed somebody’s gorgeous garlic bread so of course we had to have some of that too – on its own it was enough to fill you up. With very full tummies we all went home looking forward to repeating the exercise!
This experience meant more to us than you might expect as eating out can be a bit of a drama. Our children are allergic to eggs and milk so the potential for this being a nightmare was high in Italy, the land of cheese and ice cream! Well prepared they produced a full allergy menu in a variety of languages which made choosing something for the children easy and everyone was happy.
We noticed a number of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options in Lidl which is 0.9k away and a free bus runs from site multiples times each day. We picked ice cream for the caravan plus vegan pizzas for takeaway night at home. In addition, they indulged throughout the holiday on the most delicious sorbets, meaning that they never felt left out but just as treated as everybody else as we watched people tuck into the traditionally famous gelato and got stuck in ourselves with no guilt whatsoever!
Things to do near Bella Italia?
To be perfectly honest, if what you came for was sun relaxation and good food you can cover that on the site. However, like lots of families, we wanted to experience some of the local area and culture and found that Bella Italia was perfectly placed to facilitate that.
We took the train into Verona, around 20 minutes away and spent the day hopping on and off one of the tourist buses to see the main sites. Verona is great for kids, nowhere is a particularly long walk and they enjoyed visiting some of the sites they had heard of, such as Juliet’s balcony and The Gladiators Arena.
Perschiera is only a 15 minute walk from the site and we spent time here taking in the local sites including walking along the walls to experience views of the harbour, river, and carefully cultivated Gardens. For €3 return, we took the road train directly from site which was less than a minute walk from our caravan, another holiday tradition catered for by Bella Italia, and the boat from Pescheria to Bardolino provided some beautiful scenery, with some gorgeous ice creams too!
We also hired a boat which should have been fabulous but we did it on the only stormy day! A boat trip to Bardolino provided the beautiful views we’d hoped for. Plan for the weather you say?! Correct! (We did think it would blow over.)
There are a huge number of places to visit here with families. Seek out Garda Land for rollercoasters, movie land, inspired by Universal Studios for rides, shows and experiences and the aqua park for a splashing day. All are within a 15 minute drive from the site and were recommended by previous visitors and families on our travels alike, however in our 7 day stay we opted to mix days out with relaxation on site.
Would we go to these next time? Absolutely, and a tip given to us by our rep was that often an annual pass cost less than a repeat visit so it’s worth checking out the various options.
So… Why Canvas Holidays at Bella Italia?
On such a huge site like Bella Italia we felt genuinely lucky to have travelled with Canvas Hollidays, here’s what set them apart…
- There are only 48 placements owned by Canvas Holidays which meant that the 3 reps were available to help and chat when needed and the caravan we stayed in was immaculate, something that seemed to be the case with the other families we spoke to.
- One day I rang to ask a quick question and Becks was at our caravan within 20 minutes happy to offer her knowledge and advice.
- The Canvas reps themselves were helpful but laid back. Happy to talk to us about places to visit in the area but in no way pushy or salesy, something we often see as plus when staying with Canvas.
- The placements are very central, 2 minutes walk from pools, shops, restaurants and the beach
- In addition, if you are travelling with a group, whilst you can request to be in adjacent accommodation you would never be far away, avoiding additional charges or taking a chance.
And finally, our top tips for Bella Italia!
- Use shallow packing boxes for extra storage
- Check in early, check in takes some time and you don’t want to be standing in hot queues when it’s busy.
- Plan your days, there’s lots to do here and we left feeling like we could have stayed weeks to cover it all.
- Early and late sessions at the pool will avoid the mayhem if you’re not a fan of it being too busy.
- Drive or fly – the nearest airport is Verona and public transport here has been reliable.
- I was nervous about driving in Italy, despite confidently driving in Spain and France a number of times…I genuinely didn’t find it too bad although driving very close to people to let them know they want to overtake is common place on motorways – eek.
Bella Italia with Canvas has been a wonderful stop for everyone on our tour. I’m not surprised it has so many fans and repeat stays… We are most likely to return in the next year or two.