Children's clubs: All the fun under the sun

A family ski specialist has branched out with summer breaks on Lake Garda

Firstly, a confession: I may have been a bit sniffy about the idea of putting my children into a club while I relaxed by the pool on holiday. I'm not the chic mum on the beach sporting a kaftan and matching string bikini. I'm more of the bum-in-the-air, sand neck-to-toe, sandcastle-village-making kind. But now, I fear I may have to backtrack a little. I might be a convert.

It happened in Italy. My family – me, husband Nick, and children Fin, nine, and Bella, six – had travelled to the shores of Lake Garda, just outside Peschiera del Garda on the southern-most shore. Our destination was the Hotel Parc and Eden Residence, surrounded by a golf course and vineyards. It is newly offered by Esprit Sun, the summer programme of Esprit Ski, which has offered family ski holidays in the Alps for 31 years. We arrived at Verona airport and were met by Esprit rep Laura Henderson, who within minutes had made firm friends with the children and sussed out their interests (Fin: football, golf, tennis and swimming; Bella: dancing, swimming, skipping and art). To say they were keen to join the Esprit clubs is an understatement.

They were booked in for three half-days at Esprit's Sun Club, for three to 10 year olds, and invited along to the Esprit Sunset Club, a free programme of games each evening between 7.30 and 10pm. So, on our first night they skipped off to the Sunset Club while Nick and I enjoyed an alfresco glass of lugana, the local white wine. We did sneak back to check that they were okay, but we were caught out by my eagle-eyed daughter who shrieked at us to go away.

In the daytime, we used the hotel's free shuttle bus to explore Peschiera del Garda, the fourth largest town on Lake Garda, surrounded by 16th-century fortress walls. The town's cobbled lanes bustle with shoppers, while the elegant promenade is a lovely place to stroll. But nothing can detract from the lake, where you can rent boats, pedalos, canoes or just take a dip. We played it safe with a pedalo, but it wasn't long before Fin, Bella and I dived into the deliciously cool and refreshing water.

Verona – the city of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers – is less than 20 minutes by train from Peschiera, and small enough to see most of the sights in a day. We visited Casa di Giulietta (and Juliet's balcony), the Castelvecchio, built in 1354 and now the city's most important medieval monument, and the 2,000-year-old Arena di Verona, which once hosted gladiatorial combats but now features opera's biggest names. Then we tucked into pizzas at Impero Trattoria and Pizzeria on the central Piazza dei Signori, gazing at a marble statue of the poet Dante who once lived nearby.

Even at the end of the long, hot day Fin and Bella were keen as ever to join in the Sunset Club. Again, we were shooed away when we tried to collect them earlier than scheduled. They were in the midst of a very important game of giant hopscotch with Lisa and Sam, part of the Esprit team of experienced UK-qualified childcarers. Esprit offers flexible childcare, in addition to the free Sunset Club, on the basis that you pay for what you want.

No family holiday is complete without a trip to a theme park, so we duly set off for Gardaland. It is on the eastern shore of Lake Garda and features rollercoasters with such names as Blue Tornado, Raptor and Mammut, among other rides for the less adventurous. I discovered that Bella is a bit of a daredevil, and I conquered my fear of heights, thanks to the rides for which my husband exceeded the height limit (yes, really). After the excitement, the children went into the Sun Squad for an afternoon and I found a place in the shade back at the hotel pool.

The Sun Squad proved such a hit that Fin and Bella were keen to spend the following day there, with plans for golf, tennis, swimming and craft. So, Nick and I took a full-day coach tour around the lake. We stopped in the pretty walled village of Lazise; the medieval village of Malcesine with its gorgeous narrow streets and fascinating little shops; Riva, with its Austrian architectural influences; and my favourite, Limone, home to the historic lemon houses built to protect lemon trees from the cold.

We arrived back to find Bella asleep on a sofa in reception and Fin playing cards with Laura. They hadn't missed us a bit. And after dinner? They went back to the club, and we had another lugana.

Getting there

Amber Evans and her family travelled with Esprit Sun (01483 791 919;, which offers a week at the Hotel Parc and Eden Residence near Peschiera del Garda, departing 16 August, with transfers, based on an all-inclusive family room, with free morning Esprit Sun Squad, evening Sunset Club for children and a family ticket to Gardaland, for £2,629. Flights are from Gatwick or Cambridge. Flights from Bristol, Glasgow and Birmingham are available with a supplement.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits