Strike it rich on an Italian treasure hunt

As they set off from their base on Lake Garda with a GPS, Natalie Holmes and her children discover the joys of geocaching

Tupperware, Tupperware, wherefore art thou Tupperware? I was in Verona, city of passion and ancient feuding, my mission to find a small plastic box hidden somewhere among the medieval turrets of the Scaligero bridge. In fact it was not my mission so much as my son James's, a recent convert to the craze for geocaching.

Caching, as it is known to its five million fans, is a worldwide treasure hunt, where, with the help of the internet and a GPS device, you find caches hidden by other players, sign the paper inside, then log your find on the website

The larger caches contain "treasure", usually of the children's party-bag type, and you can take something and add something. Travelling anywhere is exciting for a cacher; they call up a map of their destination on the website, and up pop little treasure-chest icons marking the spots.

My broader mission was to lure my two children away from the lazy delights of our base. Camping Eden is on the west side of Lake Garda, and has two pools and its own lakeside beach. Keen to do the right thing environmentally, we travelled by train – a straightforward journey involving Eurostar from London to Paris, then an overnight train to Italy complete with couchettes.

Initially we experienced a few disappointments with our geocaching. There were not many caches hidden near the elegant town of Salo, the nearest to our campsite. The closest, named the Virgin Mary, was in the lake, and required scuba equipment and certification. We were keen, but not that keen.

Salo itself is a town that seems to epitomise the popular image of the Italian lakes, where well-dressed Italians mingle with tourists in shorts against the stunning setting of deep, inviting water, fringed by woods, with blue-grey mountains rising behind. Historically, it was known for being the last power base of Italian fascism: Benito Mussolini set up the headquarters of his puppet government here when the area was annexed by Germany after the Allies invaded wartime Italy. But where there were once blackshirts, there is now the boating fraternity.

The great thing about geocaching is that it takes you to places you might not otherwise go to. So it was that we set off for a nearby town that was barely mentioned in our guidebook: Manerba, on the south-west shore. The town seemed ordinary enough, and we parked near the lake, with the cache a tantalising 500m away.

James's GPS led us along a wooded path that climbed steeply, twisting and doubling back, so it took 45 minutes to cover the distance. We eventually emerged from the trees high on a headland, with the sun setting on the southern lake and the peninsula cradling the town of Sirmione in the distance.

Even more surprising than the view was the realisation that we were on the ruins of a medieval castle. We could have spent ages clambering its stone walls, drinking in the views, if it wasn't for the fading light and the fear of getting lost in those woods, which buzzed with bats. Not to mention having to find the cache before it got too dark. Happily, it was an easy find, lying under a stone at the castle perimeter. Inside was a toy car with a note attached. "I am racing my owner to San Marino. Can you help?" Not being sure when we'd next be in San Marino, we left it where it was.

That trip to "La Rocca" also gave us an idea how to keep cool. The magical view from Manerba included a small island, San Biagio (again, not in the guidebooks), to which you can wade late in the season when the water levels of the lake are lower. Shame no one had planted a cache there.

Finally, to fair Verona. The city of Romeo and Juliet was hot. Too hot. Its ancient bricks and stone soak up the rays during the day, and during the night release them. So even after the sun has set, the effect is merely like an oven being turned down from "high" to "medium". Verona's collusion of grandeur and gastronomy is mightily appealing to adults, but not necessarily to youngsters. So caching is a good way to prolong their attention span.

The Scaligero bridge was empty, save for a medieval soldier slumped over a sword extending from his blood-spattered guts – a plague on all performance artists across Europe. By this stage we were supremely unconcerned about being spotted by "muggles" (people who are not cachers). We poked and prodded away. Before you fret about the potential damage to a historic bridge, note that – like all the city's bridges – it was rebuilt after being destroyed by the Germans during their retreat in the closing stages of the Second World War.

Persistence paid off. One of the bricks in the bridge came away to reveal a sealed plastic container containing a much-visited log and we added our TFTC ("Thanks for the Cache") to the list. Then we headed off for ice cream.

Travel essentials

Getting there

The writer travelled with Rail Europe (0844 848 4070; raileurope. which offers adult return fares from London St Pancras to Desenzano del Garda from £173 in a six-berth couchette. By air, you can fly from Gatwick to Verona with easyJet (0843 104 5000; and British Airways (0844 493 0787;, Ryanair (0871 246 0000; from Stansted and Monarch (08719 40 50 40; from Manchester.


Staying there

Canvas Holidays (0845 268 0827; offers a week at Camping Eden (00 39 0365 62 093; in a classic two-bed mobile home from £562, for two adults and two children.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living