Lake Garda in winter

On the shores of Lake Garda, winter is a time of light and laughter

The season sparkles with Christmas markets, a festival of light, and an academy for elves

The summer crowds have gone. But that doesn’t mean Lake Garda shuts down for the season. Instead, it comes alive with Christmas festivals and events, and a chance for children to hone their skills as Santa’s little helpers.

Admission into the Elves Academy at Riva del Garda isn’t automatic. Applicants must be under the age of 12, they must have had some experience of toys, and they must profess a love of animals: especially those with antlers. But once they’re inside, it’s fun and laughter all the way to Santa’s House, in the town’s ancient castle. The Academy is open at weekends throughout December, and is one of many ways in which the lakeside comes alive around Christmas.

For Mum and Dad, it’s a chance to relax in a hotel spa for an afternoon, shop in the Christmas markets, and maybe enjoy a carne salada sprinkled with Garda Trentino’s famous extra virgin olive oil. As for the kids: well, they’re going to meet Father Christmas. What could be cooler than that?