Things to do with kids in Italy
Visit Italy’s great cities – even with tiny children, Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan can be fun, provided it’s not too hot. Rome can be particularly delightful for a family break in spring. But think of finding a base outside a city, preferably with a pool for cooling off after a trip in to sight-see.
Head for the beaches, especially those of the islands of Sicily, Sardinia or even Elba. As well as fabulous stretches of sand, these offer delicious food and great exploring – you can climb volcanoes, try your hand at a little archaeology or visit some fascinating castles.
Explore Naples and its region, Campania. The splendid Amalfi Coast stretching from Sorrento to Paestum is home to the famous resort towns Amalfi, Positano and Ravello. But come out of season, as it gets packed out with Italian holidaymakers in summer. Make sure to take older children to Pompeii in the Bay of Naples, an extraordinary place where history comes alive. Ghoulish-minded kids tend to be fascinated by seeing how people were struck down in the middle of their daily lives.
For something a little more off the beaten track, try Puglia, tucked into the heel of Italy, with Neolithic tombs, full-blown Gothic cathedrals, intriguing Trulli houses and beautiful beaches and forests in the Gargano Peninsula and on the unspoilt Tremeti Islands.
Get a triple whammy of culture, beaches and beautiful countryside in Tuscany. Hire a villa with a pool and sit out in the evenings with the kids, enjoying a meal under the stars with a large glass of local wine. By day make excursions to hill-towns, Pisa or lovely Florence.
Places to go if you want avoid the tourists but desire beaches and pretty countryside are Umbria on the west coast and the Marche on the east. In Umbria, Assisi has a beautiful basilica and lovely views, Gubbio is a medieval hill town set against the wooded slopes of the Apennines and close to Lake Trasimeno, and Perugia is the sweet capital of Italy, amongst other things.
Check out Abruzzo, another less-visited region of Italy, but one with mountainous landscapes full of wildlife and a number of National Parks in which to spot it, as well as easy access to the Adriatic Coast beaches further north, in the Marche and Emilia Romagna. The latter is of most interest to families for its Riviera Romagnaola, a stretch of sunny beaches with stylish facilities, but its capital Bologna is full of historical interest, especially if the kids are studying the Etruscans, and it’s a good base that doesn’t get as crowded as, say, Rome or Florence.
Head for the freshwater alternative to the seaside – the gorgeous Italian Lakes in Lombardy in the north. Lake Garda is especially good for family holidays, with 120 beaches, watersports, a massive choice of places to stay and its own theme park, Gardaland, which is like a giant Disneyland/Seaworld with a little Italian magic sprinkled on top.
Discover north-eastern Italy, where the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region is home to the Italian Dolomites, an awesomely beautiful region declared a natural heritage site by UNESCO, with one national park and several regional parks within its confines. With older kids, you might come here to climb the vie ferrate – protected paths created in World War I, or walk the long-distance ‘high paths’ (alte vie), which take about a week to cross, with stopovers in rifugi (huts). Other summer, spring and autumn activities include climbing, base-jumping, paragliding and hang-gliding. In winter, the Dolomites are famous for skiing, with Canazei a particularly family-friendly resort, offering good, high beginner slopes but also linking on to the spectacular Sella Ronda circuit around the red-rock crags of the Dolomites, a favourite with competent children. For more on skiing here, see our Skiing in Europe page.
The only thing exceeding the Italians’ love affair with food is children’s love affair with Italian food – the chance to have pasta or pizza at every meal, followed up by a delicious gelato, is bliss for most kids. That said, don’t miss the opportunity to stretch their culinary horizons beyond pesto, carbonara and margarita by opening their eyes to various regional specialities, whether it be pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup) in Venice, schiacciata (a type of pizza crust baked with olive oil and served with greens) in Umbria, or panforte (doughy fruit cake) in Tuscany and granita (the original slush puppy – fruit juice and crushed ice) in Sicily. Just about everywhere you go in Italy, you can count on table staff cooing over your kids and often even whisking them away to the kitchen for an impromptu cookery lesson.
Long, leisurely lunches outside, whether on the terrace of your villa or at a café on a piazza, mean that everybody can take their time while the children run around – and are indeed the essence of a family holiday in Italy. Follow the Italian way of doing things and put food first – let’s have none of that rushed sandwich nonsense as you attempt your third museum of the day. Italy stops at lunchtime and so should you.
- Top Quirky Family-Friendly Places to Stay in Europe (www.takethefamily.com) (allengeorgina.wordpress.com)
- Best 10 destinations in Italy (serchagain.wordpress.com)
- Amalfi Coast Road – Italy (dina22jan.wordpress.com)
- A Brief History of Italy (polinamanoleva.wordpress.com)
- The sound of vacation. (gracefullyglobal.wordpress.com)
- Rome Introduction (slideshare.net)