A Family Guide to Italy
Tue Mar 2014
When it comes to planning a family holiday, it can be difficult to find a place that caters to everyone. Families with young children want a holiday destination that gives kids the freedom to play and have fun in a safe environment, whereas families travelling with teens want somewhere that allows for independent exploration.
While Europe is home to any number of family-friendly resorts and kid-friendly hotels, many families are considering exploring other, less tourist-centric locations to enjoy quality time with the family. Italy has many bustling cities and excellent beach resorts with plenty to offer families and kids of all ages.
For those who are looking for a holiday in the quieter rural areas, explore the landscape and soak up the culture, then here are our recommendations for destinations that are off the beaten track.
Often overlooked as a family holiday destination, Sicily offers a range of cultural delights for families. Home to pebble and sandy beaches all along the shoreline perfect for relaxing and playing games, Sicily’s rugged coastline is the ideal place for young kids to explore the rock pools and collect shells, while teens can play games and enjoy water sports.
Inland, Sicily is home to a range of historic sites, museums and other areas of interest that are perfect for kids that are at an age to discover other cultures. Elsewhere you’ll find fun attractions where the whole family can spend a day. Aquapark Monreale is an excellent water park with slides, splash pools and water chutes suitable for kids of all ages.
In addition, Sicily boasts fine traditional cuisine where kids will get an authentic taste of the food away from the usual chicken nuggets and chips you’re likely to find in kids-club restaurants the world over.
Known as the “green heart of Italy” this rural region is home to rolling countryside and age-old traditions. Overlooked by many owing to its location and distance from the beaches and seaside, this rural area offers a whole host of activities for kids and young adults.
The region boasts excellent scenery and great Italian cuisine. Surrounded by charming villages, this rustic part of Italy offers families a quiet alternative to the buzzing hubbub of more crowded-tourist areas.
That isn’t to say kids will be bored, spending their days twiddling their thumbs in the Italian heat. This rural retreat is the ideal place for kids to explore the countryside, visit and learn about working Italian farms and take horse riding lessons.
There are also plenty of outdoorsy activities to enjoy as a family, including a variety of hiking trails through the forests and cycling opportunities, as well as to other kid-friendly facilities such as playgrounds, swimming pools and tennis courts.
One area of Italy that has evolved tremendously in recent years is Puglia. Located in the ‘heel’ of Italy, Puglia is home to sun-drenched rolling landscapes, gorgeous coastal towns, lush fields and olive groves. Looking to escape the Italian crowded beaches? Puglia is home to miles and miles of sandy beaches perfect for kids and families to relax, explore and play.
Puglia is an authentic slice of Italy, home to a range of historic sites and landmarks. One of the most fascinating places to visit for families is the spectacular limestone caves at Grotte di Castellana, where you can enjoy a 50-minutes tour of the caves, in English.
The region is known for celebrating food and local produce and Puglia enjoys festivals throughout the year. July to August is the party season for locals and holidaying Italians from all over the country, making the area an ideal location for kids of all ages to meet new people, try local delicacies and generally enjoy an authentic Italian experience.
What the bloggers think:
'F', Blogger @ From Fun to Mum
Tuscany is one of my favourite regions in Italy as it has an incredible variety of sceneries, vibes and activities. Florence is a must-visit. With its awe-inspiring architecture, charming bridges and eclectic mix of shops, it is hard not to fall in love with this city. If shopping doesn’t appeal, the restaurants will. The Ribollita soup is a Florentine specialty and one that I strongly recommend. My husband feels the same way about the ‘Fiorentina’ steak which is a huge T-bone steak sourced from the local cattle and traditionally grilled over a wood fire. Of course my daughter believes that the Italian artisanal ice-cream is much better than any other local delicacies and who can blame her?
Siena is as charming as Florence, but its medieval cobbled streets and the labyrinth-like city layout make it slightly less pushchair friendly. The walled city of Lucca often flies under the tourist radar, but I don’t know anyone who did not fall in love with this unique city one they got there. Lucca is a true wonder of medieval preservation and beauty.
Once all the city visiting is done, we often choose the beach over the countryside as our daughter is three and loves splashing in the sea. The Versilia coast boasts 20 kilometres of white sandy beaches framed by the Apuan alps at the back. The scenery is breath taking and the facilities are extremely kid-friendly. At night Versilia has plenty of interesting villages to explore. Viareggio to the South has all the charm of the Italian seaside life, but we often opt for the outrageously expensive yet terribly charming Forte dei Marmi instead. Its pedestrianised centre and upmarket feel make it the ideal place for an evening stroll combined with some ice cream eating and people watching. So very Italian!
Becky, Blogger @ English Mum
When visiting a city like Rome, children can quickly get bored with museums and monuments, so pick and choose the more child-friendly places to visit to make your time in this beautiful city as interesting as possible.
Start at The Vatican. It’s absolutely beautiful, but really with kids it’s not worth queuing to look inside unless your children are really patient (mine weren’t!). So grab a map and head to the beautiful Ponte Sant'Angelo, taking time to pull a few faces at the statues dotted across the bridge. Head to the Pantheon and pause at the lovely Piazza della Rotonda (good place to grab a well-earned gelato here) before striking out towards the Trevi Fountain. Make sure everyone throws a coin into the fountain (backwards, right hand over the left shoulder – no cheating!) to ensure a return visit.
Next, head to the Spanish Steps and check out the beautiful views of the city from the top. Now’s the time to grab a taxi – it’s a long walk to the Collisseum, but well worth a visit and the queue to go inside and pretend you’re all gladiators.
Round your day off with a proper Italian pizza and a well-deserved sit down. You earned it!
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