Children in Italy

Old Jul 29th, 2002, 02:27 PM
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Children in Italy

My family will be travelling in Italy for one month in June/July 2003. We have four children whose ages will be 13.5, 11,9,7! We have the following schedule in mind:
4-5 days Rome
1 week Amalfi, Pompei Paestom etc.
1 week Lucca, Pisa, Fireze, Tuscany
1 week moving north toward Switzerland for departure

We would love suggestions on sights that would be of interest for children. Also, places that are accomodating to children would be helpful. I have travelled in Italy as a child and adult and know how the Italians love children! If you have travelled with children of the same ages as mine, I would be particularly interesed in your comments.
Please feel free to email me. Thank you for sharing your insights!
Old Jul 29th, 2002, 03:30 PM
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Hi, Teresa:
We spent 2-1/2 weeks in France, Italy and a few days in London with our 12-year-old and 14-year-old in June. While we did not get to Amalfi and Pompeii (although my son and I really wanted to go to Pompeii, we just ran out of time), we did visit Sirmione (on Lake Garda), Venice, Carrara, Lucca, Pisa, Florence and Rome.
The castle in Sirmione was a lot of fun, because you could actually go inside and climb around. There were resident cats hanging around (just like around the Forum and elsewhere in Rome). They enjoyed Venice just because it was so different from anywhere else they had been. I know these two places aren't on your itinerary, but thought I'd mention them.
While many on this board have pooh-poohed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, our kids loved it. Granted, the tacky souvenir stands and the incessant foreign hawkers of fake watches, purses and scarves are annoying, but climbing to the top of the tower was a highlight for our family. You have to get a timed ticket and they let groups of 30 go up at a time.
Lucca was a pretty town, but wasn't that interesting for the kids. They thought the wall around the town was cool and we had a good outdoor lunch there, but I wouldn't recommend spending a long time there with kids.
Florence was great! They enjoyed the Accademia and walking on the Ponte Vecchio. They also liked watching the street artists (especially the spray paint guy) and the fake statue people around the Uffizi square. There was one guy dressed up like a Roman bust on a pedestal -- he was a hoot! Worth giving a Euro to.
They also enjoyed Rome so much, but we did a lot of walking and I would suggest pacing yourself. We took the hop-on hop-off bus tours in Paris, London and Rome, and it was a good break for them to rest and get an overview of the cities. Of course, going inside the Colosseum was a highlight, and I was glad they were awed by St. Peter's. They got tired in the Vatican Museum, because you have to walk through so much art before you get to the Sistine Chapel. As my son said, "You have to go through a lot of creepy stuff to get to the good stuff." My daughter loved shopping in both Paris and Rome. My son liked looking at the foreign versions of video games.
Our kids ate gelato twice a day and loved it all. My daughter ate pizza every night, while my son ate spaghetti every night. They didn't starve!
If you get a chance when you go north, drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel. The kids enjoyed that as well as our favorite place on our trip, Chamonix, France, with the Aiguille du Midi.
Have fun planning your trip! I'm ready to go back.
Pam B.
Old Jul 30th, 2002, 05:23 AM
Alice Twain
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I didn't travel the area with kids, but I did travel the area as a kid.
One week in Amalfi etc. could be a bit too much for your children. Aside from pompeei (which is usually a kids' favorite) the little ones might get a bit bored of the area that doesn't offer many sandy beaches. Cut your stay in the area to 3-4 days, than move north for a short stay in southern Tuscany, in the Maremma area that has nice beaches and some very interesting parks. In particular you might spend a few days in the Alberese area, lodging at one of the several agritourisms. The village of Alberese used to have a byke rental, rent bikes and use them to go to the beach (do it even if you have a car). the 25 minutes ride is very pleasant, along a traffic-free road with wheat fields, orchards, olive trees fields than, further along, across a pine wood and meadows with grazing cattle. In June I remember the incredible amount of "singing" cicadas (I have looked for the word in the dictionary, hope the dictionary isn't wrong: in Milanese dialect "cicada" means spittle ^_^) I could hear crossing the pine wood. You might spend a couple of days on the beach and another day visiting the Maremma National Park. You can visit it on your own or ask for a guide and there are also horseback and canoe itineraries offered, with or without guide.
Also you might consider visiting one of the Etruscan graveyards that you can find in the area. The most famous is maybe at Populonia, in the town of Piombino (but do not visit Piombino: it is just an industrial town and known to be the second ugliest town of Tuscany beside Quarrata).
As you move north, the young ones might spend one nice afternoon (or more) learning to knap flint while you (and probably your older kid or kids) do some sightseeing. Alfio Tomaselli, his sone and his daughter hold lessons of experimental archeology teaching kids since teha ge of three to make flint, wood, bone and ceramic objects. They live near Prato, just a few kilometers from Firenze, and they works with schools and other groups of childrem from the whole area. Also, in Firenze, bronf the kids at Museo della storia della scienza where they will see loads of ancient astronomy stuff, including the telescopes used by Galileo Galilei.
Old Jul 30th, 2002, 05:24 AM
Alice Twain
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Going north, have a one-day stop in Bologna, which is a lovely city often verlooked by tourists but with TWO leaning towers and a museum that your kids are bound to enjoy: Museo di anatomia umana has a fascinating collection of human body parts modeled in wax that were used by medicine students until the XIX century.
As you move north, and if your kids didn't have enough of history and prehistory, you might consider going all the way along Liguria to the French border to visit the caves of Balzi Rossi an Toirano. Balzi Rossi cave houman beings of the modern type lived for several thousand years, while the cave of Toirano was used by nehanderthal man and by cave bears.
In case your kids have had enough of prehhistorical things, you might move to Milano, where your kids may visit yet another science museum that allows many interesting experiences for kids of every age and the working models of Leonardo Da Vinci's machines. Another interesting visit in Lombardy is the Adda river with the impressive canyon at Paderno d'Adda crossed by a tall iron bridge, the ferry designed by Leonardo at Imbersago, the castles at Trezzo, Truccazano and Cassano, the elecrtic plants dating to the eraly years of the XX century at Calusco and the many old insutrial plants that include the village of Vrespi d'Adda, now part of Unesco World Heritage.
Old Jul 30th, 2002, 05:24 AM
Alice Twain
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Old Jul 31st, 2002, 06:07 PM
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I don't know much time you'll be able to spend in Switzerland, but we spent one night in Kandersteg on the way from Venice to Paris, and it was great! They have a chairlift and a tobaggan, and a great walk to Ochensee, which I didn't spell right, but is a gorgeous Alpine lake. My boys loved it, and so did I!
Old Aug 1st, 2002, 12:42 PM
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What a wonderful place Italy is to bring children. My husband and I brought our two children, ages 6 and 10, with us for 12 days in Italy. We based ourselves on a farmhouse in Southern Tuscany for the first week. It had a pool and small restaurant/bar. Coincidentally, there was a group staying at the farmhouse that had an artist come in from Florence to give a workshop...they invited our kids to join them and they got to paint a canvas of the Tuscan countryside. We tried to not schedule too much into each day but basically it worked out that we all slept late, went for a leisurely swim in the morning and then we would hop into the rental car to discover different villages (Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Siena) but without a strict agenda. If we saw a beautiful spot on the road we would pull over and let the kids climb, play, discover, hike, whatever. They loved the unexpected and introduced us adults to things we would have overseen. While in Montepulciano we heard an opera being sung, it turned out the local opera was practicing for a big performance...we ended up spending almost 2 hours in the opera house watching the singers practice, lose their tempers, and then sing some more. Without the kids I might have simply overlooked this experience. They must have spent 3 hours running around the main piazza in Siena while my husband and I sat at a cafe where we could watch them. Then we drove South to Naples, got on the ferry to Capri and spent 3 nights at Villa Brunella. Lounging by the pool, walking down to the water, eating gelato, window shopping, very low key. The kids spent more time playing with the 4 resident cats and one resident dog at the Villa Brunella. Everywhere we went people took the kids 'under their wing', they were invited to go into the kitchen to help make gnocchi, to taste a cake, etc. Our last night was spent in Rome with only enough time to see the Trevi fountain and spend the evening at Piazza Navona, had portrait done of the kids by one of the artists (at the kids' request), watched the street performers clown around, kids had a blast. And my daughter, who loves shopping was enchanted that Benneton was so inexpensive in Italy. Overall, what the kids remember most is not what they saw but the people they met and the experiences they had. Since my husband and I have been to Italy twice before we didn't feel the pressure to see everything and go to all the hot spots allowing us to slow down and enjoy the Italian life with our kids.
Old Aug 1st, 2002, 02:55 PM
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We took two of our nephews to Italy last summer, aged 12 and 13. The challenge for you will be finding things to do for the entire age range you have with you. Also the younger ones will have much less stamina than the oldest.

That having been said, we found that the kids like big stuff. Weather it is big in the sense of the coloseum and Pompei, or big in the sense of an activity (like taking them to their first opera), bigger was better. Just looking at the countryside or at a small church got responses of can we go yet. But climbing up a hill town to visit the castle always was good for a big response.

The guys loved Pompei, Oplontis and Paestum. They also loved the Museo Arcologio in Naples. Given all there is to do in Baia, Cumae, Solferata as well as Massa Lubrense I would not hesitate to spend a week in Sorrento or Massa Lubrense. I don't think I would spend time in Positao or Ravello etc as they were not big favorites with the kids.

Toscana and Firenze were more of a challenge. Again, driving from town to town or visiting the local churches were not a lot of fun for the guys. Pisa was a major hit as was the David in Firenze. The Duono and S Riparta underneath were "cool" as was Santa Croce because they "got to stand on dead people!". San Gim and Voltera were winners although they did not like the Eturscan museum in Voltera but loved the Roman baths and amphiteater. I would have gone to the oboli gardens and done more Oltra'Arno in retrospect. We only visited Firenze on a day trip and one day was enough for them.

They loved the Etruscan ruins we saw and we could have done a lot more with that.

In Rome, they loved anything Roman- the coloseo, terme di Caracalla, Foro Romano and Palantino, Campo di Fiori (stop at il Forno di Campo di Fiori for Pizze Rosse to eat while walking around). They liked the Vatican. We took a tour which they liked as it made for a quicker visit than if Aunt Kay and Uncle Dean were in charge. We did not have time to go to Ostia Antica or Villa Adriana and I am sure those would have been big hits.

The guys did one thing very well and that was eat. We made a rule that no one could say eeeewwww or gross when someone ordered something different. It turned out that they both were extremely adventurour eaters. One took a liking to alici (marinated raw anchovies) and the other fell in love with cingale and other game. They also loved stopping at caffe for cappucino or spremuta (fresh juice) and a panini. They also loved having a sip or two of wine. The highlight for one of them was a meal in Sorrento where the waiter gave him his own glass of limoncello.

We gave each of them a budget for their own gifts and souveniers. Each of them brought the same amount of money and we doled it out as needed. They had to pay for their own snacks if it was something American. If it was Italian we paid for it. They both went without McDonalds and Cokes the entire 2 weeks! They both did not spend a lot the first week and had a lot left over the second which eld to a lot of knick knack buying of junk the last few days in Roma.

Gelato was a huge hit. We did let them wander a bit by themselves which was quite nerve racking but they loved it. We figured that their parents would not be too angry if we lost the kids in Italy......
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