Ask any avid family traveller, 'Where’s the best place that you've visited with your children?' and we bet the answer will be somewhere in Italy.
It’s no secret that Italy is an incredibly (and deservedly so) popular destination for holiday-makers of all stripes. Yes it can be crazily busy, unbearably hot and super expensive – all factors most families don’t often put on the top of their wishlist for a trip.
The beauty of Italy is that there are many amazing places to explore. With a bit of planning, your family can easily leave the crowds behind to find somewhere with temperatures you can handle and prices that won’t break the family bank. But what exactly is the magic ingredient that makes the Bel Paeseso so enduringly popular with families?
When Italians say ‘child-friendly’ they really mean it
As any parent or carer knows, travelling with kids can be stressful. Little people are often noisier, less patient and find it harder to control their emotions than grown-ups. Whereas some cultures frown upon children expressing themselves, in Italy they are positively encouraged to do so.
This means kids are welcome to run around ancient sites, are greeted with true warmth when they enter restaurants, cafes and shops and are actively encouraged to make the most of all of Italy’s attractions whether that’s a world-famous museum, a hill to climb or a beach to frolic on.
For the accompanying adult, this approach works wonders for your own experiences – in Italy you can truly relax and enjoy both being a parent and the buzz of exploring somewhere new.
It’s a hands-on history lesson
From the temples of Sicily and the ruins of Pompeii to the industrial cities of the north, via a capital which needs no introduction, a trip to Italy is one enormous lesson about the past. And the best bit is that you can now explore these fascinating sites using a range of fun-focussed activities – including everything from high-tech gadgets to old-fashioned, self-guided tours – to help your young people in understanding life as it once was.
Become gladiators for the day in the Colosseum, take a family tour round Milan’s Castello Sforzesco and learn about frescoes through augmented-reality glasses in San Gimignano’s Palazzo Communale, and that’s just for starters.
It’s easy for kids to eat, drink and the whole family be merry
Speaking of starters, food is such an important component of any family trip, and feeding children in Italy really is a dream. If your kids love pizza, pasta and ice cream you are golden and can make the most of finding restaurants where you can be adventurous while the kids are happily sated.
Even if they don’t like or can’t eat these child-friendly staples, you can easily find menus with a wide variety of options. Visiting local markets to create your own meals that everyone will tuck into is also a joy.
Go a step further and book one of the many family cooking courses available throughout Italy. There’s nothing like learning skills together to cement the family bond, and recreating your culinary masterpieces at home is a lovely way to keep the holiday alive.
There are activities for all ages
Wherever you are in Italy there are easy ways to get your family active. Base yourself in the Dolomites or Alps for your adrenalin-addicted teens, where they can go mountain-biking, canyoning, skiing and many more vaguely terrifying activities.
Build sandcastles on the beach and learn the joys of passiegata with a toddler in the coastal towns of Sicily and Sardinia. Hire bikes, rent a canoe or simply enjoy frollicking in the water with younger children in the Italian Lakes.
Italy’s natural landscape is so varied that with a little bit of research you can easily find somewhere that will suit all your family’s needs – and that includes the grandparents wanting gentle hiking options if you are going for a multi-generational trip.
It’s affordable and easy to get around
While you can pay eye-watering prices if you want to (especially in the cities and some of the much-hyped coastal areas such as the Amalfi Coast), the fact that Italy is so popular with tourists means that there are a huge number of options for places to stay and eat, which often brings prices down.
In the countryside, families make the most of agriturismi (rural farmstays), which often have fun activities for kids on site as well as the chance to learn all about local farming practices. Cities are usually more expensive but there are plenty of self-catering options to help keep costs down.
As long as you don’t set yourself the challenge of travelling from Sicily all the way to Switzerland in one go, moving between places is relatively straight-forward with an extensive train network and roads that are better than their international reputation would have you believe.
You can keep the whole family happy
By their nature, families are groups of people with varying and different needs, so finding a holiday destination that works for all can be a challenge – especially if you have a large age range to cater for.
Italy often fits the bill for families with disparate interests because you can easily combine different elements. For example, you can take a culturally immersive city break, and then spend some time in a villa with a pool in the countryside (basing yourself in regions like Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio are good for this). Or you can get active with a hike one day and then hang out on the beach the next (try Sardinia, the Lakes, Campania if this is how your family functions).
There’s plenty of inspiration for budding creatives
If your child loves to paint, draw, sculpt or create art in any form then chances are you’ve already thought about a trip to one of the great artistic centres of Florence, Rome or Venice. The major museums and galleries can get super busy so booking online, going early and where possible joining a family tour can be a good way to help avoid fatiguing the little ones.
Most places in Italy reward bringing sketch pads, but for children who prefer to write stories there are some fantastic places to explore for ideas. The ruins of Pompeii, Pisa’s famous tower, the catacombs of Palermo and the volcanoes of Sicily all feature riveting stories for kids to scribble into their journals.
If you are now ready to book your next trip to Italy, we have more advice and specific recommendations on our comprehensive page on travelling with children in Italy as well as ways to explore Rome with your kids.