Gennaro's guide to Italy for families

Thinking of a family holiday with children? You certainly can’t go wrong with Italy! Probably one of the most child-friendly places on this planet, your bambino will be made to feel welcome anywhere and made a fuss of.  Italians love children and children will love Italy!  

Whether you’re looking for a beach or lakeside holiday, a rural retreat or sightseeing in one of Italy’s fabulous cities, I can guarantee your children will love all things Italian and there will be lots to keep them entertained and interested.  

If you’re opting for the beach, the majority of resorts from north to south are ideal for a leisurely family holiday. On the Adriatic side, the Lido di Jesolo, outside Venice, and the Riviera just south of Bologna have been popular with families returning year after year. On the Mediterranean side, Tuscany’s lively coast with the charming resort of Viareggio is a popular destination.   

From personal experience, Minori and Maiori on the Amalfi Coast are ideal – not only did I spend my childhood there, but both resorts are small, safe and have a family feel to them. I’ve been taking my girls to Minori since they were babies and even as teens they still love it, with added trips to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.  

A little further south, you find the quieter Cilento coast. Its wide sandy beaches make it a firm favourite among many Italian families. We had a couple of lovely family holidays there, building sandcastles on Palinuro beach, taking boat trips and enjoying the evening passeggiata (stroll) along the seafront.

The island of Sardinia, with its stunning white sandy beaches and crystalline waters, is a complete getaway. Opting for one of the hotels in the Forte Village Resort, with its vast range of activities and entertainment, has to be one of the most perfect family holidays.   

If you want to experience the lakes, then Garda is a favourite with children, with its choice of lakeside beaches and excellent water sports, and (for the more adventurous) rock climbing and mountain biking. And all children will just love Gardaland – Italy’s largest theme park – where my girls can’t wait to go later this year!

If it’s a city break you are after, then you can’t go wrong with Italy’s capital.  From the Colosseum to the Catacombs there is really so much to see and do in Rome that the kids won’t get bored. However, don’t rush things (you can always return!) and instead, do as the Romans do – take a break in the city’s largest gardens, Parco della Villa Borghese, where the kids can run around and let off steam while parents can relax under the shady trees with perhaps a picnic. With playgrounds, museums, cafés, stalls, a boating lake, bike rentals, a zoo and much more, make this your Roman go-to haven when you want a break from sightseeing.

Venice is just as magical for kids as it is for adults. Kids of all ages will love the city built on water and when my girls went they just loved it from the minute they arrived, waiting for the water bus from the airport – I must admit it has to be one of the best ways to arrive anywhere!  They enjoyed walking around the mysterious little alleyways, climbing up the loggia of St. Mark’s Basilica to see the life-sized copper horses, and just enjoyed the canals and pretty bridges.  And, of course, a trip on a gondola is not just for romantic couples, kids will love the experience too! 

With pizza and pasta on offer everywhere, it is no wonder Italian food is a winner with kids. I remember one summer holiday, when my daughter Olivia was much younger, she managed to eat pizza for lunch and dinner every day! You may find a lot of pizzerias close for lunch and only cook in the evenings, especially during the summer, when using a wood-fired oven during the day is just too hot. As an alternative, look out for kiosks selling pizza al taglio – slices of pizza which are great for a snack on the go. Also look out for rosticcerie selling excellent takeaway food like arancini and panzerotti which kids will love. And don’t forget gelato in a multitude of flavours served in the many excellent gelaterie all over Italy.

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