What makes a destination family friendly? How do you choose the location for your next family holiday?
Is it the availability of cots in hotels and high chairs in restaurants, the amount of children entertainment available, the attitude of the locals towards families with kids?
I believe the answer to this questions is different for each parent and changes with the age of your kids. When you Travel with Children specific equipment is more or less useful depending how young or old the kids are and so is the availability of children friendly activities or establishments.
In this post, I have written 9 reasons why I think Italy is family friendly and why I often go there with my kids (and why I would, even if I wasn’t Italian). I know these reasons are personal and I’d love to hear how you choose a family friendly destination: if you feel like sharing, please leave me a comment!
9 reasons why Italy is perfect for a family vacation
I believe it is possible to bring kids to museums. I actually think you should bring them, at least some of the time, and make museums something they are interested in. But sometimes it is difficult to avoid a stand-off over what to do.
You know how it happens: you are outside the main gate of the museum, with your guidebook and tickets in hand, when your child starts screaming they want to go get ice cream and they want to get it NOW. You get frustrated, they get frustrated and no matter how you handle it, chances are your morning is pretty much ruined.
It’s a scene almost any parent has experienced at least once, on holiday, but I believe in Italy the dilemma is easier to solve than in other countries. In most Italian cities art is everywhere: churches, palazzi, historical piazze ARE often the main reason to visit cities and they can be enjoyed while licking ice cream, running around or watching street performers. Siena, Lucca, even Florence or Rome will cater for all family members and the time spent wandering around will make the kids more prone to accepting the actual museum, when you feel like visiting one.
2. Ease of transport. This might surprise many, but in Italy, the train system works really well and it is easy to get around without having to rent a car and endure hours of ‘are we there yet?’. Trains offer various solutions for families and young children often travel free of charge. The usually well equipped trains make journeys pleasant and running up and down the corridors, munching on the train snacks and playing table top games make even long stretches manageable. Just be patient with their super frustrating website!
3. The food is amazing and very healthy for adults and kids. Italian food is famous and the Mediterranean diet is listed among the healthiest in the world. Indeed, Italian food is fresh and tasty: pasta comes in, literally, all shapes and sizes and you’ll be surprised how much fruit and vegetables your kids will eat as part of a pasta dish, a colorful caprese or fruit salad.
Italy also has great bakeries with fresh bread and pizza, which makes a lovely healthy snack mid-morning or afternoon. Should your child miss more familiar food, just ask for cotoletta alla milanese and pure’ and you’ll have the Italian version of chicken goujons and mash!
4. Italians are friendly and very helpful to people with children.
I understand this is a huge generalisation, but I am always pleasantly surprised by how good people are to me when I have my kids with me. People open doors for me and the buggy, bakeries give me slices of pizza for the children free of charge and everybody helps when the inevitable random step or pothole stops the buggy on its way. Italy is not structurally perfect (far from it), but people know it and come to the rescue.
5. The weather is amazing, especially if you go there in the milder months such as spring and autumn. Italian summers are pretty hot, but not so hot that you can’t enjoy the outdoors with the kids. If you are there in the height of summer, just do like the Italians: get shelter during the hottest hours (in a shaded patio, an outdoor terrace with sun umbrellas, or try get a snooze at home) and make the most of the mild evenings going for a stroll before or after dinner. Italian kids tend to go to bed pretty late and you’ll be surprised how many families with kids are in the playground at 7 pm or later, especially in seaside towns.
6. The distances are limited and easy to manage. Italy is a very diverse country, but you don’t need to travel across long stretches to visit many of its treasures. Many areas are real clusters of art and historical towns and you can touch on many destinations even with short day trips from strategic base points. Cities, sea and mountains are all near each other, so if you feel like escaping the city crowds, you can do it with ease.
7. Mostly safe coastline. Italy has a long coastline and most of it is safe and easily accessible to families, children and buggies, without strong winds or currents.
Depending on your taste and age of your children, you can choose between beaches made of sand or pebbles or more rugged rocky coast lines, usually not so far from each other to make your decision final.
I do anyway recommend to check the specs of each specific locality as of course there are exceptions to this.
8. No shortage of baby equipment. I like to travel light, but this means that sometimes I find myself having to buy things once abroad (beach toys, clothes, soother, you name it). Italy is very well equipped for children and shops and supermarkets are everywhere. One thing to be aware of is that many children things are sold in pharmacies (nappies, creams, certain foods, natural remedies etc), which are still very much at the centre of the life of many a small town!
9. Lots of children activities. If you and your kids enjoy theme parks, water parks, sports activities and entertainment, Italy offers you endless choices. Family hotels and beach resorts offer entertainment for all ages and both all-inclusive and more independent travel options are available, from camping to 4 star resorts.
What do you look for, when planning a family holiday? Do you have a favourite place, in Italy, that you would recommend to families with children? Mine is this!
I’d love to hear your take on it, please leave a comment below.