The best family holiday ideas in Italy
By Mark Frary
There are just so many reasons why it makes sense to take the family on holiday to Italy. As any parent will know, getting the kids to eat while away can be a huge challenge and make the difference between a successful trip and a nightmare. Yet with pasta and pizza being standard family fare at home, Italy is on to a winner.
It’s not just the food. It may be a cliché but Italians love children, and this makes it so much easier to go there when you know that having children in tow is not going to be an issue.
Then there is the country itself. Italy has it all – breathtaking landscapes, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, villas with gorgeous swimming pools, a rich history and activities from sailing to via ferrata, skiing to windsurfing to keep even the liveliest wire happy.
It’s no wonder that 25 million Brits enjoyed holidays in Italy last year.
Family activity holidays in Italy
Italy stretches from the Alps and the Italian Lakes in the north to the Mediterranean in the south, with the Apennines forming the country’s backbone. All of this makes Italy the perfect destination for adventure-seeking families.
The island of Elba is a great spot for sporty families. Powder Byrne runs its PB Sports Academies on the island, combining luxury accommodation with tennis and football academies, adventure groups and scuba-diving.
If hiking is your thing, Sardinia has a large number of trails. Sardatur offers a range of holidays in Sardinia where you can combine access to hiking trails with a spot of luxury.
Italy also offers the opportunity to scale volcanoes. Families Worldwide offers a Vesuvius & Pompeii tour (5-15 yrs), based in Sorrento. It offers the chance to walk up to Mount Vesuvius, visit some of Italy’s finest ancient sites and sights from the secrets of Pompeii as well as learning to make pasta and tiramisu.
Family villa holidays in Italy
It’s easy to stereotype the Italian villa but they come in an incredible range of sizes, shapes and former uses. There are the rural retreats of wealthy Florentines but also former olive farms, cosy cottages and even the former residences of dukes to choose from. Oliver’s Travels has something for everyone, whether you are a family of just three or an extended family of 40 or more. The beautiful Italian Lakes in the north and Puglia and Umbria offer an incredible range of places to stay. Many of their villas come with Oliver’s Extras, such as cookery classes, free ironing and more.
Of all Italy’s regions, Tuscany can perhaps lay claim to being the most family-friendly and it is no surprise that it is a place that parents return to again and again for a chilled out holiday with amazing food, culture and rolling scenery. Vintage Travel has a stunning collection of villas, with from two to nine bedrooms, handy for Florence, Lucca and Siena and more rural Tuscany, all with a private pool.
Family holidays in the south of Italy
Italy’s south is like a different country from the north, in large part due to the strength of the Mediterranean sun.
Puglia, Italy’s heel, is renowned for its whitewashed hill towns and trulli, stone huts with conical roofs, and as a quieter alternative to the hectic highs of Tuscany. It also has some of the country’s best food and wine, from simple cucina povera (poor kitchen) dishes to the excellent value wines of Salento.
Why not stay in one of the region’s fabulous family hotels with Sardatur? The Hotel del Levante is a modern family-friendly hotel which offers great value. There’s a private beach club and kids’ entertainment including a mini-club for younger children. The four-star Gattarella Resort has a kids club which includes a Trends Club for older teenagers – plenty of water sports on site also help make this a great choice for families with children of all ages.
The region around Naples and the Amalfi Coast offers a clever compromise between the different needs of family members. Explore the Isle of Capri and the romantic Amalfi Coast as well as taking time out to tramp around historic Pompeii and up to Mount Vesuvius.
Rome holidays with children
School history can be very dry but the era of the gladiators can be brought to life with a holiday in Italy’s capital. With Family Twist, you can take the children to visit historic locations such as the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus plus a gladiator school in the city to give them a taste of the real thing (somewhat safer than it used to be in Roman times).
Kirker has been specialising in luxury short breaks to classic European cities for 30 years and has great offers at perfect family hotels such as the four-star deluxe d’Inghilterra, arguably Rome’s best located hotel by the famous Spanish Steps. Special Kirker touches include entrance to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. The Kirker Concierge can book activities and excursions for all the family as well as a babysitter for the evening or restaurant reservations.
Apartments can work out brilliantly for families staying in cities like Rome – no worrying about upsetting other guests, you can operate to your own timetable and there is plenty of space to spread out. Crossing Condotti, a converted townhouse, has its own one-bed apartment with two showers rooms, a living-dining area (with sofabed), a kitchen and a galleried snug, meaning you can fit a family of five. There is also a great concierge service.
Family Twist has hand-picked hotels and apartments that are perfect for families in Rome and the company can even organise a pasta-making course for you and the kids. The Vatican is one of the top attractions of the city and Family Twist has organised special walking tours for families, with no waiting in line.
Family holidays in Sicily and Sardinia
Sicily and Sardinia, the Med’s two largest islands, have much in common, from stunning sandy beaches and rugged interiors to incredible food and masses of culture. As island holidays go, these are right up there.
Sicily, the ball to Italy’s boot, has much to offer families. There is the excitement of being in the shadow of Mt Etna and the opportunity to sail among the volcanic Aeolian Islands. Sicily is also hot on history – take the kids to the Villa Romana del Casale to see its spectacular mosaics.
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, part of the exclusive Rocco Forte collection, sits on two miles of glorious coastline with a huge range of motorised and non-motorised watersports and hotel facilities include a two-tier swimming pool, a tennis academy and Juventus Camp football academy.
The complimentary “Verdu” kids’ club is open daily for children aged four to 12, whilst teenagers have their own activity programmes. Babies and toddlers are catered for with myriad special touches, from non-slip bath mats to hooded towels – even rubber ducks! Babysitting is also available (payable locally).
Sardinia isn’t short of family hotels but arguably the perfect family retreat is the Forte Village, a private estate of 55 acres dotted with pine trees and exotic gardens. The resort, located on one of Sardinia’s most amazing pristine white sand beaches, is sheltered by a range of rugged hills. The village has impressive sports and leisure facilities, including the Chelsea Football Academy, the Greenwood Rugby Academy and the Tennis Academy run by Thomas Enqvist. It also has an excellent spa, swimming pools, and a huge array of bars and restaurants (including a Gordon Ramsay).
On Sardinia’s north east coast you will find the five-star, family-friendly Hotel Valle dell’Erica – La Licciola. Surrounded by gorgeous coves and set in lush gardens, it’s a family-friendly gem, with a spectacular Thalasso and Spa Centre for grown-up pampering.
Published: 15 December 2016