The roads from Rome
Full of food, fun and wonder, Italy is always an ideal family destination. Amelia Hungerford looks to the experts for the best kid-friendly journeys from Rome and beyond.
I understand. Rome can seem overwhelming — so many ruins, so many museums — and once you add the rest of Italy… Well, sometimes it’s best to leave these things to the experts, especially if you’re a first-timer with children in tow. Instead of worrying about fitting everything in and booking train tickets in Italian, let the professionals look after everything so all you have to do is create memorable family moments in some of the world’s most spectacular locations.
Keep things simple with six nights in the capital, all coordinated by Italian specialists, Italy Vacations. Rome has much to offer families, whether their interests are history or culture, sport or food. Italy Vacations’ ‘Roman Adventure’ itinerary packs all of this and more into a family-friendly stay that gives you time to really discover the Eternal City. The kids will get a taste of Ancient Rome with visits to historical sites that have intrigued generations of travellers, including tours of the Colosseum (or should that be the Flavian Amphitheatre?), the ruins of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. This itinerary also includes a day trip to bella Tuscany to sample the region’s culinary delights and golden landscapes, as well as a full-day excursion to the ash-preserved heart of the city of Pompeii, where you can even clamber to the top of the still-active Mt Vesuvius.
No trip to Rome is complete without a foray into the Vatican – you’ll be surprised by how much the kids love its stories of intrigue and scandal – where you can skip the line for an intimate group tour through the museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
There’s also plenty of time for family explorations, with free afternoons and optional tours to truly take in Rome’s unforgettable vibrancy. Throw three coins into the Trevi Fountain (right arm over left shoulder) to ensure your return before climbing the Spanish Steps for some play time in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, or seek out the delicious Roman specialty Carciofi alla Giuda – deep-fried artichokes – under the garlic-hung ceiling of Giggetto al Portico D’Ottavia.
Gladiators and gelato
A family trip to Italy is all about the hands-on details. Don a tunic and pick up a wooden sword for an exhilarating afternoon at the Gladiator School along the Appian Way or let the flour fly with a pizza-making class (tastings are, of course, obligatory). Go behind the scenes with a gelateria tour or marvel at some of the world’s greatest masterpieces with an art historian at your side. Whatever your family’s interests, you’ll find there’s a tour to accommodate your wildest dreams.
Of course, Rome is only the start. Although you can easily spend a week or a month (or a year) treading its well-worn cobblestone paths, all of Italy is calling. Abercrombie & Kent’s deluxe seven-night journey will introduce your family to Tuscany as well as Rome, with three nights in the Renaissance metropolis of Florence.
Home to the infamous Medici family, Florence is the ultimate destination for art lovers and old-school romantics alike. Kids, however, will be drawn to this Renaissance city for its love of gelato and their chance to re-enact its illustrious history (complete with costumes) at the Children’s Museum at the Palazzo Vecchio. Galileo’s scientific discoveries are brought to life at his museum, and you can even view his gilded middle finger encased in glass. To round out your Tuscan adventure, take a photo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa before discovering the secrets of ‘Chocolate Valley’.
Enter a world of Venetian splendour with Trafalgar’s 10-day family adventure from Rome to the Adriatic. ‘Gladiators, Gondolas and Gold’ will introduce your family to the best that Italy’s three most famous cities have to offer, from a day at Rome’s Gladiator School to masterpieces and gelato in Florence. You’ll pass through Bologna to visit Europe’s oldest university – be sure to grab a plate of tagliatelle with ragù alla bolognese – before arriving on the canals of Venice in the afternoon. This magical city is sure to capture any child’s imagination with boats and gondolas meandering through the waterways and the pigeon-crowded Piazza San Marco. You’ll see the art of glass-blowing first-hand before delving into Carnival culture with the chance to make your own elaborate mask. Try to draw young boys away from the Armoury in the Doge’s Palace; with so many weapons and suits of armour to view, it will prove an almighty challenge.
If your idea of a family holiday involves plenty of sun-soaked adventure and dramatic landscapes, eschew museums and churches and journey from Rome to Sorrento with Tauck Bridges’ six-night itinerary, ‘The Sweet Life’, suitable for families with kids over eight. As well as visiting the ruins of Circus Maximus, the Gladiator School and the eerie catacombs of San Callisto in Rome, you’ll also dance the tarantella and learn the art of pizza making in the countryside of Sorrento. The kids will love arriving to Capri by jet boat and spending the day touring the island in a convertible, before sampling Sorrento’s frozen treats as you wander the city’s winding pathways. Discover Amalfi with a hair-raising drive along its twisting coastline and a pleasure cruise to soothe the nerves. After all that excitement, the kids will never look at coastal retreats the same way.
Beyond the borders
Combining an Italian escape with a European tour is a popular choice. Retrace the path of poetic Grand European Tours of old with a journey from Rome to Paris with a 10-day itinerary from Globus. ‘From the Colosseum to the Eiffel Tower’ allows families to experience Rome’s history in less than an hour at the Time Elevator, explore Florence’s Renaissance history and enter Venice aboard a private boat. You’ll float along on a gondola and live the high life in the Italian Lake District before crossing the Simplon Pass (and musing on Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’) into Switzerland. Board the Cogwheel Mountain Train in Täsch to view the Matterhorn’s sublimity from Zermatt as you journey on to the edge of Lake Geneva, where chocolate sampling is a must. Paris is your final stop, where you’ll scale the heights of the Eiffel Tower and count the gargoyles of Notre Dame’s cathedral. It’s a whirlwind trip the kids will never forget, taking in the sights that have enticed travellers and families for centuries.
If you threw your coins into the Trevi Fountain correctly, you’ll be back to discover Italy again and again.