This summer we’re going to the Italian island of Sicily for our family holiday and I can’t wait. We’ve been to Italy more than any other place on family trips and that’s not just because we have dear friends and relatives there (my husband is a London-born Sicilian and I once worked as an English teacher in Piedmont). It’s because Italy is an all-round fabulous and great place to go with children. Here’s why.
Italians love kids
I know that this is a huge generalisation and that there will be some Italians who can’t stand children but……Italians do love kids and are very indulgent towards them. I’ve never been anywhere in Italy and felt that my children weren’t welcome. I’ve been in Italian restaurants several times where crying babies have been whisked off to be cooed over in the kitchen. This is in contrast both to England, where I once saw a waiter ask a family to leave a restaurant because their baby was crying and another couple had complained, and to France, where a friend and her children were turned away from a restaurant because children weren’t allowed in (although dogs were).
Italians respect mothers
If you’ve ever felt invisible since becoming a mum then go to Italy: mothers are hugely respected there. On a recent press trip to Sicily my group ate at a wonderful family-run agriturismo (a kind of farm restaurant) one evening. We tasted many different dishes and at the end of the meal the chef came out of the kitchen to join us. She was a cheerful, grey-haired lady, probably in her sixties and as she sat down she smiled expansively, looked around at all of us and pronounced, confidently: ‘Io sono la madre’ which means ‘I am the mother’. Her meaning was clear: I’m the centre of all of this, the family, the meal and the farm. She expected, and received, congratulations simply for being ‘the mother’. I can’t imagine this happening in England.
If you prefer your children to eat healthy, seasonal, locally-produced food then Italy is the place for you because that’s how most Italians seem to eat anyway. The Slow Food movement (aiming to defend good food and a slow pace of life) began in Italy. If your children are fussy eaters then most restaurants cook everything from scratch and are happy to adapt dishes to particular tastes. And there’s always something on offer which your kids will eat – have you ever met a child who doesn’t like pasta or pizza or home-made gelato?
Wherever you go in Italy you come across something of cultural or historical importance so that your children are bound to absorb something educationally useful just by being there. Practically the whole country seems to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. When we visit our relatives in Sicily we drive past the famous ancient Greek temples at Agrigento on our way to the beach, for goodness sake. There are ancient remains of things all over Italy and sometimes you find them when you’re not even looking for them: I saw a Roman mosaic in the middle of a dusty pavement on a recent trip.
Italy is a beautiful and diverse country geographically. It has many different types of beaches along its coastline and much of the country is mountainous. Its highest point is Mont Blanc in the north while Mount Etna on the island of Sicily in the south is Europe’s largest active volcano. This means that it offers great opportunities for all sorts of family activities from beach trips to skiing to hiking to adventurous sports.
Do you think Italy is a good travel destination for families with kids? What do you like – or not like – about Italy?