Keep your kids active, engaged and begging to go back to Italy with these 10 ways for the entire family to experience the country.
There’s a nasty rumor circulating that Italy is not a place to take young children. Sure, museums can be boring. But even grown-ups can get restless having to view 18 versions of the “Madonna and Child.” The best way to keep Italy exciting is to keep moving and make it fun from the perspective of the younger jet set. So for your children, and the child in us all, consider succumbing to fewer grown-up flights of fancy and experience Italy in a way the entire family can savor.
Leonardo da Vinci's “Last Supper” is a must for any family-oriented Northern Italian getaway. You’re only allowed in the climate-controlled environment for 15 minutes, so it’s a quick visit. Plus, Leonardo painted it on a wall, something every child is told not to do. Sell it from that forbidden angle, and you’ll have to race your kids to the door. Admission is €6.50 per person (roughly $10.20). Open Mon.-Fri. 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sat.9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. www.cenacolovinciano.org/english/index.html
Milan’s second recommended offering is right down the street at the National Museum of Science and Technology. Exhibits brilliantly present the quirky mix of science as both artistic and practical by juxtaposing Leonardo’s right and left brain. There are life-sized replicas of some of his most notable inventions; children can operate versions of a drilling machine, cannon, parachute and even an automobile. Even though the models are in simple form, it’s still fascinating to understand the early workings of some of our most sophisticated modern-day machines. Admission is €6.00 for parents and €3.00 for each child with them (roughly $9.40 and $4.70, respectively). Open Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., weekends and holidays 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
If your children inquire further about Leonardo da Vinci, you might consider taking them a few miles outside of Florence to Vinci and a second museum dedicated to the artist. The Museo Leonardiano di Vinci, too, has replicas of the artist’s inventions. Plus this Leonardo da Vinci museum is housed in a castle. And that’s infinitely cool. Cost is €6.00 (roughly $9.40) per person. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Know what else is cool in Florence? Gelato. Florence is considered to have the best gelato in Italy. No argument here. Handing out an “assignment” to find the smoothest and creamiest gelato in town gives your kids a tasty treat to look forward to every day (or in our case, after every meal). There are oodles of gelato stands with more flavors than you could ever taste. They’re all wonderful. I could tell you my favorite, but where’s the fun in that?
If you visit in the summertime, Arte al Sole offers budding artists ages 6 to 17 a week of fun based on the artistic findings of the Italian Renaissance. The camp is run by instructors from the United States and reflects a day-camp style that your children will find familiar. Arte al Sole promises that children will have exciting and engaging activities in art history, fine arts principles, nature walks, sketching and painting, and collage. They’ll stay busy for the entire week. Drop them off on your way to more adult fun in Tuscany. Prices start at €210 per week (roughly $329.80).
If your children are too young to simply drop off for a week, or if you’d prefer a shorter artistic experience, take a drive or train ride to Siena and to Bambimus. Siena's child-centered art museum has it all; it’s located in the center of town, is endlessly appealing and is free of charge. Bambimus introduces children under 11 years old to a myriad of visual arts. Its workshops are also quite popular but do require a fee. Open daily, from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
If you think everything cool in Rome pre-dates Caesar, think again. The sparkling new Time Elevator is quickly becoming one of Rome's most popular destinations for families. This funky history lesson on a slick time machine (by way of special effect chairs), allows your children to strap in and learn about Rome through a virtual reality, jam-packed, multi-sensory experience. The 45-minute show runs daily. Adults €12, children €9 (roughly $18.85 and $14.15, respectively). www.timeelevator.it
Another Rome treat is the colorful and eclectic Museo Exploa. The first Italian museum created just for bambinos and bambinas is inventive and mapped out according to different aspects of culture, including society, environment and communication. That may sound a little dry, but it’s not. Your child will create, learn, and experience Italy with their hands, feet, and head. They’ll traverse through a quirky supermarket, an enormous mouth and even a gas station. The museum is so confident your children will have more fun that you that they charge an additional euro for kids. Adults €6 and €7 for children (roughly $9.40 and $11.00, respectively). Each visit lasts 1 hour, 45 minutes. Check mdbr.it/inglese for a detailed list of tour departure times and days.
The history of the Venetian Mask industry is nearly as colorful as the masks themselves. Back in 1980s, a group of college students came up with the novel idea to resurrect the art of mask making and began Ca' Macana. Although mask making has deep roots in the culture of Venice, the reemergence of the design artisanship was ultimately due to the demand of tourists—mostly children and families. Ca' Macana has many studios across the city, so chances are there will be one near your hotel. Popular masks include Pagliaccio (a clown) and Zanni (an old servant). They’re very reasonable, but you must contact them for prices and to reserve a space.
The Genoa Aquarium houses one of the largest collection of marine inhabitants in Europe. The aquarium boasts over 70 tanks and more than 6,000 animals. It’s massive even to a grown-up. Although it may not inspire you from the outside, one step inside and the beauty of sea life will engulf your senses. Large, virtual walls of water greet visitors with the soothing sounds of waves as they work their way toward a series of reproduced natural environments. The Caribbean coral reef, complete with its dazzling neon-colored fish, is absolutely enchanting. www.acquariodigenova.it [Please note, the site is in Italian only.]
A good article for the parents to involve the kids in some thing so that they do not irritate them on holidays. Also the kids will really enjoy it to do. Thanks, Top 10 holiday destinations
We sent our 8-year-old daughter to the English-language art camp, Arte al Sole, in Umbria last summer. It was held in a historic farmhouse in the hills, on a large estate near Lake Trasimeno. We all really enjoyed it. The fun programme included botanical walks and nature sketches, an Italian cooking lesson, studying the fresco technique and going to the nearby Museum of Glass for a glass-decorating workshop. In the meantime, parents could visit this beautiful and very interesting area bordering Tuscany: important art cities (Assisi and Gubbio), characteristic mediaeval hamlets (Montepulciano and Città della Pieve), and delicious restaurants! The year before we had been to the same programme in Lucca, and had a great time visiting this truly beautiful town in the north of Tuscany and its surroundings. This is the perfect way for visiting Italy and providing fun and interesting activities in English for our kids!
Kid couldn't have said it better This is soooo true. Even with cities known for their family-friendly activities, kids easily get bored doing the same things. Great perspective for how to get them out of the "do i have to?" mindset
Nice Article Must Read