When planning a child-friendly holiday that will suit the whole family, there really cannot be a better destination than Italy. There is so much to see and do making it one that suits any age.
The best and most economical way to see Italy, especially in a family, is to rent a self-catering apartment or villa in a country area for a week. Even though the accommodation comes with a kitchen, it doesn’t mean you need to use it as there are an abundance of restaurants but often being able to have the familiar snacks and food on hand will contribute an enormous comfort factor for your children.
Not only do you have plenty more space renting a villa or apartment in Italy than taking hotel bedrooms, this type of self-catering holiday offers you privacy and freedom. There are no schedules or timetables for meals and you can come and go as you please. And, not forgetting, there is no morning urgency to secure a lounger or your place by the pool as the pool is all yours and private; perfect for relaxing or keeping your children safely entertained. Kids can watch early morning children’s programs on television (they don’t seem to notice which language cartoons are in) and Mums and Dads can have that after dinner quiet time, all in peace and privacy.
For people travelling with young babies, it is worth putting a used pillow slip or blanket in with your packing to provide the comforting smell and feel of home, even if the property is provided with a cot or crib.
Whichever part of Italy you want to see, the regions are jam packed with things to do and experience - you will be spoilt for choice! Each night when you return to the same place and each morning when you wake up in the same beds, your children will relish the familiarity.
The whole family will find it more relaxing to be in the country with day trips to the city rather than the other way around. Most accommodation comes with a swimming pool or at least a garden or terrace, so cultural excursions can be balanced relaxation time back at the accommodation.
Meals in restaurants are much more fun than the UK; most Italians love children and will bend over backwards to welcome them and it is not frowned upon to take children out to a restaurant, piazza or bar in the evening. Over the summer, Italian children often stay up late as there is no school.
Many country restaurants also have lovely gardens or spacious piazzas where the children can play within eyesight, whilst the parents finish their wine.
One of the biggest challenges for any parent is how to get a dose of city culture. There are guide books for older children (such as those by Dorling Kindersley), which provide simple low downs, suggested itineraries and lots of pictures and diagrams that will help the children to better understand things in a visual way.
Hitting the beach
Italy offers some of the best beaches in Europe and it has always played a major role in The Blue Flag awards given by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), which assesses the best beaches and marinas through strict criteria such as water quality, environmental management, safety and services provided close to or within the beach area. Italy was assigned 248 blue flags in the last year alone!
The beauty of many Italian beaches is that the ‘lido’-style beaches are perfectly family friendly. Each beach normally offers facilities in terms of a bar, showers and toilets. There are lifeguards on hand and even better, many have fenced off play areas for children.
Our recommended areas
Whilst we believe that Italy is completely family-friendly, we have selected our top 3 family-friendly areas:
1. Lake Garda – the largest lake in Italy. This is a great all-round family destination. You have beautiful towns like Torri del Benaco, Garda, Bardolino and Lazise to welcome you, plenty of space for relaxing strolls on the lakes side and sunbathing on the small nice beaches. You can hire bikes, try watersports or a bit of fun for the families, there are amusement parks like Gardaland, Caneva and Movieland on the doorstep.
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2. Sardinia – if you are looking for a pure beach holiday, Sardinia ticks all the boxes! Sardinia is very family friendly and you will certainly see a lot of well equipped "lido" style beaches, where children can play safely with plenty of activities to keep not only the children happy but adults alike! Sardinia’s beaches have won many awards and have featured highly in International Magazines.
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Try Villa Daisy - great for families; pool, garden and walking distance of a beach...
3. Tuscany – dotted with vineyards and olive groves, this destination is perfect for a more rural back-to-nature type countryside holiday. Neighbouring Umbria and Le Marche will offer a similar experience but for its sheer beauty and popularity, Tuscany offers offering spectacular scenery, authentic cuisine and a great splash of culture for the parents. The children won’t be bored, you can still take a day trip to the beach, there are water parks and lots of activities like cycling and horse-riding.
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