Choosing Italy for your family vacation gives your children the unique opportunity to see into the past, learn about the great history and many stories of this fascinating land and experience a totally different culture to their own. However, it is not always easy to keep children engaged, especially when a visitors check list includes museums and sites which may not be of much interest to a kid. This is why we have created a 'Fun 4 Kids' itinerary that will keep the whole family interested and having fun!
Kids in Rome - Talk to Animals : For some fun on wheels, consider renting bikes for the afternoon (Viale dell'Orologio, on the Pincio hill, or Piazzale M. Cervantes) before heading over to Rome's zoo,Bioparco, both set in the massive Villa Borghese park. The zoo (Piazzale del Giardino Zoologico 1), which is one of the oldest in Europe, is home to more than 1,000 animals.
- Adventures in Learning : Kids love hands-on activities and Rome has one museum that encourages them to do just that. The Explora Children's Museum (Via Flaminia 82, near Piazza del Popolo) is a miniature realistic cityscape for children under 12 whose exhibits take them—and their bodies—through life in the big city. Though the exhibits are mainly in Italian, the visuals, effects, and touchy-feely stuff seem to hold the children's attention whatever their language. Elsewhere, kids learn about the workings of a post office, a bank, and the ABCs of recycling. Also fun for kids are the workshops and readings at the Casina di Raffaello (“Raphael’s House”) in Villa Borghese (Viale della Casina di Raffaello, Piazza di Siena). Tuesday through Sunday, they offer all sorts of activities from painting to games.
- The World on a String : Over on the Pincio hill in the Villa Borghese park (usually accessed via Piazza del Popolo) is the Teatro Stabile dei Burattini "San Carlino," which puts on live puppet shows on weekends (Viale dei Bambini Villa Borghese).
- 'i Gatti' (the street cats of Rome) : Kids can go on a free guided tour of the ancient ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina in the center of Rome. This large set of ruins have been made into a cat sanctuary and home for hundreds of once-homeless Roman cats. Mom and Dad, meanwhile, can ooh-and-aah at the relics and remains of one of the oldest (300 BC) temples in Rome. The cat sanctuary offer a free daily tour at 4.30 PM to visit the area and their cats. Rumor has it that Julius Caesar was assassinated in this area and that the cats still hold the soul of the Ancient Emperor.
- A stroll and a show : After a short stroll through the beautiful Villa Borghese you will arrive at Cinema dei Piccoli; the smallest movie theater in the world - with all of 63 seats (Viale della Pineta 15) - and children's movies shown daily it makes for an interesting experience. Shows are in Italian/English you just need to check it out online. After these puppet shows, the perfect souvenir awaits at Bartolucci (Via de' Pastini 99, near the Pantheon), where you'll meet not one Pinocchio but hundreds, still or animated, from life- to pocket-size, all crafted by local artisans.
- Gladiator School : If you’re looking for a memorable kid-friendly activity in Rome, Gladiator School is an event your children will never forget. The two-hour class begins with a Gladiator history lesson in the Gruppo Storico Romano Museum with artifacts, models, weapons, and costumes from Ancient Rome. The class takes place at Via Appia Antica 18, a 15-minute cab ride from the Colosseum. A perfect day pairs a tour of the Colosseum followed by Gladiator School so the context is fresh and exciting.
Kids in Venice
- Design your own Venetian Carnevale Mask
: San Polo’s streets are the best place for you and your family to go see the most detailed and colourful masks on sale in Venice and perhaps you might even witness the ancient Venetian art of mask-making itself if the owners are creating one of their masterpieces during your visit! Better yet, why don’t you visit Ca’Macana on Calle delle Botteghe off Campo San Barnaba in Dorsoduro for own of their very special mask-making workshops they hold all-year round for the whole family. It offers various tools, tips and historical facts to create the perfect Venetian mask for you to treasure from your trip to Venice.
- Find your way through the garden maze : After you have visited the main sites of Venice, give your brain a rest and visit Brenta Canal, the perfect getaway for kids. Take the bus to Stra or Mira and rent bikes to ride alongside the canal to Villa Pisani. The Palace may not interest the children but it’s labyrinth of gardens sure will! The maze has dozens of different routes to follow but which one leads to the tower standing in the center? Don’t worry, if someone goes missing or gets completely lost, there’s a watchman up above to guide you to the right path if needed. It’s an afternoon packed to create fun for both kids and adults together.
- Murano Glass Making Factory : A visit to a Murano glass factory would be a real treat for all the family. Murano Island is famous for the treasures it creates and is known worldwide for some of it’s glass works. To get to this island, you will have to get a water taxi or boat from your hotel, which the children will absolutely love! In one of the many glass factories found here, you will see first-hand how they create something that has a particular shape and then transform it into something completely different by just a small movement with a tweezers. After you see how it’s done, you can visit the shop which holds their pieces on display. Here, you truly get to see the art behind this industry. Although, you may need to bring the credit card with you if you plan to purchase one of these gems, some go for thousands of euros each!
- Workshops for children in Venice’s Museums :
Venice has a museum to suit any preference, but what about children? They may get bored or not have a particular interest in following a tour. This is why must of Venice’s museums holds workshops for children to get them interested and involved in art and history, giving them the unique experience to learn about the place they’re in and it’s history. One of the most child-orientated museums is the Modern Art museum in Palazzo Grassi, which regularly hold workshops for children in Venice.
- Be Involved in Carnevale
: Once you have designed your very own mask at Ca’Macana, why not take part in the Carnevale itself? Be a part of the world’s largest and most famous masked ball event dating back to the Middle Ages (although it became famous worldwide from the 18th Century). The start date of the Carnevale varies depending on the dates of Easter, traditionally it’s 40 days beforehand. During this festival, the streets of Venice come alive with colour, music, masks and fun. A great event for any family visiting.
Kids in Naples/Amalfi Coast
- The Naples’ Aquarium : A fun excursion to entertain all the family. Founded back in the 1800’s by German Naturalist Anton Dohrn, this aquarium is designed to let visitors visualize the Neapolitan seas for themselves. With its beautifully architected structure and historical stories linked to it, it has been stated by the SZN institute to be the only one left of it’s kind. The tanks can hold up to a massive 69,000 litres of water and hold local sealife such as; octopus, squid, starfish, sea urchins, corals, eels, sea horse and even sea turtles both big and small. Click on the link for further information www.napoliunplugged.com
- Edenlandia Amusement Park : Open all-year round, this amusement park has been a stable in Napoli’s children’s entertainment since the 60’s. If you’re children get bored of the amazing views and beaches of the Amalfi Coast and Naples, then this would be a top recommendation to get them mesmerized and quiet for a few hours!!! It has all the popular fun fair rides such as; Bumper cars (adult size also), rollercoaster, carousel, a star wars attraction, trampolines and jumping mats, water slides and even a video game centre. If all that wasn’t enough, it even has an entertainment hall which puts on regular plays and is also a 3D cinema which holds up to 800 seats. There is also a small train that takes you around the perimeter of the park. A €12 entry bracelet will let you go on most of the rides but for some, you must pay an additional price (€2 and up). Click on the link for further details.www.thatsamalfi.com
- Underground Naples : If your children aren’t afraid of caves and small spaces, Napoli Sotterranea would be a great place for them to see. The caverns that lay underneath Naples’ city streets were born when the city was. The Greeks removed the stone to create the ancient city walls which can still be seen today at Piazza Bellini. It served a great purpose for the city's population during WWII when the city was bombed and people took shelter down there. Now though, it is a museum and has many small tunnels going through it. Click on the link for further details. www.napolisotterranea.org
- The National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa : Located East of the city centre of Naples, is the Museo Nazionale Ferroviario, a train station turned museum to mark Italy’s 150th anniversary of Italian railways. It showcases a historical collection of locomotives and trains from as far back as the early 1800’s. It’s collection holds 6 electric locomotors, 12 rolling stocks, 25 steam locomotives, passenger cars, 25 scale models of trains/carriages and railway stations, the ‘Brunetti’ and some original furniture from the waiting room of the Roma Trastevere station in 1905. www.fsitaliane.it
- Sightseeing in Style : If you’re visiting Capri during your stay on the Amalfi coast or Naples, why not do it in style and save your energy from walking by taking the Anacapri cable car to Mount Solara? If anyone’s afraid of heights, it may not be the best idea but it is only 20 feet from the ground and the views from the top are definitely worth it. Plus it’s free for children and only €8 for adults return! www.amoitaly.com
Kids in Florence
- Getting your hands dirty : Everybody enjoys Italian cuisine and what’s there not to like? Pasta, pizza, varieties of cheese, tiramisu, gelato, the list goes on. How much fun would it be for the whole family to actually learn to cook their very own Italian ‘cena’ (dinner) from scratch? It’s an amazing experience for children to learn at an early age where their food comes from and how it’s made and the joy they get out of making their own food is priceless, that’s why one of my recommendations in Florence is taking a family cookery class. Get the opportunity to go wild in the kitchen and then sit down together to thoroughly enjoy their own efforts. There are many cooking locations in the area so you can easily find one to suit the food you like the best and which you would like to cook. Talking about food.... don’t forget to check out the Mercato Centrale to see the great range of foods Florence has on offer. Let your senses go crazy with the aromas and sights of a variety of different cheeses, fruits, meat and vegetables.
- Step back in Time : Visit the Palazzo Vecchia, the first home of the Medici family where all the family can go and visit it’s wonderfully laid out gardens and interior grandeur. Discover the Palace’s secret passageways and what clothes they used to wear in the 16th Century. In fact, the staff are said to wear the old-fashioned clothes, which I’m sure your kids will giggle at!! Your kids will see what toys children the same age used to play with back then and maybe be allowed to play with them themselves.
- Bowling Madness : If you fancy a few hours out of the city to relax with the kids, I would recommend Crazy Bowling. Just a short bus ride away, this bowling alley has not only an alley to knock the pins over, it also has casinos (for the adults) kids games and eateries for a full afternoon of family fun. Click on the link for further details. http://www.bowlingfirenze.it/
- Let them go Free : Area Pettini is an immaculately clean park just a short bus ride away from the centre of Florence. It’s a paradise for children all different ages, divided into three separate areas. One for the smaller toddlers featuring baby swings and jungle gyms. Another for the older ones, with bigger swing sets, monkey bars, slides and a grassy area and finally an area for playing football or other sports (might be for the slightly older kids). Also, every week or so, they hold puppet shows for the children so look out for when they are on.
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