Glad­i­a­tors, gar­dens & gelato

Sarah knight finds a sum­mer fam­ily hol­i­day in Italy ‘sunny with a chance of La Dolce Vita’.

Holiday with Kids - - Disneyland -

It’s said that Italy is the birth­place of Western cul­ture – in­spir­ing our food, fash­ion and life­style – so it’s no sur­prise we im­me­di­ately felt at home in this boot-shaped beauty. Our kids loved its beaches, pizza, pasta, gelato and es­pe­cially all the talk of glad­i­a­tors.

A Si­cil­ian so­journ

We kick off our get­away on the largest Mediter­ranean is­land, Si­cily (lo­cated near the ‘toe’ of Italy’s boot). An Airbnb in Taormina’s beach area of Maz­zarò proves the ideal base to ex­plore Si­cily with the charm­ing is­land of Isola Bella at our fin­ger­tips. Within hours of ar­rival we are on the beach and decked out with ‘aqua shoes’ – not the most flat­ter­ing footwear, but es­sen­tial for sur­viv­ing the peb­bly, rocky coast!

The Taormina ca­ble car ser­vice is a hit with the kids, tak­ing us on pic­turesque rides up to the his­toric cen­tre with its breath­tak­ing views, bou­tique shops and de­li­cious food, and a nearby bus sta­tion proves handy for day trips to beau­ti­ful beaches at nearby Giar­dini Naxos.

If you’re con­fi­dent driv­ing on the right-hand side of the road, a hire car is handy for get­ting to neigh­bour­ing towns such as Syra­cuse, Messina, Cata­nia and Ce­falu.

Off the north­ern coast we take a day trip to Li­pari Is­land via a hy­dro­foil ferry and en­counter the deep­est, most vi­brant blue wa­ter I think I’ve ever seen. We stop for lunch at Lat­te­ria 581 and some qual­ity beach time at Spi­ag­gia Bianca.

Pretty Posi­tano

A two-hour flight and an hour-long taxi trip later, we are check­ing into our Posi­tano Airbnb. It’s true that Posi­tano – a cliff­side vil­lage rife with steep streets and stairs – can be chal­leng­ing with chil­dren, but once we set eyes on the most spec­tac­u­lar view of the Mediter­ranean Sea from our bal­cony, we are all im­me­di­ately thank­ful for our ef­forts.

Our days are filled with sight­see­ing and de­li­cious food (Chez Black and Lat­te­ria for wine and cheese are stand­outs). And, of course, there is time for sun and sea­side fun at Posi­tano’s main beach, Ma­rina Grande, and nearby Fornillo Beach. We use the con­ve­nient

Sita Bus ser­vice to reach nearby Ravello and Amalfi, although the wind­ing roads take a lit­tle get­ting used to.

In Sor­rento we slip down a hid­den laneway to en­joy a mag­nif­i­cent Ital­ian lunch at Tav­er­nal­le­gra Ris­torante & Bar be­fore rent­ing sun beds to laze away the day at pop­u­lar Peter’s Beach.

Re­mark­able Rome

Only three hours by train and we’re in the heart of Italy and its cos­mopoli­tan cap­i­tal, Rome. We’re thrilled with our Airbnb, a stun­ning 16th-cen­tury build­ing which was used as a set for movies Eat, Pray, Love and Life is Beau­ti­ful. The open-air mar­ket at nearby Campo de’ Fiori is equally en­tranc­ing by day and night, and comes in handy for fresh fruit and veg­gies for our crew.

The vast depth of Rome’s his­tory in­spires awe at every turn. What we love most is the re­fresh­ing lack of ad­ver­tis­ing and bill­boards in the city, al­low­ing the mag­nif­i­cent build­ings to take cen­tre stage. Our Ro­man hol­i­day is loaded with sight­see­ing, a vast con­trast from the days of beach-laz­ing in Posi­tano. We tick the usual sus­pects off the list – the Colos­seum with its glad­i­a­to­rial his­tory, the fa­mous Span­ish Steps, pretty Trevi Foun­tain and ma­jes­tic Vat­i­can City – punc­tu­at­ing each stop with a play­ground visit or gelato to keep the chil­dren happy.

The gar­dens of Villa Borgh­ese is an­other must-visit for fam­i­lies in Rome with plenty of space for kids to run around. There are Seg­ways and bikes for hire to ex­plore its at­trac­tions and play­grounds, as well as space for a pic­nic or Casina del Lago cafe for an al fresco lunch.

Pi­azza Navona is a par­tic­u­lar favourite with our lit­tle ones and we book an out­door ta­ble for an early din­ner to en­joy the foun­tains and the spec­ta­cle of colour­ful street artists, en­ter­tain­ers and hawk­ers.

Mi­lanese mo­ments

An­other train ride whisks us to our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion: the city of el­e­gance and fash­ion, Mi­lan. A visit to the Duomo di Mi­lano is non-ne­go­tiable. This ex­quis­ite cathe­dral took nearly six cen­turies to build and a climb up the nar­row stair­case (or a ride in the lift) to see the fa­mous gar­goyles up close, and take in the spec­tac­u­lar view of the pi­azza below, is a must. Chas­ing the pi­geons across the Pi­azza del Duomo is an­other un­miss­able ex­pe­ri­ence, at least ac­cord­ing to our kids.

Ad­ja­cent to the cathe­dral, we visit the world’s old­est shop­ping mall, Gal­le­ria Vit­to­rio Emanuele II, and en­joy a well-earned af­ter­noon aper­i­tivo at the Aperol bar.

Other Mi­lan high­lights in­clude Sforza Cas­tle and the ad­ja­cent park, Parco Sem­pi­one; a play at Giar­dini Pub­blici In­dro Mon­tanelli, the old­est city park in Mi­lan; and a visit to Mi­lan’s renowned Na­tional Mu­seum of Science and Tech­nol­ogy ‘Leonardo da Vinci’. There’s also time for shop­ping along Via Monte Napoleone, a visit to the LEGO Store (the largest in Italy) and, of course, in­dulging in end­less gelato.

“We es­cape the city by train to Lake Como and ex­plore the beau­ti­ful cob­ble­stone streets.”

But by far our most un­for­get­table day is es­cap­ing the city by train to Lake Como, where we ex­plore the beau­ti­ful cob­ble­stone streets, ferry-hop to nearby Bel­la­gio and en­joy the play­grounds and a de­li­cious lunch with a view of the breath­tak­ing Swiss Alps. Just wow.

As we be­gin our long jour­ney home, our only dis­ap­point­ment is hav­ing to leave, be­cause two weeks of la dolce vita, ‘the sweet life’, is never enough.

All im­ages © Sarah Knight @bythe­sea­w­ith­three

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