Traveling to Italy with Kids: How to plan your vacation so the whole family have fun

How To Plan a Fun Family Vacation in Italy

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Many parents wonder whether Italy is the right place to take their children for vacation. Well, if your kids like to see beautiful things, enjoy experiencing new adventures and love to eat good food, then Italy is exactly the place to take them - they just might not know it yet.

Going on vacation shouldn't be painful! It should be a fun, relaxing experience for everyone involved, as well as a time for family togetherness. Occasionally, though, in order to make children appreciate the quality of life we have to gently push them in the right direction. To head off some unwanted heat during your vacation you might want to spend a little extra time preparing your family for one of their best vacations ever. Here are a few tips for things to do before you leave home:

Have a family supper, Italian style. Everybody can pitch in and make what you believe to be an authentic Italian dinner. If you choose to make pasta, it's fun to learn where it comes from and how it is made. When you get to Italy, try to recreate the supper together. Take a vote to see who thinks the same supper tastes better at home or on vacation. If your trip includes Rome, consider making a family visit to the National Museum of Pasta Foods, a really fun place!

Click here to see some of our favorite Italian recipes.

Have an Italian movie night or two with the family. Keep track of the places you might actually encounter on your itinerary. Then you can have a contest to see who spots them first.

Read books about Italy together. We all love the story of Pinocchio but there are many other Italian authors that you can explore. If you have teenagers who love a big juicy novel, suggest The History: A Novel by Elsa Morante or The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Or if you're planning to visit the digs, have them try Escape from Pompeii , narrated by a young boy who witnessed the eruption. Biographies of the famous people you'll be encountering along the trip (Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, the Medicis, the popes, and so on) are also useful, and if you are planning to visit a lot of churches, we suggest you take along Lives of the Saints You Should Know by Margaret R. Bunson, so you can all get the full picture when you come across their portraits and graves. All these books and hundreds more are available in our Italian Bookstore.

For fun, once you get to Italy you can go to Collodi, in Tuscany near Pistoia, and visit Pinocchio's Theme Park.

Read an atlas with your kids and figure out where Italy is in comparison to where you live. Highlight the city where you live, the cities you are traveling into and out of, and the cities you will be visiting. Post a map of Italy and use pins to mark the places you will be traveling to. Have the little kids cut out pictures of trains, planes, buses and cars to illustrate how you will get around. Just before you leave home, take out the pins and mark the final itinerary with colored pens. Take it along so you'll all have a familiar way to get your bearings every morning!

Find a few photographs of artworks in the museums and churches you'll be visiting, so the kids can turn those venues into fun-filled (but orderly, please!) treasure hunts. They'll have to pay attention to their surroundings in order to find the painting or sculpture, and it will mean so much more to them when they do. By the way, another treasure hunt that kids adore is searching for graves. If your youngsters are too young to read the markers, read a guidebook before you go into the church and pick out an element of the tomb or grave that they'll be able to distinguish. When you find the monument, you can talk about who the person was. All the major churches are fantastic places for this game, as well as the Pantheon in Rome.

Planning a trip can be very time consuming. Hand the guidebooks over to your children and let them decide the itinerary for one or two of the days that your family will be on vacation. Perhaps they would prefer to have a picnic in the country instead of going shopping.

When you go to the grocery store or the mall look for items that are labeled "made in Italy." Have your children keep a list of what you have found and then when you get to Italy see if you can find the same or similar products while you are shopping.

Prior to leaving on your fabulous family vacation go to your local stationery store and buy a throw-away camera, a journal, a glue stick. Younger children will love decorating the outside, preparing it for their journey. Older kids can get a journal with a lock but they should also feel free to decorate it as well. Don't forget the glue stick at home. Your children will love to use it when they are inserting bus tickets, museum tickets and postcards into their journals. When they get home they can add their photos.

Have an Italian word for the day and use it as often as you can. Instead of going for an ice cream why not go for a gelato or a sorbetto? You can also write your Italian word of the day on index cards. Then post the cards around the house for different things that you might need or want on your trip. For example, you could post latte on your milk container and zucchero on your sugar bowl. There are many entertaining books to teach your kids a few words of Italian.

When you are packing, include some of your children's favorite foods, like cereal or Macaroni and Cheese, especially if you have picky eaters. (My personal favorite is instant soup. It's great for airplane rides!) Also don't forget:

Everything in life worth enjoying takes time to prepare for, even a picnic in the park. However with a little foresight both you and your children can have a pleasant, relaxing, unforgettable vacation in Italy.

Enjoy your trip with your family!

by Jacqueline Knight, Los Angeles

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