We personally know a young doctor in Calabria who inherited 250 works by the Flemish masters. When he tried to donate them to the State, he was told he'd first have to pay the back taxes that had been silently accruing, unbeknownst to anyone, since the formation of the Republic in 1949. It turned out that if our civic minded friend wanted to share his "good fortune" with the rest of us, it would cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of five million dollars. Needless to say, the paintings are now in his basement.
Inevitably, travelers to Italy have a bare bones "must-see" list that can easily induce panic. Countless churches, half a dozen mega-museums and at least two major archeological sites wind up on just about every list, and few of us actually manage to check off every item, mainly because halfway through the trip we reach the fatal moment when, while sipping a glass of Chianti and hiding our aching bare feet under the blessedly long tablecloth, we finally admit that we just can't take even one more museum. No more framed canvases. No more carved stones. No more gilded altars. This moment always comes, and if we're traveling with kids it's bound to come a few days earlier.
For times such as these we've put together this "non-museum" museum issue. You'll find all sorts of fun places to visit here: "food museums" that teach you how your favorite cheese, wine or meat is made, the homes of your favorite artists, the palaces of Italy's many ruling dynasties, model peasant homes, Renaissance pharmacies, musical instrument workshops, even the world's best mountaineering museum. There's something for every member of your family, in every corner of Italy, offering you a way to integrate your trip abroad into your own daily life back home. Make sure you take this issue along on your next trip. You'll probably still want to take your shoes off under the tablecloth, but at least you'll have a smile on your face while you do it.
by Kristin Jarratt