Quattro Reasons To Take Your Kids To Italy
Destination: la bella vita.
Parents of young children, I ask you: is there anything better than waking up before your kids? Waking up when YOU wake up? Not because a little person comes to you, whacks you over the head with a mini Qantas jet plane and squeals, "Mummy! It's morning! I want Weet Bix."
Well to be honest, I didn't know about this feeling until a holiday where my husband and I found ourselves in this most wonderful of worlds where adults wake when they want and kids wake some time after. It's so incredibly liberating after years of fun dreams being rudely interrupted and thick, motionless sleep being cut short ever so abruptly.
This realisation came to me in Sicily.
That gritty, salty, hot haven on the arch of Italy's foot. It's probably not high on the must-see list of the Aussie family travelling set but there are at least four good reasons why it should be.
1. Italians love BAMBINI
I see quite a few similarities between Italians and Australians. I think they both share relaxed cultures, and I saw a lot of evidence of that in Sicily. In the beachside, cliff-top town of Taormina, at a four-star hotel where things might have been a bit stiff, the warm staff at breakfast always stopped to play and chat with our kids. They made jokes and offered them teeny tiny hot chocolates before turning to us to talk espressos. Different staff members commented a few times that my son was "troppo bravo" (too good). News to me. Clearly, they didn’t see him the night before waging war over a toy with his brother. Don't get me wrong, our two-year-old regularly had tantrums at meal times and, while a couple from the UK did not find this remotely amusing, the locals took it all as part of the moment. God love them.
2. The Food
Oh gosh, where to start? If you're like me and you think Italian food is EVERYTHING, then you can relax, the Italians have the kids sorted. Again, they are just so accommodating. At the Sicilian restaurants we visited, when the staff spotted our young kids, they made the offer or easily agreed to make a simple pasta with butter and parmesan (pasta bianca).
At breakfast I even managed to get them to try some new things like vegetable fritters in one hotel and, at another, they actually tried some sardines (heavily disguised) with breadcrumbs and parmesan at dinner. Just mouthfuls, but I chalk these up as major culinary victories nonetheless.
3. The Relaxed Lifestyle
In Europe in the summertime, you often end up waking late and staying up late, it's just the way they roll -- so you do too. Which means you can cruise into the day at a very civilised 10am, have a siesta back at the hotel/apartment at 3pm and then stay out walking in the piazza til after 9pm and still have normally functioning kids the next day.
And when your little people are teetering on the edge of an all-out meltdown, and you need to offer a bribe, it is 100 percent perfectly acceptable to offer your kids a gelato or granita at pretty much any time of day -- no judgment.
You may be interested to learn that it is also perfectly OK to order espresso martinis from your sun lounger at 11am or knock back a couple of vinos at lunch, at dinner, by the pool -- wherever. All completely acceptable and encouraged behaviour. I tested all such activities myself and can happily report a 100 percent success rate.
4. The Climate
And then there's the weather... I can't speak categorically, but having been in these parts a few times now, I can say that I've never had a rainy day in July. In fact, it's a reliable 27C+ with low humidity and a far less severe sun than ours. This means that a day at the beach, with two young kids, is not only completely doable, but actually very enjoyable. We applied sun cream once upon arrival and again after lunch and, along with our very Australian hats and rashies, our kiddies were sunburn-free the whole trip.
We never saw a rip or dangerous current, they don't have sharks and so it's all pretty easy really. The beach clubs, so popular there, provide water, umbrellas and even beach toys for the kids.
We spent a few days at the Lido Caravella as well as the Lido la Pigna (both in Taormina) and I think we can safely rename these places HEAVEN. Apart from the blustering winds on one otherwise magnificent day, we spent days at these clubs swimming, playing, snoozing and generally loving life. And of course when you get hungry, you walk a few metres to the ristorante and load up on spaghetti all vongole, birre and canoli.
La bella vita indeed.