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Italy is unpretentious, good-natured and great for family holidays.
The country with more ancient history than anywhere else on earth wears its antiquity well so you won’t come across precious attitudes.
Even Rome is surprisingly short on ‘roped off’: apart from a few notable exceptions, exploring the city is an involving game for kids – walk the Via Appia Antica and see.
If you want beaches in the mix, the Italian Riviera kicks-off where France stops and has gorgeous Genoa for cities and Cinque Terre for fairy tale villages. On the glorious Tuscan coast little coves, lively resorts and lots of fun activities draw big crowds in summer.
And adorable Amalfi in the south is every bit as stunning and chic as its reputation, but surprisingly easy-going and seaside cute for kids. The country’s small, English speaking, trimmed with some of earth’s loveliest beaches and made for outdoor adventure and gently great fun family holidays.
There are low-cost direct flights all year round from the UK to Sicily, Sardinia and over 20 Italian cities including Florence, Venice, Turin, Naples, Milan and Rome.
Italy has 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites – the highest number in Europe and second highest worldwide.
Dolomiti Superski is fantastic and well-priced for family ski holidays.
Venice Carnival is the world’s oldest and its kids’ event programme is always thrilling and beautifully well-planned.
The Italian Lakes are just an hour’s drive from Milan.
Scala dei Turchi, one of world’s most dramatic beaches, is on the sunny west coast of Sicily.
Neighbouring Tuscany and Umbria contain Florence, Pisa, Siena, Assisi and Perugia – some of the greatest medieval and Renaissance cities in Europe.
From the Colosseum to the Forum, Vatican City to mighty Circus Maximus, Rome is like a museum if museum’s are busy, lively, noisy, colourful and determined to feed you – constantly. Pizza, pasta and gelato are food groups here and all distinctively Roman. Every Rioni is thrilling in its own, unique way. And, if you want downtime, hire bikes at the gates of Villa Borghese and go cycle through the trees, visit the zoo, see the museums or catch a show at Teatro Piccolo: the smallest kids’ theatre in the world.
If Rome is a living museum, Venice is a real-live fairy tale for children whether they’re spellbound by glassblowers, voyaging on vaporetto or joining in Carnival. It’s not the best city for very young kids: it gets crowded and moving around is a bit of an art. But over 8s will love the high drama of the palaces, piazzas, towers and cathedrals, the haunting buildings and eerie little islands, canals everywhere and, of course, the lagoons.
Florence is the world’s greatest Renaissance city and packed with art, architecture and treasures. So far, so not very kid-friendly you might think. But gardens and rivers, big squares and the rolling Tuscan countryside are all part of the Florentine spell and it works its magic on everyone.
All the Italian Lakes are beautiful, but Garda is perfect for active families. It’s the largest of the lakes, halfway between Milan and Venice and the one with aqua-parks, theme parks and masses of outdoor adventure on and off the water.
Naples is a huge, sprawling Mediterranean city and Vesuvius alone is reason to visit. It’s also the best base for Pompeii and the lovely Amalfi Coast.
Island ease and hours of sunshine make Sicily a perfect choice for families. Spring is festival season here and kids play a huge part in the celebrations. Visit for dazzling Infiorata di Noto in May.
Sardinia has three of Italy’s national parks and the stunning Caves of Neptune, just for starters. Come once and it could turn into a family tradition.
Public transport is good in most major cities and there are few historic centres you can’t do on foot. Italy’s regions deserve to be seen in full so hiring a car is a good idea in places like Tuscany and Umbria – essential on the islands. But, if you don’t want to drive, the Italian rail service is one of the best in Europe.