Finding the Ideal Moment to Say "Ciao Bella Italia"
Your kids will love Italy as much as you do, but their priorities might be different. You think Michelangelo. They think gelato. You think the Vatican. They think pizza, blue waves and white sand beaches. But everyone will agree that Italy is a magical place.
Some would say that anytime is the right time to visit Italy. Although fans of Italian art, culture and food can sympathize with that viewpoint, you'll want to take the time to figure out the ideal time to take the big trip. Consider crowds, weather and budget issues, as well.
Far From the Maddening Crowd
You might think about taking a family vacation to Italy in July or August, since that's when the kids are on summer vacation. But everyone else's children—as well as college kids and school teachers—are also out of school during the summer months. This means the air flights will be packed, lines will be long and prices will be sky high.
Kids like to play with other kids, but nobody likes to fight for a place on the beach or miss a gondola ride in Venice because too many people are waiting. It's far better for your family to avoid the big crush of July and August crowds, even if it means missing a few weeks of school. Remember, they'll learn more about art, history and geography from Italy's wealth of museums than in any school textbooks.
Roasting in Italian Summers
If you are heading to Italy, especially Rome or cities in southern Italy, note that the summer sun could give your entire family a meltdown. June is hot, but July and August are hotter. Temperatures in Florence average 88 degrees F in July, while temperatures in summer in Rome can reach as high as 113 degrees F. Often, there's no breeze, and humidity can be high.
If you are a "when-in-Rome" type of traveler, you'll want to note that everyone who can leaves the city and goes on vacation in August. Many hotels, restaurants and shops close for the month, as well. This is also true og northern cities like Florence.
You'll particularly want to stay away from Italy during August if your kids are little. Nothing saps joy from a vacation like little children with a bad sunburn. Your better bets for a trip are spring or autumn. Traveling in April to June or mid-September to October buys you moderate temperatures as well as moderate prices. You'll also find that the landscapes are rich and colorful and the crowds reduced.
Timing Is Everything
One idea for timing your Italian vacation is to plan it to coordinate with one Italy's lively kid-appealing festivals. Your children might delight in the costumes and party atmosphere of Carnival in Venice. Or how about Easter in Florence for Scoppio del Carro, when a cartload of fireworks is exploded in front of the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo.
Christmas in Italy will delight your kids, as well. It's not a single day, but a whole season, celebrated from early December until Epiphany, the 6th of January. See the decorated houses and visit the festive Christmas markets. Many towns in Italy have traditional Christmas markets with sweets, gifts and special foods, especially in the northern Alto Adige region. In the Abruzzi region, it's a local tradition that zampognari—bagpipers—come into the towns in December and play for the people.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.