Top 5 Activities to Experience in Italy with Your Family
Traveling to another country offers unique opportunities not only to unwind, but to bond with travel companions during culturally enriching experiences that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Italy’s varied landscape coupled with a vast selection of cultural, artistic, historic, and culinary offerings makes this scenic peninsula the perfect place for a post-pandemic family vacation. Continue reading to discover a variety of uniquely Italian activities that will encourage families with children of all ages to reconnect and relish in fond moments that will be cherished for a lifetime.
1. Meet Ötzi the Iceman at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano
In 1991, on an Alpine glacier at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, a pair of hikers stumbled upon Europe’s oldest natural mummy. Preserved in ice for thousands of years, Ötzi the Iceman was discovered with his clothing and tools intact. Today, curious travelers of all ages can visit Ötzi in the Northern Italian city of Bolzano.
A trip to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology allows families to step back in time and learn about what it took to survive in the frigid temperatures of this part of the world more than 5,000 years ago. The museum offers a specialized audio guide to help children immerse in the exhibit and get to know Ötzi and his story. The permanent exhibition outlines Ötzi’s discovery, provides an in-depth look at the objects found with the mummy, and offers a reconstruction of Ötzi’s possible appearance during his lifetime. Over the years, many museum visitors have been left in awe by the determination and skill of our Stone Age ancestors.
After visiting the museum, be sure to explore Bolzano’s remarkable historic city center with characteristic medieval architecture and an Alpine atmosphere that places the city at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Germanic cultures. Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy a merenda in one of the pastry shops where you can indulge in the local strudel or an authentic Sachertorte. Surrounded by the vertiginous peaks of the Dolomites, Bolzano is also renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. There’s plenty to do in the surrounding area including exploring the stunning mountains, enchanting lakes, historic castles…the list goes on!
2. Attend the Donkey Palio in Alba
Each year on the first Sunday of October, the city of Alba in the Piedmont region hosts what many consider to be Italy’s silliest historic event: the Palio degli Asini. The origins of this event can be traced to a medieval feud between Alba and neighboring Asti. As opposed to other medieval races still held in Italy, the Paglio degli Asini is lighthearted due to the temperament and antics of its protagonists, the donkeys.
The event opens with a historic procession complete with music, choreographed flag wavers, and elegant medieval costumes. The procession is organized by the locals and all nine of Alba’s borghi (historic neighborhoods) participate by representing a scene or an aspect of medieval life, such as the harvest.
The Palio itself consists of two rounds plus a final race to determine the overall winner. Amongst the fervent cheers of the locals, spectators of all ages will share plenty of laughs while watching the jockeys attempt to coax their stubborn, and often uncooperative partners, around the track and across the finish line. The sights and sounds of this immersive event promise a memorable experience that visitors to Alba will live alongside the passionate locals.
The Palio degli Asini also marks the start of Alba’s International White Truffle Fair, which is the city’s most important annual event. The fair attracts truffle lovers from across the globe for tastings, cooking shows, a truffle market, and more. The week following the Palio, the locals continue to celebrate food with a medieval food fair featuring an array of beloved traditional dishes, such as porchetta.
Thanks to its rich history, picturesque location in the Langhe hills, and exceptional local cuisine characterized by Barolo wine and white truffles, Alba is a superb family destination no matter the time of year.
3. Play Knights at the Castello di Gropparello in Emilia-Romagna
The Gropparello Castle, located approximately 50 miles south of Milan in the province of Piacenza, is literally one of the most enchanting locations in Italy. This genuine medieval castle perched over a ravine is part of a one-of-a-kind park where kids and their families are transported into a fairy tale. The woods surrounding the castle provide the perfect setting for knights, ogres, elves, fairies, witches, and wizards. In this real-life fairy tale, kids are the protagonists as they make their way through the magical woods with swords in hand to defeat the forces of evil and rescue a kidnapped fairy.
The Fairy Tale Park’s mission is to go beyond standard guided tours aimed at adults, and create an unforgettable cultural experience for children allowing them to truly engage with history. Led through the park by guides dressed as knights, all kids will be amazed as the fairies and other enchanted creatures of their imagination become reality. While the kids have fun, parents will appreciate the intent behind the park, which aims to foster teamwork, communication, creativity, and self-esteem.
Adults are also invited to join in during certain activities, resulting in fun for the entire family. After making their way through the enchanted forest, families can share a meal at the Castle’s tavern, which offers a fine menu of traditional recipes made with fresh, local ingredients — the perfect ending to a fairy-tale family adventure!
4. Treasure hunt in Ancient Rome
A vacation to Italy just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the remarkable history of one of the world’s most ancient and powerful civilizations. For a special kid-friendly activity, families can embark on a unique treasure hunt through the most famous landmarks of Ancient Rome — the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. With a treasure map in hand, kids will channel their inner archeologist and solve clues with their family leading to a special prize. This unforgettable experience is sure to foster a new appreciation for history and ancient architecture in kids and adults alike.
As the largest and arguably most famous city in Italy, Rome needs no introduction. The charm of the Eternal City lies in the many layers of the city’s past. In addition to a treasure hunt through Ancient Rome, families may also enjoy exploring the authentic Trastevere neighborhood, admiring panoramas of Rome from the rooftop of the Vittoriano Monument, or taking an excursion to the Ancient Roman and Renaissance villas of Tivoli. There’s truly no better place to watch history come alive than Rome.
5. Make Pizza in Campania
After learning how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza in the region where this classic Italian staple was born, your family pizza nights will be forever transformed. A hands-on pizza cooking class is an excellent way to learn how to make Neapolitan pizza while fostering precious moments with your family. From picking fresh ingredients to the right oven temperature, all the secrets will be revealed during this fun and engaging class. Follow along with the local chef to learn the basics and work as a team to craft the perfect pizza. Once your pizza is ready, you’ll taste the fruits of your labor and share a traditional Italian meal with your family in an authentic setting, completing your engrossing cultural experience. It doesn’t get much better than this!
The sun-kissed region of Campania is an excellent starting point for families to get to know Southern Italy. From the millenary history and culture of Naples to the iconic beauty of the cliffside towns of the Amalfi Coast and the allure of the lost city of Pompeii, the Campania region is nothing short of magnificent.
Did the activities and places listed above inspire you? If so, this is only the beginning! From the northern edge of the country all the way down to the heel of the boot, Italy is filled with one-of-a-kind activities that bring families together. No matter where you travel to in Italy, profound experiences full of priceless moments — and an endless supply of pasta and gelato — are guaranteed.