Italy with Kids

Italy with Kids was written by two obvious parents; they refer to their children throughout the book and include their kids' comments and suggestions. A couple of parenting examples: whilst Mom and Dad gazed upward at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, it was their daughter who pointed out the work of art in itself that was inlaid in the floor (intarsia).

Suggestions on places to stay include the needed price ranges and contact info, but also note which hotels are near noisy piazzas, which have laundry service (the three coins in the coin washer joke will get old fast), which offer a non-smoking room (rare) and which seemed to welcome children instead of merely tolerating them along with the pets and soccer louts.

The book includes the usual and useful staples of suggested web sites, lists of Italian foods with their real names and a brief description (helpful to plan ahead for picky eaters), Italian travel promotion office addresses, the entire history of Rome in eight pages and couple of pages of Italian phrases.

Bless the authors for their phrase section, for instead of the usual junky words (“Benito, your swift motorcycle has crushed my foot”), you get stuff like “Do you sell diapers?”, “We need a babysitter”, “My child is allergic to penicillin” and other things of use to us parents. The suggested reading lists include one just for kids, singling out some picture books for the youngest travelers (including Strega Nona, a series both our girls enjoy).

My favorite travel tips in the book relate to helping kids weather art galleries: for older children, bring a pencil and sketchbook, and have your heirs join the art students sitting on the floor drawing “notes” while gazing at the best thing oil and paper can do outside of a super-sized McFries.

For younger children, buy postcards or an exhibition catalog on the way into the museum, and task the tykes with finding in the book the art you happen to be gazing at. We tried this with our five year old and it actually worked, though we did have to improvise a bit when she got bored and offer the promise of extra dessert if she could keep finding the stuff until 4 PM.

The book not surprisingly places great emphasis on Rome, but you also get individual chapters titled:

  • Venice with Kids
  • Verona with Kids
  • Florence and Tuscany with Kids
  • Naples and the Amalfi Coast with Kids
  • Milan and the Lake Region with Kids

Each of these chapters include sections on how to get there, where to stay (with price ranges), places to eat (annotated to note places especially nice to kids), a splash of history and of course, pages of things to see and do. Each of these chapters can stand alone as its own mini-guide book.

Headed for Rome this summer? The Miracle Players is a theatre group that performs shows in English at the Roman Forum during the summer with the support of the Rome City Council and the Italian Ministry of Culture. For four years now, the Miracle Players have written, directed and produced their own original shows that are based on Rome's history. They are performed in English, free of charge, at the Roman Forum (although they do accept tips!). The shows run about forty minutes. You can learn more at www.miracleplayers.org.

Ah, but then there is Rome.

With a nod toward at least getting you close to the romance and magic we all die for from a thousand movies (why was I born so long after Audrey Hepburn was a young woman?), the focus is squarely on enjoying the city with your kids. You get advice on transport (subway: YES, with details on navigating the ticketing system, walking: YES, buses: SORT OF, driving: NO).

There are many references to gelato, as well as tips (order inside at a cafÃÆ'©, cheaper than ordering outside at a table). Suggested tours are narrated in a way that makes both good armchair reading as well as useful prose to read aloud as you visit places.

Little touches"€look out for cats at the Colosseum, mail postcards home from the efficient Vatican post office instead of the creaky Italian one"€enliven the whole text. One suggested itinerary in Venice begins “sip cappuccino at one of the cafes while the kids entertain themselves by feeding the pigeons.”

The moment of truth here is that this is a great guidebook, witty, useful and, best of all, written by parents who walked the same streets as did the Caesars and soon, maybe you. If you aren't willing to take me along with you to Italy, go ahead and take this book instead.

And, if you see her, tell Audrey hello from me.

Italy with Kids is available on-line from Amazon.com.

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