Sampling Italy in a week with the kids? Challenge accepted!

Positano

One day when our son was 7 we promised we would take him to Pompeii in Italy. 5 years later, as we return from our kids’ first trip to Italy, that promise has been kept and our son has learned the value of patience as well as a great deal about the Roman Empire 🙂

So if you only have a week in front of you and you want to give them a taste of Italy, here’s an itinerary that worked very well for us and our two kids aged 12 and 8. We walked a lot, but it was well worth it. And do consider going in November, as we did: we skipped most of the queues (except for the Coliseum) and still had a lovely weather. We even visited Pompeii in tees and shorts!

Eternal Rome

Start with Rome as the city will both impress your kids from an architectural point of view and offer them a snackable sample of Italy’s best culinary experiences – I’m thinking pizza and gelato of course, but also many different varieties of pasta and more exotic dishes like fried artichoke. For the latter, head to Gigetto near the Portico d’Ottavio for the best ones!

In Rome your kids will be fascinated by Roman history. Actually, who isn’t? As we’re French, we played a game with them that kept them busy for almost an entire day. We asked them to look out for ‘SPQR’ signs around Rome (on statues, pavements, etc.) and we first explained to them that it

 meant « Sono Pazzi Questi Romani », which means « these Romans, they are crazy ». This is the sentence that Asterix and Obelix keep repeating in the famous French comicbook when talking about the Romans they like to beat. In reality it means « Senatus Populusque Romanus » which translates as « The Roman Senate and People » and now represents the local government.

We created two teams, the parents and the kids, and whoever got the most points would win a bigger ice cream. And guess who won? And since you can’t go wrong with ice cream in Rome they got what they deserved: a deliciously creamy and tasty natural gelato in the area of Cavour, a very nice district away from the tourist crowds with a vibrant local life.

The next day, with the kids’ grand-parents, we visited the Coliseum, the Roman forum, the catacombs of St. Calixthe, the Caracalla thermal baths and they liked each and every visit. We took our picnic to some of these places because the weather was gorgeous, and it is quite something to picnic amidst over 2,000 years old ruins!

We also rented two scooters one day and took them on a more extended tour of Rome, to Trastevere and the Vatican, back and forth across the Tiber river and they loved it! We didn’t stop at the Sixtine Chapel as the crowds there were even scarier than at the Coliseum, but they were impressed to know about the history and political situation of the smallest State on the planet. And they laughed very hard at the ‘clown parade’ of the Swiss guards, as they liked to call them.

After 3 days it was time to move on and drive south – we rented a car which proved easy and cheaper than any other transportation mode., that is if you can cope with the Italian driving style 🙂

Tips for Rome with children:

  • Rent a scooter if you are comfortable driving, it’s the best way to get around and a real adventure for the kids. We loved the service at Bici Baci.
  • Sample the local food, it’s pretty decent in most places, but avoid the busy piazzas which are just too crowded and expensive. We even discovered a mortadella with truffles at a mini Carrefour market that was to die for, so no need to go for a 3* restaurant!
  • As much as possible book your tickets to visit the Coliseum and other monuments in advance, it helps to skip some of the queues (but not all unfortunately).
  • Visit monuments in the morning and keep the afternoon for hanging around in parks where kids can run and chase pigeons (and SPQR signs), or for scooter rides.

Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast under the autumn light

We spent the next 4 days in a small village near Sorrento where we had rented a small and cosy Airbnb house overlooking the sea, with a garden full of lemon and orange trees.

Everyday we would venture out to a different coastal beauty: on the first day we visited Sorrento, overlooking the bay of Naples and the majestic Vesuvius volcano, and the small villages around it, full of delicious pastry shop serving the local delikatessen, including sumptuous lemon tarts and baba au rhum.

On the second day we drove along the Amalfi coast, sampling some of the best villages along the way: Positano of course, where the kids even dared to bathe in the sea (I chickened out at the last moment), but also Amalfi, Atrani and Ravello, where we had the best gelato of our trip!

The weather was a bit mixed but the late autumn light and the mild weather made it all the more special. Lemons growing everywhere in the hinterland reminded us that this is THE place to taste and buy the famous limoncello.

Kids tagged along to most of the activities and were genuinely interested in both the natural and architectural landscapes. It was a lot of driving though, but we were rewarded at the end with a superb sunset along the coast on our return.

The next day we dedicated to Pompeii. We left our cars at home and took the bus and then train, which was really cheap and convenient because parking around Pompei is complicated and very expensive (5 EUR/hour).

As we arrived before 11am there were no queues and the sun was shining brightly. A perfect day to walk 6 hours among the ruins, and I could have stayed on, honestly!

Luckily the kids enjoyed it almost as much as the adults, they had lots of questions, and were really grateful for the presence of their grandmother, a former Latin and Greek teacher. They even played games in the ruins – kids will be kids 🙂

On Sunday we decided to relax, and ‘only’ climb on top of the Punta Campanella, where it is said Ulysses resisted the song of the Sirens. We reached a white chapel after a steep walk along a windy and rocky path that lets you look at both coasts, the Sorrentino and the Amalfi Coast, as well as Capri.

Despite the stormy weather, it was one of the highlights of our trip, because the atmosphere there was very mystical – and our son is called Ulysse, so we shared stories about the hero he is named after which he had never heard of.

Tips for Pompei and the Amalfi Coast with children:

  • Take at least one day for Pompeii and make sure you know about the history of the place, if your kids already go to school, they will be fascinated. Come early and by train to avoid the crowds and the parking fees.
  • Drive or take the cheap buses from one little town to the next on the Amalfi Coast. Plan your journey from West to East so that you enjoy the sunset on the sea on your return.
  • Stop for dinner at Lo Stuzzichino, a delicious restaurant in Massa Lubrense which has a lovely atmosphere and is run by a charming family preparing incredible sea food.

  • Try the local specialties made from lemons – limoncello (for the adults) and lemon sorbet or cake (for all).

Naples inferno

The only thing we didn’t like in our entire trip was Naples. We made the mistake to stop there on our way back with the cars, which was the worst idea in the world. Neapolitan traffic is crazy, they park their cars everywhere and it’s pretty chaotic, even by Asian standards! We only stayed half a day, because the kids felt insecure and found the city very dirty and uninteresting.

I have to admit that apart from the must-see chapel of San Severo which boasts the most exquisite marble sculptures I have EVER seen in my life, the rest was not memorable. Even the famed sfogliatelle and the ragĂș (local tomato sauce) didn’t meet our expectations.

 

And then of course, it started to rain, which was the perfect excuse not to miss our flight back to Brussels, where – surprise – the sun was shining, for once.

Le goĂ»t des fruits et lĂ©gumes que l’on ramasse soi-mĂȘme

jardin de Marie Overijse

Avec les beaux jours et le soleil, il est temps de faire un petit tour dans un potager bio oĂč l’on peut ramasser soi-mĂȘme les fruits et lĂ©gumes parce que leur goĂ»t est unique, puisque le fruit de votre labeur.

D’habitude nous allons Ă  Pur Fruit prĂšs de la frontiĂšre française, mais c’est fermĂ© le dimanche, donc nous dĂ©cidons d’aller au Jardin de Marie, qui en plus des fruits propose aussi plusieurs variĂ©tĂ©s de lĂ©gumes bio. Continue reading “Le goĂ»t des fruits et lĂ©gumes que l’on ramasse soi-mĂȘme”

Le mystĂšre graphique des fĂȘtes foraines

Depuis la fin de l’enfance, je ne suis plus transportĂ©e de joie Ă  l’idĂ©e d’aller Ă  la fĂȘte foraine. Par contre, j’aime y passer du temps. C’est une expĂ©rience sociologique unique et l’occasion d’observer des lignes graphiques qui n’existent nulle part ailleurs, ni dans l’architecture, ni dans l’art, ni dans la nature.

La fĂȘte foraine comme microcosme graphique aime la photographie noir et blanc. La preuve par l’image au parc Walibi – pendant que les enfant eux, sont transportĂ©s de joie 🙂

A la découverte des Alpilles en Provence

A l’occasion du long weekend de la PentecĂŽte je suis descendue en famille dĂ©couvrir un petit coin de paradis sur Terre, les Alpilles en Provence. J’Ă©tais dĂ©jĂ  passĂ© par lĂ  rapidement, à l’Isle sur la Sorgue  l’étĂ© dernier, et j’avais Ă©tĂ© enchantĂ©e – et pas seulement parce que c’est la ville de naissance de mon poĂšte prĂ©fĂ©rĂ©, RenĂ© Char !

Cette fois, nous avons choisi de rester dans la nature, dans un joli mas traditionnel aux pieds des Alpilles. La vue du Mas des Cordeliers est Ă©poustouflante, et dĂšs que l’on a dĂ©passĂ© le champ d’oliviers qui longe la maison, on est Ă  flanc de montagne. Continue reading “A la dĂ©couverte des Alpilles en Provence”

La checklist incontournable de vos voyages dans les tropiques avec des enfants

Imaginez une Ă©quation Ă  trois inconnues :

  • un pays lointain,
  • des conditions de vie tropicales,
  • des enfants qui s’adaptent plus ou moins bien Ă  cette situation.

VoilĂ  un cocktail qui peut se rĂ©vĂ©ler explosif et qui peut au minimum gĂącher vos vacances et au maximum vous gĂąchez la vie ou celle de vos enfants. Continue reading “La checklist incontournable de vos voyages dans les tropiques avec des enfants”

Saga-Arashiyama, a children’s favourite in Kyoto

After Tokyo we decided to go to Kyoto, like most tourists do (or the other way round). Kyoto was high on our list, but little did we know that the area we had rented our apartment in, called Saga-Arashiyama, had lots to offer too.

Here is a list of what you can do in Saga. If you are planning to visit with kids, it’s the best place to stay in Kyoto, and you will soon understand why. Continue reading “Saga-Arashiyama, a children’s favourite in Kyoto”

D’une fraise pas mĂ»re Ă  une perle : les images pour aider les enfants Ă  grandir

(la photo n’a rien avoir avec le sujet, mais vous comprendrez pourquoi, et me remercierez, en lisant le PPPS)

Notre fille est une petite fille trĂšs intelligente et vive par plein d’aspects mais qui en ce qui concerne la lecture (et un peu le calcul) a beaucoup de difficultĂ©s.

Il y a sans doute plusieurs facteurs Ă  cela et elle est bien suivie pour l’aider, Ă  son rythme, Ă  grandir et progresser dans ses apprentissages tout en acquĂ©rant confiance en soi. Pour l’aider dans cette tĂąche, la psychothĂ©rapeute du dĂ©veloppement qui la suit a eu une belle image. Elle lui a dit :

Tu sais CalliopĂ©e, tu es comme une petite fraise pas tout Ă  fait mĂ»re parmi d’autres fraises dĂ©jĂ  mĂ»res ou plus mĂ»res. Alors le travail que l’on fait avec toi c’est d’enlever les feuilles qui empĂȘchent les rayons du soleil d’accĂ©der Ă  ta fraise et de la faire mĂ»rir.

CalliopĂ©e a beaucoup aimĂ© cette image et l’utilise rĂ©guliĂšrement, quoique moins depuis le dĂ©but de l’annĂ©e. C’est qu’entre temps elle a eu 7 ans, l’Ăąge de raison, et qu’elle s’imagine sans doute qu’on attend qu’elle se conforme Ă  ce que l’Ăąge de raison implique pour une enfant comme elle.

Alors que nous lui faisons bien comprendre qu’elle n’a aucune pression, Ă©tant dans une Ă©cole Ă  pĂ©dagogie active, donc plus souple sur l’apprentissage des bases scolaires. Et puis, tant qu’un jour elle sait lire et compter, tout va bien. Par contre, si elle veut progresser, elle doit intĂ©grer le goĂ»t de l’effort, car c’est un peu de ce cĂŽtĂ© lĂ  que ça pĂȘche. Donc nous ne nous privons pas de faire des jeux ludiques avec elle, quand elle en a envie, qui l’obligent Ă  lire un peu, ce qu’elle arrive, mais seulement avec de l’aide, parfois beaucoup d’aide.

L’image de la fraise lui a permis de se normaliser, de s’identifier aux autres. Mais je crois qu’il est temps de passer Ă  la vitesse suivante 🙂

Car si le rĂŽle du thĂ©rapeute est d’apporter les bases pour construire une psychĂ© ‘normale’ (je n’ai aucune idĂ©e de ce que ça veut dire, mais je pense que ‘socialisĂ©e’ est ce qui se rapproche le plus de mon interprĂ©tation), celui des parents est de pousser l’enfant haut, sans pour autant lui mentir sur ces capacitĂ©s.

Alors voilĂ  l’histoire que je lui ai racontĂ©e ce soir :

CalliopĂ©e, tu sais comment sont fabriquĂ©es les perles ? Non ? Alors c’est comme ça. Au dĂ©but, il y a plein d’huĂźtres dans l’ocĂ©an. Elles sont toutes pareilles, dures et grises Ă  l’extĂ©rieur, et molles et baveuses Ă  l’intĂ©rieur. Un peu comme de la morve, tiens (je fais hurler ma famille avec cette remarque pendant les fĂȘtes de fin d’annĂ©e, car je suis la seule Ă  ne pas aimer les huĂźtres).

Mais voilĂ , un jour, dans l’une de ces huĂźtres, qui n’Ă©tait pas bien fermĂ©e, un petit grain de sable se glisse. Ca la chatouille, la gratouille, la picouille, la dĂ©mange, mais rien Ă  faire, le grain de sable ne part pas, et pire, il grossit. L’huĂźtre est furieuse. Elle crie : “Sale grain de sable, va-t-en ! Je veux ĂȘtre comme les autres, moi, sans dĂ©faut. Normale, quoi…” Mais le grain de sable ne bouge pas d’un pouce et grossit, grossit, grossit. Un jour, qui peut ĂȘtre 2 Ă  6 ans aprĂšs que le petit grain de sable s’est infiltrĂ© dans l’huĂźtre, que voit-on Ă  la place du grain de sable ? Une perle magnifique, convoitĂ©e par les chasseurs de trĂ©sors !

Ma fille reste un peu interloquĂ©e, ne s’attendant pas Ă  cette fin. Et puis je lui dit : “Ton petit grain de sable, en ce moment il grossit, et plus il grossit, plus tu crois qu’apprendre Ă  lire devient insurmontable. Et un jour, paf ! sans t’en rendre compte, ton grain de sable est devenu une perle. Car non seulement tu auras appris Ă  lire, mais tu auras aussi appris plein de choses qui vont te rendre plus forte que les gens normaux : le courage, la patience, la confiance en soi, mais aussi que toute compĂ©tence peut s’acquĂ©rir, si on en a vraiment envie.”

Take that Freud ! Et lĂ  (attention, petit moment d’Ă©motion, sortez les mouchoirs amigos) elle ne dit rien et me prend longuement dans ses bras. Et puis elle s’endort paisiblement dans son lit. La perle a chassĂ© la fraise, ou peut-ĂȘtre la fraise est-elle le grain de sable, qui sait. Ce qui est sĂ»r, c’est qu’on va entendre parler des huĂźtres et de la perle pendant un bon moment. Mais pas Ă  table, pitiĂ© !

C’est quoi les images que vous partagez avec vos enfants pour les faire grandir ?

PS : ni fraise et ni huĂźtre n’ont Ă©tĂ© martyrisĂ©es pour faire grandir ma fille, je le jure (enfin, pour les huĂźtres, vous l’aurez compris, je m’en moque comme de l’an 40)

PPS : si un jour vous rencontrez ma fille ne vous avisez pas de lui parler des huütres dans Alice au pays des merveilles : ça gñcherait tout 🙂

PPPS : en prĂ©parant cet article j’ai cherchĂ© sans illusion des photos d’huĂźtres avec des fraises, et wow – j’en ai trouvĂ© ! Donc grĂące Ă  mon tact sans Ă©gal, demain, vous pourrez encore vous rĂ©galer de l’un et l’autre. On dit merci qui ?