2018 was the year when we finally went back to Italy after a 10-year break. We were so excited to show Italy to the kids. We spent a good part of the last few months telling the kids about Italy and getting them very excited! (I was concerned they might get disappointed after we had built so much anticipation!)
But we had a great time, visiting old buildings, learning about history and eating our way through Italy.
We had planned to visit Italy from North to South (mostly traveling by train), with a final stretch to Malta, which was a new and interesting destination for us adults.
We started out in Venice, where we had planned to spend the first 3 days, to recover from the trip and enjoy and easy transition to the more active part of our stay. It worked out pretty well because our flight to Frankfurt got delayed and we missed our connection... so we lost 1/2 day on the way there (although we enjoyed a nice evening in Frankfurt too).
In Venice, we kept activities pretty low key. When we were not recovering from jetlag, we did quite a bit of walking around the city. The only planned activity we had organized in advance was visiting the Palazio de Doge (you have to book tickets early). Other than that, we enjoyed watching the boats go up and down the canals, going up the St. Mark's Campanile and visiting the different parts of the city and enjoying amazing food. It was wonderful; it doesn't take much to enjoy Venice.
View from the St. Mark's Campanile
After 3 relaxing days, we made our way to our next stop, Florence, a quick 2-hour train ride away. Florence was also quite fun and we were staying right by the city center, the busy Piazza de la Signoria, which was a nice starting off point. We spent a day visiting Florence (also had to book tickets in advance for the Accademia). The next day was a nice one-day adventure. We rented a car and made our way to the country side of Tuscany. Our first stop was a favorite of ours, San Gimignano. We loved visiting the high tower, overlooking the city and the beautiful hills around it. We enjoyed a lovely lunch in one of the side streets, with a perfect view of Tuscany landscapes. The food was amazing. It was a perfect time.
Tuscany, from the top of San Gimignano
The most perfect lunch with view
In the afternoon, we made our way to Pisa, which the kids were excited to finally see in person. It didn't disappoint. We had time to go around the other beautiful buildings of the piazza before our time was up to go on the tower. While our 5-year old was not allowed on the tower (minimum age is 6), he got to watch videos about the work that was being done to secure the tower and this was a perfect activity given his interest in engineering. It was a hot day, and we were glad we were visiting in late afternoon. We even appreciated that we were there when the sprinklers started and we felt a little bit of the drizzle coming from them. A welcome refreshment. It was late when we drove back to Florence, but everyone was happy and we enjoyed a nice dinner at candlelight. A nice end to a wonderful day.
Mandatory Pisa shot (note the wet T-shirt from enjoying the sprinklers a little too much!)
Our next stop after Florence was Rome, which we also reached by train. In Rome, we visited the usual sights but the highlight for the kids was watching a gladiator show, where they got to experience Rome in the old days... and become gladiators for the night. This seemed to teach them about Rome history a lot more than visiting old rocks.
Gladiator for a day
Our next destination took us further South, to the beautiful coastal village of Positano. We took the train to Naples and then rented a car to make it to our destination. Positano is a cute little village perched on the hillsides by the coast. The roads are curved and narrow, and traffic goes slow. But once we found our accommodation (an AirBnB we had to book quite early; Positano sells out quickly!), our walks on foot were wonderful. We walked to the see front, had a wonderful walk about the beach and a nice seafood dinner. We had gone back and forth about whether we wanted to add this stop to our itinerary, and we knew we had made the right decision.
Positano from the ferry to Capri
On the next day, we took a day trip to Capri, via ferry. We had hired a guide for the day in Capri, and we got to visit a lot of the island in the time we had allocated, from the nature and the views at the back of the island in Anacapri, to the Blue Grotto (a long wait but a fun adventure when going into the boats) to the main city area by the harbor. Side note: My husband and 10-year old son did this "long" hike to the ancient site of Villa Jovis. Our guide had recommended against it as she thought it would be too long and tiring. But it ended up being a quick and easy hike, even for the 10-year old.
Going up, up, up to the top in Capri
The end of our Italy trip was approaching, and it was time to head back to Naples, where we would fly to Malta. On the way back from Positano, we spent one night in Pompeii, which allowed us to visit the site that afternoon. Pompeii was also a nice highlight and the kids thought it was quite interesting. The site is well preserved and they could really imagine life in the city. With a 5-year old in tow, we didn't stay too long (although he was an active visitor throughout) but the 10-year old would have easily spent a few more hours and he asked us to buy him more books about Pompeii. Win!
Pretending to be merchants in Pompeii
The next morning, we said Good Bye to Italy and made our way to Malta. Our first afternoon in Malta was spent walking around Mdina and learning about the history of Malta (the museums have nice interactive videos to learn about the island's history; it seems that the Malta tourist organizations are the masters of 4D story-telling as we saw across a variety of museums). On our next day, we did a full-day tour of the island, which included the historical and sea shore portion of Valletta, a nice lunch at the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, visiting the Mosta Dome and its history.
View from the Valletta Harbor
We used the following morning before our afternoon flight to visit another portion of the island: the old temples of Hagar Qim and Tarxien (quite impressive and definitely worth it) and the Blue Grotto of Malta.
It was once again a packed itinerary but we enjoyed every minute of it. The kids learned a lot about different phases of European history. And while I am sure it will take them some time to sort through all the memories, I know they will continue too appreciate what history has to teach us (not to mention the wonderful hospitality of our contemporary hosts in Italy and Malta, who made for a wonderful trip).
We can't wait to visit again!