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Italy is often considered a destination for romantic holidays, with quaint dinners for two on the piazza and afternoons of wine-tasting in the vineyard, but who says you can’t have the perfect family vacation in the South of Italy?
Italy is an incredible holiday destination for couples, solo travellers and families alike, and southern Italy is the epicentre of Italian culture, cuisine, and outdoor adventure.
Travelling in a counter-clockwise direction, here is the perfect week-long, kid-friendly itinerary for the front tip of Italy’s famous boot.
Lamezia Terme is the best jumping-off point for the family vacation of a lifetime, with its southern location and hub airport, where you can avoid the crowds of Napoli. This will be the starting and ending point of your Southern Italy tour, as well as the base for an extended stay, should you wish to stick around longer.
The kids will love visiting Azienda Agricola Statti, a local farm with a large vineyard, miles of olive groves and, best of all, a dairy farm with over 600 cows. At least three new calves are born every single day, and the kids will be able to meet the new babies.
Lamezia is also one of the best locations for enjoying a day at the beach. Just a 15-minute drive can bring you to a seaside town like Marinella for a few hours of fun in the sun. Don’t forget the shovels for sandcastles. [1 day]
From Lamezia, head to the other coast to visit Rossano Calabro. Rossano is a town split between classic and modern, with both a new and old section. The new town lies on the coast, with a sprawling beach scene and numerous shopping and business districts. The long beach is great for kids and has public bathrooms, plenty of affordable restaurants and seaside cafes, rentable umbrellas for shade, and space for running and playing.
The old town is a nice place to spend a couple of hours exploring. There is plenty to look at, and you can take in a brief history lesson. Old-town Rossano almost resembles a play village, with its narrow, winding streets and impossibly tiny, colourful Italian cars. Best of all? Acquapark Odissea 2000: a kid’s dreamland of waterslides, wave pools, and lazy rivers, just outside of town. [1 day]
Photo Credit: Seattle Dredge
Policoro is simply a small town near the Ionian Sea, but just next to the beach is a lovely camping village that is uniquely perfect for children. Families can rent a small two-bedroom cabin in the rustic village, enjoying both the “outdoorsy” camping feel of the exterior and the social dining of the main restaurant. If the parents are hoping for an evening to themselves, the kids can spend a few hours at the Kids Zone with professional supervision and entertainment, including nightly shows and a full playground. The village also features a large swimming pool, a trail to the beach and an ice cream window. [1 day]
Matera is known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City), or “the City of Rocks”, and with good reason. Not only is the city beautiful to look at, but it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main part of town is called the sassi, which translates to “stones”. It is here that the buildings were carved straight out of the calcareous rock to form homes and shops, as well as the central feature of the town, the Rupestrian Church.
The kids will enjoy wandering through a town that feels like it has been made out of clay, and walking in and out of buildings that resemble caves more than homes. Visitors can also pay a visit to the real caves on the hillside above the city and pretend they’re living in the Paleolithic period. [1 day]
Sorrento and the surrounding areas of Positano and the Amalfi Coast are all worth at least two days, especially if you plan on visiting the nearby Island of Capri. Sorrento itself is a typical Southern Italian beach town, just south of the city of Napoli, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The buildings are painted in vibrant pinks and yellows, the narrow streets are bustling with happy shoppers, and the markets are renowned for their lemons and chili peppers.
On your first day in town, it would be well worth it to make a day trip over to Capri on the local ferry (12 daily departures, 20-30 minutes, €14.70-€18.30). Capri has one of the most beautiful views in the South of Italy, as well as some of the country’s most upscale children’s clothing designers and delicious gelato (Italian ice cream).
The following day, be sure to drive along the coast and head through Positano and the Amalfi Coast on your way to Pollino National Park. You won’t have to worry about loading everyone back into the car, because the drive alone is so spectacular, even the kids will enjoy it. [2 days]
Pollino National Park
The last stop on the way back to Lamezia is Pollino National Park, the second largest national park in Italy. The entire park area is crossed by numerous trails, which allow accessible and interesting hikes that are both fun for adults and easy for children (especially on the Basilicata side).
The kids can learn about the local wildlife and then keep an eye out for otters, hedgehogs, and golden eagles during the hike. The park will make a good day trip on the way back down to Lamezia, splitting the long drive in half with an hour or two of hiking, and a picnic lunch among the springs and peaks. The kids might also be interested to check out the 12,000-year-old cave drawings in the park, depicting a type of extinct cow. [half day]
After a day in Pollino, the family can make its way back down to Lamezia, either to catch a flight back home or spend another couple of days soaking up the warm Italian sun, and maybe a little more gelato.
Contrada Lenti, 88046 Lamezia Terme CZ, Italy
Contrada Casello Mascaro, Rossano CS, Italy
Via Aristarco, 1, 75025 Policoro MT, Italy