My sister-in-law Cory is an artist and her love of Italy comes out in her Italian paintings along with the way she describes Italian scenery, food and culture. I have vivid memories of walking into her Florida home and feeling like I was in an Italian villa, discussing our favorite Gelato flavors and combinations at great length, and when she lovingly teased my dad on his “Southern Italian” as we sat around the table in Tuscany celebrating my parents 40th wedding anniversary many years ago. Her love of Italy is contagious.
Last summer she and my brother took their 2 kids to Italy for the first time to share this love of the the Eternal City and some of the surrounding areas. Today, she’s sharing some stories from that adventure!
We are a family of 4 with 2 kids – Sam is 13 and Anna is 11. We live on the beach on a barrier island off the coast of Florida. Anna Maria Island is a big tourist destination, so, in essence, we live where people vacation. Last summer, we traveled to Italy for 9 days where we spent time in Rome and Umbria (an Italian region that borders Tuscany).
The trip came about because I am an artist and have a friend in Italy who asked me to paint a mural on her 300 year-old country house. We first met 21 years ago when I was an art student in college studying in Rome. I fell in love with Italy the year I spent living there and enjoyed traveling back every chance I got, though once we had kids the trips became fewer and more far between. 6 years ago I took a 10 day workshop in Tuscany on painting the landscape en plein air with oils, an activity which has now become my career. I ended up bringing my paints and easel with me on this trip too and managed to complete a painting a day! I also had meetings with 2 Agritourismo owners about returning to teach painting workshops and/or do an artist in residency program at their farm houses, so it was somewhat of a business trip for me as well.
We were somewhat spontaneous on our adventures since this was our first time traveling overseas with the kids. When we got to Rome, my husband proposed that we get tickets for the “Hop on / Hop Off” double decker bus tour, which enabled us to see a lot of the city. In Rome, we visited the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Vatican museums, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, a few churches and again, toured the city one day on the Hop on/Hop off bus with an audio guide. A few Rome recommendations:
- Before the trip, my daughter used the Dulingo App to learn some Italian. The English / Italian translation App on my phone came in handy during the trip too.
- Both of my kids had studied the Colusseum and the Roman Forum in school and seeing them in person was a highlight for them.
- Kids get into the Roman Forum free – unfortunately, we learned this after paying on the bus tour.
- We visited the Vatican museum on a Monday and it was packed. This was tough for the kids so instead of heading to St. Peters Basilica as planned afterwards, we went in search of gelato. Ice cream is always a good idea and our favorite family motto from the trip is “Gelato? Why-not-o!”
- Driving isn’t easy in Italy – especially in Rome it is quite stressful as we experienced – so I suggest walking or taking the train or taxi as much as possible.
- Speaking of walking, according to our GPS watch we walked over 26 miles the first 2 days! Wear good walking shoes!
- Food is always a highlight when visiting Italy and we definitely ate our fair share of delicious gelatos, cappuccinos, cornettos (chocolate filled croissants for breakfast,) pizza, and pasta!
- Zip up pants/shorts are a great go-to article of clothing when traveling in Italy in the summer because it is extremely hot in Rome in June. Also, it is expected that one has their knees covered when entering churches.
- The real highlight of Rome for us with kids was experiencing Roman culture with them, introducing them to cappuccinos and espressos, eating at the restaurants, and exploring the city’s piazzas.
Our favorite spontaneous adventure was in Umbria – My son Sam loves to sail in our hometown in Florida so my friend suggested we rent a sailboat at Club Velico Castiglionese sailing club and taking it out on Lake Trasimeno one morning. Our captain, Andrea, who spoke Italian, English and Spanish, took the 4 of us out for a 3 hour ride around the lake for 105 euro. Afterwards he even invited Sam to join him and a few of his students for some sailing on smaller vessels, which Sam really enjoyed.
We also took a day trip to the medieval town of Gubbio, where I had lived with a host family for 2 weeks 21 years ago – incidentally, we got to meet up with that family and spend the day with my former “host sister” and her 2 children which was very special.
My daughter Anna and I made the discovery of “cappuccino fredo” (essentially, presweetened iced coffee with milk) at a bar in Rome on the 3rd day of our trip and we were hooked! It was a refreshing way to get one’s caffeine fix in the morning when the temperature was already in the 90’s!
Thanks Cory for sharing how to live “La Dolce Vita” with your family in Italy! The paintings Cory did during their trip can be seen on her Facebook page, as well as on her blog, and Instagram. Also, check out her current website at www.corywrightart.com where paintings can be purchased or she can do commission work.
P.S. – Have you taken a trip with your kids that you’d like to share? Let me know and I’ll send some questions to get started! We love to be inspired to travel and take new adventures!