It’s a truism of travelling Europe that – just as in Asia one becomes tired of temples, jungles and even pristine beaches – the allure of churches, castles, and seminal works of classical art can rapidly start to pale. In the Middle East, the issue tends to be ruins and desert – most notably, we found, the ruins.
Yet, as we pootled around Italy, much of it by train, last summer, I like to think I did a rather good job of keeping my spawn unbored. Here’s a few tips on how to prevent tedium on the road, which come to you courtesy of Rail Europe, the Europe train tickets people.
1: EAT – LOTS
Food is a major part of why we travel, and the main reason why we visited Italy in the first place. Taking the time to eat properly, and eat lots, and do lots of foodie tourism worked perfectly for us. As did regular gelato breaks (see below).
2: BRIBE WHEN REQUIRED
I’m sure one day my son will thank me for seeing all the wonderful mosaics at Ravenna, though that time has yet to come. In the meantime, if it takes a gelato or granita as a bribe for every single church, that’s what it takes.
3: GO EASY ON THE CHURCHES
To guard against church fatigue, pick churches really carefully. Some, for example, you might wish to see only from the outside; others you might want to whizz round quickly; very, very few should be compulsorily lingered in.
4: LET YOUR CHILD LEAD WHEN IT COMES TO ART
There’s no way anyone can do the Uffizi, the Accademia or (heaven forfend) the Louvre in a single day, or even several, and there’s no reason to try – particularly not with a child in tow. Pick a few things you want to see, get them to pick a few things they want to see, and otherwise just amble round gawping at what looks interesting. I’m not a fan of group tours, and, unless they’re tailored for kids, they’re an absolute disaster area when it comes to family travel.
5: TAKE POOL AND BEACH TIME
It’s important for anyone to have days off cultural self-improvement, in Italy or anywhere. And it’s particularly important for kids to have down time, where they’re just splashing in a pool or, for that matter, gaming on the dreaded devices.
6: LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE OBVIOUS
My son didn’t want to climb the Duomo in Milan. He wanted to go to the science museum instead. And it was bleeding excellent. So, too, was our impromptu tour of modern art hangouts in Florence. And I’m very pleased we went to see the Crypt of the Capuchins in Rome.
7: BUT DON’T MISS THE WOW MOMENTS
Arriving in Venice by train is one of the ultimate travel wows, as you step out of a perfectly ordinary train station onto the Grand Canal. So, too, is one’s first encounter with the Sistine Chapel, and one’s first encounter with the Coliseum. Do the wow stuff – but do it quickly. Because, like you, your kids can always go back, and if you do it right, they will.