Strutting out into the Mediterranean Sea like a Milanese fashionista, the thigh-high boot that is Italy winks at you from the map, yearning to be noticed. Italian life is lived in the open; passionate embraces block your way under medieval porticos whilst intense debates simmer across the piazzas. This constant buzz of social emotion, ringed by the whirr of mopeds, can be startling at first, but give it half a chance and Italy will repay you tenfold. Italians are devoted to family life and there are few other countries in the world where you and your children will feel more welcomed.
Italian life revolves around food. The sanctity of the midday meal is not one to be broken. Whilst pasta and pizza still form a large part of the diet, the variety of dishes is astounding. So, while the kids are munching away on nutritious home-cooked food they thought only existed in fast-food chains and takeout restaurants, you can relax to the tune of local wine and exquisite aromatic cheeses. Antipasti, meanwhile, often translated as ‘starters’ can compose meals in their own right. Plates of dried and cured meats with matching cheeses, salads and oils, are shared like Spanish tapas, in bars or at home.
Of course, behind the food, wine and balmy summer nights is an ancient land littered with historical wonders. Where better to bring history to life for your bored teenagers than in the bowels of the Colosseum as you imagine Gladiators battling for your favor? Or between the time-warped streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum where real Romans lie frozen in Vesuvius’ ash?
Punting through the tiny canals of Venice feels like an adventure through time, while climbing the spindly medieval towers of Bologna will take you to the first skyscraper city. With history and culture seeping into your vacation disguised as fun, you can leave the cities behind you for the languorous sands with holidays in Sorrento or nip into the mountains for Alpine walking or wine tasting.
The intricate balance of culture and comfort, refinement and relaxation, has never been quite so well matched as in the unique genius that is Italy.
Photo credit: jayneandd; creative commons license