As families flock back to their favourite places in the Med, Katie McGonagle checks out some of Italy's most child-friendly options.
It’s easy to think of Italy as the home of romantic escapes and city breaks, but it has plenty to offer the lucrative family market too.
Although it can’t compete on price with the likes of Spain or Cyprus, the combination of cultural highlights, beautiful beaches and exciting activities makes it well worth considering for a fun family break.
After a slight dip in UK visitor numbers to Italy, a better euro exchange rate and political unrest in other popular destinations saw the number of British arrivals surge by 9.8% in the first six months of last year – and that trend shows no sign of slowing. Italy is easily accessible, with a two or three-hour flight and dozens of departures from regional airports.
Here, we look at some of the options for families with children of different ages, with sample packages from the operators that feature the hotels, villas and holiday camps we recommend.
PERFECT FOR... TINY TOTS
Parents with very young children are often concerned about the facilities they will find at their chosen hotel, as seemingly simple extras such as high chairs and changing mats can make a huge difference to a holiday.
And with little ones demanding their attention 24/7, mum and dad are sure to need a break too, so it’s worth finding resorts that give them a chance to relax.
The crèche and babysitting service at the Chia Laguna Resort in southern Sardinia make it perfect for toddlers, while older brothers or sisters can have fun at the kids’ or teenagers’ club. A mini-train to the beach will be a novelty for youngsters, while parents can try the 18-hole golf course and driving range, tennis courts or nearby horse riding.
Families with one child can share a room; those with two children can get an interconnecting room, with the second room 25% cheaper. A week’s half-board for a family of four in two interconnecting rooms starts from £1,780 including transfers but not flights through Western & Oriental Travel.
Budget-conscious families could try Bella Italia on the shores of Lake Garda, where the mini fun station caters for kids aged six months to three years, plus other clubs for older siblings. Cots, high chairs, baby baths and changing mats are all included, plus free extras such as toddler cutlery, booster seats and plug socket covers to give parents peace of mind. There are plenty of watersports on the picturesque lake, while Italy’s largest theme park, Gardaland, is nearby.
It’s also just a mile from the pretty town of Peschiera del Garda and within easy reach of Verona for a day trip. Keycamp offers a week for two adults and up to four children in a two-bedroom Villanova mobile home in April for £371, accommodation-only.
Or families can enjoy the privacy of a villa just a couple of miles outside the historic ‘white town’ of Ostuni, in Puglia. Meon Villas offers Trullo Serra Sessana, a charming two-bedroom villa with private swimming pool, walled garden and original architectural features for £2,709 for a family of four, including flights from Gatwick and free car hire in May.
PERFECT FOR... UNDER-12s
This is the ideal time for kids to build their best memories of family holidays. While the basic family formula of beach, pool and kids’ club is bound to be a winner, it’s worth thinking outside the box to make it a unique break.
Sorrento isn’t the first destination that springs to mind for families, but the Hilton Sorrento Palace has plenty of child-friendly options. The complimentary kids’ club is for four to 12-year-olds, plus there’s a playground, tennis court and mini football pitch to keep them occupied. Kids will be fascinated by a day trip to historic Pompeii to see Vesuvius, the only active volcano in mainland Europe.
Classic Collection Holidays offers guaranteed interconnecting rooms from £4,412 in August based on two adults and two children on a B&B basis, including flights.
Sardinia’s brilliant mix of beaches and activities such as snorkelling, horse riding and quad biking make it the perfect place for kids. Youngsters have their own private pool and space in which to run around at Casa Querce, a two-bedroom villa in Pula, on the south side of the island. Sardinian Places offers a week from £953 per person based on four sharing, including flights to Cagliari, in August.
Primary school pupils study the Romans so why not suggest parents add a visit to the Colosseum or the Pantheon to a beach break? Camping Village Fabulous is halfway between Rome and the coast, offering the best of both worlds. The park has a swimming pool complex, kids’ clubs, animation programme, mini golf and volleyball. Keycamp offers seven nights in August for two adults and up to four children in a two-bedroom mobile home for £918, accommodation-only. Fly-drive packages are available for a supplement.
PERFECT FOR... TRAVELLING WITH TEENS
Teenagers are always hard to please, but a resort offering plenty of activities is probably the best way to avoid arguments.
Lido di Jesolo is just an hour by ferry from Venice – a perfect day trip – and hosts several free music concerts and entertainment during the summer. The town is right on the coast, boasting incredible beaches including a 10-mile stretch of sand and great local restaurants offering traditional fare. Plus, the vast waterpark of Aqualandia is just a stone’s throw away. Thomson’s D’Annunzio Hotel is priced from £453 per person for a week’s half board in July, including flights from Gatwick.
The huge Forte Village in Sardinia has an amazing array of dining venues, with 21 on-site restaurants, including a kids-only cafe, plus a go-karting track, climbing wall, trampoline, bowling alley and disco to keep teens amused. The resort also holds sporting academies including a week-long cricket workshop in April hosted by Michael Vaughan. Seven nights’ half-board at the four-star Le Palme in August starts at £3,861 for a family of four with Cresta Holidays.
Teenagers can enjoy a dedicated club featuring Wii and PlayStation consoles, tennis and golf at the five-star beach resort Borgo Egnazia in Savelletri, Puglia. They can also go horse riding, try sailing or windsurfing, or splash around in one of the hotel’s four swimming pools. A week’s B&B with Citalia starts at £3,275 for a family of three in July.