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Ten Things Kids Love Most About Italy

P. L. Byrne

We often travel in Italy with our school-aged children and their cousins. We try to arrange our itineraries for everyone's enjoyment and the kids' interests can be quite different than the adults'. They not very interested in monuments and churches. We seldom spend money on museum entrance fees, but we have found ways to discover the popular culture and to appreciate Italy with all our senses.

Here are the top ten things the traveling cousins like about Italy as excerpted from the Italy Discovery Journal www.KidsEurope.com.

1. Cool Cars and other Vehicles

Kids love identifying all the cool Italian cars like Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Alfa Romeos. They are amazed at all the motorcycles and intrigued by three-wheeled vehicles. Ask them why they think a brand of motorcycle is called Vespa - Wasp? Or why a tiny delivery vehicle is called an Ape - Bee. Suggest they make a list of all the brands of cars they see. Or during a certain period of time, like while sitting in a caffe, count the number of cars, motorcycles, trucks and three-wheelers they see and then graph the proportions.

2. Food Shopping

Have your kids help you buy the ingredients for a meal or a picnic. They love going from one store or stall to the next for all the different items. Look on the shelves of the grocery store to see familiar foods in Italian. What sound do Rice Krispies make in Italian?

3. Pasta

Make a collection of pasta shapes. If you have an artistic child, she can sketch each shape. Learning the names of the shapes can be fun, most are quite descriptive: butterflies, quills, and bow ties. You can also "collect" pasta dishes such as Angry Pasta (Penne all'Arrabiata), Carbon-burner's Spaghetti (Spaghetti Carbonara), and Ribbons with Rabbit Sauce (Pappardelle col Sugo di Coniglio). Suggest your child write a restaurant review, or specialize in one type, trying it at several places and comparing the preparation.

4. Gelato

Who doesn't like Italian ice cream, light and flavorful gelato? Make a collection, a list of every kind of gelato you eat or can find. Find a flavor you like and try it many places and compare. Italians are very appreciative of foreigners trying to speak their language, so suggest your kids learn to say, "Un gelato di [flavor], per favore." You can go inside a bar to buy a gelato to take away and it will cost less than the same cone at a caffe table.

5. Lizards

Certain kids are very happy chasing lizards across Roman ruins, castles and walls of cities. A sunny memory of lizard chasing may be preferable to a sullen hour in a museum.

6. Walled Towns and Castles

Hill top towns in Umbria and Tuscany often have multiple defenses, walls, towers and so on. Ask your kids to use their imaginations to make up stories about what life when these fortifications were built. These walls were built with human and animal muscle power. Machines were few. You can discover the style of construction and measure the thickness of walls with your arms or bodies.

7. Statues

I seldom get to finish reading the guide book description of a statue with artist and history, but we have hilarious times posing and taking pictures in the position and with the expressions of the statues. Fun for all ages.

8. Obelisks

There are 18 obelisks in Rome, more than any other place in the world. If your only sightseeing in Rome were an "Obelisk Odyssey," you would find some of the most beautiful parts of the city: busy piazzas, majestic buildings and cool, quiet parks. If you spend a few minutes learning about where the obelisks were made and how they got to where they are, kids will absorb Italian, Roman and even some Egyptian history. There are exciting and even gruesome stories about many of the obelisks. As you encounter each, take a picture of yourselves in front of it.

9. Glass Blowers

When you go to Venice, be sure to take a vaporetto (bus-boat) to Murano. This island with its many pastel-colored buildings is the home of world-famous glass blowers. They love to show their craft and kids are fascinated by the speed and danger of the process. The factories like to have a full group before they begin their demonstration, so it is okay to enter with a tour group.

10. Frescoes

Churches can be immensely boring to some kids: mine! To help them enjoy themselves while you soak in the art and history of a church, find a nice fresco and suggest they make up a story to go with it, the more imaginative the better. Most of the frescoes in Italian churches were painted in the Middle Ages when few people could read, so they are meant to tell a story.

Find 90 more ways for kids to discover Italy at www.KidsEurope.com.

P. L. Byrne is the author of Italy Discovery Journal, www.KidsEurope.com

© Copyright KidsEurope 2002, All Rights Reserved.

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