Our latest trip with the children took us to Italy, to Sorrento on the beautiful Amalfi coast. Having been there as a couple, many moons ago, we wanted the kids to experience the rich history of the area. They are now at an age where they appreciate a bit of culture and we’ve been taking full advantage of that.
There is a lot to see in this particular area of Italy though and if you do go there with young children, you really have to pick and choose what you want to visit. They can only cope with so much sight seeing and you don’t want to put them off for future trips!
We chose Pompeii and it’s a big site that will take you a whole day to get around. I would advise going on a cooler day, as it’s hard work in the heat. We didn’t even see all of it when we went, but just standing in the main piazza in the shadow of Vesuvius, you really do have a sense of the magnitude of destruction that occurred that day in AD79. The difference between Pompeii and Herculaneum, another excavation site that is closer to Vesuvius, is that Pompeii was covered by ash and Herculaneum by volcanic mud. Only a small site has been excavated at Herculaneum due to the new town being built right on top of it, but what has been uncovered was much better preserved.
My six year old son was fascinated that a volcano could erupt and completely destroy a city in such a short space of time. In fact, he wouldn’t stop asking questions about earthquakes and eruptions for the rest of the holiday. I think he was a bit worried that it might happen again whilst we were there and he was happy to be reassured that across the bay in Sorrento, we would be safe.
My other daughter, the eight year old, was fascinated with Vesuvius for a different reason and wanted to make the trip to see the crater. Needless to say, my son didn’t want to go anywhere near it and neither did my eldest daughter, so my husband took her.
We stayed behind and went to a coffee shop, overlooking the bay and the mountain. We wondered whether the other two members of our family would actually get to see anything at the top of the volcano because it seemed to be shrouded in mist the whole day, apparently they did.
We rarely take organised tours when we go on holiday, particularly in Italy because we have visited so many times now and know the way things work over there. Train travel is really easy and cheap too. The train from Sorrento to Pompeii Escavi takes around 30 minutes and the entrance to the historical site is a two minute walk. Going one more stop on the line to Ercolano (Herculaneum), you can visit the excavation site there, or you can catch a bus from the station that takes you up Vesuvius. Please note, you can only go so far by bus and the rest is on foot. It’s steep and takes around twenty minutes to get to the crater. Whenever you travel by train in Italy, you must also remember to validate your ticket before you board. This means getting it stamped by one of the machines in the station, with the day’s date.
There are many hotels and apartments in Sorrento, but as usual, when looking for something that would suit the five of us, it wasn’t so easy. We opted for an apartment at Villa Terrazza, which gave us three bedrooms, large living and dining area and kitchen. The Villa is beautiful and you can’t get any nearer to the sea. It’s also a five minute walk to the main square and all the shops and restaurants. The only thing I would say about our apartment is that it could do with a bit of freshening up. It’s a bit dated and being on the lower floor (we had the Paradise Suite), it often smelt musty.
I went with a list of restaurants I’d looked up on Trip Advisor that accommodate for gluten free diners, but I needn’t have bothered. Every place we went to seemed to be aware and could provide something to suit our needs. Unless you are particularly looking for gluten free pizza or pasta, you can find something suitable for a gluten and dairy free diet on the extensive menus. Choose from antipasti including bresaola (dried beef) and rocket, seafood and grilled fish, steaks or chicken. Potatoes are always roasted in oil and it’s not common practice to add butter to the vegetables. If you tell them your needs, staff are educated and understanding. My son was well looked after the whole time we were away. My top picks are:
Ristorante La Lanterna
This was our favourite restaurant and we ate here several times. They offered gluten free pasta, but not pizza, however, they would adapt any dish to make sure if included or excluded what you can or can’t eat.
L’Osteria del Buonconvento
This restaurant has an extensive menu and they also offered gluten free pasta. It’s housed in a old church, which makes for a beautiful interior to enjoy your meal.
Right in the main square, this place can get busy, but as we were there late in the season, we had no problem getting in. Although we didn’t eat here for dinner, we enjoyed a couple of breakfasts, including scrambled eggs (made without milk), bacon and gluten free rolls.
You can’t go to Italy without sampling the ice cream and the Gelataria’s over there are like works of art. I was so impressed that we found two places that catered for both gluten and dairy free customers. In addition to the usual fruit sorbets, both offered a chocolate sorbet that was amazing (and I don’t even like ice cream!). It’s made by melting dark chocolate, mixing with some sugar and water and then churning in the same way you would any other ice cream.
Gelataria Zini is located just off one of the narrow shop lined streets and is a great place to call in for refreshments if you needing a pick me up after all that shopping. There are a couple of tables in there too, if you want to hang around for coffee.
Puro is a cafe with a difference. Not only can you choose from an extensive range of ice creams, they also do savoury food, hot drinks and alcohol. The difference I just mentioned is this addition to the cafe:
Yes, swings, really. I love that they have these, even though they take up space that could be given to two or maybe three more tables.
The Amalfi coast is rocky and steep but there are a few beaches and the water is shallow and clear and there is a handy lift you can use to get down to the shoreline from the town.
The port operates a busy timetable of boats running to and from the island of Capri and also to Naples. In peak season, you can also catch a boat to the other towns along the coast line. We took the children to Capri but they didn’t enjoy it. It’s a pretty place but they found it boring. You can’t win ’em all though can you? Like I said, these types of holidays are what my husband and I used to enjoy before we had the children. Now we’re trying to introduce them to the children, but taking into consideration what might interest them, not just what we want to see. If we’re going to continue taking these kinds of trips, we have to cater for all of us, otherwise they would be no fun for anyone and that defeats the object completely.
As for our next trip, we’re not sure yet. Perhaps you could give me some ideas?