We are travelling to Italy in May with a 20-month-old toddler and would like to stay either in the north-west (around Milan) or on one of the islands (Sicily or Sardinia) for a week or so. Which region and towns would you recommend for a relaxing stay, with family-friendly accommodation and facilities as well as interesting sights, good food and plenty of culture?
- J. Ward-Harvey, Sydney.
Sights, good food and culture you can take for granted wherever you go in Italy. You might get served a dodgy meal in one of the tourist hot spots such as Rome, Venice and Florence but as long as you eat where Italians eat, you will seldom find cause to complain.
Your toddler complicates the equation. The average toddler would rather be admiring his or her toes than a Tintoretto, although they can display artistic talents with a bowl of spaghetti all'amatriciana. Sicily would be a great choice in May when it is warm enough for swimming, gelato and relaxing but it would mean several hours' travel time added to the long-haul flight to Rome or Milan and chances are your toddler will not be in a pleasant frame of mind by that stage. If you'd like to be close to Milan, I'd recommend the Piedmont region (pictured). Tucked into the southern fringe of the Alps, this region has calendar-cover scenery, glorious little towns with soaring bell towers and you can potter around the long, glacier-carved lakes on the ferries.
Rather than a hotel, a good option might be to rent a house, apartment or a villa to use as a base. This would give you the freedom to prepare your own meals, which might be a handy alternative to restaurants. Some of these properties come with swimming pools, which could help tame that toddler.
Look at the Agriturismo website (agriturismo.it). You might also check the properties on HomeAway Holiday Rentals holiday-rentals.co.uk), for direct contact with owners of vineyard cottages, villas and farmhouses for rent.