There are infinite things we love about family-friendly Italy, one of which is that it is perhaps Europe’s most versatile destination. Breathtaking scenery? Check. Mouthwatering local wines and cuisine? Check. Beautiful beaches and coastal towns? Check. Abundant cultural and historical sights? Check. Fantastic family stays? Check. Whether you’re craving a quick city trip, a retreat into nature, an extensive road trip or a week of relaxing at the beach, Italy has it all. And one thing is for sure, once you’ve had a taste of this fabulous country, you’ll probably want to extend your trip (or simply book another one for next year). From Rome to Milan, to Venice, Piedmont, the Amalfi Coast, and so on; there are almost too many spots to choose from. In this blog, however, we’ll tell you about the best family activities in Tuscany and Puglia.
The central Italian region of Tuscany is home to some of Europe’s most lush landscapes characterized by picturesque rural villages and endless stretches of vineyard. Tuscany is, however, also known for its history, baroque architecture, and artistic legacy, evident in larger cities, such as Siena and Florence. Here are some of the best family activities in Tuscany, both on and off the beaten track.
Up for a day trip? We’ve rounded up some of the most beautiful spots along the unique Chiantaga road (SS222), known for its breathtaking Tuscan sights and villages.
Start in Greve in Chianti, a stunning town whose structure and architectural features date back all the way to the Middle Ages. We particularly love the main square, Piazza Matteotti, with arcades and ancient-style markets. Make sure to take a peek at the astonishing Town Hall and the Church of Santa Crosa.
Continue along the Chiantaga Road to picturesque Panzano, where you’ll find an ancient castle (Panzano’s highest and oldest structure) with impressive surrounding walls. Through the castle’s single gateway, you’ll find an idyllic square on which stands the Cassero. The Oratory of Saint Euphrosynos and Parish Church of San Leolino are also well-worth a visit. In addition to impressive architecture, Panzano is also known for Vino al Vino, a wine festival, national holiday Festa della Stagion Buona, and renowned butcher Dario Cecchini and his mouthwatering Florentine beefsteak.
These stops are merely the tip of the iceberg on this enthralling route to Florence. Continue your journey and you’ll also encounter charming Castellina, Rada and Gaiole.
TRVLBEES co-founder Emma’s favorite spot along the road is Marchesi Mazzei, a fabulous culinary spot in Chianti that offers cooking lessons, a winery (and wine tours), and two fantastic restaurants, and is famous for its 600-year-old winemaking history. This country-chic gem radiates the authenticity of Tuscan flavors and scents, embodies the Italian farm experience, and incorporates fresh, seasonal, local ingredients. The best part? Mazzei is remarkably family-friendly and has a strong passion for sustainable living.
NOTE: You can easily explore this route in one day.
We wonder what rings a bell when you think of Pisa… That’s right! This beautiful Italian city nestled in the region of Tuscany is known for its famed leaning tower and makes for a perfect afternoon activity. Make sure to stop by the spectacular Piazza del Duomo to admire the ‘Cattedrale di Pisa.’
The centre of stunning Siena is not only distinguished by its medieval brick buildings, but also by its wonderful familial atmosphere. We particularly love Piazza del Campo, the city’s central square. Pick up a mouthwatering gelato from one of many surrounding shops and take some time to marvel at the Gothic town hall and the renowned Torre del Mangia. Spend the rest of the day exploring Siena’s myriad of picturesque streets.
Of course, there are abundant other great spots in the provence of Siena. The charming medieval castle of Monteriggioni presents 14 towers, has an incredibly well-preserved structure, and is located on a vast hill overlooking Cassia Road, thus boasting magnificent views.
Puglia, also known as Apuglia or ‘Italy’s sun-bleached heel,’ is known for its whitewashed architecture, magnificent coastal beauty, and opulent stays. When you’ve had your fair share of Italy’s usual crowds, Puglia is a fantastic alternative. You will love her ancient towns, extravagant churches, and all-encompassing hints of different cultures and ancestors. Continue reading for some of the best family activities in Puglia.
Enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Site Alberobello will make all of your and your little ones’ childhood dreams come true. Alberobello’s radiant, yet cozy structure, reminiscent of that of a smurf village, houses 1500 whitewashed beehive-shaped houses, made of local limestone that dates back to the 14th century. This is a truly unique sight for sore eyes and, hence, also quite popular. We recommend visiting in the morning to avoid large crowds.
NOTE: If you park in Lago Martellotta, head towards Piazza del Popolo, where the Belvedere Trulli lookout boasts a fantastic view of the whole town.
Dazzling Puglia is known for its expansive coastline and picturesque villages that hide abundant cultural sights. We recommend visiting Bari, which not only has an enticing history, but also boasts fantastic views of the Adriatic Sea. Make sure to take some time to marvel at Bari’s signature basilica, Basilica di San Nicola, and to enjoy an afternoon coffee and lemonade at idyllic Piazza Mercantile.
Up for an exciting day trip? Pack a torch and a light jacket and visit the extraordinary underground limestone caves of Grotte di Castellana, discovered in 1938.
Another favorite is the Cathedral of Otranto, built by the Normans in the 11th century. This stunning architectural site is known for its incorporation of various styles, such as Romanesque and Byzantine, as well as impressive mosaic work.
Ready to book a conscious, stylish, and family-friendly hideaway in Italy? Click here to read about our favorite stays in Tuscany.
Ready for the best Family travel tips for Africa? In this member interview, we sit down with the wonderful director of Planet Africa Safaris and supermum of three, Mary Rijnberg. While based in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband and their three young kids, Mary works across the continent to create and oversee unique, tailor-made African family experiences. We got lucky enough to hear all about Mary’s family travels, her immense love for Africa, fascinating roots, and of course, her flourishing company: Planet Africa Safaris.
“It has always been my dream to live abroad and travel. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had an urge to explore; an enormous curiosity for everything that is out there in the world. I was born in Ethiopia and spent the first few years of my life there before moving back to the Netherlands.
While I was growing up, my parents told me fantastic stories about their adventurous years working for the Flying Doctors in Zambia and Ethiopia. I couldn’t help but think: “I just need to get out there!”
“I took a gap year between high school and university and enjoyed that tremendously. Of course, there was no way back after that. I spent 6 months at the University of Cape Town during my law studies in the Netherlands and there, my love for South Africa was born.”
“Bas and I quit our jobs and took a year off when we were both working in Amsterdam; I worked for Heineken at the time, in quite a corporate job. We ended up in Arusha, Tanzania, and did NGO work for 3 months, but our plans for the rest of the year were still undecided. After that, we figured we’d just see what’d happen. We would either stay a little longer and do other work or go back to Amsterdam.
One day, I met a South African safari guide. We got to talking and ended up starting a safari company together in 2004, which eventually turned into Planet Africa Safaris. We truly built the company from scratch, which, in a completely foreign country like Tanzania, was a fantastic but also very challenging undertaking. Everything was completely different from what I knew living and working in the Netherlands. However, it was an enormously enriching life experience, in which everyone learned great lessons.”
“I often call Planet Africa my baby, in the sense that I built the company from the ground up. We approach our work in an as personal way as possible, custom-designing trips for each guest. I truly love that we are able to help our visitors create life-lasting memories of an intimate, unique, and unforgettable trip to Africa.”
“The adventurous safaris that we host primarily involve small, more upmarket tented camps and boutique lodges. TRVLBEES style, I’d say!”
“Yes, I absolutely do. We have 3 kids that are quite far apart in age (3, 9, and 11) so, understandably, they each have different needs. Family-friendly places, where they can meet other kids and where the staff are kind, accommodating, and used to children, are definitely a must for us!”
“A small, good quality, well-designed hotel that is not only appealing to the eye, but also boasts a staff that truly knows their guests and can provide personalized service. In other words, a property with a ‘soul!”
“This is a tough one, since I feel that this term is constantly (over) used for marketing purposes. It’s easy to answer this question with a firm yes (as everyone would do nowadays), but then certain questions arise: How do we define green? What exactly does it entail? An interesting and important discussion.”
“Properties may have a comprehensive story about consciousness on their website, but are they really going out of their way to make a consistent difference? I have to say that, as a tourist booking a hotel online and from a distance, I find it difficult to judge. At Planet Africa Safaris, however, it’s a different story. We can thoroughly evaluate this factor by visiting the camps and lodges we offer to our clients so that we get a sense of how consciously things are run.”
“This relates to the previous question, and yes, we definitely notice a shift in whether and how our clients are becoming more aware of responsible travel. At the same time, they are not sure of how to truly ‘achieve’ responsible tourism yet. People are looking for more authentic and meaningful experiences; they are really eager to meet and connect with the local community of the country they are visiting. I think it will be very fascinating to see how the world changes over the coming years, how people become more and more conscious, and how this will influence their travel habits.”
“Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa!”
“Kenya and Tanzania because they represent the classic idea of Africa: the exhilarating wildlife, the wide-open plains, the Masai, acacia and baobab trees, the wildebeest migration, you name it! They are fantastic countries.”
“South Africa because of its enormous variety in must-see’s and -do’s, and because I truly think it is the most beautiful country in the world. It simply has it all!”
“Definitely! We’re planning to go to Argentina and just spend 6 weeks in a village somewhere learning Spanish and ‘being there’. When our youngest is a bit older, I’d love to go to Iran.”
“It’s very important for us to show our kids what’s out there in the world: different cultures, people, countries, rich and poor – you name it. We are lucky enough to be able to travel a lot as a family. Since our kids consider both the Netherlands and South Africa as home, they also understand how different countries, cultures, and people function, which I think is a blessing. They are very international kids, and they play and feel at ease with other kids right away wherever we go.”
“I love to walk over to The Roundhouse, a great restaurant near our house, for an early evening pizza on the lawn while the kids run around.”
“Boschendal in Franschhoek recently renovated great family Cape Dutch-style houses that are amazing for a weekend away. Mountain biking, swimming, the lovely restaurant and deli on the Boschendal property itself, great views.. It’s all there.”
“Churchhaven in West Coast National Park is great for a weekend away from the city, and one of my best family travel tips for Africa. A lagoon with flamingo’s at the distance, perfect for small kids, very quiet. There is nothing there except a few simple, yet stylish holiday homes, mostly privately owned. Only a bit over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, so just around the corner!”
Need some additional information for the best family travel tips for Africa? Click here to read more about TRVLBEES’ favorite spots in and around Cape Town!
Interview by travelbee Felicia da Costa
We sat down to chat with the wonderful Olivia Sewell, mum of 2-year-old Max and baby girl Kitty, and co-owner of The Caperberry Collective. Today, Olivia tells us all about her company, what’s important to her when picking her next getaway, and about her best family travel tips for the UK.
Founded in 2016, Caperberry is an online platform that provides a stunning collection of hand-picked products, fashion, food, destinations, ideas, interviews, and brands; in other words, a gem that will inspire you endlessly. Caperberry is for the mums who adore the world of motherhood, as much as they love a good Vietnamese-style chicken and noodle salad. It’s a dream for those who can’t resist a sweet little knitted baby bonnet, as much as they love scrolling through eBay on the hunt for an old Celine bag or the perfect vintage wallpaper. Caperberry is here to feed all of your cravings and to keep your entrepreneurial streak alive and raring.
“Oh gosh, 2016 feels like such a long time ago! Before and during the ‘creation process’ of Caperberry Collective, I stumbled upon brand after brand, every recipe and restaurant out there, and about a million travel destinations, each of which were bucket-list material. I couldn’t help but wish that I had somewhere (other than the album full of screenshots on my phone) to store and share these amazing brands and dreamy potential vacay destinations. That’s when Caperberry came about.”
“After having my son in 2018, the beautiful and diverse world of motherhood opened up to me and, naturally, Caperberry leaned towards this lifestyle too. In terms of the platform, nothing changed too drastically, but certain features, brands, and particularly travel destinations, gradually became more baby-friendly. As most mamas will know, when your little one enters your life, you start to approach everything through a baby-oriented lens. Still, Caperberry was, and is, no ordinary mama and baby site. It’s all about keeping things relevant, but fun! Caperberry places little emphasis on motherly ‘advice’ (there’s too much of that on the internet already), and more on staying true to yourself, continuing to get inspired, feeding your interests, and taking the trips you always dreamt of (with the kids in tow, of course)!”
“Five years from now, Caperberry will be every mama’s favorite platform! We’ll be throwing events, checking out more travel destinations and, who knows, maybe we’ll even have launched a little line of our own. Stay tuned!”
“Absolutely! How family-friendly a destination is, plays a big role. If I’m looking at hotels, I need to know if it’s child-friendly, especially when I have my loud (and rather mischievous) 2-year-old by my side. I don’t think kids clubs or creches are a necessity (although occasionally it also wouldn’t go amiss), but I find friendly staff that are welcoming to children very important. What I don’t want is to, let’s say, have to roam the entire resort for a baby-changing spot when things are about to get messy, or to feel pressured during breakfast when toast suddenly flies across the room. After all, things like these are part of motherhood, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed of them!”
“I try to look for family-friendly stays where little ones have enough freedom and space to run amuck (with nothing left unthought of: pool fences, safety features, you name it), whilst us mamas (and papas) watch over them and sip on a glass of something refreshing.”
“100 percent yes! To me, a boutique-style stay means gorgeous interiors, seriously good food, breathtaking scenery, and, of course, all the savvy little extras. If a hideaway has all of this and is family-friendly, it’s a dream come true for us and definitely Caperberry-approved! After all, the platform is all about being true to our identity (mixed with a perfect dose of the sweet chaos that comes with the kids), and one thing is for sure: our love for stunning hotels, retreats, and stays is not going to change anytime soon, regardless of the number of kids we bring along!”
“Yes! Last year, in particular, was all about conscious travel for us. We went to explore several parts of the United Kingdom – including the Isle of Skye, Cornwall, and Bath – which meant fewer air miles on our conscience, with absolutely no compromise on adventure and fun-filled family time. This year, our trips will take us a little further afield, but of course, we’ll still factor in conscious travel by eating locally and opting for stays that work with the surroundings and minimize their footprint on the landscape they reside on.”
“Although I have an endless list of best family travel tips for the UK, one stood out in particular. Cornwall has an absolutely incredible coast and like most kids, Max already loves spending time outdoors. Having the beach in front of our doorstep was, hence, more than enough to satisfy a little boy’s love for sandcastles, rock pooling, and paddling.”
“My partner loves to fish so he’ll go out for the afternoon and come back with a bass or two and bucket loads of mussels that we’ll either grill or whip up into something ridiculously fresh and tasty. Our Caper Guide on Cornwall has it all, so make sure to check that one out if you’re planning a trip to this great destination!”
“First up, there’s the Trebetherick’s St. Moritz Hotel. With the stunning Polzeath beach to its right and pretty little Daymer Bay to its left, this hotel bounces off its idyllic location. Very family-friendly, equipped with a gorgeous spa, and the choice of a hotel room, apartment or self-catering villa.”
“Next up: Kudhva. In a high location nestled amongst tall trees in a 45-acre disused quarry, surrounded by willow groves, gorse bushes, and wildflowers, you’ll find this stunning little haven. This place will satisfy your and your little one’s dreams about treehouses, glamping, and last but not least, wood-fired hot tubs. A real gem, if you ask me!”
“Although these stays are beyond fantastic, there are so many other hideaways that we could recommend in this great little corner of the world: from the luxurious and very family-friendly TRVLBEES property Fowey Hall Hotel, to the super sweet Primrose House just seconds away from Porthminster Beach in St. Ives.”
“The food scene just gets better and better every time! Think huge amounts of fresh seafood, locally-grown veggies, cheese, honey, and so on. You name it, and they’ll have it: whether home-grown or fished out of the big blue! There’s a handful of great vineyards to hop over to for a little bit of tasting, with stunning on-site restaurants that are well worth a visit. Trevibban Mill (not far from Padstow) should be at the top of your list (with or without the kids)!”
“Personally, the near future is all about the imminent arrival of baby number two, whilst keeping baby number one happy, fed, and watered! As for Caperberry, it’s a platform that will continue to be all about sharing great stories, wonderful brands, and delectable recipes, with a couple of dreamy destinations on the side! What more could I possibly wish for?”
Considering that Finnish Lapland is where all your dreams of a winter wonderland come true, this marvelous destination is as family-friendly as it gets. With breathtaking nature, Santa Claus, reindeer, huskies, and all-round snow fun within reach, life-lasting memories are guaranteed! Here are 5 lovely family activities in Finnish Lapland.
In and around Rovaniemi, a renowned town in Finnish Lapland, you’ll find abundant Santa-themed activities. And trust us, your little one(s) will love it! Start by visiting Santa’s Village and stop by Santa’s Post Office, where the elves will seal your postcard(s) with an authentic Arctic Seal. Continue to Santa Claus’ Office, where you can greet the man in red himself, or go explore SantaPark (ice sculptures, Santa’s toy factory, a gift shop, you name it)! You can even sign up for a crash course at the Elf School, how cool is that?
What can we say other than that this activity is a must on your family trip to Finnish Lapland? Enjoy the spectacular Lappish views around you, while tucked into a comfy sleigh with your loved ones (and the company of some adorable local animals). Don’t worry, the huskies love doing this. They need to run at least 50 km per day in order to stay happy and healthy. We recommend Bearhill Husky, who strongly advocate for sustainability, responsible tourism, and animal-friendliness.
Some may say it’s a craft that takes some practice and patience, but once you’ve figured it out, it is a fascinating (and educational) experience that will make you feel like a true local.
Those who enjoy some speed, adventure, and an occasional excursion into the wilderness, will love this activity. Of course, all of the snowmobile safaris offered in (Finnish) Lapland are led by professional guides to ensure your safety and to pick the best routes. An unforgettable scenic driving experience is guaranteed. Appropriate for adults and teenagers.
This activity requires very little effort, but will undoubtedly be the highlight of your family trip to Finnish Lapland. Sit down by the bonfire with some warm blankets, snuggle up against each other, grab some hot cocoa, and enjoy the magnificent views of the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis), which appear on more than 200 nights a year.
Should you stay at the lovely Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, then you can marvel at this incredibly unique spectacle from the comfort of your bed. How great is that?
Introducing the latest addition to our TRVLBEES destinations: Finland! We can compile an endless list of excuses to visit this marvelous country with your little ones, but here are our favorites: 12 reasons why we love family-friendly Finland!
Finland, Finnish Lapland in particular, is where some of the world’s best Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis) can be spotted. This marvelous and truly unique sight appears more than 200 nights a year.
Finland, more specifically, Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, is home to the ‘real’ Santa Claus.
This Finnish term epitomizes the local lifestyle, namely, it means that everyone has the freedom to roam the land. You can walk anywhere in nature! Explore the stunning forests, for example, which offer mushrooms, berries, remarkably fresh air, and wonderful sights of tall trees and vast lakes.
While often overlooked, Finland is actually the best destination for your next family ski trip. The skiing season often lasts longer than 6 months, from late October until May. Finland is home to hundreds and hundreds of kilometers worth of ski tracks, which, on darker winter days, are lit until late at night, and, during the spring, are illuminated by the sun for hours on end.
And Helsinki has the cleanest tap water of all big cities.
This remarkable country is not only known for its breathtaking flora and fauna, but also for its safe (city) life. People feel comfortable using public transport or walking alone in city parks at any hour of the day, and it has been found that 91% of wallets deliberately left around in Helsinki were returned to their rightful owner. How great is that?
That is the most saunas per capita in the world! Parents, are you craving some me-time? Then there is truly no better place to immerse in a day of wellness than in Finland.
Did you know that the Finnish state provides expectant mothers with a durable box with necessities for their newborn (clothes, nappies, toys, sheets, and a mattress), that all new mothers get paid maternity leave for almost a year, and that mothers with babies and buggies can use public transport for free? The benefits continue when the kids grow older, namely, Finnish education is ranked as one of the best in the world, and is entirely free of charge!
Yes, it’s true! But that shouldn’t be a surprise, right? Saunas, Santa Claus, sleighs, safety, flora and fauna, you name it!
Finland is home to many wild animals and birds, including bears, lynx, eagles, reindeer, swans, and the world’s rarest seal. If you’re lucky, you may spot them in their natural habitat!
We cannot and will not leave this reason out; Finland truly is the best place to engage in wintry adventures!
With the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel as your ‘home-base,’ you can marvel at the breathtaking Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed, go ice-fishing, explore surrounding national parks, visit nearby Santa-themed locations (mentioned above), or go for a unique husky sleigh ride. Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true for you and your little ones?