Travelling Italy with kids – part one

I’ve finished the French leg of our road trip (for the outward journey at least) so now it’s time for the main event, Italy! When we were roadtrip planning, the ultimate destination just had to be Italy. Deciding where was more difficult. I hate being restricted (that’s why I’m surprised I’m still married πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) so out came my map again and I picked my way across Italy with 4 stops. Turin, Como, Venice, Pisa. And Italians love children right? (Nothing like a sweeping generalisation of an entire race of people) so this was going to be easy….

There’s so much to say so I’ll break it down. I’ll cover the first 2 stops here, then do another post with Venice and Pisa.

I’ve always had a love affair with Italy, albeit mostly from afar through recipe books and travel websites. I’ve heard rumours we went there on a road trip when I was tiny (maybe that’s where my desire to do this whole crazy holiday came from) but I have no recollection. Also there was a holiday to Sardinia a few years ago, but time has dimmed that memory somewhat, and all I remember is finding a tortoise in the bush, barbecuing some huge sausages, and Michael Jackson died while we were there. Oh and the pizza, I have never ever forgotten the pizza.

My first tip, if you’re driving across from France into Italy, take a detour and head over the St Bernard Pass to cross the border. It is truly breathtaking. Wrap up though. It’s bloody freezing. If you get out your car in flip flops you look like a bit of a knob and the locals laugh at you….

Knob in flip flops

The view across to Mont Blanc
Freezing our tits off – we’re all wearing shorts

Chivasso

This was our first stop in Italy, and I was worried we’d peaked too soon! It was amazing. We stayed at the beautiful Castello di san Sebastiano Po, up in the hills above Chivasso. I can’t recommend it enough. Yes it’s tatty, and it’s definitely not 5 star accommodation, but it’s beautiful, and loved and full of history. You feel like the whole building is giving you a hug, and when you go, you feel like you’re leaving family behind. It’s amazing for kids, the grounds are huge, and there’s a beautiful pool you can lounge by all day. There are no TV’s in the room, phone signal is pretty shit, and when we stayed there were quite a few hippies drifting round banging drums and chanting in the great hall, but you’ve got to embrace the diverse πŸ˜‚ They were there on a drumming workshop/retreat, it’s not the norm πŸ˜‚

Seating area outside our apartment

This was our rest stop really, and we had no intention of doing anything except recharging our batteries ready for the next leg of our journey. If you wanted to do more than us though, Turin is just down the road, or you could pop to Asti and sample the Spumante…

We stuck with laying, drinking, and eating. We popped to a local supermarket to stock up on supplies for lunch (breakfast is included in the stay) and for dinner we headed down into Chivasso where there is an abundance of restaurants serving all kinds of food. We were there 2 nights. We ate pizza both nights πŸ˜‚

If you didn’t want to drive, there’s a lovely Trattoria at the castle gates. You do need to book though.

Top tips

Don’t bother with dessert at a restaurant. Find the closest shop selling gelato, and eat it while you wander the streets. Also the cannoli here are amazing! Grab yourself a few of those.

Cannoli

Take bug spray!! We got eaten alive. Up at the castle it is quite green and damp, ideal bug living conditions. There’s also a huge river, so the little bastard are everywhere.

I truly loved it here, and without a doubt I will be back some day. It was just magical.

Lake Como

Firstly, if you haven’t been here, add it to your list. It’s awesome. Secondly, that is the biggest arse lake I’ve ever seen πŸ˜‚ it goes on forever!

Again, because I’m a contrary little thing and don’t like to conform, we headed away from the main tourist areas, and went to a little apartment on the North west side of the lake to a town called San Siro. I didn’t care what it was like, as long as I had a view of the lake so I could sit and drink my Aperol in the evening. We hit the jackpot again with Casa Mary

This is the only place on the whole trip I made a navigational error..I accidentally took my husband completely the wrong way and we got a tiny bit stuck on the worlds smallest road with the biggest drop to one side of us. There may behave been swearing. Him not me. I was as cool as a cucumber. It was when I told him it was a hit like Austin Powers and that maybe we’d be stuck there forever that he really lost his shit. I don’t have any photos to share, it didn’t strike me as a Kodak moment πŸ˜‚

We only had 2 nights here so had to cram a bit. Here are my must do’s for a short stop..

If you’re a fan of Star Wars or James Bond, then pay a visit to the house and gardens that feature in the films. Even if you’re not a fan, go anyway. It’s beautiful.

We took the boat across from Lenno beach. It was around 7€ return (less for children)

You can walk up, but it was pretty hot and if you’re trying to keep kids interested, then the promise of a boat ride back is always a good carrot to dangle 😁

There is free parking, just follow the signs to Lido di Lenno and you can park on the right hand side. Get there early though, it gets super busy.

  • Find a free beach. The Lidos are expensive and from what I could see, not that great. For all 4 of us to enter, we would have been spending around 80€, and knowing my kids they’d have got bored after an hour, and I’d have made them stay just to get our moneys worth, which would have led to a whole afternoon of them moaning and me telling them they were ungrateful brats.

If you park by Lido Di Lenno, there’s a big metal gate at the end of the path. It says no vehicle access or something like that. Walk through it. The path feeds down onto a little free beach where you can park your bums and swim for as long, or as short, as you like, and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s only tiny, so don’t tell everyone…oh, and take water shoes. You won’t be able to go in the lake without them. It’s very stony.

  • The good restaurants get busy. Book if you can. I just scoured trip advisor and picked one that looked ok. Guess what? We had pizza. I was starting to get a bit sick of it by this point…we also stopped for lunch at an amazing little restaurant right on the shores of the lake and just asked for whatever they recommend. No idea what most of it was, but it was amazing.

Here’s where we ate while we were here…

Trattoria pizzeria dei platani – ask for a table outdoors and there are amazing views over the lake.

Creme caramel Just ask for whatever they’ve got, it is bound to be amazing.

Bar il golfo not great, but the kids were moaning and they served a great Campari Spritz. It was a good pit stop for a snack. More pizza πŸ˜‚ and some pesto gnocchi for the boy that was pretty good.

That’s is. The first part of our Italian escape over with. Next stop, Venice and then on to Pisa.

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