Tuscany with Children

I write this sitting in a rental car near the Cathedral of Montalcino, a small Medieval fortified hilltop town in the heart of Tuscany’s brunello wine district. Sweat is running freely down my forehead and nose, no matter that the windows are open and the car is in a shaded alley. Wife and children are shopping for groceries while I have saved our vehicle from a parking ticket.

Montalcino is a maze of terracotta masonry and grey stucco, steep narrow streets, and glimpses of amazing vistas across the vineyards and valleys far below. A guide leaflet in Babelfish English informs me that the place started as a stronghold of the nearby monastery of St. Anthemius, was made a diocese by Pius II, and received town rights in 1462 as an outpost of the city-state of Siena.

I love my children to nutterhood, but travelling with them is such a drag. On vacation, I like to take long scenic walks, study art and architecture and regional history, read for hours, haunt museums and libraries and ruins and cemeteries, attend concerts, eat well and buy nothing. This is diametrically opposed to what the kids want. They want to swim in the pool (which demands parental attention) and have a lot of ice cream, period. And any other activity sets off the Whine.

The places we’re travelling to with the kids, I feel like I’ve only been there provisionally — seen them briefly through a blurry set of ice-cream-smudged baby-pink plastic goggles. “Tuscany? Yeah, I’ve sort of been there. Missed most of it. The pool was OK, as I recall.” Still I have this sense of duty that a good dad brings the kids along, even if all they really remember afterwards is some candy bag or playground. And a clenched-jawed father trying vainly to alert them to details of the surroundings that they will learn to appreciate shortly before leaving for college.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Munger
    June 25, 2008

    Ah, Montalcino! I stayed near there for three weeks last summer. Beautiful place. Sorry the kids are such a drag — it does get better. My 13 and 15 year-old were bored some of the time but also found a lot to like. At least you’ll be able to enjoy the great wine and olive oil despite the fact that your kids are there.

  2. #2 Pär
    June 25, 2008

    I went to Italy twice in the seventies, at the age of six and eight, respectively. I remember buying ice cream, two instances of buying toy cars and seeing a lizard. Period.

  3. #3 Julie Stahlhut
    June 25, 2008

    Well, at least the ice cream in Italy is so good that it makes up for the stress. My dairy-allergic husband even found excellent soy gelato in Rome and Florence. So — enjoy some ice cream with the kids. I’m sure they’ll have a lot of good memories of the trip, even if every single one of those memories is chocolate-flavored!

  4. #4 Towse
    June 25, 2008

    Sometimes it’s better to just leave them home and go yourself and tell them tales when you return.

    We traveled at least once a year, but took ours on only two major vacations (four weeks driving around the USA — ages 9 and 12 — and three weeks zipping through Greece, bits of Turkey, Black Sea, Egypt, Israel, &c. — ages 15 and 18)

    The younger one has the bug and has started traveling on his own, although he’s dedicated the next two years to being a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine.

    ’tis a shame to be in Tuscany with your itinerary fashioned by someone who just wants gelato and a pool.

  5. #5 Mikael
    June 25, 2008

    Boy, can I sympathize – you’ve just described my two last vacations!

  6. #6 ArchAsa
    June 26, 2008

    Best description of holiday-with-kids I’ve read! :D
    (It’s funny because its TRUE)
    Don’t despair though. My family took me to France and Greece and Portugal when I was kid, and though it mostly centered on bathing it was a valuable experience. You sort of remember the sounds, smells, the light, the whole experience of being somewhere else, somewhere different. When they become young adults, this will surely help fuel their own interest in going abroad, and not just to major holiday resorts.

    I would recommend going to countries with good beaches though for a few years, such as the many wonderful small isolated beaches on islands of Greece. Or the amazing beaches of Brittany. That way, the kids get sun and amazing baths (and not in a pool) AND the adult gets a better experience. The Canary islands should not be disdained. It is easy to travel inland and see cool vulcanic landscapes that can even interest kids.

    Still, I am stuck in my office for most of the summer, so my pity for your travails is sverly limited. Poooor you! :P

  7. #7 Ansa
    June 26, 2008

    But our son has, via SMS, told me that it smelled good when you landed. He has told me what he has eaten – tagliatelle with truffle and then creme caramel. So he has experienced something!

    Yeah, and he told me about chocolate ice cream and the pool!

    Why do you bring the kids if it´s such a drag?

  8. #8 Barbara Huffert
    June 26, 2008

    You go with your kids? Wow, I’m impressed. My parents always sent me away with someone else.

  9. #9 Stefan K
    June 27, 2008

    I scream, you scream, everybody scream for ice cream… :-)

  10. #10 Travis McDermott
    June 27, 2008

    By your description I think I might be a large child!

    Ciao

  11. #11 Cornelius Holtorf
    June 27, 2008

    It took me a few years to re-educate (or should that be uneducate?) myself but now I can happily spend holidays the children way. In fact, I noticed that my academic interests too have been coloured by what I do with my children. I started writing about themeparks and entertainment and adventure when my son was about three. Smart guy that you are, I think you can learn it too – if you only tried! Enjoy your holidays!

  12. #12 Martin R
    June 28, 2008

    Excellent idea! I shall henceforth concentrate my research efforts on references to archaeological imagery in the Pokemon universe.

  13. #13 Mathias Klang
    June 30, 2008

    Actually I think there is a niche for archeologists in Pokemon studies :)

    Just came back from a week in Marrakesh with older kids who managed to entertain themselves on semi-regular basis which allowed for lots of exploring and photography. Just wait :)

  14. Hello!! I am so happy to see your love for Tuscany!
    Maybe this website can be interesting for you:
    http://www.your-tuscany-vacation.com/

    It contains nice information about this beautiful region and it’s updated everyday with new material!
    Ciao!!

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