trovvit travel with kids 4.0
1. Stay in a Farmhouse Outside Siena
We were invited to stay with friends K and B who have a beautiful small farmhouse outside Siena with a pool. There are many in the area for rent through VRBO and similar sites. Shared with another family, they can be totally reasonable.
2. Spend Mornings in Tuscan Towns - Afternoons Plunging in the Pool
Every morning we would get up early and pile into the rental cars. Because distances are not very great in Tuscany, we could be in Siena in 15 minutes, Florence in an hour and San Gimignano in 45. We’d arrive when it was still cool, the kids fresh and tourists few. (Critically, there would also be plenty of room in the municipal parking lots).
In Siena, we visited the Basilica of Saint Catherine, wandered the Piazza del Campo, climbed the Torre del Mangia, and hit the gelateria. Refreshed, we went to the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunto. (Upon emerging, C opined, “Mom, we really should come to Italy more often." No duh.) We then had pizza and gelato (yes, again) and were back in the pool by 2pm.
In Florence we had “breakfast gelato” followed by early morning tickets to the Uffizi, followed by lunch. We lit candles in the Duomo, climbed the Bell Tower and admired Pisano and Ghiberti’s doors on the Bapistry.
Again, the hot children were leaping in the pool by 3pm and the tired grownups were pouring a glass of Chianti poolside.
Rinse and repeat for the hill towns of San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. We might have been able to see MORE in our week, but we could not have seen BETTER.
3. Eat! Eat! Eat!
Although we had one festive dinner out, and several slices of pizza during our peregrinations, we did not spend our time monitoring kids in restaurants. We had relaxed dinners in our farmhouse or by the pool at a reasonable hour. We bought local cheese, terrific salads at the grocery in Siena, beautiful fruit. We grilled, made pasta and even had takeout vitello tonnato one night (best I’ve ever had). When we arrived, K’s father drove up with a case of the local Chianti in the trunk of his car. We focused on finishing it before we left. One afternoon, a neighbor came by with two huge jugs of freshly pressed olive oil, which I applied to almost everything we ate. With the spectacular local fruit, I baked a tart.
4. Stay in a Medieval Town - Orvieto
As we explored the medieval towns of Tuscany, S and C would look up at the windows of the townhouses and say, “I would like to live THERE.” After leaving K and B and their kids, we headed to Orvieto, where we got to fulfill that fantasy. Orvieto is a geological anomaly, a town atop a tufa, a hilltop walled fortress of handsome stone houses.
We rented a large three bedroom apartment (through VRBO) a stone’s throw from the main square and the Duomo (for less than it would have cost us for 2 mediocre hotel rooms). We made espresso, ran a few loads of laundry, perused the house's Archie comic book collection. In the evening we wandered a block to Charlie's pizzeria and then hung out in the main square.
5. Spend Mornings at Lago Balsena - Afternoons Exploring Orvieto
Cars are not allowed in Orvieto, but there is a clever parking lot carved out of the tufa, accessible by elevator that rose to the street a few blocks from our house. In the mornings we’d drive 30 minutes to Lago Balsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe. The drive was spectacular, through rich green rolling fields overlooked by hilltop castles. The town of Balsena is a sleepy, turn of the century beach town.
We spent lazy mornings digging in the black volcanic sand and playing in the water. We lunched at Il Pinzale, a fantastic open air country restaurant full of families. Thirty minutes later we were back at home, to read Archies and rest. We spent the late afternoons exploring Orvieto - from its extensive underground ruined city to Saint Patrick’s Well (Pozzo di San Patrizio).
6. Let Your Kids Range Free
Because Orvieto is essentially a walled city with almost no car traffic, and our landlady had assured us it was crime free, we felt safe giving S (11) and C (9) a map and the apartment keys and letting them explore the town on their own. They were so excited to report back their adventures and discoveries.
7) Download the trovvit app to Record and Share Your Family Travel Experience
We took this trip a few years ago, before trovvit existed. Now that I have trovvit - I use it as my travel diary - but one I can share daily with friends and family.
At the end of each day I upload the best 5-6 photos of the day, draft a short description of where we went and what we did. I save it to my Travel bin and share with our extended family and a group of travel minded friends.
Although Instagram and Facebook are fun, this is a private, micro network where I feel comfortable sharing my experiences with close friends. It is also a useful reference later when friends want specifics in order to plan their own trip. My brother is headed to Orvieto with his family this summer!