By Robert Marriott
Like many others, I have had some amazing walking holidays in Italy, taking in the landmarks, cuisine, culture and art. However, if you’re traveling as a family, I recommend booking a holiday in Italy online that focuses on one area. That way, you will experience a special Italy away from the hoards of tourists. You can have great, good value and exciting family holidays in Italy if you book the trips before you go.
Photograph by RayDS
I speak from experience. I am more fortunate than most, as I have an Italian wife who was brought up on the Ligurian coast, and I have come to know this province of Italy very well indeed. It quickly became my second home.
Take the holiday we had this summer, for example. We stayed in Carro, a small medieval hill village of about 400 inhabitants just 45 minutes drive from the seaside towns of Sestri Levante and La Spezia. We had what I can only describe as a one of those perfect family holidays in Italy.
The Val De Vara (The Valley of the Vara)
The charming, hilltop villages of this area of Italy, with their medieval churches, great food and very friendly people, seem to be reserved for Italians. Very few tourists make the 45 minute journey up from the coast. What are they missing? Well heaven of course! This area is breathtakingly beautiful. Wild flowers are abundant, and after a thunderstorm mushrooms magically appear everywhere. As for the wildlife, the area boasts vipers, wild boar and wolves. There are now many newly sign-posted walks in this area for people who want to get to know the area the way only walking through it makes possible.
The River Vara
We spent most of our time relaxing on the banks of the River Vara playing with our son, swimming, diving, panning for gold, and snorkeling in the sparkling water of this beautiful river.
We were happy to be so close to nature. The peace was tangible. Knowing that we were just a few miles away from the crowded beaches made our river even more idyllic. We were usually alone, and joined by local people only at weekends.
We also had a camping trip, pitching our tent under the trees outside a tiny hillside chapel, and trekked to the top of Monte Gottero, the highest peak in La Spezia. We followed a clearly marked, shady path under the beech trees, and although it was a national holiday, we were alone. Only one person passed us! Three hours later we were rewarded with 360 degree views and enjoyed a delicious picnic in the sunshine. We did meet someone at the summit; he was a 94 year-old local who told us stories about life in the local villages when he was a young man.
Fantastic Feste under the stars
There are so many feste, or street parties, in Italy. Each tiny village has its own patron saint and therefore its own festa. There is a real sense of community, and the effort they put into preparing food, making music, dancing, children’s circus, fireworks theatre, cinema, markets and so on, is remarkable.
Le Cinque Terre, and Portofino and Pisa
Apart from all that, we visited Le Cinque Terre, Portofino, Camogli and Pisa as they are all near enough for day trips. I recommend booking a cruise to the Cinque Terre before you leave for Italy. The boats are very busy during the summer months. Luckily, you can book them online, and I’ll recommend a great site in a minute. These are places that really shouldn’t be missed while you are so close by. Alternatively, you can book the Cinque Terre as part of one of the many wonderful walking holidays in Italy that can also be found online.
We had one of the best holidays in Italy ever. Adventure holidays need not necessarily involve long treks along the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu. There’s a special side to Italy also waiting to be discovered not so far away, not so expensive, but oh so beautiful.
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