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Campania Family Holidays & Breaks

Pompeii.Pompeii.© Pompeii - Parco Archeologico
Statue of a fisherboy on Capri.Statue of a fisherboy on Capri.© www.capritourism.com
Cherry tomatoes from Vesuvius National Park.Cherry tomatoes from Vesuvius National Park.© www.parks.it
Pizza at Da Michele.Pizza at Da Michele.© www.damichele.net
Display at the National Archaeology Museum, Naples.Display at the National Archaeology Museum, Naples.© Museo Archeologico di Napoli
Street art, Naples.Street art, Naples.© Comune di Napoli
Positano on the Amalfi Coast.Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
MADRE museum, Naples.MADRE museum, Naples.© MADRE
A bay in Capri.A bay in Capri.© www.capritourism.com
View towards Naples and Vesuvius.View towards Naples and Vesuvius.© Comune di Napoli
Temple at Paestum.Temple at Paestum.© Parco Archeologico Paestum
Installation at MADRE, Naples.Installation at MADRE, Naples.© MADRE.
Flying Time 3hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.43 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

Italy’s most densely populated region is a great place for parents looking for more than just Mediterranean beaches and azure seas, although the iconic Amalfi Coast has plenty of those, as well as stunning terraced lemon groves and picturesque ranks of coloured houses.

Campania as a whole is chock-a-block with culture, especially archaeological sites of huge importance, not least part-buried Pompeii. The latter is within easy reach of the buzzy, compelling regional capital Naples, birthplace of that most child-friendly of dishes, pizza.

Things to do with kids in Campania

Have a family city break in Naples, a hectic, often shabby but highly rewarding city in the shadow of Vesuvius, with a warren of fascinating ancient Greek streets in its historic centre to explore. Hop-on hop-off buses are a good way of getting an overview, especially with younger kids. Pizza-eating is a must-do while in Naples (see below), but make time for the National Archaeological Museum to see Roman treasures gleaned from nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum (see below). Another good spot for historical insights is San Lorenzo Maggiore church, beneath which you can tour the remains of a Roman market, complete with intact shopfronts, as well as see some Greek ruins. With kids, make sure to check out the famous presepi or nativity scenes made by local craftspeople for centuries – a great and unique souvenir, whether it’s Christmas or not. And don’t miss MADRE, the Museum of Contemporary Art – great with teens but also with younger kids, for whom there are special activities at weekends.

Venture to Mount Vesuvius just east of Naples, in its own national park with walking paths and wildlife including lizards, whipsnakes (harmless) and geckos. You can peer into the crater of this still-active volcano – there’s a bus that takes you nearly all the way then a short trail (tickets required); wear good shoes and bring an extra layer of clothing.

Visit the world-famous archaeological sites Pompeii and Herculaneum (Ercanolo) by day-trip for incredible insights into ancient Roman life. Award-winning tours firm Context Travel runs a Pompeii Adventure family excursion (eight hours, with the morning at Pompeii and the afternooon at the National Archaeological Museum, Herculaneum or another archaeological site). It also runs Ancient Naples: Above and Underground for Families, plus foodie tours (non family specific) including a short pizza-making session.

Take the boat or narrow-guage railway (see When & How) from Naples to Sorrento, popular for its architecture and luxury hotels, its limoncello (a liqueur made from the lemons grown on local terraces) and its sea cliffs. This is also a good base for visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum, and also for visiting Capri (see below).

Travel a little further to the glorious Amalfi Coast, where you’ll find the lovely towns of Ravello and Positano and some medieval cliffside Mediterranean fishing villages that have earnt it a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With older kids you might enjoy walking or riding the Amalfi’s mountain paths (the most famous walking route is the twisty turny Footpath of the Gods with its awesome views) or sea-kayaking; with younger ones you’ll probably want to make a beeline for the beaches. Local mozzarella and limoncello factories also offer guided visits and tastings, while at the old papermaking centre of the Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills) you can swim beneath waterfalls.

Head down the coast to admire the magnificent Doric temples at Paestum, a major Graeco-Roman city originally known as Poseidonia. Its modern town is now a popular resort with long sandy beaches. 

Even further down the coast, seek out Palinuro, famous for its caves, including the Blue Grotto  – which you can visit by boat trip – and for its Blue Flag beaches.

Take a boat out to discover the volcanic islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. The most touristy, Capri, has another Blue Grotto to admire, plus sea stacks dotting the impossibly blue waters, ruined Roman villas and chichi shops and cafés. Prices are high in Capri Town and Anacapri, but Capri retains some corners of unspoilt charm to seek out. Ischia is best known for its dramatic Aragonese castle, its gardens, and its thermal spas. Procida is much quieter, with an authentic vibe and good beaches. 

Eat

Don’t miss the pizza in Naples – this is where the Italian staple, at least in its modern format, originated. Try it here fried (fritta), folded-over (calzone), seaman-style, with tomato, garlic and olive oil (marinara), or margherita, using buffalo mozzarella from the Amalfi Coast. Among the best places for authentic Naples pizza (pizza vera napoletanaare Da Michele and Di Matteo, both local institutions.

Neapolitans were also among the first Europeans to use tomatoes as food and garnish and it features in many of the local spaghetti-based dishes. And fish is big here too – insalata di mare (seafood salad), zuppa di polpo (octopus soup) and zuppa di cozze (mussel soup) can be seen on menus all over the region.

In Sorrento, try the child-friendly gnocchi alla Sorrentina  – baked potato gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Don’t overdose on the ice cream – save some of your sweet tooth to sample sfogliatelle, a flaky pastry wrapped around sweetened ricotta cheese, often eaten at breakfast. And parents should make sure to sample some of the local dessert liqueur, limoncello.

When to go to Campania

The best times to visit Naples and the surrounding region are May, June, September and October, when it’s both a bit cooler and less crowded. The first three weeks of August, when half of Milan hits the beaches here, are worth avoiding.

Cost

Prices in Campania in high summer can go through the roof, especially if you’re headed for the Amalfi Coast, but if you visit outside high season, when temperatures are more pleasant for those travelling with kids, this is a very affordable destination – particularly if you stay on a campsite or a working farm (see Best Places to Stay).

By Rhonda Carrier

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