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6 Ways Kids Can Enjoy Ischia, Italy
Discover family friendly sites on the exotic Neapolitan island
Just because you are the parent of a young child (or children) does not mean that trips to exotic islands in Italy are off limits when planning a family vacation. You just have to rethink how you spend your days in such a place.
I should know. I have been visiting the island of Ischia, which lies off the coast of Naples, neighbors Capri, and usually doesn't even make it onto a map, since I was 2 years old. Now, my husband, an Ischia native, and I are living on the island with our nearly 3-year-old son. Despite our reservations, we've found plenty of fun activities for families. What is magical about this experience, and unlike any other we've had on our island home, is that we're seeing everything through our baby's eyes. You can do the same. Here are some ways to enjoy Ischia with your bambini:
Maronti, in the town of Barano, is the largest and most popular beach on the island, and you'll often find little ones making pebbles dance on the water and splashing around with their parents. With the various hotel options right on the beach, you could even stay on Maronti, and there are plenty of restaurants, offering roasted chicken, seafood, and pizza to whet your appetite. Spiaggia di San Francesco in Forio, on the other hand, is a great option for families that want to lounge on the beach but avoid the crowds. Just make sure to bring plenty of strong sunscreen. Italians tend to use less potent sunblock on kids, and it's easy to get burned. Free, unless you choose to rent a lounge chair(s) or umbrellas.
You will think that you have stepped into an enchanted forest in a fairy tale when you enter one of the many pinete in Ischia. These pine tree forests have been cultivated for the tourists and natives alike. They come replete with a sea of pine trees, flowers, all sorts of greenery, and in the case of the pineta in Ischia Porto, even a small pond filled with croaking frogs. But they also feature hiking paths, playgrounds, and benches for taking in nature. Your babes will love having the freedom to run free amid the lushness, and you'll love the fresh air. The only caveat is the potential for bug bites, so spray yourselves with a natural bug repellent before heading toward the pine trees. If your child has allergies, take the proper precautions and check with your doctor beforehand. Free
This castle dates back centuries and serves as the focal point of the island. It is now a museum and hotel, replete with restaurant. While I don't recommend families staying there (the beds are as hard as they were when it was a monastery and there are no TVs in the rooms), I encourage visits. It's a chance to glimpse at the island's rich history, check out the torture chamber, and take beautiful photos with the charming town of Ischia Ponte – with fishermen, boats, and pastel-colored houses – in the background. 10 euro for adults, 6 euro for children 10-14 years old, Free for children 0-9 years old
Near Piazza dei Eroi in Ischia Porto, the island's capital, you'll find old-fashioned carnival rides for toddlers and elementary-aged tikes. The natives sometimes have birthday parties here, too. You can hop on swings that go round and round or little cars and planes that do the same. Right behind the rides is one of those pinete, so you can make an afternoon of it. Price varies because you pay per ride
Ischia is known as "L'Isola Verde" or "the Green Island" for its lush vegetation. But La Mortella gardens takes this moniker to the next level. Located in the town of Forio, here you will find all sorts of exotic greenery and flowers, fountains, an aviary, and even a café with a delicious lemon caprese cake. Created in 1958 by Lady Susana Walton, the Argentine wife of the English composer Sir William Walton, the grounds are now open to the public. Often, in fact, you can still catch a concert here. The view of the ocean from the top floor of the gardens is breathtaking. Bamboo, orchids, and the old olive tree are among the other highlights. If your kids are still in strollers, however, I would skip this. It's quite a hike to see the different levels of the garden, and it's really inconvenient to get up with a stroller. Trust me, I got stuck in an elevator with two toddlers there once. 12 euro for adults, 10 euro for children 12-18 years old, 7 euro for children 6-12, Free for children under 5
Di Meglio is the Newlyweds Expert for About.com, and you can follow her life and work at the Italian Mamma Web site or on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.
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