Take studying beyond the classroom – from Sicily’s volcanoes to Florence’s art museums, these family-friendly holiday ideas will bring learning to life.
If the Roman Empire is on the classroom agenda this year, there’s no better place than the Eternal City itself. A walk around the Forum will help them understand a little about what life was like back in the time of Ancient Rome. They’ll see the remains of cobbled roads, government buildings and temples, and walk through grand arches built thousands of years ago. Refuel with a gelato, before wowing them with the Colosseum.
For Ancient Egypt, Turin is a good bet – the city’s Museo Egizio is home to the world’s second-largest collection of Egyptian antiquities. Ancient Greece, meanwhile, is on show in a number of spots. Sicily boasts Greek theatres in Taormina and Syracuse, plus temples in the town of Agrigento, while Paestum in Cilento (just south of the Neapolitan Riviera) is home to a trio of well-preserved temples.
Gravity and its effects is a core part of the Key Stage 2 science syllabus. Bring it to life with a visit to Pisa – where Galileo is said to have tested theories of gravity by dropping spheres from the Leaning Tower. If the kids are feeling inspired, you could find a quiet corner of the Piazza dei Miracoli and try an experiment yourself (coins work well for this). After Pisa, head for Florence – the Museo Galileo is a brilliant science museum, with all sorts of ingenious instruments designed and built by the man himself.
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Venice is perfect for budding inventors, with fascinating machines and creations on display, plus fun videos and interactive exhibits. For little ones learning about the natural world, spend a day at a park or botanical garden to find different plants and flowers and seek out insects hiding among the leaves. Parco Giardino Sigurta, just south of Lake Garda, is great for running around and exploring, as are the gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano.
When it comes to geography, volcanoes is one of the more exciting topics. Swap the textbooks for a trip to Sicily to get a glimpse of them in action – stay in Taormina for fantastic views of Mount Etna’s smoking crater, and book a trip up its slopes to walk on crunchy volcanic rock and see trails of cooled lava. If your child’s really keen, knock their socks off with a day trip to the Aeolian Islands. Stromboli is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, and (although not guaranteed) there can be eruptions as regularly as every few minutes, while on Vulcano you can lead them on a climb up to the island’s crater.
The sea caves and cliff stacks of Capri are ideal if the kids are studying erosion – plus, you’re just short ferry rides from Mount Vesuvius and Ischia (the thermal springs here showcase geothermal energy in action). Older children might prefer to head north, though, to check out the dramatic mountains and glaciers of the Dolomites.
If your kids have just started secondary school, they’ll soon be starting to learn about the history of art and architecture – so kick-start their interest with a weekend in Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance. Gaze upon masterpieces from Da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto and more at the Uffizi, study the spectacular paintings and sculptures (including Michelangelo’s David) in the Accademia, and explore the fantastic museums housed in the Pitti Palace.
Avoid museum overload by mixing in a few visits to the city’s architectural gems: the Instagram-worthy cathedral and its famous dome; the Palazzo Vecchio with its Gothic crenellations; and the grand façade of the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The treasure-packed Vatican Museums in Rome could keep arty sorts amused for hours. Don’t miss the Villa Borghese, either, with its fantastic sculpture collection. Teens prefer modern art? Milan’s contemporary galleries and design heritage might be up their street.