Richard and Elyse Liu, and their daughters Elizabeth (9) and Paola (8).
The family went to Italy for two weeks. Richard booked the entire trip himself, including the Eurail pass and hotel stays. From Beijing, they flew Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong to Rome. The travel time of 16 hours was surprisingly pleasant for the most part. A 30-minute airport train from the Leonardo da Vinci Airport to Roma Termini is free for travelers carrying a First Class Eurail pass. Traveling by train in Italy is very convenient, but the Eurail pass is only great for major cities. Find Eurail on Facebook, where they answer questions within 24 hours.
One of the main attractions is the Colosseum or Colosseo. Though crowded in the morning, it clears out by late afternoon. Entry is EUR 12 per person with no discount for children. A ticket includes admission into the Roman Forum and the Palantine Hills nearby, which is best saved for the next day, as all sites close at 7pm. The Colosseo metro station (EUR 1 per person) located across the street from the ancient amphitheater is a great way to reach other sights of Rome.
The Best Part
Do as the Romans do and take a stroll while enjoying a gelato. Gelato is the emperor of cool treats for both adults and kids alike. It is also a healthier option than ice-cream, with a lower fat content and no cream.
A Journey of Gelato
A 15-minute walk from Barberini metro station to the Trevi Fountain (located in the Piazza della Fontana di Trevi) is a good way to start your tour of Rome. Wind through the capital’s narrow streets, passing gelaterias along the way – but make sure you save the best for last. After visiting Trevi Fountain, walk 50m to the Via del Lavatore to Gelateria Cecere, one of the oldest gelaterias in town. The piccola (small) costs only EUR 2, but you’ll probably finish this after crossing the next small intersection, where you’ll find Gelateria Valentino’s House. Here, their EUR 2 piccola comes with a cute little cone to scoop up the gelato. Also, try Il Gelato di San Crispino at 42 Via della Panetteria. Be prepared to pay a little more at this gelateria, as they’re considered one of the best in Italy. Richard’s personal favorite was Giolitti at 40 Via Uffici dei Vicario. Here you can eat gelato for breakfast or dessert – it is open from 7am to 1.30am.
Another cool treat in Rome is the cremolato, which is made with fresh chunks of iced grated fruit. It’s one of Italy’s best kept summer secrets.
Continuing their gelato tour, the family traveled an hour outside Rome to see the small medieval town of Fiuggi. For EUR 2, Il Gelatiere on 38 Via dei Villini gives you two flavors, topped with fresh panna (whipped cream), and the freshness is like no other. Richard’s favorite gelato combination was bacio (hazelnut with chocolate) and pistachio, but the kids loved limone and chocolate.
Further south is the coastal resort town of Sorrento, a place known for its refreshing Granita di limone (lemon ice). The family-favorite Fauno Bar in Piazza Tasso sells a large glass of sweet lemon ice for EUR 6. Check out the recipe (p39) to make your own.
The Worst Part
Napoli is known for its petty thieves as much as pizza. Tourists should also be careful in Rome of those who say they are there to "help," but ask for money in return.
Attending a Sunday morning mass in Italian with their great-grandmother was a special treat for the kids.
A vibrant country full of history and culture, Italy might be the most kid-friendly place in the world. The abundance of pizza, pasta, and gelato helps. And Rome’s fresh water fountains are clean enough to drink from, especially the ones in St. Peter’s Square. People are friendly and English is widely spoken.
Traveling with children meant the pace was slower than expected, so families should factor in those wee steps. There is no shopping between 1 and 4pm and on Sundays. Dress accordingly for the Vatican or don’t walk in at all. Be prepared for long queues at touist sites. And bring plenty of sunscreen.
Granita di Limone (lemon ice)
2 cups natural mineral water
1 cup sugar
Wash the lemons and finely zest three of them. Then cut all of the lemons in half and juice them, removing any seeds. Place the mineral water, lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan over low to moderate heat and thoroughly liquefy the sugar. Stir constantly to prevent the sugar sticking to the bottom of the pan and don’t let it boil. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the pan from the burner and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Combine the lemon juice with the cooled liquid and put it in the freezer for 45-minutes, or when an icy crust forms around the edges. Gently mash each cube with a fork while still in the tray and return it to the freezer. Repeat this procedure every 30 to 45 minutes. The granita should be ready after four or five hours. Scrape the granita out with a spoon and serve with a sprig of fresh mint.
For gelato in Beijing, visit Mondo Gelato inside the Lufthansa Centre or any Gustomenta.