What could be better than showing your children the world — starting with two reliably family-friendly countries with kiddo-friendly cultures. Indagare contributor, Amelia Osborne Scott, reports.
My family loves road trips. The kids (ages 6 and 7) adore seeing a variety of sights and the changing landscapes from their backseat thrones, and my husband and I find peace in knowing that we’re showing our sons the world, but in an easily managed way. A summer road trip from Milan to Provence, with stops along the way, appeals to all of us, not least because the kids get to start the trip with pizza and end it with fries. Here are our ideal routes and daily itineraries.
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Land in Milan, pick up your rental car from the airport and drive into the city to the Four Seasons Milan. The airport is a good hour’s drive from the city center, so it’s convenient to already have your car with you and the hotel has a parking garage. The best family-friendly option in the city, the Four Seasons offers kids special stuffed animals upon check-in and the suites are big enough for everyone to spread out. The hotel sits within walking distance of the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II, which make for great (and brief) sightseeing ventures before an early dinner of pizza and pasta at Camillo Benso (Piazza Cavour 2, Milan) or Salsameteria di Parma for fresh pasta and charcuterie. Overnight: Four Seasons Milan.
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Book tickets through Indagare to see The Last Supper first thing in the morning—jet lag will mean you won’t be able to sleep in much anyway. Return to the Four Seasons to pick up your car and hit the road, traveling south to Genoa. (Driving time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.) Decide en route what kind of lunch you’d like: for pizza, head to La Pizza di Egizio (Via Bolzano 2/4, Genoa); for a sit-down meal in a rustic setting, try Le Rune (Salita Inferiore di Sant’Anna 13, Genoa); for the ultimate classic Genoese meal, book a table at Il Genovese (Via Galata 35, Genoa). Genoa receives a bad rap as a city, but there are a few fun stops to make with kids: Genoa Maritime Museum is one of the world’s largest and is home to a working submarine, and the Aquarium is the best in Europe. Afterwards, you’ll want to head east to Portofino. Yes, it’s the wrong way, but the charming port town located on a picturesque harbor is worth is worth the detour. (Driving time: 45 minutes) Park the car at your hotel, Belmond Hotel Splendido, which sits above Portofino and boasts views of both the town and the sea. Admire the view, then wander down towards town (a 20-minute walk or five-minute drive away). Have a final pizza dinner (tomorrow you’ll be in France!) at Pizzeria ‘da Nicola'. Overnight: Belmond Hotel Splendido.
You might choose to spend an additional night in Portofino, in which case you can plan to enjoy the day with a hike or boat trip, sitting by the hotel pool or shopping in the tiny harbor town. Alternatively, after having breakfast with stunning views, drive west along the coast towards Monte Carlo. (Driving time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.) The drive is relatively boring but if you want to stretch your legs, the medieval town of Dolceacqua, set about six miles inland, is worth exploring. Plan to arrive in Monte Carlo by lunchtime and snag a table at La Note Bleue, which offers an extensive kids menu and distractions like colored pencils and coloring books. Afterwards, check into your hotel, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel, a fairytale of a resort for kids, with multiple pools, bridges and spacious guest rooms. Enjoy the rest of the day in the pools and opt for an in-room movie and room-service night. Parents who would rather have a night out on the town can arrange a babysitter through the hotel concierge and hit a Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner followed by a visit to the Monte-Carlo Casino, Jimmy’z or La Salle Garnier, the city’s opera. Overnight: Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort.
Related: Monaco 101
If you didn’t check out the aquarium in Genoa, head to the Musée Ocánographique dramatically atop a cliff, which was once headed by Jacques Cousteau. Alternatively, head to HSH Prince Rainier III’s Private Collection of Antique Cars, the result of a decades-long obsession. Collect your own car from the hotel garage and enjoy driving on the same routes as the Grand Prix each May. Twenty minutes by car to the west—and inland—sits the charming town of Èze, which makes the perfect stop to begin your time in France. The pedestrian-only village is an ideal place to get your bearings and ease into the French countryside way of life. Families with mature kids can plan to have lunch on the terrace at Les Remparts, the more casual (but still quite upscale) restaurant at Château la Chèvre d’Or, which boasts incredible views. Alternatively, opt for baguette sandwiches from a bakery in town and set up your own picnic. Hop back in the car for the quick drive to your stop for the night: Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, one of France’s most iconic properties. The property does accept children, though some parents with boisterous kids might want to stay instead at the equally grand but less hushed Royal Riviera. Enjoy the pool and have dinner at your hotel. Overnight: Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat or Royal Riviera.
Related: Gourmet French Riviera
For a relaxed day, you can enjoy the day poolside with the kids and trade off with your spouse to enjoy spa treatments. Alternatively, after enjoying a leisurely breakfast, pack up the car and stop at the amazing Villa Kerylos, a 100-year-old private home built to resemble an ancient Greek villa. There is a fabulous audio tour that weaves stories about everyday life in ancient Greece, and the villa hosts occasional workshops for the whole family to learn about mosaic- and pottery-making. Afterwards, head west, bypassing Nice, which doesn’t have much to see, and drive inland again to St. Paul de Vence, a charming hillside village. After a casual alfresco dinner, stay at Chateau St. Martin or Le Mas de Pierre.
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Begin the day with a visit to the museum Fondation Maeght, where children will be enchanted by the powerful Giacometti sculptures in the courtyard, the Chagall mosaics and Miro’s labyrinth of wild creatures. Afterwards, head towards Cap D’Antibes for lunch, stopping at Le Pavillion, a great restaurant across the street from Garoupe Beach. This beach, made famous by Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, is a picturesque spot for kids to frolic in the sea and sand. Later, check into the iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and enjoy time in your own cabana at the infinity-edge pool. Overnight: Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Related: Summer in the South of France
After a final dip in the pool or ocean at Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc, drive to the buzzy port of St Tropez. Have a late lunch at Club 55 and if your children want to do something more active in the afternoon, Indagare can arrange sailing lessons, charter a boat, organize cooking classes or book bike tours. Spend the night in town at Pan dei Palais or at a spacious villa at La Reserve Ramatuelle.
Related: St. Tropez Simplified
At this point, guests should continue on to Provence and rent a villa for the rest of their time. There, you can spend days in the charming towns of Aix and Avignon, taking cooking lessons, sunning at the villa’s pool or biking through lavender fields. Children will love the laid-back pace of the countryside, and time here is an excellent opportunity to bond while all based in one place. Travelers can also choose to drive or fly back to Paris or Nice to end the trip.
Related: Provence 101
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