Naples with Kids

April 22, 2010

I have to admit I was a bit unsure about spending a week in Naples with the kids. It's not one of those European destinations you hear everyone raving about, especially with kids in tow, but with a little bit of research and some good advice from friends (thanks Karen, Kathy, Manny, and Barbara) we had a very full and fun week. As the week went on, I began to think of Naples as a pomegranate....rough on the outside, but bursting on the inside with some unexpected little jewels. So here is a list of our favorite things in Naples:

Hands-On Science Fun: Citta della ScienzaThis is a phenomenal science museum with a ton of hands-on activities for all ages and interests. Everything is well labeled in English and Italian. If you have younger kids, be sure to visit the play area towards the right of the entrance. There's even a section specifically for babies and toddlers. And there's also a nice, small outdoor play space. There were lots of school groups during our visit, but the guides did a good job of keeping the groups moving along and once we got to the play area, my kids were ready to pack up and move to Naples permanently. In addition to the official museum website listed above, this link also has helpful information.
Parks and Play Spaces
After our visit to the Science museum, we drove up the hill to the beautiful Parco Virgiliano. Stunning views, tree-lined paths,and several different playground areas. Camille made some new Italian friends, while Noah spent most of his time climbing trees. Paired with a trip to the Science museum this made for a great day with the kids. We also enjoyed our afternoon of exploring Capodimonte Park. And one final recommendation for playspaces: Ikea. Yes, Ikea with two small outdoor play spaces (one in the parking lot far corner and one under the covered entrance) and their larger indoor kiddie check-in play space. I know it may not have the charm of discovering a fun neighborhood park, but for a couple hours of play (and some adult shopping) it was well-worth the pit stop. Pizza!
Not much need for explanantion...Naples is rightfully known around the world for it's pizza and what kid (or grown-up!) doesn't love pizza? The only challenge of eating in Naples with kids is the late hour of dining which is why we found ourselves eating a lot of pizza. Pompeii
This was our initial reason for visiting Naples. My mom has always wanted to visit Pompeii and it wasn't hard to convince Noah who continues to be obsessed with ancient history, but I wasn't sure it would be such a big hit with Camille. Boy, was I wrong. We all loved our time at Pompeii. Nooks and crannies for exploring, street pavers for leaping, pieces of history and art for's a kids' paradise. We used the Rick Steve's walking guide as a rough plan for places to see, but actually the most enjoyable moments were those on smaller side streets where the larger tour groups were not venturing. After several hours of exploration, we treated ourselves to gelato at the cafe (inside Pompeii near the bathhouse). While my mom ventured off to see more, the kids and I hung out in the forum area which is a nice, grassy area. A few more pieces of advice: don't bring a stroller (thanks to everyone for convincing me of that), if you have a little one, plan on bringing a carrier. Bring sun hats, sunscreen, water, snacks, and good walking shoes. Be sure to get the free map and guide book from the information desk before entering. Those were helpful. Also, stop by the gift shop as you exit. There was quite a good selection of books (adult and kids) in English. We had been reading about Pompeii prior to the visit so I think that also helped to make our visit even more interesting for the kids. Check out our reading list at the end of the post.

National Archaeological Museum
After our day in Pompeii, I was a little worried that a visit to the museum would burn the kids out. Once again, I was wrong. This is truly one of Naples' gems. Entering the large red building, I wasn't quite prepared for what we found inside. Not only is this one of the best museums of its kind, it is also a beautiful space and the biggest surprise of all were the creative and helpful signs aimed at children (in English and Italian). As you enter the museum, head towards the sign for the toilets (to the left of the grand staircase). Stop and read the large sign which explains the characters who will be the guides on the other signs for children. The signs are placed throughout the museum highlighting points of interest and setting up games of I spy with different pieces of art. It really helped to keep the kids engaged.

Buffaloes and Cheese
One of the most delicious days of our trip was a visit to a local water buffalo farm famous for its mozarella cheese. After watching the cheese-making process, we headed over to the farm area where we learned about the buffalo and even got to see some of the newest calves (born the day before our arrival!). The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying a fabulous lunch and watching the kids run free on the farm.

Caserta Palace
On our very last day we headed 20 minutes north of Naples to Caserta Palace. To be honest, the kids were not excited about the prospect, until I revealed that parts of Star Wars had been filmed there (suddenly Noah was very eager) and that the Palace was very fancy (designed to rival Versailles...suddenly Camille was also very eager). Caserta Palace did not disappoint. It was massive and breath taking. After touring the palace, we hopped on the bus (worth the 1 euro with kids) and rode all the way to the end of the grounds where we hopped off to explore the British Gardens. The gardens were beautiful with their spring blooms and enchanting paths. We all could have stayed much longer, but we had a ferry to catch. Highly recommend making this side trip. It doesn't seem to get much coverage in the guidebooks we had, but it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Recommended Reading
We always try to read about our travel destinations and there is a ton of good reading related to Naples and Roman civilization. Here are some of the books we recommend:

Pizza for the Queen
The King of Capri
Vacation Under the Volcano
Magic Tree House Research Guide: Ancient Rome and Pompeii
Pompeii (young reader series)
Bodies from the Ash
Pompeii: Lost and Found
Romans (early reader)
Pompeii Buried Alive

And yet another plug for Story of the World: Ancient History. This has become a crucial part of living and traveling in Europe with our kids. Noah regularly relates things that we are seeing to what he has learned from Story of the World. Every family should have this amazing series, but if you are planning a trip to Europe (especially Italy or Greece) we highly recommend it.
boatbaby said...

You give the best virtual tours! I love it! That photo of your little one looking up at the statue is precious. Thank you for the vacation :)

likeschocolate said...

Now, I almost want to bring my children with us. We will be going to Naples, Positano, and Pompeii in September. At least I can share with them through the wonderful book recommendations you made. So glad you had a wonderful time. Sorry your mommy has to go home.

T.L. Holmes said...

Oh my...what does it say about me that I love the pictures and stories on this post, but my favorite was the one of the pizza? My entire morning will be consumed with the hankering for a slice of that pie!! hahaha :)

KC said...

Those are great ideas for fun things to do with kids. A couple more suggestions if you ever head back up here- in the summer, there are evening tours of the English Gardens at the Reggia di Caserta, involving some light shows, "talking fountains," that sort of thing; also if you're up for more ruins, Herculaneum is smaller and more manageable than Pompeii. (I also find it more interesting than Pompeii!)

Dana said...

You are a gem. I'll be back here next time we travel that way --
And I am ordering the must have book this weekend.
Grazie mille.

David said...

That was great. Thanks. The pictures really seem to capture your visit.

Amy @ The Q Family said...

What a keeper for our future trip to Naples! :)

I didn't know about Star Wars but a great information that I'm sure will become handy for us.

Francesca said...

Your photos and your tales of Naples are great. I have a totally different experience of the city, but probably because my visits had to do with US consulate there, a not so friendly place to "foreigners".

Karen said...

Glad you had fun! Sadly, we really didn't enjoy the science center. Maybe my kids were too young, but so many of the exhibits were broken when we went last Spring. Also, I lived one town over from Caserta in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, here you can visit the ampitheater where Spartacus trained. I really enjoyed Caserta, lovely evening walks, and they had a sushi restuarant! A rare find in those parts ;) Ohhhh I'm so dying for the cheese!! How fantastic!

aimee said...

Looks like you found plenty to do! I remember Naples being kind of dicey, but fun, and like you said, full of fabulous pizza!

Madeline said...

thanks for sharing these great tips! And as usual your photos are stunning.

Sarah V. said...

That's a wonderful picture of your daughter at the museum. Looks like you all had a great visit.

Juniper said...

Another fantastic post to book mark! Lots of wonderful photos and ideas, thank you!! Glad you had a such a nice trip! We are off today for the UK.

Sophie said...

Great list of child-friendly activities in and around Napoli. Italy is so easy on kids and families.

I've been waiting with Pompeii for a bit. My youngest have been a little worried about going (afraid the volcano might erupt). My own fault, I suppose, for showing her a rather vivid picture book of those fateful last hours in 79.

Looks like that apprehension is gradually being replaced with excitement though. Perhaps next year (fingers crossed).

Cate said...

I have often wondered about Naples as a travel spot:old and on the grotty side but this looks great. Pizza and cheese plus Pompei, what a fun place for kids!

katy said...

oooo, what a great trip! How great to see mozzarella being made and to meet it's contributors :)

katy said...

p.s. the picture of your kids running up the palace stairs is amazing!

Cami said...

Amazing! Those pictures are gorgeous, and the pizza looks SO delish. What an amazing place!

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