There seem to be a few schools of thought on how to travel with kids.
- Just go for it. See it all! Let them soak up with world while they’re young!
- Find a good place and keep going back. (It’s easier, for sure.)
We’re in a unique position of knowing just how long our expat stint will last. It’s easy to take approach #1 when you have a limited window. When July rolls around, we’ll be done. We won’t live in Italy any more. (We’re pretty sure we’ll be back in the middle of the US, but we’re still waiting for paperwork to confirm it.) We have less than four months left to see what we want to see.
There are times when we fall into category #3. We’re tired of the struggle after years of doing the #1. So we’ve decided to take a #2 approach to part of our time left, to see our favorite places just one last time. That is, until one day the boys do a semester in Italy in college and we force a whole family reunion tour of those places. I’ve already tagged some photos for them to recreate in their 20’s.
Outside our lake region and our beloved pistes in the Valle d’Aosta, one place in Italy stands out among the rest: the Island of Elba.
Elba is a small island off the coast of Tuscany, widely known as the place of Napoleon’s exile. If we were to choose a place to be exiled as a family today, Elba might be it, with all its beaches and nature and mountain bike trails and whatnot.
Our first instinct was to camp. Then we found a great off-season deal on a glamping tent and jumped on it. Essentially an apartment with canvas walls, our tent offered a kitchen, bathroom, and comfy beds… and tent-like access to all the weird sounds of the night.
So much of Italy’s appeal is historic cities and civilizations. Art, architecture… all things that only get you so far with small boys. We need to balance it all with nature and play for successful family trips. Much of Elba is covered by parkland, so we knew we stood a chance.
Much of the island is wilderness, but its coast is dotted with an array of stunning beaches. We found one we liked and stuck to it last year. This year we’ll explore more, now that the whole family is down with SUP.
Of course there are also historic villages. We explored Rio Marina’s market and mining museum, finishing with an amazing fresh fish lunch in the glittering harbor.
(Really! The sand is rich with mica.) The water is clear and spectacularly colored, too. We all thought it was pretty cool to spot urchins on the rocks.
My husband was mostly looking forward to mountain biking and was delighted to discover a world-class race route near where we stayed. The kids and I spent entire days playing in the sand while he pedaled up and down dusty trails among cacti.
We never left the eastern end of Elba, but it was enough to make us happy and draw us back. Do you have any tips for when we return?