Plaster body casts of victims killed by the A.D. 79 blowup of Mount Vesuvius are poignantly displayed in Pompeii. (Photograph by Hans Madej/laif/Redux). The family vacation, like the concept of family itself, has evolved. Kids are traveling with grandma or a single parent or an indulgent uncle (or all three). However you define your kin, this Italian itinerary is all relative.
A deadly volcanic eruption. Gelato. Nudity. And pizza! That’s how to sell this four-day southern Italian itinerary to tweens.
What they’ll also get is solid insight into Roman life in A.D. 79. That’s when Vesuvius exploded in a superheated cloud of toxic gas and ash, killing some 16,000 people in Pompeii and neighboring Herculaneum almost instantaneously and preserving their towns in remarkable detail—until the buried cities were discovered some 1,600 years later.
Base yourself in gritty, sprawling Naples, capital of the Campania region and far sassier than the likes of Rome and Milan.
The Naples National Archaeological Museum safeguards many of Pompeii’s unearthed treasures, including a mosaic of Alexander the Great defeating the Persian King Darius.
In the city considered the birthplace of pizza, dine at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. Da Michele still serves only two classic styles of pie: margherita and marinara.
From Naples, take the train to Pompeii Scavi station. Book Pompeii tours online, via the local tourist office, or at your hotel. Choose a guided two-hour tour of the main highlights—from the bathhouses and brothel (you may want to skim the kids past the giggle-inducing naughty murals) to the taverns and launderettes of ancient times. The plaster casts of dogs and people immortalized in their death throes invariably pique kids’ curiosities.
Head to Mount Vesuvius on board the multipurpose four-wheel-drive “Unimog,” the only vehicle allowed up to the foot of the walking trail. Trek up the steep, dusty path for spectacular views of the smoking crater. Prepare yourself for “it’s stinky” comments, prompted by sulfurous gases. If asked “Will it erupt again?” reply that an explosion is long overdue.
In Naples, head to Il Gelato Mennella (at two locations, Via Carducci and Via Scarlatti), with flavors including pistachio and lemon.