Family friendly accommodation in Southern Italy

If you’re like us it is always really helpful to have good recommendations of great accommodation that is well set up for families. In August 2018 the Mini Travel Tribe had a fantastic week on the Gargano peninsula in southern Italy. Read about what we got up to in the area here.  

We stayed at the brilliant Agriturismo I Tesori del Sud near Vieste. If you are looking for family friendly accommodation in Italy your can’t go too far wrong here.

I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t paid to write this review. I have written it simply because I thought this place was just so perfect for a family holiday that I wanted to let you know about it. Tesori del Sud is a small holiday resort near Vieste. It comprises a small collection of apartments and villas set amongst olive and fruit trees. The apartment and villas sleep between 2 and 6 people and all have large private gardens. Cots and high chairs are available, if you let them know in advance they will have them waiting for you when you arrive.

What we loved about it was that it gave a great balance between the privacy of a holiday house or apartment rental but with hotel-like facilities thrown in; pool, restaurant etc.

We stayed in the largest villa available which had 2 bedrooms, a double and a twin. It also had a sofa-bed in the living area (which we didn’t use), so can sleep up to 6. We had two bathrooms, one en-suite and a house bathroom. Both of these had showers rather than a bath. At the time M (then just about to turn 4) wasn’t keen on showers, so we got inventive! The shower cubicles were really big so the children all got in together and sat on the floor while I gently doused them with the shower. It worked brilliantly and they all ended up having a lot of fun, they even looked forward to shower time!

Other than the bedrooms and bathrooms there was a living area with a sofa, TV, table and chairs and kitchenette. The whole place wasn’t big but had everything we needed and was spotlessly clean. The air-con was also much appreciated when we were there in August!

Enjoying a BBQ dinner in our private garden.

Outside each villa has a covered verandah with table and chairs. There is also a large private garden which is enclosed with hedges and had a couple of sun beds to relax on. There was a BBQ out here too which we used on a couple of occasions. We thought this whole outdoor space was amazing with kids as they had their own private garden that they could play in while us adults relaxed with a drink.

One of the children’s favourite games was hunting for lizards in the garden (there were plenty around) and taking photos of them. It was also lovely to sit out here later in the evening and relax with a glass of wine once the children were in bed. We even had a local fox that visited us most evenings!

No cars are allowed next to the villas or within the site. There are parking spaces distributed around the edge of the site so that wherever your villa is you don’t have too far to get to your car. I thought this was really well done as it meant that you couldn’t really see any cars at all while wandering around.

Showing the quiet, traffic free paths at Tesori del Sud.
Wandering the traffic-free paths.

The whole resort is small. We were probably at the furthest point from the swimming pool and restaurant and it was only a short walk. What really made this agriturismo so good for families though were the other facilities within the site:

Swimmming Pool

There is a fantastic swimming pool which is perfect for young children. The large shallow area was perfect for M to practise her swimming in (she was just gaining her confidence at this point and didn’t like being out of her depth). The deeper end of the pool is great for older children and adults. There is a also a separate whirlpool area which everyone enjoyed and the 2 year old loved the tap that ran into this.

The amazing family friendly pool in our Italy accommodation.
We often had the pool to ourselves!

There were plenty of sunbeds around the pool as well as lots of greenery and parasols which made it really pleasant. It was never particularly busy. The busiest part of the day was usually around 5-6pm when the heat of the day was subsiding a bit and people were rising from their siestas!

Restaurant

Next to the swimming pool is the lovely restaurant. In the evening, the tables were placed right next to the pool and it was a beautiful setting. You could opt for breakfast included in your room rate and have a buffet breakfast here every day but we had our own breakfast at our villa.

The restaurant is then open all day for drinks and for food at lunch and dinner time. We ate here a lot – the food was really delicious and not expensive! Plenty of pasta dishes, yummy pizzas and some gorgeous seafood. M became quite obsessed with mussels during this holiday and was very disappointed at any restaurant that didn’t have them. Luckily for her the restaurant here did and they were really good!

M became addicted to the delicious mussels!

On some evenings there was entertainment on by the pool, we saw a singer and a children’s entertainer.

Playgrounds

There are 2 playgrounds for children to choose from. One is probably mostly suited to slightly older children and is the other end of the pool to the restaurant. The best one for us (and a real blessing for parents with toddlers and young children) is right next to the restaurant. It is aimed at younger children and has swings, a small slide, play houses and ride on toys among other things. It was fantastic to be able to sit having a drink before or after dinner while the children played here.

WiFi

There is WiFi available in the restaurant and depending on how close you are to the restaurant you may be able to access this in your villa too. We were quite far away from the restaurant and had a very faint WiFi signal.

Washing

There are washing machines available to use free of charge. With young children it is always handy to be able to get some washing done!

Location

Tesori del Sud is located about 10 minute drive from the charming town of Vieste and its surrounding beaches. The nearest main airport is Bari, which is about 2.5 hour drive away. The last section of the drive once you are on the Gargano peninsular has some stunning coastal views. We combined our week here with a week staying further south in Puglia and exploring the beautiful towns of Salento and the Valle d’Itria.

For more information and to book you can visit the Tesori del Sud website:

https://www.itesoridelsud.it/en/

If you decide to go, I would love to know what you think. I hope you love it as much as we did!

Puglia – around Bari and Gargano Peninsula

We loved our family holiday in Puglia, southern Italy last year. The first week we spent time in The Salento area and the Valle d’Itria. Read about our adventures in these areas here.

There were a couple of places that we visited on our way to and from Bari that I wanted to share.

Polignano a Mare

Cala Porto beach overlooked by the old town.

It was our very first day in Puglia that we stopped off here for lunch. It made a great impression and is a place I would definitely recommend visiting either in passing like we did or for longer. The walled old town juts out over the cliffs, looking down over small beaches and caves. Very pretty, and we had my favourite pasta of the whole trip for lunch here in a small restaurant in the old town. Enter the old town via Porta Vecchia, and get lost in the small winding streets- we did! It’s not big, so even if you do get a bit lost you will soon find yourself back somewhere familiar. There are a few lovely viewpoints looking out along the coast and down onto the small beach next to town.

Views of Polignano a Mare from one of the viewpoints.

Top Tips:

  • If you are in a car, like we were, follow the signs for the car park above town then head downhill into town or to the beach. There was lots of on street parking but it was very busy when we were there so you had to be early or lucky to get one of those spots!
  • By the Porta Vecchia (entrance to the old town) there was a little piazza with a couple of restaurants and a small merry go round for the children.
  • Make sure you go to the viewpoints that are signposted in the old town.
  • Have lunch or a coffee in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Its a beautiful spot and the children can play in the square while you keep an eye on them.

Castel del Monte

The perfectly Octagonal Castel del Monte

While journeying from the Valle d’Itria up to the Gargano peninsular we detoured to see this unique castle. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, so Husband was keen to go as he likes to tick these off the list in each country/ area we travel to!

The castle is visible from a distance away while driving towards it, which built up the excitement for the children. Being on top of a hill also meant that there were gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside from inside. It was a very toddler-friendly place to visit as there was nothing that B could break or knock over! On entering through the shop you come to a central courtyard from where you can go up into the castle. There wasn’t lots to look at inside, the most interesting feature being the perfectly octagonal shape of the castle itself and the amazing views from every direction. If you are in the area it is definitely worth a visit but I’m not sure I would recommend travelling a long distance to go here.

Practicalities:

  • We drove to the castle, which is probably the easiest way to get here. Note however that there is only disabled parking at the castle itself. There is a car park about 1km down the road which when we were there charged €5. They also then run a minibus all the way up to the hill to the castle for €1 per person. We saved money on the minibus by walking- well Husband dropped the children and I at the closest point that you could drive. This was still a good 10 minute walk uphill but it was a pleasant walk through the trees and for us it was quite nice after being in the car for a while. Husband parked the car and then walked all the way up to meet us. As it was downhill the children all managed the walk all the way back down to the car (B was in the pushchair)
  • Food- when we were there they were building a restaurant right next to the castle which should be finished by now. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t when we were there and it was lunchtime! Next to the car park was a large cafeteria style restaurant, which didn’t look great from the outside. Inside it seemed as if it was geared towards tour groups with large tables set up in a cavernous room, but the food was delicious.
  • Pushchairs aren’t allowed inside the castle. We just parked ours outside and B walked (well ran mostly!) around inside. If you have babies or smaller toddlers you might find a sling useful.

Promontorio del Gargano (Gargano Peninsula)

A viewpoint of Arco di San Felice, on the road south from Vieste

We spent a week on the Gargano peninsula, staying at the fabulous Agriturismo Tesori del Sud. We thought that this was the perfect family-friendly accomodation, read our review here.here.

If Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot, Gargano is the spur! When we first started researching our Puglia trip and I read about this area it was instantly top of my list of places that I wanted to visit. The whole area is a national park (the only one in Puglia). It is very different from the rest of Puglia that we saw- much wilder and greener. The coastline is stunning, with white cliffs and beautiful beaches. Although still busy (it was August), we found the beaches here much quieter than in Salento and the Valle d’Itria where we had spent the first half of our holiday. The interior is mostly forest and along the coast are some lovely fishing towns.

Italy is renowned for fantastic food and being by the coast we has some amazing seafood here. The children are rather partial to mussels and M began to insist that every restaurant that we went to had mussels on the menu!

Vieste

Looking out at the old town of Vieste.

The town closest to our accommodation was Vieste. As with most Italian towns that we visited on this trip we found the best time to visit was late afternoon/ early evening when the heat was subsiding a bit and the early evening light left everything in a gorgeous pinky hue. Shops/ restaurants re-open after siesta and the streets become alive with locals and tourists alike. In Vieste there was a street market on most evenings in the centre of town from 8pm.

Wandering through the old town, you can find lovely little bars overlooking the cliffs to have a drink and plenty of restaurants and shops selling all kinds of souvenirs.

Gelato looking out to sea on the promenade.

There are lots of opportunities for boat trips from Vieste to see the caves along the coast, which I thought sounded great. Unfortunately for us they were mostly around 3 hours long, which would have been too much for the toddler so we didn’t take one.

Top Tips:

  • Be careful where you park in town if you are going to be there for the evening as a lot of the roadside parking was only available until 8pm when it was cleared for the market.
  • There are lots of steps in the old town so it is not very stroller friendly, a sling would probably be handy if you have a baby or young toddler.

Beaches

There are plenty of beaches to choose from all along the Gargano coast. Many of these have lido sections where you pay for sunbeds and parasols, often with parking. If you don’t want to go to one of the lidos parking can be more of an issue! Our favourite beach was Spiaggia Di Baia San Felice, about 15 minute drive south of Vieste. Unfortunately you can’t quite see the famous arch from the beach, but it is a lovely cove which is perfect for young children. There is a lido section which you can pay for and includes parking. There was a bit of on street parking if you get there early enough or like we did you can negotiate to pay just for the parking- we paid €5 I think. There was a small coffee bar too.

B loved playing in the shallow sea.

On the beach, the water is shallow for a long way- perfect for children to play in. We even went on an adventure, wading through the shallows to another small beach, which the children all thought was very exciting!

Peschici

Like Vieste, Peschici is another town with windy alleyways and side streets perched on top of the cliffs. We just called in one day for a wander and lunch so didn’t see as much of it as we did Vieste, but it seemed smaller.

It was hot when we were in Peschici, so a shop selling slushies was a welcome relief to all of us!

There are boat trips from here also and beaches just outside the town.

Forest Umbra

The ‘forest of shadows’ is the interior of the Gargano and was like another world compared with the hot, busy coast! It’s a national park and another UNESCO world heritage site. We drove up windy roads in the cool trees and parked at the visitor centre. There is a small shop here and a ‘nature centre’ (which we didn’t go in). You can buy food from the shop to feed to the deer- this was one of the reasons we headed here! The deer are in a separate part of the forest, through a fence, so not quite the wildness I was expecting! However the children still really enjoyed feeding them and for the smaller children the fence was probably a good thing!

C loved hand feeding the deer, the others preferred to throw it for them!

At the visitor centre you can buy maps of various walking routes through the forest. With young children we drove back down the road slightly from the visitor centre and did a lovely short walk around a small lake. The lake was signposted from the car park and the path was very easy to follow so we didn’t need a map. At a slow pace it took us about an hour and we then had our picnic sat by the lake.

The girls admiring Umbra lake, if you look carefully you can just spot turtles on the other end of the log.

It’s a beautiful setting and we spotted lots of little turtles both sat on logs by the edge of the water and swimming in the water by our picnic spot. There were plenty of fish too who enjoyed eating the crumbs left over from our lunch. The children thought it was fantastic watching the fish thrashing around in the shallows to get to our food!

Feeding the fish.

On the way back to the car we passed a few lovely stalls selling local produce. We ended up buying olive oil and honey. As we were leaving the heavens opened and there was a sudden downpour. We had noticed that the stall holders had started covering things up and packing away- obviously aware of what was to come! The greenery gives a clue that it probably rains quite a bit more here than on the coast. When we got back to our accommodation near the coast everything was dry as bone, it obviously hadn’t rained there at all.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you bring a picnic, we loved eating by the lake but we also saw loads of other picnic spots as we drove through the forest.
  • It is a few degrees cooler higher up in the forest than down on the coast and is more likely to rain, so just make sure you are prepared for that. For us in the height of summer the cooler temperatures were welcome.

I absolutely loved our whole trip to Puglia- fantastic food, beautiful towns and beaches. Gargano was probably my favourite part of the trip and a place I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to. Have you been to Puglia and if so where was your favourite?

A family holiday in Puglia, Southern Italy- Salento and Valle d’Itria

Last summer we had a fabulous family holiday in Puglia. Puglia (Apulia) is a region of southern Italy- the heel of the boot on the map. We had heard positive reports about the area and managed to get a good deal on flights to Bari, which is the main airport of the area. After a lot of research we decided on 3 centres for our 2 week holiday. We had 3 nights in the southern Salento region, staying in Lecce, 4 nights in the Valle d’Itria, staying just outside Ostuni. The second week we stayed on the Gargano peninsular at the fantastic Tesori del Sud.  You can read about our adventures there in a separate post here.

In my opinion you can’t go too far wrong with kids in Italy. The Italians love children, so cater for them really well, and which kids don’t like pizza and pasta!? Although ours ate more mussels than pasta! The great thing about the puglia region was that it had all these advantages and yet was a lot cheaper than many other areas of Italy. A coffee was €1 pretty much everywhere and €1.50 for a cappuccino.

We hired a car for the duration of our stay, which made getting around easy. When driving in Puglia there are lots of small windy country lanes, which are very pretty but aren’t always the quickest route. Beware of blindly following the sat nav (which we did on occasion) and ending up on a really slow route- not always the best choice when you have children in the car that are eager to arrive!

Salento

Lecce

Lecce is apparently known as the ‘Florence of the South’ and it really is a beautiful city- probably my favourite of the trip. We loved simply wandering through the winding streets of the old town (much of it is pedestrianised) and happening across pretty squares and churches. We found the best time of day to do this was in the evening when the whole place came to life with street vendors and street entertainment. M was particularly enthralled by ‘the sand man’ making art from different coloured sand. We had to drag her away and then had to go back to look for him every time we were nearby!

The Giardini Pubblico (public gardens) behind the Basilica di Santa Croce had a couple of nice playgrounds which the children enjoyed as a break from looking at historic buildings and churches!

While based in Lecce we also did day trips to a couple of other nice towns in the area:

Otranto

We drove from Lecce to Otranto on the south east coast. Otranto old town is a small ancient walled town set on the cliffs. Small winding streets were mostly pedestrianised although we did see the occasional car trying to negotiate some of them- locals only I think as in one instance there was only about an inch spare on either side of the small car! Just outside the old walled town there were restaurants along the sea front which were a lovely place for our morning coffee/ milk shake.

Castro

From Otranto we drove south along the beautiful wild coast to Castro. I would definitely recommend this drive as it was really beautiful. We arrived in Castro at siesta time which was a bit of a mistake as not much was open! There is a marina, which we didn’t go to so can’t comment on and the old town is uphill on top of the cliffs. The main Piazza has stunning sea views and we managed to find the one place in town that seemed to be open to have a late lunch here. It was a nice town but a bit of a ghost town when we were there and so lacking any atmosphere- our fault probably for getting there at the wrong time!

Gallipoli

On a different day we drove to Gallipoli on the west coast of the Salento peninsula. We headed there late afternoon and went to the beach at Baia Verde, just south of town. Once we eventually found somewhere to park we arrived on what was a beautiful beach but was quite possibly the most crowded beach I have ever been to in my life! It was a Sunday afternoon in August, so with hindsight not the best day to go. We did manage to acquire a small area of sand to flop our towels down on and the children didn’t seem to particularly mind having so many people around them while they were making their sandcastles.

After the beach we headed into the town of Gallipoli. The new town is on the mainland and the old town is over a bridge on a small island. It reminded me of a smaller version of Lecce, by the sea. Lots of beautiful buildings and small alleyways to wander through. Lots of shops selling souvenirs and restaurants. We managed to find a nice restaurant for dinner which was on the edge of the old town looking out to sea. Being west facing we were also treated to a spectacular sunset.

The Salento peninsular has some beautiful towns but is very flat. We enjoyed our three days there and were then ready to move on to the hills of the Valle D’Itria.

Valle d’Itria

This area is apparently the most popular with tourists. It is really beautiful- rolling hills, and picturesque towns. We stayed at a small group of holiday homes sharing a pool, just outside Ostuni. We had four days there where we combined relaxing by the pool at our holiday home, a trip to the beach and discovering the pretty towns of the area.

Ostuni

Being our closest town we did go into Ostuni a few times. As with Lecce, we most enjoyed being in town in the evening, when the temperatures were cooler and there was plenty of life in the Centro Storico (old town). If you go here don’t miss wandering up the steep streets to the cathedral, it is really worth it! We had dinner here in the main square and also an amazing lunch of grilled Octopus in a small cafe one day- enjoying the air conditioning. We hadn’t realised when we went in what a specialist restaurant it was- there was no written menu and when we asked what they had it was grilled octopus or octopus panini. Luckily the children love seafood and they enjoyed sharing an octopus while us parents had gorgeous octopus panini.

Locorotondo

This is a lovely little town, set on top of a hill. As with all the towns in this area, the old town area was pretty with a lovely cathedral. We loved the Villa Comunale, a public garden at the edge of the old town with beautiful views across the valley.

Views across the valley from Villa Comunale in Locorotondo

Alberobello

Probably the most touristy and busiest place that we went on this whole trip was Alberobello. It’s a UNESCO world heritage sight (which always inspires Husband to go to places!) and despite the crowds is definitely worth a visit. Throughout this area of Puglia you can spot a few ‘trulli’ dotted around. These are small beehive shaped homes, and the ‘zona dei trulli’ in Alberbello apparently has around 1500 of them! It is really fascinating to wander through the area. Most of them are now small tourist shops and restaurants. Some are still people’s homes and there were a few that you could have a look inside for a small fee. The children were fascinated by the ‘gnome houses’!

Monte Beach

Being a peninsular, wherever you are in this part of Puglia you aren’t too far from a beach. After the crowded beach experience that we had down near Gallipoli I did a bit of google research to try and work out which of the local beaches to try. We opted for Monte beach, which turned out to be a good choice. It was busy, which we expected on any beach being peak season. Despite this we were able to get a decent space and the children had room to play. The sea was crystal clear and shallow for a long way so the children enjoyed playing in the sea, paddling, swimming and splashing in the shallows. If you want a Puglian beach with small children I would recommend Monte as the sea was just so safe for them.

As with most Italian beaches that we saw, there was a lido area where you could pay to have a parasol and sunbeds. There was also plenty of other space to just put down your towel or your own beach chairs. There is plenty of free parking space there too (if you are early enough) but also paid parking which had some shade.

Monte beach was only around 10 minutes from where we were staying in Ostuni. There are loads of other beaches in the area that we didn’t try, so whichever part of Puglia you are staying in I’m sure you will be able to find some beautiful beaches.

We think that Puglia with children is a fantastic holiday destination with something for everyone. Beautiful beaches, fantastic scenery, cultural sights and of course delicious Italian food!

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