Family travel is never easy, but travel with teenagers is even more complicated. Teens are picky, emotional and often contrary. Italy is beautiful country with ancient ruins, famous works of art and magnificent architecture. However, for the average teen, these things may not be of interest. Finding fun activities, keeping your teen safe and preventing him from offending the Italians may not be easy, but it can be done.
Teenagers are at a turning point in their lives, and may not take too kindly to being told what do when in a foreign country. However, Italy is more conservative and very different from America. If you are visiting churches and many monuments, skimpy dress (including shorts) will not be accepted. In general, Europeans dress more conservatively and more formally than do Americans, and teenagers should be informed that too-casual dress will be frowned upon. This includes flip-flops, short shorts, gym attire, sweatpants and ripped jeans.
Teenagers should be encouraged to enjoy the Italian culture to the fullest, and this includes understanding Italian customs. Inform them of cultural differences in Italy. Italians tend to talk louder and touch more than Americans do. Teenagers may be surprised when people kiss them in greeting, but they should know this is normal. In addition, several popular hand gestures in America are very offensive to Europeans, so teenagers should be wary. Your teen does not have to do as the Italians do, but should know what to expect. You should also inform your teen of the sometimes negative reputation Americans have in Europe. Tell him to err on the side of politeness, and never assume Italians understand English. Girls should know that Italian men may wolf-whistle or pinch them in the street. Tell them to ignore any action of this sort, as opposed to turning on the aggressor, which can make the situation worse.
Italy is relatively free of violent crime and public drunkenness, but is ridden with pickpockets, especially in tourist areas. Thieves generally work in groups. Tell your teenager how to avoid having a purse or wallet stolen. Don't carry purses, cameras or wallets in your hands. Keep cash, checks and cards in separate places on your person. Make photocopies of your credit cards and important documents. Leave passports and extra cash in the hotel safe. Inform your teen of any areas to be avoided before he ventures out on his own. In general, parks and areas near trains should be avoided at night, because prostitution and crime tend to take place there.
Activities for Teens
If your teenager tends to get bored in museums, stick to monuments and ruins when in Italy. There are many magnificent palaces and homes where adults can get their fix of art and history and where teenagers will be awed by the lavish decoration. Villa d'Este, near Rome, is an ancient pleasure palace known for is awe-inspiring gardens, which teens and adults alike will love exploring. In addition, Italy has many Roman ruins, such as those at Herculanuem, completely preserved by a volcanic eruption. Teenagers are also sure to enjoy watching the fascinating process of glass blowing. Wine-tasting and agricultural tourist activities will please teens who can't drink in America or who enjoy good food. In smaller cities such as Florence, consider giving teens free time in a nearby piazza while you see a museum. An excellent side trip for the whole family could be to the ancient city of Matera, a secret cave city in southern Italy.
- Knowital: Italian Police, the Law, Crime and Personal Safety in Italy
- Bonjour Paris: Cultural Differences -- Italy, US and France; John Talbott
- Westside Toastmasters: Cultural Differences
- University of Texas at Dallas: Italy; Matt Priest
- The New York Times: Italy with Teenagers; David G. Allan; April 9, 2007
- My Family Travels: Venice, Italy With Teens In Tow; Bethany Kandel; Oct. 27, 2010
- Lonely Planet: Vanishing History: The Most Intriguing Lost Cities; June 30, 2011
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