Travelers are becoming more demanding: an increasing number of people hunt for experiential journeys that bring them closer to local cultures and traditions, far from the beaten track and mass tourism.

In particular, families are among the top promoters of this positive trend in educated tourism… and we think this is great! In fact, at Italian Special Occasions DMC we believe that in a world where children learn to use technology and eat fast food at a very young age, kids must be stimulated to become more creative, develop their skills and dexterity, and treasure the heritage from the past. Likewise, grown-ups should not forget about their roots and should learn to balance technology with the genuine aspects of life, rediscovering their Five Senses.

Even outside the world of travel, local associations and cultural/political organizations are being quite active, creating programs and initiatives in order to protect ancient trades and artisanal traditions that are slowly disappearing.

For example, the non-profit organization Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte (Cologni Foundation for the Métiers d’Art) is trying to accomplish a «new Renaissance» of the crafts by training the next generations of artisans. One of its most distinguished projects, called “A School, a Job. Training to Excellence”, trains young people in high craftsmanship with apprenticeship programs and introduces them into the working world. You can learn more about this journey in this short video.

Authentic family travel experiences in the ‘botteghe’

If you are fascinated by the world of craftsmanship and/or are looking for authentic travel activities, Italy offers some truly exciting opportunities. After all, we have all heard about the world-famous “made in Italy”, but what are the secrets of the trade and the stories of the people behind it?

Let’s explore some ideas for unique family travel experiences that can be enjoyed in the traditional ‘botteghe, i.e. artisan workshops or ateliers that are often family owned.

Weaving workshop

Clothes are one of Italy’s most remarkable exports. Fashion lovers cannot miss the chance to learn how to make handmade shoes under the guidance of expert shoemakers, or to witness how a high-fashion tailor creates a dress in an atelier. How do you select and combine the finest materials? How are patterns designed and dresses sketched? What ancient and modern tailoring and shoemaking techniques exist? A hands-on approach is the best way to explore the mesmerizing world of fashion!

Once you have designed your dress and have created your own shoes, it is time to combine them with some nice accessories. Start by discovering the ancient techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation in the studio of a goldsmith. In Venice, learn how to string pearls like an “impiraressa” (local expert bead stringers) and create your own Venetian glass beads.

Family travel experiences: Painting

Feeling artistic? The options are truly amazing here! You can choose from “common”, yet fascinating, activities such as pottery classes and decorating ceramics with the majolica technique – to more unusual lessons, such as intaglio wood carving, goldbeating and sculpting. Music lovers will be delighted to visit a luthier and witness how instruments – such as violins – come to life or are repaired. Do you love writing and reading books? Then there’s something for you too! Learn how to create your own notebook with the ancient papermaking method, or to clean and repair antique books.

One craft that not many people are aware of is the art of stuffing period furniture, such as ancient sofas that were handmade decades ago, if not centuries ago! You get to know old filling techniques, to learn how to analyze an original piece of furniture, and how to restore it by taking its style and functionality into consideration. Who knows: with a basic knowledge of restoration techniques and materials, you may be able to surprise your grandmother by working some magic on her antique furniture!

Both children and adults alike can enjoy most of these activities… just image what an interesting and thrilling “face off” of creativity and skills between grownups and little ones!

Clint Eastwood and the Tuscan cigarSome activities are for adults only. For tobacco lovers, the ideal workshop is in Bolzano (Trentino Alto Adige), at the Atelier della Pipa. Here, master pipe maker Betram Safferling creates small works of art, including high-quality, hand-carved classic and freehand pipes. He organizes courses at the end of which you should be able to create your own small sculpture… and use it to enjoy your tobacco! Speaking of which, if you would like to feel like Clint Eastwood in one of those famous “Spaghetti” Westerns by Sergio Leone, you will certainly enjoy cigar tastings and public shows of cigar manufacturing in Tuscany. The Toscano cigar is the original Italian cigar, made of high-quality fermented Kentucky tobacco. Founded in the early 19th century, the Toscano cigar is rich in history, tradition and heritage!

Are you inspired?

Are there any particular courses/activities that have not been mentioned here and that you would like to enjoy while traveling in Italy with your family and friends? Contact Italian Special Occasions DMC: let our passion and expertise help you design unforgettable family travel experiences

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