Welcome back to the Julia Young Photography journal! For those of you who have been following along, you know that I was born and raised in Germany and married Chris, an Army officer and we have spent the past several years living a relatively nomadic lifestyle…bouncing around wherever the Army sends us! We are both adventurers at heart though, so we have found that home is wherever we are together.
We also consider ourselves seasoned travelers and over the course of several years, we have had the opportunity to visit over 6 states and 12 countries and our travels are only getting started!
I am so excited to share with you a little about one of our many family adventures. Today’s post takes us back to one of the most gorgeous, historic and majestic places on earth; Italy!
For the past three years, my entire family has been lucky enough to take a trip all together. These trips are so special to my family because it’s not everyday we get to spend uninterrupted time all together while exploring new cultures and foods and sights together. For our first full family trip back in June of 2016, our group of 9 decided to pack our bags and head for the land of Gelato, also known as Italy! Although Chris and I have been to Italy several time (Pisa, Siena, Sardinia, and Florence), this was our first time visiting Sicily!
Our group consisted of me, Chris, our 2 boys (Lukas and Liam), my parents, 2 sisters and one boyfriend (now hubby).
While traveling with a large group can be a bit chaotic, we always have a great time. To make the most of our family time while also saving some money, we typically rent a vacation home during our trips, and Italy was no exception. We started out the first week of our trip in the small city of Ispica, on the south side of the island and our second week we rented a home in Mazara del Vallo on the west side of the island.
Throughout the two weeks, we were also able to get out and explore the cities of Syracuse, Taormina, Marsala and Castellamare del Golfo as well as the volcano, Mt. Etna. We absolutely loved the architecture as well as the Arab influence in the food.
When people think of Italy, most often think immediately about the food! While we weren’t overly impressed with the restaurants in Sicily, we did find an amazing Sicilian/Tunisian restaurant called Alla Kashbah in Mazara del Vallo. Dining in Italy and in Europe in general can be difficult with such a large group which is why we absolutely loved renting a house and having the opportunity to go to the local supermarkets and outdoors markets to pick our own fresh food!
We really enjoyed planning meals as a family and cooking all together in our own kitchen. We even learned how to clean and cook fresh calamari that we purchased in a fish market in Mazara del Vallo! Another memorable meal included a classic cream based pasta dish topped with crushed pistachios…are you hungry yet?? 🙂
While traveling, we try to make a point to get off the beaten path and try things that aren’t as “touristy”. Traveling for us is not only about sightseeing, but rather about immersing ourselves into new cultures and the best way to get the “true” experience of a country is to really interact with the locals. We try to travel with the mindset of “when in Rome, do as the romans do”… Or for this specific trip, when in Sicily, do as the Sicilians do! 🙂
We discovered this adorable agriturismo which offered 8 course Italian home cooked family style meals 1 day a week..we definitely made sure to skip lunch on the days we had reservations! Picture a big farm yard, beautiful old stone building surrounded by olive trees and a small dining room. The kids were free to roam around and explore and the adults could sip wine together while enjoying a wonderfully authentic Italian dinner for only $35 per adult (half price for the littles)! These are the experiences and memories we love making on our trips!
Now onto the sites! I could probably write a novel about our favorite sites all around Italy, I will leave you with a brief overview of the top picks from the region of Sicily. 🙂
So many people hesitate to travel with kids and I will be honest; it is not always easy. However, after having traveled numerous times with littles, I have figured out that the key is to “Keep It Simple”. Don’t over think and don’t overpack. For the most part, anywhere you travel you can find common necessities like diapers, wipes, and baby food at the local supermarket. Bring what you absolutely need and buy the rest there!
When it comes to food, littles are pretty go with the flow and even if they are a picky eater…if they are hungry, they will eat. 😉 At the time, our little Liam started eating whatever we gave him, whether that be mashed up sweet potatoes or even gelato. By the end of the trip, I’m fairly certain his love for gelato was at an all time high! 🙂
Another important thing I have learned is that littles are more than content spending all day in 1 comfy outfit (or even a bathing suit!) so you DO NOT need an entire suitcase full of clothes. They won’t all get worn and you will be stuck carrying yet another heavy suitcase 😉
Another MUST BRING is some sort of baby carrier. We absolutely love our Ergo Baby Carrier and bring it everywhere (who doesn’t like baby snuggle time?!) My sister also practiced the art of babywearing that trip, win-win for everyone!
All in all, it was a trip of a lifetime with family that we will always cherish! I am so thankful that the majority of our photos turned out beautifully. Unfortunately, compared to other regions we have visited in Italy, our experience in Sicily was a bit underwhelming. We will absolutely be back to Italy in the future, but I cannot say that our first stop will be Sicily. However, if you want a fantastic Mediterranean trip filled with sea, sun and sand…. Sicily is a must add to your travel bucket list!
As the Italian would say: “Buon viaggio”!
Thanks for reading along! If you have every been to Italy, I would love to hear about your experiences…drop a comment or send me an email.
Let’s get out and explore! Until next time,