I was recently introduced to the blog Playground around the Corner (“Italy with kids”) written by Italian mom Mary. My husband and I lived for many years in Italy and we became first-time parents there, so I was especially interested in her quest to collect information to help families find good playgrounds when traveling in Italy. Her larger goal is to work towards improving the investment and availability in clean, safe, quality play spaces in Italy.
Mary of Playground around the Corner and her son enjoy a playground – with breathtaking views – in Cinque Terre
I recently asked Mary if I could interview her and learn why Italy – a country that loves bambini more than almost anything – appears to be coming up short in meeting standards families are looking for in quality play spaces for their children . Read further to learn more about why she is passionate about this issue and what she is doing about it. And take notes on some fabulous playground recommendations for your next trip!
Bringing Travel Home (BTH): Why did you launch Playground around the Corner?
Playground around the Corner (PATC): When Riccardo – my first son – was two, we took a journey to the U.S. I love traveling and I’ve kept feeding this passion even with my son in tow. During this trip I realized the importance in finding safe, welcoming and stimulating places where he could play, move and have fun between visits to cathedrals and museums. What better than a playground?
Mary’s son playing at a playground in Trentino
In foreign countries I have never had any difficulties finding information about play areas: web and tourism offices provide complete information about placement and equipment of playgrounds. On the contrary, when I travel around Italy and I look for information about Italian play areas (parco giochi) I never find anything useful: no images, no descriptions, no maps. With my blog I want to fill this gap and provide useful information for families visiting Italy with children.
BTH: Have you visited American playgrounds? What is your impression of them compared to those in Italy?
PATC: After visiting playgrounds in Boston, New York and Toronto I’ve started to dedicate attention to Italian play areas. In Italy there is not a culture about playgrounds as there is in America or in many north European countries. In the foreign countries I visited, I loved spending time in the play areas I ran into because they are – for the most part – original, stimulating, welcoming, and well-placed. On the contrary, Italian playgrounds are too often neglected, anonymous, standardized and convey a negative image in the eyes of tourists who travel to Italy to discover its beauty.
a much too common sight – a neglected Italian playground
Another goal that I hope to reach with my blog, not immediate but equally important, is to shed light on the subject and to encourage the people in charge to take care of existing playgrounds, as well as investing in new play areas for children.
BTH: Those of us with kids know how important it is to find playgrounds or open play space when traveling with our little ones. What recommendations would you give families visiting Italy and looking for a playground? What are your top picks?
PATC: When I travel with my children I believe in the rule of “I give you, you give me” and what does a child wish more than play? If you come to Italy and you look for information about where your kids could play, you will find endless information about the most famous theme parks, but there are hardly any details about the small playgrounds that exist in every village, just around the corner. With my blog I want to provide the missing information and, with contributions from readers and other bloggers, I hope to soon be able to cover most of our beautiful country. I describe the playgrounds I visit in a very objective way and often I’m sorry for criticizing rather than praising, but I hope that the criticism may serve to improve. Fortunately there are many beautiful exceptions: at the moment I would put on the podium the play areas I visited in the Cinque Terre and in play areas in Trentino , with special attention for the universally accessible playground there is in the lovely Jesolo because every playground should be designed in order to allow every child to enjoy it.
a creative playground space in Manarola, Cinque Terre
Another fantastic playground find in Trentino
BTH: Americans believe Italy is a child-friendly, child-centric place because Italians love children so much. Then why are playgrounds being neglected in your opinion? Some of my favorite memories from having a child and living in Italy were the piazzas in the evening full of children and their families. But I also remember going to a mall shopping with my infant daughter and unable to find a changing table, even in the bathrooms.
PATC: If you ask me if Italians are child friendly: yes, they are. Children are welcome everywhere and are allowed in every restaurant, bar, museum, store and especially older people always have a smile or a nice word for children.
But if you ask me if Italy has much to offer to families with children my answer is not as positive at all: there are a very few dedicated facilities such as changing tables or play areas in restaurants or shops, no dedicated parking spots at the malls, hospitals or other venues. There is a very poor support for families with children – for example, finding daycare is very difficult for working parents,so many mothers end up having to either quit their job or rely on friends and family.
Play areas dedicated to children – areas of prime importance for the growth of children both for a physical stimulus and, most of all, for creative and relational opportunities – are too often neglected and badly-maintained (in my blog, unfortunately, there are a lot of examples). Those responsible for the design and management of playgrounds should not just open a catalog and choose three items within the budget, but rather look for information, study, and be curious about this issue, otherwise kids end up playing in the streets, piazzas or prefer the walls of the house and the video or TV screen to outdoor play.
To learn more about Playground around the Corner and also get tips for finding the best play spaces on your next vacation to Italy (I know I will), visit www.playgroundaroundthecorner.com