When touring with young children, you're bound to hear the phrase "Are we there yet?" more than once. Keeping the kids happy and interested and getting them involved is no easy feat, but this tour makes for enjoyment and priceless memories for the entire family, as well as giving the kids something to brag about once they're home.
Days 1 & 2: Palermo & Monreale
Start the day at the Norman Palace to see how kings lived, and, if it's open, visit the Segrete (dungeons), where the enemies of the kings were locked up; head even farther below, to the Punic Foundations, dating back to 8 B.C. When you come back up, follow the sweeping staircases that lead you to the Palatine Chapel and its scintillating mosaics. Call ahead to book a visit to the Astronomical Observatory to see the site where the first asteroid was spotted. (Note: There are many steps to climb to reach the top.) After all the climbing, head for the Parco D'Orleans, where the bird zoo houses species from all over the world, and take a breather. After lunch knock on the door of Franco Bertolino, in Salita Ramirez behind the cathedral. His studio is devoted to a dying craft, painting Sicilian carts, a tradition that's been in his family for generations. For more folklore, but this time involving puppets, go to the workshop of Vincenzo Argento, at 445 Corso Vittorio Emanuele; his handcrafted puppets of medieval knights come in all shapes and sizes. He even puts on a daily puppet show. Spend the next day at the magnificent cathedral at Monreale, and watch the kids gape in amazement at the scintillating mosaics -- make sure to point out the one depicting the story of Noah. They'll be so fascinated they'll probably want to see how mosaics are made; on Via Arcivescovado there's a small workshop where you can buy a kit for the little ones to keep them busy.
Day 3: Segesta & Erice
On Day 3, set out for Segesta, where the kids will think they're on a movie set when they see the Doric Temple; they'll even be able to act out their own plays at the Greek Theater. When they've got the thespian mood out of their systems it's time for the medieval magic of Erice -- climbing the cathedral bell tower will make kids feel as though they're one of the king's soldiers, and romping around the Castle of Venus will make them feel as if they're part of the royal court. Just don't tell them what actually went on here during Roman times.
Day 4: Agrigento & the Valley of the Temples
After spending time on the west coast, head south along the coastal route, where the kids might be lucky enough to see sheep grazing along the hills. Visit the Valley of the Temples, in Agrigento, where the kids will marvel at where the gods were worshipped. The telamoni (the giants) will get their attention; they are both within the park and at the Archeological Museum. Head down to the beach area at San Leone for lunch, and spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach.
Day 5: Syracuse
Hoping that the kids are still interested, head east to Syracuse, the mighty rival of Athens. After visiting the Greek Theater, they'll really look forward to visiting the Ear of Dionysius, where they can scream and hear their echoes to their hearts' content (and so will other children -- be prepared). Have lunch at Ortygia and then take a stroll to the Maniace Castle, at the tip of the island.
Days 6 & 7: Mount Etna & Catania
This is probably what they've been waiting for with baited breath -- finally coming face-to-face with the volcano -- although warn the kids that if the weather conditions aren't good or the volcano is showing signs of activity, the trip will be cancelled. Start from the base at Rifugio Sapienza and ride the cable car, and then board the jeep that will take you to top. There's cooled lava everywhere; the kids can scoop some up to take home as souvenirs. Should you stay grounded because of inclement weather, there's always the Toy Museum, on Via Vittorio Emanuele, at Palazzo Bruca. Toys and children's pastimes from the 18th century onward are on display, and there's also a workshop that organizes games and activities for kids. In summertime, children and adults alike cool off at Etnaland, the island's most popular water theme park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.