How to keep an 11 year-old boy from getting bored in Italy: Plan the Unusual, Freaky, Fun and Totally Alien for him.
Of course, I want this voyage to change Lucas' outlook on life and have a long-term effect on who he becomes as a man. When I went to live (for just under a year) in France in the Seventies, it changed my whole outlook on life, politics, food, and culture. I learned some of a new language. I saturated myself with French folklorique musique and put up with the likes of Johnnie Hallyday "rock n roll".
In Italy, I want Lucas to see the miracles of The David and the Sistine Chapel, but I don't want to bore him with waits on extremely long lines and hall after hall of statue after dusty statue. I mean, how much marble can a young boy take (that is, unless they are the colorful, rolling kind)?
Of course, I will try to give him what he wants, too. One of his "must-see" things in Italy is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so we will take him there. In the same region is Vinci with its great Da Vinci Museum--a great fun and education place to take kids. And of course, in Rome the Colosseum with its stories of Gladiators fighting to their bloody death appeals to most kids.
But I want him to notice all the small things too... how we are the same but oh-so-different from people living in another culture: Clothes hanging on the balconies to dry, tiny grocery stores selling really fresh and flavorful fruit and strange looking veggies, lemons as big as grapefruits, weird 3-wheeled cars, roads so curvy and twisty that you have to hold your breath around each hairpin, "old" buildings not just 200 years old (as we have here in Pennsylvania) but over 2000 years old, and after dinner a stroll (passagiata) instead of watching an overly long episode of America's Got Talent.... and the language. I want him to listen and speak in Italian. We have already been playing our Pimsleur Italian CDs in the car every time we go someplace. It's become a game to see who can remember the lessons and who has the best pronunciation. And of course, he's going to experience different food--he's already got a pretty broad palate for an 11-year old.
I've also loaded my Google Earth pin maps with lots of other interesting and fun options: Italian go-karting (a real sport there), a cool amusement park (for a fun break), a huge cavern (Grotte di Castellana near Bari), thousands of real dinosaur footprints (Puglia), a prehistoric "caveman" (Altamura Man), bread that can last for a month (Pane Altamura), a hot air balloon ride over Tuscany, the "Manhattan Towers" of San Gimignano, a Ghost Town or two, a volcano, a night sleeping in an Oz-like house called a Trullo (near Alberobello), huge radio telescopes, an abandoned missile base, sea grottoes, a boat ride below the cliffs of Amalfi (I'll let him drive the boat), a tremendous, ancient sinkhole (he became a sinkhole expert after last year's science project), and some other surprises that neither Lucas or Lisa know about. Maybe we won't get to all of them, but depending on the mood and the weather, there are lots of things that I hope will keep him from getting bored, and knowing what's in the area we are driving through ahead of time will help me make up some pretty cool days in Italy for Lucas...
And if all this fails, there's gelati... pizza, more gelati... then more pizza... then gelati...