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A magical walk through London looking for the mysterious spots young Harry frequents in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A fun-filled visit to the Plaza Hotel in New York City, reliving the charmed existence of Eloise.
A busy day in the tiny Tuscan village of Collodi, watching a puppet show, exploring a hedge maze, and enjoying other activities in homage to The Adventures of Pinocchio.
A scenic trek following the same trail created by Brighty the Burro, a real-life hero whose story is told in Brighty of the Grand Canyon
A wonderful sojourn in Paris and surrounding areas, visiting museums, eating at typical French cafés, and spotting the famous water lilies at Monet's home in Giverny, all celebrated in Linnea in Monet's Garden.
An afternoon of barbecue and music at the Chicago Blues Festival, in the imaginary company of Yolonda and her harmonica-playing little brother, the stars of Yolonda's Genius.
With itineraries for more than thirty locales in North America and Europe, Storybook Travels explores destinations near and far, rural and urban. Whether you want to plan a trip that will mean as much to you as it will to your children (or grandchildren), are looking for ways to enrich already-planned trips, or want to bring to life the fondly remembered books of your own childhood, Storybook Travels is your guide to one enchanting journey after another.
"An approach to family travel that keeps the child alive in all of us, and in the process helps us to understand the history, the meaning, the mythology, and the mystery of these very special storybook places." —Peter Greenberg, travel editor, The Today Show
About the Authors
COLLEEN DUNN BATES and SUSAN LATEMPA live in Pasadena and Culver City, respectively. They have worked together since Bates was the restaurant critic and LaTempa an editor at L.A. Style magazine. As freelancers, they collaborate for such magazines as Parenting and Working Mother. The two moms are coauthors of The Unofficial Guide to California with Kids.
Tuscany is a well-known A-list destination for traveling grown-ups -- but not many people know that because of the tiny village of Collodi it's also a wonderful place to take children. In the 1950s, the proud residents of Collodi built Parco di Pinocchio to honor native son Carlo Lorenzini, the author of Italy's most beloved children's book, who used his village's name for his pen name. For children (and adults) who have read the original book, Parco di Pinocchio makes an excellent day's outing.
This trip is ideal for families with readers between the ages of 9 and 12, although even toddlers will enjoy the park.
Forget the Disney movie -- Pinocchio is no adorable, cherub-faced moppet. Born in 1881, when the first in a series of Italian newspaper-serial chapters was published, he is a lanky, sharp-featured marionette carved out of a magic piece of wood by Geppetto, who is not a kindly toymaker but an old man known in the village for his silly yellow wig and his fierce temper. From the first instant, Pinocchio is a wild little monster, beginning life by kicking his new father, running away, and inadvertently getting Geppetto jailed for child abuse.
And don't expect to get the warm fuzzies from Jiminy Cricket. Called the Talking Cricket in the book, he so annoys Pinocchio with his advice that in the first few pages, the impulsive puppet hurls a hammer at the cricket and kills him.
The surprise was how much our kids, who've seen the Disney movie about a thousand times, enjoyed the book. True, it has many of the same characters and plot lines as the film: Pinocchio is misled by the thieving Fox and Cat, runs off to the Land of the Toys (Pleasure Island in the movie), is turned into a donkey, and is swallowed by a giant shark (a whale in the movie), in whose belly he is reunited with his father. And at the end, of course, he becomes a real boy.
But the book describes (and sometimes satirizes) the rough life of Italian village peasants more than a hundred years ago, a life that seems unimaginable to today's pampered American kids. People are thrown in jail often and for little reason. Brawls, fistfights, and beatings are common. And children are expected to dote on and eventually provide for their parents, not the other way around. In fact, what finally makes Pinocchio a real boy, and a success in life, is not his schooling or work but the fact that he takes care of his aging parents (by the end the Azure Fairy has become his mother figure).
Perhaps those differences add to the book's appeal for modern kids. Or, more likely, the sheer fancifulness of the story is what really captivates them. Pinocchio and Geppetto may be humble peasants, but their lives are full of magic and hair-raising adventure. In true serial fashion, every chapter details some close call, chase, fight, or reconciliation. The marionette nearly loses his life at least six times and gets into countless scrapes, typically vowing to return to school and be a good boy after each mishap. But because growing up doesn't happen overnight, it takes Pinocchio thirty-six chapters and lots of trial and error to become worthy of being a real boy.
Take note that there are many, many editions of this book. Try to find an unabridged version, which is much richer in adventure and detail. If you can't find one in the United States, just wait until you arrive in Italy. Just about every bookstore and souvenir shop in Tuscany sells English-language versions of the unabridged story.
Although our research had uncovered next to nothing on Parco di Pinocchio (it's almost never mentioned in English-language guidebooks), we parents knew not to expect Disney-style rides and multimedia showmanship. An American-style theme park just wouldn't make sense in this landscape of rolling forests, tidy vineyards, and Renaissance-era hilltop villages. Sure enough, Parco di Pinocchio was exactly what we grown-ups expected, a culturally uplifting place created by adults in the 1950s to honor the book, using bronze sculptures, mosaics, and other artwork created by the leading artists of the era. There wasn't a single ride or video game. And yet the kids adored it.
Because they'd read the book in the days immediately preceding our outing (Erin, 10, read it on her own, and we parents read it aloud to 7-year-old Emily), the characters and stories were fresh in their minds. They raced joyfully through the gardens, stopping first at the puppet show in progress. The Italian dialogue soon sent Emily wandering to the neighboring playground to swing and climb, but her older sister was able to figure out the gist of the story from the puppets' behavior, the inflections, and the few words she could understand. She enjoyed the challenge and was pleased with herself for being so international.
Next they ran into the mosaic square, whose tiled walls tell the story of Pinocchio in pictures. They picked out the main characters and events, then continued on into the mazelike garden, the heart of the park. Around each bend was a surprise. My daughters were most enchanted with the House of the Blue Fairy, a dollhouse-like structure with prismatic windows allowing glimpses into shimmering blue "rooms." Emily decided right then and there to be the Blue Fairy for the next Halloween. But their favorite feature was the huge shark's mouth (which looks more like a whale's). It's the most interactive of the sculptures: stepping-stones across water took them into its gaping mouth, and a spiral staircase took them atop his head, from which water shot forth regularly. They loved it.
Running along the garden paths with them, and getting lost in the labyrinth next to them, were kids and parents from all over: a couple of Americans, a few more Brits, some Italians, and a mix of French, Germans, Belgians, and other Europeans. But their numbers were relatively few; the sculptures seemed as plentiful as the people. Crowds are clearly not an issue here.
An outing to Parco di Pinocchio can take a couple of hours or a whole day, depending on where your Tuscan starting point is. If you're staying north of Florence -- say, in Lucca, a wonderful sixteenth-century walled town with fairy-tale appeal -- the park should be a fairly quick drive, perhaps twenty minutes. If you're staying south of Florence, as we did, you'll have a longer drive and Florence traffic to contend with. On the map it didn't seem far from our tiny Chianti village to the equally tiny village of Collodi, but the combination of stop-and-go country roads and autostrada bottlenecks resulted in a two-hour drive each way. Although it is significant to Italians, the park is low-key by American theme-park standards, and it's not exactly on anyone's beaten path. From the A11 autostrada, take the Chiesina U. exit and follow the many (but small) signs that will lead you to the park via the midsize town of Pescia.
If you're hungry, consider stopping in Pescia, where there are many more choices than in Collodi. We were quite pleased with the pizza at Del Magro, a plain little bar/café where the four of us had pizza and Pellegrino for only $10; several other nearby restaurants looked worthy. Or allow time for a sit-down meal at Osteria del Gambero Rosso (House of the Red Shrimp), Parco di Pinocchio's adjacent restaurant. Or, perhaps best of all if the weather's fine, pick up picnic fare in Pescia and have lunch at one of the many tables in the park.
As you enter the ancient hillside village of Collodi, you'll see a grand building on the hillside to your right. Called Villa Garzoni, this fanciful castle is known for its ornate eighteenth-century terraced gardens, complete with strange topiary, statues of mythical beasts, and water staircases. If you have time, stop here for a spell; because of its eccentricity, it's far more interesting to kids than most gardens.
A little further on lies Parco di Pinocchio. Outside the park's gate (manned by one sleepy ticket seller) is a row of souvenir stands. Skip these and head into the park, whose own shop is a little better. Once you're through the gate, pathways will guide you through the property: past Emilio Greco's sculpture Pinocchio and the Fairy, through the outdoor puppet theater and the mosaic piazza (created by Venturino Venturi), to the giant chessboard, and into the garden maze. The kids can race ahead on the paths and make the discoveries: the House of the Blue Fairy, statues of the book's many characters (the Assassins, the Crab, the Blue Fairy, Pinocchio, the Serpent), the aforementioned Giant Shark, a cool underground pirate's cave (although there are no pirates in the book), some immobile boats on water, whose connection to the book are mysterious, and a mock village that unsuccessfully attempts to remind kids of Pinocchio's village. Behind the Giant Shark is a labyrinth that's fun to brave.
Parco di Pinocchio is a small place, and high-energy kids could whip through the whole place in forty-five minutes. But encourage them to slow down. Try watching the puppet show, even if the language is a mystery. Hang around the playground for a while. Linger over a game of giant chess. Stop in the little café/souvenir shop for an ice cream and a wooden Pinocchio doll. And make sure to allow time to browse in the museum/library center. Our whole family found the collection of Pinocchio-related toys, dolls, movie posters, and books fascinating (yes, Disney is well represented here). After seeing the exhibits, along with several academic treatises on the significance of Pinocchio to Italy's national identity, we began to understand the cultural significance of the little wooden boy.
Posted June 24, 2002
TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN CAN BE EXHAUSTING,AND ONE OF THE REASONS IS THE INTERESTS OF THE ADULTS AND KIDS CAN BE VASTLY DIFFERENT. WITH THIS TERRIFIC GUIDE BOTH CAN BE HAPPY-- NEW YORK HAS PLENTY TO OFFER -- THE PLAZA,(ELOISE) THE MET. THE RED LIGHTHOUSE ON THE HUDSON, AND THEN THERE'S BELMONT PARK (THE BLACK STALLION), AS WELL AS MANY OTHER SITES IN THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE. THE SHARED EXPERIENCE OF READING AND EXPLORING SITES TOGETHER AS A FAMILY IS HARD TO BEAT ! GREAT INFORMATION, AND ITINERARIES.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.