One of our staff members was fortunate enough to be traveling in Italy with her children this month, and met up with Valeria and her seven year old daughter Matilde. Chloe and Finn (12 and 10 years old) had never been to Italy before, and Verona was their first Italian city - their gateway to the rest of the country. Although the day was hot, the kids loved taking a tour that focused on them: their experiences, their thoughts, their observations. As Valeria explained to the children, the tour was an urban safari - a chance to have an adventure in the city.
We took the time to chat with Valeria about the philosophy behind her "Safari" tour.
Valeria, is Safari your own idea?
Yes, and it’s such a brilliant idea that…sometimes I can’t believe it’s mine!
How many years have you been doing this?
Safari was born between 2007 and 2008 and, after a short start up period (where I got the chance to test it out on my own children!) it was released. It surprised me that, unlike the other tours that I do (and they have been many in my 20 years guiding groups around Verona), Safari didn’t need any change or adjustment, neither in timing nor in activities, so it is still now as it was at the beginning.
Can you describe some of the activities that kids do during the Safari?
We take water from a fountain and we use it to write on the cobblestones of a Roman bridge; we pull the rope under a Medieval arcade; we “transport” old statues in familiar places at home. But the activity I’m probably most proud of is a little, tiny one: taking a “photo” with your eyes only, i.e. being able to focus on a detail and store it your memory, like an ever lasting screen saver! Kids love doing this.
What’s the philosophy behind this project?
Safari is a little experiment of psycho- geography: a sensorial, emotional approach to urban spaces that goes beside or beyond the conventional information given about a place (when? how? why?). As human beings, we are not only made of brain: Safari addresses our hands and legs, appeals to our 5 senses, and to our imagination, fantasy, and memory.
There’s a quote by Kevin Kelly that I like: “If you want to buy happiness, you are much better off buying an experience rather than a thing. Experiences will only improve over time and you’ll have the memory forever. In the long term an experience delivers more happiness per dollar”. True, don’t you think?
I see that a Safari is rather long: are kids tired after 3 hours?
Oh no! Three hours fly by when your senses are wide awake. Moreover Safari focuses on details and every person who has to deal with kids knows that it’s one of the best ways of keeping their attention.
What are your thoughts about travelling with little ones?
My opinion on that is very radical: travelling with kids is a must. I think that taking me travelling when I was a kid has been one of the best gifts that my parents gave to me. Now, as a mother myself, I noticed (and any other parent can say the same) that kids consistently behave better on travel than at home. The new and different inspires them as it does us! Travel is one of the best investments that a family can do, even in these days that are very difficult, here in Europe at least. As my friend Rick Steves says, “travelling is a matter of priorities”. Safari wants to offer families who love to travel an “edu-tainment” experience to their kids.
Thanks, Valeria, for providing such a fun and enriching experience for children traveling to Europe! If anyone is heading to Verona with their kids or grandkids, definitely get in touch with Valeria - licensed guide extraordinaire!