Ok I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE ROMAGNA!! Specifically I love vacationing along the Riviera Romagnola. I know the sand isn’t the whitest, the water isn’t the bluest and the speedos aren’t the smallest (hehehe), but this area has so much to offer families.
Take for example the historic city of Cervia. Long before becoming a tourist destination for its well equipped sandy beaches, it was an important centre for salt production and culture from the Byzantine era to now! Along with its many museums, events and festivals it is also home to one of the most interesting natural characteristics of the entire Adriatic coastline, an ancient Maritime Pine Forest which is the oldest on the Coast.
Hands down these are my favorite trees in the world. They rise high into the sky and give perfect shade, but without too much foliage at ground level so you can easily walk through a dense forest. Ahem…great if you have the tendency to get lost!
If you are a nature loving family looking to have a relaxing beach holiday with a few adventure and culture days thrown in, I cannot recommend Cervia enough. This is a description of a perfect day in Cervia, spent immersed in nature and perfect for families with kids of all ages. Oh and it won’t break the bank!
La Casa Delle Farfalle – Cervia’s Butterfly House
VERY easy to get to, you can either drive to Cervia’s Butterfly House in 6 minutes from Cervia / Milano Marittima, take public transit or walk there! If you decide to walk, it will take about 30 minutes from Cervia’s famous salt museum in the centre of the city or 15 minutes from the centre of Milano Marittima. Or, you can take a cab for under 10 euros and get there in a matter of minutes! I’m all about not getting lost on vacation!
I LOVE butterfly houses. When my son was two we took him to a very small one for his birthday in Rome and it was literally the best day of his life. It was amazing to see him surrounded by butterflies as they fluttered around and landed on his head. He squealed non-stop with joy. When I found out about the Butterfly House in Cervia I knew I needed to take him there because it is the biggest in Italy! A massive space dedicated to many different species I loved that they had caterpillars crawling all around and a whole cocoon / chrysalis observation area.
We’re really into caterpillars these days thanks to The Very Hungry Caterpillar but also these great videos on youtube; watching a butterfly hatch and a great animation about a caterpillar with many shoes. It was very cool for my three year old to see the caterpillars up close and personal because they are REALLY hard to find outdoors! I remember when I was a kid seeing them all the time, but now, for the life of me, I can’t find them anywhere. #citygirlproblems
This was interesting for the whole family but I would honestly say that you could easily bring kids from 1 – 12 years old and everyone would like this!
Planning a Trip There
If I was to plan a day I would say go early in the morning (they open at 9:30 daily) and then head to the Nature Park for a picnic lunch. As an alternative you could go to the Nature Park in the morning, eat lunch there (either a picnic or in their café) and then head to the Butterfly House in the afternoon for a workshop! Just be aware of their opening hours, because in the busy summer months they do not close during the day but in the fall, winter and spring they do the Italian “pausa pranzo” and close for lunch!
Workshops are not daily, but they are OFTEN during the summer months. I recommend sending them an email to see if a workshop or special event is happening the day you plan on visiting, or, you can even organize something with them if they happen to have a school group going. Their facebook page is always updated and filled with all of their events, or visit their website with all contact info.
Entry to the Butterfly House is around 7/8 euro each, however, young kids are free. You can also separately pay to enter into the bug house, but personally I didn’t find that experience to be worth the separate entrance fee (unless of course you have a kid that is totally into super gross things like beetles, cockroaches, bees and all things creepy and crawly!!)
Parco Naturale di Cervia – Cervia’s Nature Park
As I’ve mentioned before this part of Italy is famous for its ancient Maritime Pine trees that line the coast and provide beach goers with some much-needed shade from the sun! One of my absolute favorite moments in Cervia was being surrounded by these trees after we entered Cervia’s Nature Park. First of all let me say that as a family we’ve made a conscious decision to no longer visit any type of zoo/safari that encloses animals that are not naturally part of that environment and climate, or zoos that have captive animals who should be part of a social hierarchy. I had an awful experience at the Lisbon zoo, and it really changed the way I look at zoos in general.
BUT I DO LOVE ANIMALS and taking my son to farms and nature reserves, so here’s the dilemma that the Nature Park solves. All of the animals they have are either “domesticated” farm animals or local to the region. Plus, they have many bird and wildlife species that are left free within the park. My husband and I got into a really interesting discussion about how there is a new movement in Italy to create more parks dedicated to observing the natural environment of the area and not necessarily about seeing animals, and at first I thought BO-R-ING! And then my opinion changed once I caught myself saying “Oh my God, it is so beautiful here”…. over and over again!
Tickets & Where to Eat!
The park is free to enter and roam ….. actually you can pass a full day without paying an entrance fee, because basically the only portion of the park that is paid is where they care for the animals called “The Farm” / “La Fattoria”. The free portion of the park has many animals such as peacocks, roaming sheep, ducks, geese and fish as well as a picnic area, streams and other facilities.
When we went there was event a special event as part of the Cervia “FamilyLand” programming that included a dog show and face painting. So if you were to head there in the morning with a packed lunch you could have a wonderful time exploring without spending a cent.
If packing a lunch is a little too much work and you don’t want to lug around your lunch bag they have a fully stocked Cafe (called “bar” in Italian), which serves up meals for lunch along with snacks and ice cream…. AND they have a full gluten free menu! It is not prepared fresh but there are many dishes offered from a well-known brand that are heated and served.
LA FATTORIA – Animal Contact!
Tickets to see the farm area with the animals must be purchased in this Cafe / Bar and the entrance to the farm is also inside the Cafe (or sometimes just outside if there are many people in line). Ticket prices are very reasonable and cover the costs of managing the farm area (only 3 euro per adult!). You can find the opening hours and ticket prices here.
I recommend going in to see the animals and you are ENCOURAGED TO FEED THEM! HOWEVER there are RULES!
- No bread can be given to the animals
- Bags of food pellets are sold in the Cafe / Bar for one euro….if you have young kids I recommend buying at least two bags!!
- BRING CARROTS with you to feed the horses … they love them and it was totally fun feeding them
- The park is clean, please do not litter any plastic, paper etc
- Keep your eye on those GOATS if you enter into the goat petting area…they are cute and overly friendly!
The Cervia Butterfly house (Casa delle Farfalle) and the Nature Park (Parco Naturale di Cervia) are only about a 10 minute WALK away from each other, so as I mentioned before a great itinerary would be to do them both in the same day. If you have OLDER kids they you may want to look into the massive nature / adventure park Cervia Avventura!
CERVIA AVVENTURA – A Nature Adventure in the Trees
My son isn’t old enough to take him to Cervia Avventura….yet. But honestly I am COUNTING DOWN THE YEARS until we can all go together as a family. I remember asking my husband to bring me here years ago when we were a childless dating couple, that’s how cool it is!!!
Think of a massive rope jungle park filled with bridges, zip lines and trails suspended in the trees. An Indiana Jones situation but with all of the security of a safety net and harness! This park is MADE FOR CHILDREN and TEENAGERS!! They have different adventures depending on age and height, but please note that kids who are under four years old (or 100 cm) cannot enter for safety reasons … so I’m already marking my calendar for 2016 (and thank goodness that I’m 149 cm) !!
If your family has two adults and kids of very different ages (a teenager and a toddler) this could be a great way to do something fun that is age appropriate for both kids. One parent could take the toddler to the Nature Park to feed to goats and visit the animals and the other parent could accompany the teenage into Cervia Avventura to zip line through the ancient Maritime pines! ( I would personally volunteer to go zip-lining, while my “feet on the ground” husband would be happy with the goats!). Here is the page with ticket info and opening hours.
The Cervia Avventura Adventure Park is within the Parco Naturale! It has its own entracen and fees but you will see signage on how to get there as soon as you enter the park.
I proud to be collaborating with the region of Emilia Romagna to share all of the fun things we do as a family in the region. If you need a hand translating something or finding something please send me an email and I can direct you to the right resource! reasonstodress [at] gmail [dot[ com.
Feel free to pin this for later and share it with anyone you know who loves Italy and Nature!
Feel free to follow Reasons to Dress on Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post!