When my wife and I decided to travel to Europe with our two sons, a 3-year old toddler and 7-month infant, we tried to incorporate appropriate and enjoyable activities for both of them. We knew if we did not, they would become bored—and possibly cranky—ultimately making our vacation unpleasant. At the same time, we knew seeing only child-centric places such as playgrounds, amusement parks and zoos would make us bored—and possibly cranky. That’s no way to spend your time traveling with kids in Italy. We needed to find a balance. Therefore we were ecstatic that our visit to Barolo, Piedmont, Italy, and its wine museum, or WiMu, was perfect for everyone.
Traveling with kids to Barolo, the home of the “King of Wines”, is best done by car. The drive to Barolo can only be described as stunning; hillsides dotted with Italian villages and covered with crisscrossing vineyards as far as the eye can see. Barolo wine is known as the ‘King of Wines’ because in the nineteenth century it became one of the favorite wines of the nobility and the Kings of Savoy, and it continues to be a favorite today. The beautiful village of Barolo has a museum our princes would find very stimulating.
A very interesting museum
The wine museum in Barolo is housed in the magnificent Castello di Barolo, a castle once owned by the Fallettis, a prominent banking family in the thirteenth century. The Castello is perched at the edge of town, and it commands amazing views of the vineyards and the surrounding countryside. The short walk from our parking spot was down a narrow cobblestone street flanked by old stone buildings. With traffic limited, it was perfect for our independent toddler. One caveat about the museum is that it is not completely stroller-friendly.
The tour started on the top floor, which is accessed by a glass elevator that our son thought was very cool. However, the elevator is only for going up and there are only stairs leading back down. Fortunately the stairways are wide and the activities within make the museum worth the visit.
The wine museum focuses on the history of wine rather than grapes, soil and fermentation: wine in art, music, literature, movies and nature. Because of this, many of the exhibits are interactive, providing a much more enjoyable experience for children. For example, on the top floor, in an area illustrating the importance of rain, our toddler was thrilled by the water falling from the ceiling that stopped when he approached it—so much so that he attempted many passes through it. Another section deemed fascinating by my son was the carousel of seasons. Here were a group of chairs that rotated around in one spot, showing images of the growing seasons on the wall, which was propelled by bicycle pedals that my wife and I could reach.
Many rooms with TVs and soft chairs
Plenty of segments in the museum awed my son, but there were three rooms that were his favorite. The first was a red room with soft chairs and a bunch of video screens. Here you sat down and listened to songs, such as ‘Red Red Wine’ or other wine-themed tunes while lips and other graphics blink in time with the rhythm. Both my toddler and infant were captivated by the blinking lights and moving lips on the TV screens—so much so that after a few songs, my toddler bargained to stay for a few extra minutes.
Fortunately for my 3-year-old, we soon stumbled into another room with a TV screen and soft seats. It was a room arranged like a movie theater—although there were only about two rows of four seats—each with a variety of movie posters plastering the walls. Playing on the screen were clips from movies dealing with wine. Once again, both of my boys were entranced by the action occurring on the screen and with each new clip, my toddler queried ‘What movie is that?’ and ‘What is he doing?’ We watched a half a dozen short clips when suddenly the movies ended, and after about 10 seconds, I seized the opportunity to convince my toddler that the movies were over and we should move on.
The stimulating display for traveling kids
The sections of the wine museum with video were very stimulating for the children, but the most thrilling room was the display concerning the history of wine. Naturally my toddler was disinterested in the actual history of wine making, but what captured his attention were the half dozen miniature dioramas. These were scenes of people harvesting grapes, transporting wine, etc., but what made these stimulating—especially for children—was that guests could pull, push and step on levers or switches to make the people, carts, etc., move. While I checked out the history of wine making, my son moved from diorama to diorama making the characters move over and over again. Once we finally exited the room, we were forced to return again so that my toddler could reactivate all the dioramas just one more time.Our trip to Barolo village and its wine museum gave us that balance we sought when we planned our vacation. The village is picturesque, surrounded by rolling vineyards and has a multitude of wine bars, which allowed us to sample the very tasty ‘King of Wines’. In addition, the museum was an adventure proving educational for us while stimulating and entrancing for our toddler and infant. In the end, the trip to Barolo and the WiMu became one of the most memorable days on our entire journey to Europe.
Craig Taylor is an adjunct professor of Greek and Roman history at the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He and his wife are embedding their love of travel into their two young sons as they explore the globe. You can connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigPTaylor1