Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori turned modern education on its head when, at the dawn of the 20th century, she realised that by engaging with kids physically, creatively, and out of doors it did more for their learning processes, growth, focus and retention than those endless hours sitting at a school desk.

When kids were free to express themselves, or were emotionally connected with the teachings, they were more open to learning and their brains fully engaged. Despite Montessori’s impact abroad, when Shannon Kenny founded Arte al Sole, there were actually few truly engaging experiences for kids in and around Italy.

Learning Through Art

Shannon, a medieval historian and single mother of two girls, became determined that she would devise a fun-filled curriculum to allow her kids to get the most out of their Italian experience.

She employed an inquiry-based system, that when taught by professionals, helps kids arrive at their own conclusions, and make connections to their own lives – whether they’re 6 or 16. And off she went to see how much of Italy’s rich history – the people, places, piazzas, palaces and yes, pasta! could kids take in (along with plenty of gelato! even learning to make it at times).

Shannon was convinced that through wonderful learning experiences abroad, kids could become model global citizens, rather than tiny tired travellers – as their parents check off this museum and that, walking them through crowded city streets in 90 degree heat. And off they went!

Learning Through Art

Families would come on vacation and while parents enjoyed the things they wanted to do, from a wine tour or museum experience, or walking those teeming city streets, their children would be learning about the place by connecting in myriad ways to its rich culture.

In Lucca, Arte al Sole campers would learn about medieval life and times, discovering the stone animals and learn why ferocious beasts guard many beautiful places. And they would use the power of observation to draw what they’ve seen.

In Florence, the Renaissance greats are the main event. I encountered a 7 year old, who, while working on his fantastical solar system asked me, “Did you know that Galileo was imprisoned for his ideas?” And went on to tell me just what those ideas were. On Day 4, kids get to cook some local specialties with professional chefs (or a wonderfully talented Italian nonna – grandmother!) and learn how important cuisine is to a specific culture.


In Umbria, it’s all about the Etruscans – ancient civilisations and country life. Between soccer lessons (with a professional coach) and beekeeping, families come together each evening at I Casali di Colle San Paolo for BBQ parties around the pool, a town festival, or to chase after a wacky Prince’s dogs in search of truffles. The kids also make up their own show – so on Parent’s Day, they can show off what they’ve learned all week long.

In Rome, it was all about Aqua — so we had a host of river gods and nymphs, some who were legend, and some fantastical ones created by the kids themselves.

Learning Through Art

By sparking emotional connections — to each other, to the terrain, and through your own artwork – your brain is on fire, you’re joyfully participating…and you can recall those emotional want to come back to Italy or try out new countries…time and again.

After learning about Cosimo de Medici and his motto: Make Haste Slowly, one girl tells parents that her motto is…Always treat others kindly – that way, you’re an example for others and you can change the world.

Maria Montessori would be proud…

Learning Through Art

Arte al Sole day camps – for kids 6-13

Family tours & art workshops year round

Lisa R Tucci is Arte al Sole’s Program Director

She learned about engaging people emotionally with art when bringing audio guides to Italy’s museums.

Her Company, TestaAlta, also runs SuperCamp Italy for kids 12-18 | A life skills and lifelong learning program based on accelerated learning through emotional intelligence, and unique interactive learning (and lots of s’mores!) • •

Victoria Bryceson is passionate about advocating a cruelty free, environmentally-friendly lifestyle and helping animals in need around the world. She is vegan and organises a series of Vegan Events UK festivals up and down the country. She is also founder of animal welfare and education charity Miracle’s Mission. Here she tells her story of how she became vegan and the benefits of adopting this compassionate lifestyle.


From vegetarian to vegan

“I became vegetarian 22 years ago when I first fully realised what meat was and where it came from. I also gave up eggs and wearing any leather clothing or footwear. This is the point when I made the connection that meat on my plate used to be a living breathing animal and I didn’t want to be any part of taking away an innocent and loving creature’s life, just to put food on my plate that I didn’t even need to be eating to survive. The only thing I continued to consume that came from an animal was milk as I was not educated about the dairy industry. About ten years ago I came to realise that the dairy industry is just as cruel if not more so, than the meat industry and I then became fully vegan and have never looked back. It was the best life decision that I have ever made and one that I just wish I had been born into. Becoming vegan was such an easy decision for me and the transition was so incredibly easy knowing that the food I was eating was no longer harming animals. Today with so many more vegan options and substitutes it is even easier to go vegan.


Vegan variety as the spice of life

I am so happy in my life since going vegan. I am so at peace with the knowledge that I’m living an amazing life and not harming others to do so. I feel healthier, I have more energy and I do so much more with my life. I live the most fulfilling life, I have the very best purpose and I absolutely love living a vegan and cruelty free lifestyle. I don’t miss out on any foods that I ate previously as every single food type is now replaceable with a vegan version. Vegans can even eat many vegan and delicious versions of cheese, chocolate, scrambled, boiled and poached eggs and there are now so many different varieties of plant milk available we are really spoiled for choice! I get so excited every time I see a new vegan product because the more new products that are coming out demonstrate the growing demand, which is amazing. Since going vegan I have also transitioned my four dogs onto a vegan diet and they are now absolutely thriving and love their vegan food and vegan treats.”

Vegan Festivals

Her festivals feature all the food you’ve ever enjoyed but with the unhealthy bits taken out. You can try before you buy and sample foods that are so new they haven’t even hit the shops yet. You can also bathe vegan too – with a range of deliciously scented soaps and handmade bath bombs from brands like Iuvo Skincare. And if you’re feeling stressed from a busy week, you can have the chance to chill out in a relaxing yoga session.

There’s something for everyone – with lots of cool children’s activities and entertainment on hand to amuse the little ones. And if your teenager is into the latest trends you can check out cool designer vegan labels such as the gorgeous range of ‘Viva La Vegan’ hoodies and Tees. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes or boots, Alternative Stores will be on hand to help. Plus there’s a massive range of gifts and goodies including candles, jewellery, and even treats for animals. It’s also a great place to shop if you’re looking to go plastic-free.

If you’re looking to get more in-depth, the festivals also feature useful talks on nutrition and the vegan lifestyle as well as some inspiring, fun cookery demos to get you started.

Helping animals in need

Victoria runs her events in partnership with animal welfare charity, Miracle’s Mission. She explains “I’m really looking forward to our exciting new series of festivals. They’re set to be even bigger and better than last year’s. We received so much positive feedback last year and there’s now so much demand that our festivals are becoming regular sell-out events. I think it’s partly because people really love the friendly atmosphere. And also because it’s one of the best places to network and meet others who are vegan-curious too. The wonderful thing about our events is that they’re for everyone whatever your lifestyle. Just come along and bring your friends for a great, fun day-out. You’ll have everything you need there, whether you’re looking for some retail-therapy, some ‘me’ time, precious family time or just a lovely meal out with some friends.”

2019 line-up of events across the UK
Saturday 2nd March – Essex Vegan Festival
Saturday 9th March – Glasgow Vegan Festival
Saturday 23rd March – Leicester Vegan Festival
Saturday 6th April – Northern Vegan Festival – Manchester
Saturday 20th April – Portsmouth Vegan Festival
Saturday 27th April – Nottingham Vegan Festival
Sunday 12th May – Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival – Leeds
Saturday 8th June and Sunday 9th June – Brighton Vegan Summer FEST
Saturday 29th June – Liverpool Vegan Festival
Saturday 6th July – Plymouth Vegan Festival
Saturday 20th July – Bath Vegan Festival
Saturday 31st August – Dorset Vegan Festival
Saturday 14th September – North Wales Vegan Festival – Wrexham
Saturday 12th October – Watford Vegan Festival
Saturday 2nd November – Manchester Vegan WinterFest
Saturday 9th November – Bath Vegan Festival
Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November – Glasgow Vegan Festival
Sunday 1st December – Portsmouth Vegan Festival
Sunday 8th December – Great Yorkshire Vegan WinterFest – Leeds
Saturday 14th December – Essex Vegan Festival

Entry is from just £3 (under 16’s free) and this includes entry to all areas and activities. Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, £15, include fast track entry and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers can be purchased in advance but sell out quickly. For more information please visit or

India is one of those countries that my friends always rave about when they visit. It is also a country that is very much on my bucket list of places to see. I need to make a plan as I would want to spend several weeks there so that I could really get a feel for such a diverse nation. I want to indulge in amazing cuisine, learn more about the culture and visit historical sites. I have narrowed down 5 Indian states that I would love to visit and can lose myself for hours checking out hotels in Goa and my other preferred states.



The thought of strolling in a beautiful beach at sunset is what makes my heart beat a little. I love the sea and even better Goa is famous for its mouth-watering seafood. It is the Hindu temples that would also tempt me to Goa as I love to learn about different religions. My son says he would enjoy a new place to try out water-skiing and windsurfing. Apparently there are wildlife sanctuaries too and I love such places which is probably why Goa is top of my list. Hotels in Goa  look delightful too which is reassuring.

Himachal Pradesh

Who wouldn’t want to visit an Indian state referred to as the Land of the Gods? I know I would love this place as I love anywhere that involves mountains and hills. I love the sea but mountains move my soul and always make me get things in perspective. I plan to visit hill As we searched the Internet for ideas, my teenage son said he thinks mountain-biking here would be awesome.


Punjab would help me learn more about the Sikh religion. It is home to the iconic Golden Temple which my teenage son has wanted to visit since learning about it in his studies at school. I think it would be fun to get off the beaten track and to explore the villages. My friend who goes to India on a regular basis tells me I should not miss the flag lowering ceremony at the Wagh border.


As a Yorkshire lass who knows God’s Own Country in the UK is my very own county, I am intrigued that there is an Indian version called Kerala. Like Yorkshire, Kerala has lots of pretty villages and glorious beaches. With mighty waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and a wealth of history, I can see exactly why it deserves the accolade of God’s Own Country much like Yorkshire itself.


Rajasthan totally captures my imagination as a story-teller. Think romances, wars and misfortunes. There are so many palaces, forts and monuments to see reflecting a powerful folklore heritage. A must-see is the amazing Thar Desert and its Sam Sand Dunes. This is a great place to see rare animals. Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur all sound great and this trip cannot come soon enough.

Have you visited India? What states would you recommend to a first-time visitor?

My Random Musings

In the cold heart of January, when New Year’s resolutions have passed in a flash and the winter chill refuses to cease, a healthy dose of TLC is exactly what the doctor ordered.

For many, that self-care will involve a Netflix binge and mass consumption of Tim Tams. For others, the world of fitness will be a winter haven, with long jogs and kale smoothies helping you stave off SAD.

But we find that looking to the future is a much more effective strategy for keeping motivation high. And is there any better forward-looking action than booking a holiday?

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the internet to find a destination bursting with sun, culture and more good food than a medieval banquet.
And we chose (drum roll, please) Sydney!

Our reasons for choosing Sydney were manifold. Take a look below to find out more about this fantastic city.

The airport

If you’re like us, you’ll find airports about as relaxing as a shock treatment procedure during a hurricane. These aren’t locations predicated on good vibes. Instead, they’ll herd you through clinical corridors and invasive security checks as though you were unthinking cattle on your way to the chop.
That’s not the case with Sydney Airport. This international flight hub contains a sleek design that, while not relaxing per se, is easier to navigate than many of its peers.

Moreover, the airport is teeming with excellent companies, from parking experts to Italian pizza supremoes Bar Roma. If you’re a particularly anxious person in airports, then we’d recommend Melbourne as the perfect place to land.

Bondi Beach

There’s nothing like dreaming of a pristine beach during the freezing cold of January – and Sydney’s Bondi Beach is a fantasy come true.

The sweeping white sands of Bondi are complemented by a clean and clear ocean, a rarity for a beach situated in a highly populated city.

This is a busy beach, especially in the afternoon, so we’d recommend arriving early to find a good spot.

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House could comfortably sit amongst the wonders of the world, in terms of both its iconic stature and its place as an architectural achievement.

Shows are on most nights in the House, whether you’re looking for a classic opera or a thought provoking lecture. Ticket prices are expensive so remember to save your pennies before booking.

The Rocks

If having a holiday on the Rocks sounds unappealing to you, then you’ve clearly not heard of one of Sydney’s most hip areas.

The Rocks is loaded with handmade fashion outlets, hipster bars and eateries that will blow your mind. We can’t wait to pay it a visit.

That’s our list! Can you think of any other tourist hotspots in Sydney? Then let us know in the comments below!

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Even though the days are technically getting longer, it can be hard to force yourself to get out and see the world when the weather is frosty and hostile. We tend to skip walks to work for taking the car instead and even cancel evenings out to the pub with our friends.

It’s no secret that we get glummer during the winter months, in fact, a good portion of us suffer from SAD, or ‘seasonal affective disorder.’ Missing nature’s cues is said to have a profound effect on our mood as we start missing out on our daily dose of sunlight.

With that in mind, there are still plenty of activities that can, and should, force us to go outside and get that much-needed light.

A free museum or gallery

Free museums are perhaps the most accessible way of entertaining both you and your family on the weekends. Trips to free institutions like the Science Museum not only provide free entertainment but a bit of education, too. Seeing a Russian spacesuit, a Saturn V engine or some world-famous contemporary artists might spark imagination in the little ones and conversation during the evening’s meal. If you’re looking to save money on your day out, most museums are used to catering to large groups, so there’s almost always a breakout area where it’s possible to eat a packed lunch you’ve brought with you.

Seeing a show

If wandering around the freezing cold has you looking for excuses to dive indoors, then there’s no better excuse than a show to keep you in the warm. If you’re looking for a laugh to cheer you up, seeing what comedy is on might provide for a much-needed thigh-slapping. Or, for bigger spectacles, wowing the kids with their first experience of London musicals might be a great option for the family. If it’s the dark evenings that are putting a dampener on your mood, then packing your evening with entertainment will keep your mind off the weather outside.

A daytime country walk

Science tells us that what we really need to beat the winter blues is sunlight. It’s easy to take one look outside and decide that an afternoon under a blanket is the best idea, but overcoming that gloomy feeling may require some ventures into the great outdoors.
If the idea of the countryside isn’t appealing, going to a nearby park or area of natural beauty is a great place to get some fresh air. Putting on your wellies (and thick socks), hat, and scarf before going on a long walk with your loved ones might put a surprising spring in your step. Plus, you’ll have a gratifying feeling of being back in the warm when you return home.
Activities and days out to beat the winter blues, first of all, require some motivation. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and want to stay indoors, but once you get outside it will be well worth it. Planning big days and evenings out can put a light at the end of a dull week, and ultimately give you something to look forward to in the darker months.


Musings Of A Tired Mummy
Cuddle Fairy