Ciao, this is Allison Spiegel with Passion for Italy Travel in the New York office. This summer’s unique challenges have prompted a return to the summers of our youth. Simple, lazy days filled with nature, family time and lots of creativity and imagination. And as wonderful as these days may be, many of us are yearning to travel the world again. As a mom, I understand how the prospect of international travel with kids can be as daunting as it is exciting. As parents, we question everything, from ground transportation and hotel amenities to sleeping arrangements and food options. And ultimately, the biggest question we ask is how family friendly will our destination be? Having traveled to Italy with our own children, we know the ins and outs of designing a trip that will be culturally enriching and most importantly, manageable. So, the answer to the question, can you travel to Italy with kids, is yes you can!
Life in Italy centers around family so it is no wonder Italians are eager to welcome yours. Italy is full of wide-open spaces, piazzas perfect for playtime and an endless coastline of beaches. Italian cities have kid-friendly museums and historic sites which will make your children feel as if the pages of their history books are coming to life right before their very eyes. And the food in Italy will appeal to even the pickiest eaters. Who could go wrong with pizza, pasta and gelato on repeat!
But there are pitfalls and mistakes travelers can make so it is a good idea to hire an experienced travel designer who specializes in the country you are traveling to because they know it inside and out. With the proper planning and knowledge, Italy can be an incredibly family-friendly and stress-free destination. Passion for Italy Travel takes the guess work out of your travel design process so all you need to do is focus on making memories with your family.
We are big believers in slow travel and will customize an itinerary that fulfills your travel goals but with ease and manageability, so you do not feel like you need a vacation from the vacation! One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is trying to fit too many cities into an itinerary. We will advise how long to stay in each location, what towns and cities on your wish list may be easier to visit than others, best modes of transportation and much more as we create a flow that is both enriching and relaxing.
Choosing a place to stay in a foreign country can be overwhelming and paying attention to the fine print is so important. We make recommendations for hotels, bed & breakfasts, apartments or villas that will accommodate your family based on your budget, travel style and preferred amenities. We know the hotels that offer the best set ups for families and can recommend places to stay with pools and outdoor spaces, even in big cities.
And when it comes to choosing accommodations in a country you do not know, location is critical. It is so easy to make a mistake and book something that says it is centrally located, when in fact, it is not. We know the best locations and prefer to recommend Italian owned hotels which we believe will offer your family more than just a place to sleep at night. There is nothing like chatting with a hotel owner about the history of their property or watching your child play with their children as they try to overcome language barriers. These travel experiences will be the ones that your family perhaps remembers most.
International travel exposes children to history, culture, foreign language, new people and foods and enhances their life experiences and views of the world. In fact, a recent study cited in Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2019 said that nearly three quarters of educators found that travel had a positive impact on students’ personal development. And while domestic travel and even travel in your own backyard can be equally impactful, Travel & Leisure noted that teachers agreed international travel helped to increase tolerance and respectfulness as well as a willingness to learn and try to new things.
On a personal note, I have always said that when we embark upon an international trip with kids, we throw a lot at them and hope that a small fraction of it will stick. But I continue to be amazed at how much children retain and how their minds soak up information and experiences. And nothing feels better than to be taking a tour of the Vatican when the guide asks if anyone knows the answer to a question, and your child’s eyes light up with recognition and awe as they realize that they do.
Many clients know they want to see the main sites like the Colosseum and Pompeii, but some are unsure what else there is to see and do, and we can make those recommendations. Tours can be small group or private and we will coordinate transportation as well as let you know when a car rental is advisable or not. And all too often, tourists pack in tours back to back, which can be exhausting, so we will advise a pace that will not tire out your family by the third day of the trip.
We know which tours have a transportation component if you are concerned about your kids walking long distances, such as in Venice where we can arrange a walking tour combined with a boat ride to see the main sights of this floating city. In Rome, where there is so much ground to cover, we can arrange a golf cart tour, which is always a big hit with the kids. And in Florence, where art is everywhere, we can arrange family-friendly, skip the line tours to maximize your time.
We know the tours that appeal to kids such as an evening Ghost Tour in Venice to learn about the secret passages and legends of the past. Cooking classes are great fun for families and we know the best ones for kids. Or you can spend time at an Italian farm or agritourismo where your family can learn about organic farming and cheese making, meet the animals and have lunch prepared with foods made from the farm. If you have adventurous eaters, try a family-friendly food tour where you will visit local markets and taste the foods unique to that city or region.
For history buffs, Italy is obviously full of options, but I encourage families to think outside of the box. Last winter, my family spent time on the Appian Way just outside of the city walls of Rome. Your kids may be fascinated by the history of this ancient road and get a kick out of walking on the same stones Julius Cesar once walked on. There are several catacombs worth seeing and there are miles and miles of road and green spaces to discover. And if your trip is during the summer, a day at the beach is a must, but did you know that many Italian beaches are built on rocky platforms with tons of steps or have pebbles instead of sand? We know the best beaches for families throughout Italy.
And now on to the food! Italy arguably has the best food in the world. Naples is the birthplace of pizza after all! When dining in Italy, I try to stay away from restaurants right near major tourist sites because often the food is mediocre, and the prices are high because you are paying a premium for the location. But there are exceptions to every rule as we recently learned when we had a late afternoon meal at a restaurant in front of the Pantheon. Our kids loved it because they were able to order pizza and French fries, and my husband and I agreed that while the food was fine, it was the experience of dining in the shadow of one of the most magnificent sites in all of Italy, that was truly memorable.
If you are visiting highly touristed spots during high season or on a holiday, you may want to think about making reservations ahead of time. We can make dining suggestions based on personal reviews from Passion for Italy Travel consultants who live in Italy or regularly travel there to meet with suppliers and discover the best options for our clients.
While many Italians do speak English, you may encounter some that do not, especially in certain regions and in smaller or less touristed towns. This is where I find it is helpful to utilize an online translator to help you communicate, especially if you are concerned about meal preparation or allergies. Although I have to say that trying to communicate adds to the fun. As days go by, your children will pick up words and phrases they can use to speak with Italians.
But no matter what, embrace the situation! We had what could have been an epic fail years ago at a hotel in the hills above Florence, which had a gorgeous restaurant, but the menu was not very kid friendly. We requested grilled chicken for the kids, with strawberries on the side. Or so we thought! When dinner arrived, the chef made a special strawberry puree for the chicken. It was such a thoughtful gesture and the kids loved it, and of course, we all fondly remember that meal.
The possibilities are really endless when it comes to traveling to Italy with kids, but perhaps the best advice I can give is to leave enough down time to let your children wander, explore and soak in Italian street life and culture. Just walking the streets of Italian cities or sitting in a piazza with a gelato will breathe culture into your children’s minds. Some of the best days we have spent as a family in Italy are the days where we had nothing much planned such as when we got lost in Venice in a quiet residential neighborhood and found the most incredible bakery. Or when we spent an evening listening to an open air concert atop the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. There really are treasures to be found around every corner and sometimes it is fun to let your kids take the lead and show you the way.
But know your kids. If they need lots of mini breaks or mini meals at home throughout the day, they will in Italy too. You know your child best and the more information a client relays to us about their children’s passions and habits, the better we can design a trip that they, and you, will enjoy. We will send you off armed with useful tips and information such as what to pack, how to help kids adjust to the time change and what to expect when ordering food at restaurants or transferring locations within Italy.
And finally, just go with the flow. Even the best laid plans can get sidetracked by weather or other obstacles, and sometimes these diversions create new opportunities your family will learn from and cherish.
Travel to Italy with kids is more than just a trip; it is a life experience they will carry with them for many years to come. With some expert planning and advice, you can be sure your experience will be one your family can handle and enjoy. I for one cannot wait to get back to Italy with my family to experience La Dolce Vita once again!
So, until then, we wish you all a safe and beautiful weekend.