Italy Family Travel: 10 Tips for Planning Your First Trip to Italy with Kids
Without a doubt, Italy is one of the most kid-friendly countries in Europe.
The weather is gorgeous, the food is perfect for picky little eaters, and there’s a treasure trove of history and culture to be explored.
But while Italy may be one of the easiest countries in Europe to visit with kids, there are a few things to know before you go.
Read on for our top 10 tips for planning Italy family travel with kids:
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Top Cities to Visit in Italy with Kids
What are the best cities to visit in Italy with kids? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Some people will tell you that Venice is too crowded, while others will find it magical. Some will say Florence is not kid-friendly, while others love the art and history. Instead of taking someone else’s word for it, do your own reserach into these top cities to find which interests you and your family most:
Venice | One of Italy’s most visited cities, it’s true that Venice does get quite crowded with tourists. However, if you dream of sights as pretty as a postcard, I doubt it can possibly disappoint. Vanessa over at Wanderlust Crew has a great guide to Venice here.
Milan/Lake Como | We only got to spend a few hours in Milan, and thanks to a transportation strike, missed out on seeing much of the city. Milan does not have nearly as much to offer families as other Italian cities, but combining it with a trip to nearby Lake Como makes for a dreamy summer vacay. For more inspiration, check out Travel Babbo’s guide to the Lake Como area here.
Cinque Terre | One of our personal favorites, I initially questioned how kid-friendly Cinque Terre (a region of 5 fishing villages along the Mediterranean) would be. Steep hillside trails just didn’t scream toddler-friendly. But to our surprise, the area was perfect for families and super easy to hop from one village to the next.
READ MORE: A Guide to Cinque Terre for Families
Florence | Who needs to visit the Uffizi when the entire city of Florence is a walking museum? Our favorite family-friendly sites included Boboli Gardens, Mercato Centrale, the carousel at Piazza della Reppublicca, and Piazzalle Michaelangelo. You can read our full guide to Florence with Kids here.
READ MORE: Travel Guide: Florence with Kids
Rome | Not to be missed, Rome is in a league of it’s own when it comes to the top cities to visit in Italy. And rightfully so! Yes, it’s busy and it’s chaotic, but it’s also home to some of Italy’s most iconic places, like the Vatican, Trevi Fountain and the Colloseum. Read more on 10 things you need to experience in Rome here.
READ MORE: 10 Things You Need to Experience in Rome
Naples/Amalfi Coast | We missed this part of Italy not because of lack of interest, but purely lack of time! While the Amalfi Coast is typically thought of as a romantic couple’s destinations, there’s plenty to do on the Amalfi Coast with kids!
10 Tips for Planning a Trip to Italy with Kids
Ok, so now that you know where to go, what should you know before you go?
1 | Leave the Stroller at Home
With narrow sidewalks and bumpy streets, using a stroller in Italy can be a pain. Opt instead to go stroller-free and wear your little one in a carrier. It makes meandering through busy tourist areas with a baby so much simpler. Even for older littles whose legs can’t handle all the walking, a good toddler carrier is a must.
READ MORE: The Best Baby and Toddler Carriers for Travel
2 | Pack Light
No matter what mode of transportation you’ll be using in Italy, there’s a good chance you’ll be walking quite a lot. Take it from me, those cobblestone streets and busy trains don’t have the room to accommodate your gigantic luggage. We saw far too many American families struggling to push their luggage up the steep hills of Manarola. Do yourself a favor and try to travel with one small bag each. And if you need some tips, read this post on how to travel light with kids.
3 | Buy Tickets & Tours in Advance
I made this rookie mistake myself. Wanting to be carefree and do things on a whim, I neglected to reserve any tickets in advance for Florence’s main attractions. The result? Waiting in long lines and even deciding to skip out on climbing the Duomo altogether because the entry times were so picked over.
Many major attractions will allow you to “skip-the-line” and even offer you a small discount for booking online in advance. So go ahead and at least plan out the big stuff, pre-booking your entry or tours either through the official website, or on a trusted site like Viator.
4 | Go Off the Beaten Path for Authentic Italian Food
You almost can’t go wrong with finding amazing food around any corner in Italy. But you will most definitely find that certain places cater to tourists more than others. We did our best to avoid these by steering clear of any place adjacent to a major tourist site, or those offering a “tourist menu”. Instead, head an extra 2 or 3 blocks down a quiet street and I guarantee you’ll find the perfect little trattoria tucked away.
With pizza or pasta on nearly every menu, you’ll have little to worry about with picky eaters: the food in Italy is extremely kid-friendly. Do a little research beforehand to learn what the specialties are in each region (like pesto trofie in Cinque Terre or cacio e pepe in Rome) to be sure you’re getting the very best each city has to offer.
One other thing to note: even though Italy is an extremely family-friendly country, you may not find a high chair at every restaurant. And especially don’t expect to find a changing table in the bathroom. Consider it part of the adventure!
5 | Be Ready to Adjust Your Schedule
The one downside of dining in Italy with kids? You’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere ready to serve you at your typical American mealtimes. 12:00 for lunch? You might as well be eating breakfast! 6:00 for dinner? That’s still happy hour!
It was not unusual to find that many restaurants (except those catering to tourists) wouldn’t be open for dinner until 8:00 PM. This definitely creating a challenge for us in thwarting off a hangry toddler. To help with the wait, we did our best to instead adjust our entire daily schedule by an hour or two. For us, this meant staying up later each night and sleeping in in lieu of quiet morning photo ops. But in the end, it was worth it to keep everyone’s bellies happy.
READ MORE: 2 Weeks in Italy: A Family-Friendly Itinerary
6 | Buy Essentials After You Arrive
For babies and toddlers, I always recommend to pack only enough of the essentials to get you through your first day or so at your destination. Nearly any of the daily items you’ll need after that can be found at a local grocery store or pharmacy.
Stock up on snacks and groceries at Carrefour or Coop – both grocery chains that can be easily found in any major city. Many of these will also carry baby items like diapers, wipes, and formula, but if not, pharmacies dotted all over the cities are a great resource as well (and you can easily spot one by the big green plus sign on the side of the building).
7 | Trains Make Inter-City Travel a Breeze!
One of the easiest ways to get around Italy is by it’s extensive rail system. Trains in Italy are comfortable and efficient, making them a good first option for new travelers.
Don’t just expect to walk into the trian station and hop onto any old train, though. Tickets for popular routes should be booked in advance to be sure you can reserve yourself a seat at your desired travel time. Prices do also tend to increase on popular routes the closer you get to the departure time as well. You can avoid any surprises by reserving your train tickets for major trips in advance through either Rail Europe, or Italy’s local TrenItalia.
8 | But Know All Your Transportation Options
While trains are an effective means of transportation, you shouldn’t count out renting a car, especially if you have a big family and want to see more of the countryside. We avoided driving into the city by picking up and dropping off on rental locations outside the city center. Flying can also be a cheaper or faster option if you’re traveling from one end of Italy to another (though you should also factor in the time and energy it will take to get from the inner-city to the airport).
And once you get to the city, get out on foot to explore. It’s often easier and quicker to walk than take the metro in cities like Florence or Rome. Transportation strikes are also pretty common in Italy, so having a backup plan in case you can’t count on the subway will help you avoid any extra stress.
READ MORE: Pisa & Lucca: A Tuscan Day Trip from Florence
9 | Don’t Expect Super Reliable Internet
While Italy is very much a modern country, they do still lag behind when it comes to their internet speeds. I know, I know, first world problems! But for the internet-reliant like myself, this is important to know!
What an Italian might consider a fast connection might drive an American nuts, so if it’s really important to you or necessary for work, be sure to confirm internet speeds with your accommodations before booking. Or, bring your own global wi-fi hotspot as a back up like we did.
10 | Learn a Bit of the Language
Finally, it’s always a good idea to know a bit of the local language before venturing into another country. Sure, most Italians will be able speak English rather well, but know a few simple words and phrases not only will help you get around, but also shows you respect the local culture as well.
Even if at the very least you only master “hello” and “thank you”, knowing a little basic Italian can go a long way. Carry a pocket Italian phrase book to help you feel more confident.
Have you visited Italy with kids? What advice would you have for other first time visiting families?
Sharee (Inspire Family Travel) says
This is fabulous information for those planning on going to Italy with children. We visited Italy pre-kids and it is somewhere we loved, so if we return with the children we will be using your guide as a reference.
Thanks, glad you found it helpful! You really can’t go wrong visiting anywhere in Italy with kids, right? It’s such an amazing country!