After returning from a recent trip to Italy, now even San Francisco seems relatively dull in comparison. Granted, it was August so most Italians had fled the cities to escape the tourists but the vibrancy and passion of the Italian culture was still palpable. Driving from Florence to Chianti and back to Rome, we discovered a country that was family friendly and know now that Italy with kids is a must do for a travel experience.
Photo By: BigStock/rechitansorin
We started our trip to Italy in Florence, where we stayed in a loft apartment five minutes from the train station, a ten minute walk from the Duomo and other main historical sites. People say that there is not much to do in Florence with kids; I disagree. Certainly, there aren’t playgrounds and toy shops at every corner, but the city is filled with interesting sites: majestic buildings, open squares, and lifelike statues. I believe teaching children to appreciate and entertain themselves amongst such beauty is a lifelong lesson that will carry them very far.
My three-year-old climbed up the four hundred plus steps to the top of the Duomo and reveled in the adventure all the way! We took a horse carriage over the Ponte Vecchio, listened to musicians in the Piazza della Signoria, and matched art to our catalogue at the Uffizi! It was scorching hot but frequent water stops and scrumptious gelati made it manageable. For those looking for more traditional play, check out the antique gilded carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica!
From Florence we drove deep into the heart of Tuscany’s wine region, to Greve in Chianti. Here our agenda changed. Settled into a gorgeous boutique hotel, Villa Bordoni, we enjoyed blissful days of swimming, feasting on delectable Tuscan cuisine, and taking in the lush Italian countryside. For those with a bit more of a need for activity, there are many towns to explore in the region including Siena, Montepulciano, and San Gimignano.
After a restful four days in Chianti, we packed the gang back into the car to head to Rome. Driving between cities in Italy is fairly convenient as the highways are well constructed and the signage easy to follow. You can also Google Maps or other apps to get from one destination to another. The drive to Rome was a pleasant three hours. Rest stops are located frequently on the major freeways if you need them.
Driving in major Italian cities is another story. Smart cars and vespas will zip around you and parking is virtually impossible. The other issue is that many of the roads in the historical centers are pedestrian zones, and it’s hard enough figuring out where you need to go without having blocks of streets inaccessible. The one saving grace if you come from the U.S. is that they drive on the right side of the street. The lesson? Leave the driving in Italian cities to the locals. Taxis, buses, and the metro are well planned to take you wherever you need to go.
Rome is a larger, more contemporary version of Florence. Aside from the awesome science and scale behind structures such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican, just understanding the role this city played in our history is a humbling experience. As in Florence, we kept the children entertained marveling at colossal statues, watching street performers, and refreshing ourselves at Rome’s 5000 fountains, all of which produce water which is fit for drinking.
A highlight in Rome, however, was the Villa Borghese, the city’s park that offers a refuge from the summer heat with its tree-lined streets. It houses the Galleria Borghese, one of the world’s most valued collections of Western art. The Villa Borghese offers much by way of activities for children: rent a bike and tour the park, have a go at the bouncy castle and arcade games, ride the train, play in the playground, and when school is in session, catch a film at the children’s theater. We spent an entire day at the Villa Borghese and the children thanked us for it. Pack your own picnic or grab paninis and gelati from the many snack stands around the park.
Why Italy is Family Friendly
As someone who has traveled all over the world with the kids, I find Italy to be one of the most child-friendly places on the planet. It’s not because of amenities (many restaurants don’t have changing tables) or facilities (as mentioned earlier, children are expected to make their own entertainment), but it’s a result of the general attitude: children are expected to be around and are beloved. At restaurants, waiters try to pacify our fussy kids, in airplanes fellow passengers entertain them, and everyone wanted to hold the baby! If that’s not enough: a diet of pizza and pasta should certainly sell the most travel-averse parent to take a trip to bell’Italia with the family!
All photos unless otherwise noted are courtesy of the author.
-Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is the founder of Momaboard.com
For more information, check out Momaboard’s Guide to:
Rome with Kids | Florence with Kids | Chianti with Kids
Lead Photo by Shutterstock