You could say that we know a thing or two about traveling to Italy with kids at Ciao Bambino. If the name doesn’t give it away, our history will — we’ve been helping families plan trips to Italy for a decade now and have collected tips and advice from hundreds of experiences with kids at all ages and stages, from top to bottom of this coveted European country.
Top Italy Family Travel Tips
This is a serious Italy brainstorm! My top tips for traveling to Italy with kids of all ages:
> Italians don’t eat dinner before 7:30p and most restaurants don’t open until then accordingly. You can get snacks in many cafes in cities, but finding restaurants in smaller villages that are open can be tough. Plan accordingly.
> Most Italian restaurants don’t have kids’ menus — that doesn’t mean they are not kid-friendly. In fact, most restaurants will make special pastas or other simple food items for kids on request.
> Grocery stores in smaller villages may be closed on Sundays. If you are checking into your accommodation on a Saturday, make sure you get your shopping done for dinner Sunday, if you plan to eat “at home.”
> Italian pharmacies carry baby supplies, including baby food. They have great baby food in Italy — the picture on the label will often tell you what’s in it. Moreover, at least one person working at Italian pharmacies — even in small villages — usually speaks English.
> Gelato, or Italian ice cream, is one of our favorite things to experience in Italy with kids. There are many cult favorites like Vivoli in Florence. My latest obsession is Gelateria del Teatro in Rome. Don’t miss it!
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> The vast majority of the family-friendly rural accommodations in Italy (apartments with kitchens in a resort setting or independent villas) run from Saturday to Saturday during peak travel months (June through September). Plan itineraries accordingly! Our most popular family-friendly itinerary in Italy works around this fact. It’s a good guide for first-time Italy visitors.
> Everyone thinks of renting a villa in Italy as their ideal accommodation for the bulk of a vacation. We love villas for multigenerational trips or a few families traveling together. For single-family trips, the best value and experience for families is at agriturismo properties — rural estates that have been converted into resorts with apartments — and sometimes independent villas — and shared amenities. We call them resorts on Ciao Bambino. Get our list of the best agriturismos for families in the CB! Hotel Collection.
> Use a qualified villa agency or check references if you are renting directly from an owner. Italy is a long way to travel only to find out that you are in nightmare accommodations. Our Family Travel Consulting Team manages a list of qualified agencies as part of our trip planning services.
> Want the ultimate idyllic villa rental in Italy? Look no further than Podere Palazzo.
Our Italy Family Vacation Consultants manage a curated list of the best places to stay in Italy with kids
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> Unless you are staying IN a village or city, most family-friendly accommodations in Italy are not walking distance to town. This isn’t about distance; it is primarily because there are no sidewalks in the countryside and walking on some of these roads is unsafe with young children.
> If you are renting an independent villa in Italy, make sure you understand the distance from the main house to the pool, and if the pool is fenced. Many villas open up right to a pool, a disaster for travel with toddlers and young children.
> It is difficult to find single hotel rooms that sleep families of 4 to 5 people in the historic center of Italian cities. Families are forced to pay for connecting rooms or suites. We’ve scoured Italy for great urban options for families. Our Rome family hotel list, for example, is coveted for its tried-and-tested options.
> Dreaming of a beach vacation in Italy and want a hotel room in a seaside town in July or August? Book early! This is the prime tourist time on the coast in Italy and accommodations fill up fast. Be prepared to pay a premium. Quality villas and apartments can be difficult to source in popular destinations.
> Formal kids’ clubs are only available at a small number of hotels in Italy, but we are seeing a growing list of accommodations meaningfully catering to children, like the Hotel Adler-Thermae in Tuscany and the Four Seasons Firenze.
> Most hotels offer cribs and highchairs. The cribs may not be what you are used to at home with all of our safety standards in place. If this is a concern, carry your own pack-n-play.
> Not all independent villa rentals offer cribs and highchairs. Be sure and understand what they accommodate before you finalize the booking.
> There is a growing list of companies offering baby equipment rentals throughout Italy. We are working on publishing a list … stay tuned.
> Italy is long. It’s best to travel one way if you’d like to cover ground, instead of spending time retracing steps, i.e. fly into Rome and out of Venice and vice versa.
> The most popular destinations with kids in Italy are Rome, Tuscany (includes Florence and Siena), Venice, the Amalfi Coast, and Lake Como. You can return to Italy every year and never get bored! Additional wonderful destinations to explore with children include Umbria, the Dolomites, and Puglia.
> If you plan to stay on the coast in July and August, expect any open beach space to be body-to-body. It’s just the way it is. Booking a hotel with a private beach club, or at least private beach club access, can be a way around the crowds. Ciao Bambino’s Family Vacation Consulting Team manages a list of accommodations that offer this (both on and off our website).
> Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera are also very popular with families. There are things to know, however. Be sure and read my article on Italian beach vacations with kids while planning this portion of your trip.
Is the Amalfi Coast toddler-friendly? Not really. But where there’s a will, there’s a way! See my Amalfi Coast with kids tips for guidance.
Circa 2004: We’ve been planning family travel to Italy for more than a decade!
Activities and Kid-Friendly Guides
> Got boys? Don’t miss Gladiator School in Rome.
> Kids of all ages — from toddlers to teens, girls and boys — have fun taking a cooking class in Italy. We love this cooking class in Tuscany at Al Gelso Bianco. There are many options offered all around Italy; we recommend different options as part of our Italy itinerary planning service.
> Mask-making in Venice is a fantastic way to actively engage kids in learning about Venetian history.
> An after-hours tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel is one of the most outrageous things I’ve experienced in any country. This tour is part of all the Adventures by Disney Italy trips. If you are an independent traveler with a flexible budget, there are agencies who offer this private experience.
> If you are looking for a more instructive, structured experience for kids, Art al Sole Camp runs throughout Italy and is a fantastic experience for kids and their parents.
> Don’t even think about heading to ancient sites like the Roman Forum or Pompeii without a guide — families get much more out of these sites with live information.
> We manage a list of kid-friendly tour guides. This is a paid list and although all of the guides listed want to cater to families, we aren’t continually vetting each agency or individual on this list. Our Family Travel Consulting Team pairs our clients with continually vetted guides.
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> If you want to stay in the Italian countryside, you really need a car. Unlike other countries in Europe where the train system is efficient to smaller towns, this is not the case in Italy. Moreover, most appealing family accommodations are on a rural estate and the nearest train station is not within walking distance.
> If you want to explore the countryside and still don’t want to rent a car, a workaround is to stay in a larger city like Florence or Siena, and then use a driver to take you out for a full day or two in the countryside. This is one of the things Ciao Bambino’s Family Vacation Consulting Team can help organize.
> Don’t even think about self-driving down the Amalfi Coast. The road is narrow and full of hairpin turns and drops. Maintain marital bliss by hiring a driver to take you from the Naples airport or train station to the coast. Once you are there, the local bus service is pleasant and efficient.
> Driving in large Italian cities can be very stressful. Select pick-up/drop-off locations near the highway. If this is not possible, pay a taxi to lead you to the highway. This strategy is a bit harder for drop-offs.
> We like Auto Europe for car rentals in Europe. They are a broker with a 24 x 7 call center staffed with English-speaking agents. When trouble arises during or after a rental (with billing) — this service-oriented team is invaluable.
> If you are staying over 21 days in Europe, it may be more cost effective to “lease” versus rent a car.
> Dropping off a car in Italy and dropping it off in another country (or vice versa) incurs large fees. Plan your transportation itinerary accordingly. That said, the incremental charge may be less than the total charge to have your family use the train or flights. Doing the math is worthwhile.
> Baby and booster car seats are available from most car rental agencies in Europe. The issue is quality. We recommend that you bring your own, if possible.
> An international driver’s license is required in Italy. Read more about this policy and get more Europe car rental tips from the guest post Auto Europe wrote for us.
> Italy’s national system of motorways is called the Autostrada. Many of these roads are tollways. If you don’t have coins or cash, a credit card can be used — just make sure you get in the right lane (icon will indicate the correct one).
> The Italian train system is called Trenitalia. It is very efficient for getting to/from large cities, provided you are light packers and can easily get your luggage and kids on and off trains in a crowd.
> There’s a relatively new bullet train in Italy called Frecciarossa. It can radically reduce travel times, like getting from Rome to Naples in 1:10 (this makes Pompeii a day trip). I traveled on the bullet train with Adventures by Disney Italy from Florence to Rome in May. The train and service are very nice!
> Alitalia is an important carrier in Italy and has flights from many international hubs.
> Low-cost carriers are a great way to get around within Europe — see our tips on flying with kids on Europe’s Low Cost Airlines.
> Flying out of Rome? Check your flight time. Unless you are already staying in Rome, it’s not worth staying in the city on the last night of the trip and fighting traffic. There’s a Hilton Rome Airport that we recommend to our clients; note, they do not have connecting rooms, so parents of young children will need to separate for the night.
> Flying out of Venice? The airport pier is a 7-minute walk or more to the terminal. Leave time! You can pay porters to take luggage, but they charge a Venice super-premium for this service.
Cell Phones, WIFI, and Data Usage
> Most accommodations in Italy now offer WIFI. Note, they have not all caught on the fact that free WIFI is appreciated.
> Using a smart phone for GPS is a lifesaver! Data use in Europe is very expensive. Make sure you purchase a data package with your provider before leaving the country. Some car rental agencies are now offering WIFI hot spots as part of the rental. We tried EuropeCar’s device during our last trip to Italy and it worked great.
> Some restaurants and urban centers in Italy have WIFI, but it’s not consistent.
> Light stroller, jog stroller, or backpack? There is no right answer to this debate. Light strollers are great for maneuvering around big cities with small sidewalks; jog strollers are great for rough cobblestone streets; and backpacks are great for the plethora of stairs and hills in smaller, rural villages.
> Italians love children. This is one of the reasons why Italy is a perennial family travel favorite. It’s not uncommon for a restaurant owner to entertain a baby so parents can lounge at dinner. Enjoy it!
> Wine enthusiasts love wine tasting in Italy. It’s not Napa — there’s not a set of producers in a nice little line with intuitive instructions about how to taste. That said, many towns in key wine-producing regions have enotecas, places specifically designated for tasting the wine of the region. This doesn’t replace having the experience of touring a winery or meeting the winemaker. Research ahead of time is required for the latter.
Our list of the best family accommodations and all of our incredible Italy content is available on our Italy family vacation landing page.
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