Ciao Bambino’s roots are in family-focused trip planning to Italy, and family activities and accommodations in Italy are still our most requested service by a long shot. Incredible food, a rich culture that loves children, amazing sights — there’s a good reason why Italy is an all-time favorite destination for many travelers. Ciao Bambino readers reach out to us all the time asking for help constructing the best Italy itinerary for families who have a week or two to spend in the country.
Given the time and culture change, families need a minimum of 10 days on the ground to travel successfully to Italy, particularly when coming from the United States. To be honest, we break this rule every year given our schedule constraints. It’s not impossible to travel for a week in Italy or even less; it simply makes the trip much tougher on everyone. Before you decide on a length and book flights, consult this robust list of Italy travel tips so you’re well informed about what’s possible in a limited amount of time.
Variety is important to maximize interest and engagement — I like to mix up city time with countryside and/or seaside time. The main Italian tourist cities can be brutally hot and crowded over the summer months when most families are vacationing. That said, cities are an essential part of experiencing Italian culture; rather than skipping them altogether, my recommendation is to experience them in small doses.
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A weeklong stay in the countryside is absolutely ideal with kids. Tuscany is the first rural region I recommend to families (Umbria is the second). Yes, Tuscany is touristy, but it is touristy for a reason — there is a long list of incredible things to see and do. The consequence of Tuscany’s popularity is that there is a wide array of accommodation options and services. This infrastructure is what makes travel with kids here work so well.
Italy is a big place — make sure you look at a map and understand where you will start and finish the trip. When possible, I encourage people to go in one direction and structure flights accordingly, e.g. start in Rome and end in Venice, flying in and out of each city, respectively.
The most popular 14-day itinerary for Ciao Bambino clients combines Rome, the countryside and Venice, as follows:
The rumors are true: Rome is big, crowded and hectic. There’s also an insane number of awe-inspiring, historic sights to visit. Despite all the times I’ve been to Rome, I still haven’t seen many of the tourist attractions. Parents continually give me feedback that they are surprised at how much they enjoy Rome with their kids.
The bottom line is that is that Rome is a fantastic place to start an Italy adventure. Inbound flights are plentiful and it’s relatively easy to enjoy the city without an intense schedule — part of the fun is simply walking around and exploring the neighborhoods. Meals and services are easy to find and you don’t need to worry about driving. Note that four nights is just enough time to recover from jet lag and see the main sights, nothing more. Rome is a great city to invest in a few special tours, so that the whole family is engaged in the incredible history found here.
Most of the truly family-friendly accommodation options — those with a kitchen and private living space — have weeklong minimum stay requirements from Saturday to Saturday in peak travel periods. It is best to book this part of your trip first and then work around it.
The setup of many of these farm stays in Tuscany make it easy to settle in and live like a local. The most ideal options have open spaces for kids to run around as well as a swimming pool. This means you can easily pair sightseeing with time hanging out and relaxing.
What to do and see in Tuscany has its own blog post, but suffice to say that there are endless options for kids of all ages and the week will pass by quickly, without even a hint of boredom.
Venice with Kids
Families have a love/hate relationship with Venice. Either they come back raving or they are miserable every minute they are there. In my book, it is a must-see city, particularly with school-age kids and older (it is a bit of a challenge with babies and toddlers given all the steps and open water, but not impossible). If you have young children and want to opt out of Venice, there are many other possibilities for an additional few days on the ground — the Cinque Terre, Lucca and Florence, to name a few.
In a 10-day itinerary, visit each city for two to three days and spend the bulk of the time in the countryside per my outline above. The only exception is winter months, when rural activities are more limited (skiing is the exception). In those cases, the itinerary can be reversed with extra city time. With a full two weeks in Italy, it’s definitely possible to see Rome, Tuscany and Venice properly without feeling rushed.
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