Wondering how it all started? Then let’s go back in time to the year 2010 when we had our first real travel with a baby. Well, technically it was our second time abroad with Alegra. Only, the first one took us to Mexico but that was a beach vacation so it doesn’t really count… Oh and we’re not counting the trips to Madrid and Nice during pregnancy either. The setting for this trip? Northern Italy and more specific the regions of Liguria, Tuscany and Lombardy. The timeframe? Only 9 days… to see 7 cities! Big rookie mistake indeed, but then again trial and error brought us to where we are now. Follow us and learns the do’s and don’ts of visiting Italy with kids!
This tour was composed around the hotels that were part of the hotel chain I used to work for. That way, we were able to enjoy pretty nice accommodations for very low employee rates. So, essentially we just payed for breakfast while enjoying 4* bed and breakfast.
It was a very early morning in July 2010 when we started the drive from Belgium to Italy. After about 12 hours we arrived in Savona. This harbor town seemed as a good starting point to drive along the Riviera di Ponente, the part of the Italian Riviera west of Genoa. We spent a late afternoon and evening here before enjoying a good night’s sleep. The town was nice but nothing spectacular apart from the massive cruise ships in the harbor. When selecting a picture to add to this post, I noticed that we had taken only one. Upon further inspection it hit me that the one ship we photographed was the Costa Concordia that would sink in 2012.
The next day we headed out about 20km to the west to visit the Grotte di Toirano. We were overwhelmed by the impressive mountain views and beautiful geological formations. We enjoyed it a lot even with little Alegra in our arms during the cave visit which proved to be quite challenging.
After a local lunch we drove towards Genoa charmed by the gorgeous views along this coast line.
We started off the next day with a visit to Europe’ biggest aquarium. Alegra seemed to love it. But she loved the amazing fountain on the Piazza De Ferrari even more. We could have stayed here all day long and still she wouldn’t have had enough of it! We loved wandering through the small streets of Genoa.
Heading out for Pisa we just had to stop in Portofino first! Although ‘stop’ isn’t the best way to describe our first date with this stunning town. That’s because it seemed to be impossible to find any parking spot there! And don’t think you can quickly halt along the street to take some pictures either. So if you plan on going: ditch the car in Genoa and take the boat to Portofino. This being said, this is simply a classic must-see.
Pisa is another story as we didn’t feel any connection with this city. The city is mostly famous because of the tower but apart from that it didn’t appeal to us at all. Our hotel was located in the center and so we walked around a lot and did get to see most of the city but in our experience it was not the cleanest city. As it was summertime it did get quite hot and the smell was awful throughout the center. This perception might of course change during another time of the year. But hey, we did get to see the tower.
Next on our list was Livorno. I have to be honest and say that we mainly added this to the list because of the palazzo hotel we got to stay in. And so we decided to have our pool and beach time here. We were very charmed by the city. At the same time we weren’t at all by the people here. Arrogance seemed to be standard etiquette. I guess they weren’t that used to tourists yet back then. Luckily we swam more then we talked in the Grand Palazzo Livorno – Mgallery by Sofitel.
Our next destination was Siena. This is an magnificent city as picturesque as it gets. We spent a perfect afternoon strolling around the city and people-watching from a terrace along the side of the Piazza del Campo. This is a great city to visit in Italy with kids!
Florence was hot, too hot actually to enjoy it to the fullest. So we thought visiting the Duomo would give us the opportunity to cool down a bit but… several hundreds of people seemed to have the exact same idea making the queue as long as the eye could see. One of them being Neptune. (The picture is lacking his head. I can’t remember who took the picture but his or her focus was clearly somewhere else). 🙂 Because the queue for the Boboli gardens was non-existing we took on the challenge and visited those. If only we would have known that there would be so much steps! In spite of the heat we really enjoyed magnificent Firenze. We found plenty of streets to get lost in and restaurants to taste the soul of the city.
On our way home we stopped in Milan, a city we had visited before. Therefore, we didn’t exactly spend that much time here. But we enjoyed this city as it is meant to be enjoyed: by shopping our heart out! Not exactly representative for a post on Italy with kids but hey, we’re only human!
Along the way home we made another stop, in Como, just to enjoy a late lunch. Another beautiful town center amidst the magnificent nature that we should explore more extensively in the future. And you should too, when you visit Italy with kids!
Lessons learned after traveling to Italy with kids
Do we expect Alegra to remember something from this trip? Absolutely not! But then again, she seemed to have enjoyed herself about as much as we did. On a vacation kids pick up on the relaxed vibe and love being the center of attention. Even the smallest child is fascinated by a fountain or aquarium so just make sure to add sights like these to your planning. Plan a day on the beach for them to play around in the sand or surf. Varying the activities and surroundings make it much more interesting for any child. So don’t let their age hold you back from traveling to a sophisticated destination like Italy with kids.
Our inexperience made us plan too ambitiously. Because of that, we didn’t get the time to get into the atmosphere of the cities and towns visited. Give yourselves plenty of time to get to know the area you visit. In this case it would have made more sense to immerse ourselves in one region instead of racing through three different ones. Therefore the main lesson learned from this post is to respect a relaxed pace when traveling with kids.
What rookie mistake did you make during your family vacations? And what’s your advice to other parents planning a vacation with the kids? Have you been to Italy with kids? If so, what are your recommendations?