Let me take you back to when I was pregnant with Willow. I was sitting in my living room, surrounded by a sea of toys, with my toddler tugging at my leg and my baby kicking me in the ribs. I had a dream of taking my family to Italy, the perfect family friendly destination, for summer vacation. But as I stared at the screen, the sheer volume of information was overwhelming. Where should we go? What would be the best places for a family with young children? How would we get around? The questions seemed endless.
And that's why I'm writing this article. I want to share my experience, the research I did, and the decisions I made to help you plan your own family trip to Italy. I've been there, I've done the legwork, and I want to make it easier for you. This article is your guide to the best Italian destinations for families, from the bustling streets of Rome to the tranquil beaches of Sardinia. I'll share the most family-friendly activities, the best ways to get around, and even how long to stay in each place when you visit Italy.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Rome
Rome, the capital of Italy, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture, and culture. The city is a real-life collage of piazzas, delicious restaurants, open-air markets, and astonishing historic sites like the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Vatican City – home to St. Peter's Basilica and the magnificent Sistine Chapel. Rome is a city that combines the intimacy and human scale of a village with the cultural draws of a historic, art-laden European metropolis.
Children of all ages can visit Rome. Stroller friendliness: 4/5 – the city's ancient cobblestone streets can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Rome
- Visit the Colosseum: This ancient amphitheater is a must-see for any visitor to Rome. Kids will be awed by its size and history.
- Explore the Roman Forum: This ancient site is like a giant outdoor museum. Kids will love running around and exploring the ruins.
- Rent a rowboat in the Villa Borghese Gardens: This large public park offers plenty of space for a 3-year-old to run around and play. There's also a small lake where you can rent rowboats.
- Play at Explora Children's Museum: This museum is designed specifically for children, with interactive exhibits that allow kids to learn through play.
- Feed the pigeons in Piazza Navona: This is one of Rome's most famous squares, with beautiful fountains and plenty of street performers.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Rome
The nearest airport to Rome is Rome Fiumicino Airport. The city is also well-connected by train to other major Italian cities.
Once in Rome, the best way to get around is by public transportation or on foot. The city has a comprehensive network of buses, trams, and a metro system. Many of the major sights are also within walking distance of each other.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Rome
A 4 to 5-day visit would allow you to explore the city, while allowing for rest throughout the day for the kids. For an easy day trip, consider visiting Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman harbor town, which is just a 30-minute train ride from Rome. It's a great alternative to Pompeii for those who want to explore ancient ruins without traveling too far from Rome. You should also consider the tiny Italian beach town of Sperlonga for an enchanting day adventure. Tuscany is also just to the North if you're interested in hiring a driver for the day.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Florence
Florence, the capital of Italy's Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance and historic buildings. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. One of many art museums, the Galleria dell'Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.”
While Florence is a city of high culture and art, it's also a city that children of all ages can enjoy. Stroller friendliness: 4/5 – Florence's city center is relatively flat and easy to navigate with a stroller.
Family-Friendly Activities in Florence
- Visit the Florence Science Museum: This museum is home to a variety of interactive exhibits that kids will love.
- Explore the Boboli Gardens: These beautiful gardens are a great place for kids to run around and explore.
- Visit the Florence Children's Museum: Located inside the Palazzo Vecchio, this museum offers a variety of interactive exhibits and activities for kids.
- Take a gelato-making class: Florence is known for its delicious gelato. Many places offer classes where you can learn to make your own.
- Visit the Florence Cathedral: Kids will be awed by the size and beauty of this iconic cathedral. You can also climb to the top for a great view of the city.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Florence
The nearest airport to Florence is Florence Airport, Peretola. The city is also well-connected by train to other major Italian cities.
Once in Florence, the best way to get around is on foot or by public transportation. The city center is compact and most of the major sights are within walking distance of each other. For longer distances, the city has a good network of buses and trams.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Florence
A 3-day visit would be enough to explore the city at a leisurely pace, but you can easily add on day trips to extend your stay in the region. For a family-friendly day trip, consider visiting Pisa, home to the famous Leaning Tower, or the charming medieval town of San Gimignano, both of which are less than two hours away by train or car. You can also hire a private driver for a day trip (or two) to Tuscany.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Venice
Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.
Venice is a magical city that children of all ages can enjoy. However, to fully appreciate the city's unique structure and history, it's recommended for children aged 6 and above. Stroller friendliness: 2/5 – the city's numerous bridges and narrow alleyways can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Venice
- Gondola Ride: A classic Venetian experience, kids will love the novelty of traveling by boat through the city's canals.
- Visit St. Mark's Square: This iconic square is home to St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. It's also a great place for kids to feed the pigeons.
- Explore the Venetian Lagoon: Take a boat trip to the islands of Murano, known for its glass-making, and Burano, known for its lace-making and brightly colored houses.
- Visit the Natural History Museum: This museum offers a variety of exhibits that are both educational and fun for kids.
- Take a mask-making class: Venice is famous for its Carnival masks. Many workshops offer classes where you can make your own.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Venice
The nearest airport to Venice is Venice Marco Polo Airport. From the airport, you can take a bus or a water taxi to the city.
Once in Venice, the best way to get around is on foot or by water. The city is car-free, which makes it safe and pleasant to walk around. For longer distances, you can take a vaporetto (water bus) or a water taxi.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Venice
A 2 to 3-day visit would be enough to explore all of Venice. To extend your time there, add on a day trip to the colorful fishing island of Burano, known for its brightly colored fishermen's houses and its casual eateries serving seafood from the lagoon. It's just a 40-minute boat ride from Venice.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in central Italy. Its capital, Florence, is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, including Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo basilica. Its diverse natural landscape encompasses the rugged Apennine Mountains, the island of Elba’s beaches on the Tyrrhenian Sea and Chianti’s olive groves and vineyards.
Tuscany is a region that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, including younger kids. Stroller friendliness: 4/5 – the region's rural areas can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Tuscany
- Visit a winery: Many wineries have family friendly experiences where children can partake in cheese tasting while the adults pair the cheese with wine.
- Go on a Truffle Hunt: What could be more fun than exploring off the beaten path in the Italian wilderness with your very own Truffle guide dog.
- Take a cooking class: Tuscany is known for its local food and cuisine. Many places offer cooking classes tailored for families, where you can learn to make traditional Italian dishes.
- Visit the local playgrounds: Every town has at least one local playground to help get energy out for your little ones. You can even pick up a pizza (and a bottle of wine) while the kids play.
- Relax at the pool: Book a villa or agriturismo with a pool to bask under the Tuscan sun while the kids run and swim.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Tuscany
The nearest major airport to Tuscany is Florence, but you can also easily drive from Rome as well. From the airport, you’ll need to rent a car to drive to Tuscany. This destination is not one you want to be stuck in without a car.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Tuscany
A week is an ideal length to visit Tuscany, though you could easily relax in the region for several weeks. For a day trip, consider visiting other nearby towns, like the medieval hill town of San Gimignano or the beautiful city of Siena, both of which are less than two hours away by car. You can also venture to the Western coast for a day at the beach, or South to explore the Bolgheri region known for its unique Bordeaux style wines.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Sardinia
Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, is a paradise for families. With its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and rugged mountains, it's a destination that offers something for everyone. For families with children of all ages, Sardinia is a great choice. The island is known for its relaxed pace of life, making it a stress-free destination for parents. Stroller friendliness: 3/5.
Family-Friendly Activities in Sardinia
- Visit the beautiful beaches: With over 2,000km of coastline, Sardinia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you prefer secluded coves or wide sandy beaches, there's a perfect spot for your family.
- Explore the Nuraghe: These ancient stone structures are unique to Sardinia and offer a fascinating glimpse into the island's past.
- Take a boat tour: Discover the island's stunning coastline from a different perspective.
- Visit a traditional Sardinian village: Experience the island's rich culture and history.
- Enjoy local cuisine: Sardinia is known for its delicious, incredible food, so be sure to try some local dishes.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Sardinia
The main airport in Sardinia is Cagliari Elmas Airport, but there are also airports in Alghero and Olbia. Once on the island, renting a car is the best way to explore at your own pace. Public transportation is available but can be less convenient for families.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Sardinia
A week is a good amount of time to explore Sardinia, but you could easily spend longer enjoying all the small island that has to offer. For an extended stay, consider a day trip to the Maddalena Archipelago, a stunning group of islands off the northeastern coast of Sardinia. You can reach the archipelago by ferry from Palau.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna, located in northern Italy, is a region known for its rich culinary traditions and beautiful historic cities. It's a great destination for families with children of all ages. Stroller friendliness: 4/5.
Family-Friendly Activities in Emilia-Romagna
- Visit Bologna: Known as “La Dotta” (The Learned), “La Grassa” (The Fat), and “La Rossa” (The Red), Bologna is a city of many faces. Explore its medieval towers, walk under its extensive porticoes, and try the local cuisine.
- Explore Parma: Famous for its prosciutto and Parmesan cheese, Parma is also home to beautiful architecture and a rich artistic heritage.
- Discover Ferrara: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ferrara is known for its beautiful Renaissance architecture.
- Visit the Ferrari Museum: Car enthusiasts will love exploring the history of this iconic Italian brand.
- Enjoy the local cuisine: Emilia-Romagna is the birthplace of many famous Italian dishes, including lasagna, tortellini, and ragù.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Emilia-Romagna
The main airport in Emilia-Romagna is Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport. The region is well-connected by train, making it easy to explore different cities. For more flexibility, consider renting a car
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Emilia-Romagna
A week is a good amount of time to explore Emilia-Romagna's main cities. For an extended stay, consider a day trip to the Republic of San Marino, the third smallest country in Europe. You can reach San Marino by car or bus from several cities in Emilia-Romagna.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Lake Garda
Located in northern Italy, this is the largest lake in the country. With its beautiful landscapes, charming towns, and a variety of activities, it's a great destination for families with children of all ages, including young kids. Stroller friendliness: 4/5.
Family-Friendly Activities in Lake Garda
- Visit the charming towns: Each town around Lake Garda has its own unique charm. Don't miss Sirmione, known for its medieval castle, and Malcesine, with its picturesque streets.
- Enjoy water sports: The lake is a popular spot for sailing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding.
- Explore the nature: The area is perfect for hiking and biking.
- Visit Gardaland: This popular amusement park is a hit with kids of all ages.
- Take a boat tour: See the lake from a different perspective and visit towns along the shore.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Lake Garda
The nearest airports are Verona Villafranca Airport and Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport. Once there, you can get around by car, bus, or ferry. The towns around the lake are well-connected by ferry, making it easy to explore different areas.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Lake Garda
A week is a good amount of time to enjoy all that Lake Garda has to offer. For an extended stay, consider a day trip to Verona, a beautiful city known for medieval castles, its Roman amphitheater and the legendary balcony of Romeo and Juliet. You can reach Verona by train or hire a driver to get you there by car.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Milan
Milan, a metropolis in Italy's northern Lombardy region, is a global capital of fashion and design. Home to the national stock exchange, it’s a one of Italy's major cities as the financial hub, and is also known for its high-end restaurants and shops. The Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” testify to centuries of art and culture.
Milan is a city that can be enjoyed by children of all ages. Stroller friendliness: 4/5 – Milan's city center is relatively flat and easy to navigate with a stroller.
Family-Friendly Activities in Milan
- Visit the Milan Natural History Museum: This museum offers a variety of exhibits that are both educational and fun for kids.
- Explore Sempione Park: This large park is a great place for kids to run around and play. It's also home to the Sforza Castle.
- Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology: This museum is home to a variety of interactive exhibits that kids will love.
- Take a cooking class: Milan is known for its cuisine. Many places offer cooking classes tailored for families, where you can learn to make traditional Italian dishes.
- Visit the Milan Cathedral: Kids will be awed by the size and beauty of this iconic cathedral. You can also climb to the top for a great view of the city.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Milan
The nearest airport to Milan is Milan Malpensa Airport. The city is also well-connected by train to other major Italian cities. Once in Milan, the best way to get around is by public transportation. The city has a comprehensive network of buses, trams, and a metro system. Many of the major sights are also within walking distance of each other.
Length of Visit for a Family in Milan
A 3-day visit would allow you to explore the city. For a family-friendly day trip, consider visiting Lake Como, known for its dramatic scenery, set against the foothills of the Alps. It's just a short train ride from Milan.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of gorgeous scenery and coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It’s a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. The coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliffside lemon groves.
The Amalfi Coast is suitable for older children, due to its rugged terrain and cliffside roads. Stroller friendliness: 1/5 – the region's steep and narrow roads can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Amalfi Coast
- Visit the Emerald Grotto: This sea cave is a popular tourist attraction on the Amalfi Coast. Kids will love the boat ride to the cave and the beautiful green water inside.
- Explore the town of Amalfi: This picturesque town is a great place for a family stroll. Don't miss the beautiful Amalfi Cathedral.
- Take a boat tour: The Amalfi Coast is best seen from the water. A boat tour is a great way to see the beautiful coastline and visit some of the smaller towns that are difficult to reach by car.
- Visit the Paper Museum: Located in Amalfi, this museum offers a fun and educational look at the history of paper making.
- Relax on the beach: The Amalfi Coast is home to some beautiful beaches. A day at the beach can be a great way for the family to relax and enjoy the Italian sun.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Amalfi Coast
The nearest airport to the Amalfi Coast is Naples International Airport. From the airport, you can take a bus or a ferry to the Amalfi Coast.
Once on the Amalfi Coast, the best way to get around is by bus or ferry. The roads along the coast are narrow and winding, which can be challenging for those not used to driving in these conditions. The local buses and ferries are a convenient and scenic way to travel between towns.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Amalfi Coast
A 3 to 4-day visit would give you time to explore and enjoy some relaxation time. For a day trip, consider visiting the island of Capri, known for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels and shopping, from designer fashions to limoncello and handmade leather sandals. It's just a short ferry ride from the Amalfi Coast.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Sicily
Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island, is just off the “toe” of Italy's “boot” in Southern Italy. Its rich history is reflected in sites like the Valley of the Temples, the well-preserved ruins of 7 monumental, Doric-style Greek temples, and in the Byzantine mosaics at the Cappella Palatina, a former royal chapel in capital city Palermo.
Sicily is an island that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, but is recommended for children aged 6 and above. Stroller friendliness: 3/5 – the island's varied terrain can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Sicily
- Visit the Valley of the Temples: This archaeological site in Agrigento is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture. It's a great place for kids to learn about history and explore the ruins.
- Explore Mount Etna: This active volcano is a popular tourist attraction. You can take a cable car up the mountain and then explore the craters at the top.
- Visit the Palermo Botanical Garden: This beautiful garden is a great place for kids to run around and learn about different plants.
- Take a cooking class: Sicily is known for its delicious cuisine. Many places offer cooking classes where you can learn to make traditional Sicilian dishes.
- Relax on the beach: Sicily has some beautiful beaches. A day at the beach can be a great way for the family to relax and enjoy the Italian sun.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Sicily
The nearest airports to Sicily are Palermo Airport and Catania Airport. Sicily is also well-connected by ferry to the Italian mainland and other islands.
Once in Sicily, the best way to get around is by car. The island is large and public transportation can be unreliable. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Sicily
A 7-day visit would allow you to explore the island and enjoy some relaxation time. For a day trip, consider visiting the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, known for their rugged landscapes, beaches and hiking paths. It's just a short ferry ride from Sicily.
Overview and Age Appropriateness in Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto.
Due to its rugged terrain and cliffside paths, it's recommended for children aged 10 and above. Stroller friendliness: 0/5 – the region's steep and narrow paths can be challenging for strollers.
Family-Friendly Activities in Cinque Terre
- Hike the Cinque Terre trails: The Cinque Terre is famous for its beautiful hiking trails. Some of the trails are suitable for older kids and offer stunning views of the coastline.
- Visit the towns: Each of the five towns of the Cinque Terre has its own unique charm. Kids will love exploring the narrow streets and colorful houses.
- Take a boat tour: A boat tour is a great way to see the Cinque Terre from a different perspective. You can also visit some of the smaller, less accessible beaches by boat.
- Visit the Aquarium in Genoa: If you're willing to take a day trip, the aquarium in Genoa is one of the largest in Europe and is a great place for kids.
- Relax on the beach: The Cinque Terre has some beautiful beaches. A day at the beach can be a great way for the family to relax and enjoy the Italian sun.
Transportation: Getting There and Getting Around Cinque Terre
The nearest airport to the Cinque Terre is Pisa International Airport. From the airport, you can take a train to the Cinque Terre. Once in the Cinque Terre, the best way to get around is by train or on foot. The towns are car-free, which makes them safe and pleasant to walk around. The local train connects all five towns and runs frequently.
Ideal Length of Visit for a Family in Cinque Terre
A 2 to 3-day visit would be enough to explore. For a day trip, consider visiting Portofino, a fishing village on the Italian Riviera coastline, known for its pastel-colored houses, high-end boutiques and seafood restaurants. It's just a short train ride from the Cinque Terre.
Other Considerations for Choosing Italy for Your Family Vacation
Italy is generally a safe country for travel, but like anywhere, it's important to stay vigilant, especially in crowded tourist areas where pickpocketing can occur. Always keep an eye on your belongings and your little ones. One crucial tip I want to emphasize is to never leave anything in your car, even for a moment. Unfortunately, I know someone who had to cut their entire family' trip short because everything was stolen from their car during a quick lunch stop. This included their passports, forcing them to emergency expedite new ones through the American embassy. So, if you're planning to rent a car, remember to take all your belongings with you whenever you leave the vehicle.
Packing Essentials for Italy
Packing for Italy should include comfortable walking shoes, lightweight clothing for the summer months, and layers for the cooler seasons. Don't forget essentials like sunscreen and hats. For babies and toddlers, consider bringing a lightweight stroller that's easy to navigate on cobblestone streets and up and down stairs. My favorite travel stroller is the UppaBaby Minu V2 with the adapters for the UppaBaby Mesa added if your baby is less than 6 months old.
Dining with Children in Italy
Italians (especially Italian Grandmas) love children, and dining out with small kids, is usually a pleasant experience. Many restaurants offer high chairs and are happy to accommodate special requests. You can usually order a half portion of pasta and most restaurants are more than happy to make it immediately once you are seated. Remember, Italians typically eat dinner late, so plan accordingly.
Cultural Etiquette to Teach Children
Teaching your children about Italian culture is one of the best ways to enrich their experience. Start with a few words of Italian (like “please” and “thank you”) which can go a long way. It's also obviously important to respect the local culture and historical sites.
Final Thoughts on Italy for Families
Tuscany became our destination of choice given we were going to be traveling with a 2 month old and toddler, planned to stay for several weeks with no interest in “big moves” during our trip and wanted an extremely tranquil, low stress vibe. The relaxed pace, beautiful scenery, and family-friendly activities made it a perfect fit for us.
Planning a trip to Italy might seem daunting, especially with young children in tow. But trust me, the memories you'll make and the experiences you'll share are worth every bit of planning. So go ahead, embrace the chaos and the adventure. After all, as I say here on New Modern Mom, it's about pursuing a life of fulfillment, balance, presence, and beauty. And what could be more beautiful than exploring Italy with your whole family?
Here's to the late-night planning, the early morning flights, the laughter, the tantrums, and everything in between. Buon viaggio!
Frequently Asked Questions About Italy for a Family Trip
For families, these 11 best places to visit in Italy are a good starting point for a wonderful family vacation. The most important thing is to select an age appropriate destination to ensure you don't feel limited or stressed to navigate the area. The last thing you'd want is frustration and exhaustion while on vacation.
Yes, there are plenty of theme parks in Italy for kids to enjoy, such as Gardaland near Lake Garda and Roma World, Cinecittà World, and Rainbow Magicland near Rome. I also highly recommend going onto Google Maps and searching “playgrounds” to find local hidden gem parks nearby. We found SEVERAL while exploring Tuscany.
Planning ahead and doing research on kid-friendly attractions, accommodations, and transportation are key for an enjoyable, low-stress visit to Italy with your family. The good accommodations like villas and agriturismos book 6 to 8 months in advance. Make sure you have a lightweight stroller with suspension to handle the rocky, cobblestone roads. And if visiting in the summer months, a handheld or stroller fan is key to help with comfort for the little ones.
For full tips for traveling internationally with a baby check out this step-by-step guide.
Families traveling to Italy have a variety of options when it comes to accommodation, from hotels and vacation rentals to B&Bs, agriturismos and villas. No matter your budget or preferences, you’ll find something that suits you perfectly!