10 days in Italy with a 5 year old!!

Jan 13th, 2005, 07:57 PM
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10 days in Italy with a 5 year old!!

No, we haven't taken complete leave of our senses. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary with a trip to Italy, and are taking along along our 5 year old boy (he is very mature, though; he acts like he's every day of 6).

Anyhow, we are arriving in Milan early on March 28, and will be flying out of Rome on April 6. We have 4 days scheduled in Rome. My quandry is the first half of the trip. We have a car rented upon arrival in Milan, and we will be turning it in as we enter Rome. I would love to see Venice and Florence, but would like to see the Tuscany region, as well (hence the car rental). My inclination for this, our first trip to Italy, is to go low to moderate stress for the first half of the trip by renting accomodations in Siena (or nearby) and spending 5 days in Tuscany. Perhaps we could do a day trip into Florence (it would seem a shame to be so close and not go).

The upshot of all this is that I am thinking of skipping Venice on this trip. With our liitle boy in tow, and the guaranteed craziness of Rome at the end of the trip, I don't know if I want to confront the crowds by daytripping into Venice. Even leaving Milan and going directly to Venice (by car) and spending the night for a second day of touring strikes me as being a bit too adventurous.

Am I making a huge mistake by omitting Venice? I really like the idea of cooling our heels in Tuscany before we take on Rome.

Any ideas out there?
gravysandwich is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 10:53 PM
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Try and remember what you can of your age five experiences. Do you really have to take him/her with you? My hotel had and still has a posting noting that it is not child friendly.
GSteed is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 11:29 PM
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Gravysandwich, I have three kids and now that the youngest is 17, I regret not traveling even more with them when they were younger. We did take family trips and I treasure the memories. I just wish we'd taken even more!

My advice is to take him but tailor the trip to a 5-year-old...cut back even more on your list of destinations. (The biggest vacation mistake we ever made was to try to go to too many cities in New Zealand with a 2-year-old!!!)

Kids don't travel well because they don't like to be confined. So research well and just stay in one place. Choose a hotel with a great location and stay there for the whole trip. Think of what 5 year-olds like...walking to get ice cream (gelato); feeding the pigeons; throwing stuff in the water...riding on boats. Art museums, forget it. Boring when you're 5. 30 minutes in an art museum is an eternity to a child. I think Venice would be a good choice for a 5 year old boy. If you decide on Venice buy a 3-day vaporetto pass and it gives you unlimited on and off privileges.

Some people enjoy taking kids up to the Lake Como area...I haven't been there yet though.

Well maybe you already have your plane tickets...if so, consider cutting back to a minimum number of destinations.

I'm thinking Rome at least has some really cool fountains which a 5-year-old boy might enjoy. Rome and Venice maybe.
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 04:09 AM
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I recently asked a question about Venice and kids. Here are the responses I got:


We decided on a Belgium/Holland trip instead, but we'll do Italy someday.
Jocelyn_P is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 04:25 AM
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You'll be fine with your 5-year old; Italy is very child friendly. Just adjust you pace to what he can handle. People often say on this board not to take the children because they won't remember it anyway; what kind of reasoning is that? Might as well keep them locked up in their room till they're 10 then.

When in Rome, take him to the Pincio gardens.
If you go to Rome, and Tuscany, adding Venice would be too much for me; with a small child, the less you need to move around, the better.

Be aware that most of Europe is on Easter holiday the week of March 28 (and for some countries, the following week as well), so if you still have to book accomodation, do so very soon.
Tulips is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 04:47 AM
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Hi gravy,

Do you have your tickets already?

If so, I fear that you ought to skip Venice this trip.

If not, I suggest that you skip Rome and see Venice.

ira is online now  
Jan 14th, 2005, 04:59 AM
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This can be a fair amount of fun for your son. Here's what I suspect will catch his attention: First, trains and boats and planes -- he's used to cars, cars will make him feel confined, as someone already said. But what he'll focus on is transport he isn't used to, so getting there will be a bigger part of the trip for him than you. And Venice could be fascinating to him. Think Disney rides.

Second, oddities -- so you may find yourself on a street or piazza that is quaint but unremarkable to you until you notice the little gargoyle with a mouse in its mouth on the side of a building. Keep your own eyes open and find the magic for him.

Third, he may actually enjoy something like the Murano glass works, to see how something's made, or even an open-market if he's not seen one before. He may not see the charm in Tuscany hills at all, but he might respond to the animals on a working farm.

You can also give him small missions -- never obligatory, though -- perhaps by giving him a daily allowance to buy something Italian for a friend (or himself), to "find" a certain site ("look for a place with LOTS of stairs" -- Spanish steps), etc.

Give him time doing really familiar things, like reading a book with him (to him) before bed or just sitting a talking a little.

Each kid is different, but my only son at 5 might have been bored stupid with a rented house in Tuscany unless there were other kids around or maybe some animals, while he would have found Venice both "cool" and smelly, and the European trains fun -- on shorter trips anyway. He also might have found Italian TV kind of a trip, so be prepared for that, too.
Jan 14th, 2005, 05:23 AM
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Ira, stop telling people to skip Roma!!!!
massagediva is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 05:51 AM
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A couple thoughts:
*I think a 5-year-old will enjoy the city life much more than a country/rural environment. So, how about Rome and Venice?
*Italians love children. You are sure to get lots of wonderful attention because of him!
HowardR is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 06:36 AM
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Thanks for the responses everyone!

I changed our flight plans ro arrive in Venice rather than Milan. The plan du jour is to spend a few days (up to 3) in Venice,then on to Tuscany, and later to Rome for 4 days. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

We will pick up our rental car in Venice, and drive to Tuscany. There are no dropoff charges, so we will either drive to Rome (I understand Rome is a delightful place to drive, especially for the first time),or we will catch a train. I assume there is rail service out of Siena, but we will check.

Now I have to research hotels in Venice that aren't too expensive, and a three night accomodation in Siena, or nearby. All recommendations are welcome.

I especially thank you folks who offered encouraging words about taking a young one. If we don't take him, he will probably hate us later. I'm still mad at my parents for not taking me to New York for the 1964 World's Fair (and we lived in New Jersey)!

Thanks again.

gravysandwich is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 07:55 AM
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I took my 4 1/2 year old to Rome (as part of a 3 week trip) and she still talks about it (she's now 8). She remembers a lot about the trip, even things we don't have photos of. She remembers her coin toss into the Trevi Fountain, the cats that hang out at the Colisuem, the carriage ride through the city, the friendly waiters and all that spaghetti and gelato. I did take my daughter to museums as well but I explained to her why the art was important. For example, the story of Michelangelo's Pieta in the Vatican -- how no one believed such a young man could create such perfection so he had to go back and chisel his name on Mary's dress. Exposing your son to other cultures and languages is a wonderful educational experience. Have a fun trip!
kathie58 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 08:18 AM
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I think Venice, Tuscany and Rome are excellent choices
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 08:31 AM
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Our daughter, now 8 loved Rome this summer. She drank in all the history - the 'Gladiators' at the collisseum, coins in the Trevi fountain, the parks, the Vatican - she even sat for over an hour at an audience with the Pope. We just made sure that there was a pool at the hotel so that she could chill out at the end of a long day's sight seeing.

I realise that there's a big difference in age at this time of their lives, but she has travelled with us since an 8 month old baby. Please don't listen to those who say leave your son at home, you'll miss out on so much.

Make it fun and interesting. I always make a picture list of the things we know we'll see, and provide a daily spending allowance. Look through travel brochures and cut out things to look for. Check out which areas of art you're interested in, and find a pic. of the main work in that gallery.
In the Vatican, I counted Priests (12), daughter counted Nuns (46) and hubby counted Popes (3-present and former!)
Simple things will give the trip meaning for him, and memories for you. Enjoy!
MRS_AR is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 09:21 AM
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And when you're in Rome, buy that book that shows how the Roman buildings looked when still intact; the one with the clear plastic overlays, available in lots of places. Even at age 5, they will like this.
As I said earlier; book your hotels ASAP!
Tulips is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Tulips suggestion is great. The book referred to is "Rome Past and Present".

Also a thought. Bet your little fellow would enjoy the Villa D'Este with all the fountains.

And the Borghese Park.

Italy is IMHO a wonderful country to take little ones to. As others have said, Italians are very children friendly.

Have a beautiful time, first of many I am sure.
LoveItaly is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 11:16 AM
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Just want to add my support for you taking your son. We started our son out when he was 4, and everyone said he would never remember it. Well, he may not remember all the details, bit niether do I, lol! However, he is 11 now and this week he was the winner for his entire school for the National Geography Bee, and some of the questions he had and got right were things from our travels. So you never know just how much they really will remember. Plus, our kids always had fun on our trips and thats what matters...fun times as a family.
mms is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 01:03 PM
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We are currently planning our first trip to Italy this March with our two kids ages 12 and 9. I think it is great that you are taking your 5 year old. I too wish we had started travelling like this sooner.

Some books I would like to recommend. "Italy with Kids" by Barbara Pape and Michael Calabrese, and Fodor's "68 Things to do in Rome with Kids" (or something like that.)

I also strongly suggest you get The "Italy Discovery Journal". You can order it on Amazon, it is actually a book that you have to print out (which is annoying, but don't let it deter you). It has all kinds of fun activities for kids to do while in Italy. Certain things for them to look for and record. Read the recommendations for it on Amazon. It sounds like it would be perfect for your son.
jgg is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 03:21 PM
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Best of luck on your trip -- I think your son will enjoy Italy! We are taking our 2 boys to Tuscany this summer for 2 weeks. They will be 4 1/2 and 2.

We stayed at La Calcina in Venice last summer. It is quite reasonable (we paid 120 euros for a room with a large terrace) AND it is right on the Guidecca canal. It's very close to a good gelato store (good for your son and you!) a waterbus stop (Zattere) and not far to walk to the Accademia bridge to get to San Marco.
Jan 14th, 2005, 03:40 PM
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That sounds great fly into Venice. Your 5 year old will love it, its a happening place with uniqueness to wow him. I started to take my kids on trips when they were about 5 and have nothing but pleasant memories. They travelled well at that age, better than myself in many cases. I wouldn't concern myself too much with structuring the trip around the kiddo as Melissa suggested...kids are happy to do whatever, they enjoy just being with you and new experiences, at least mine were.

For the car, eh drive it all the way to Rome to drop it off you have it and its more convenient. I might suggest though before you go to familiarize yourself (online maps) with where you need to go in Rome to drop it off. Best of luck and happy travels!
Traveler863 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 03:48 PM
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Hi GravySandwich,

We, too are going to Italy with our two young boys in March. May I ask who you rented your car through? We are flying into Milan. Also, are you doing anything about getting an international driving permit? I've read that we're supposed to do that..
TheGastons is offline  

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