4 weeks in Italy July with children

Old Jun 24th, 2016, 08:03 PM
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4 weeks in Italy July with children


We are planning a 4 week holiday to Italy next June/July with our children who will be aged 10 and 8 to escape our Winter.

We will fly from Australia to Rome and out of Paris 5 weeks later.

I would love some advice please, on both our itinerary and alternative options by people who are more familiar with the areas than I am.

I can speak Italian and DH and I have travelled extensively in Europe pre-children, but since having our kids we have stayed in Australia, Asia and the USA for holidays...the flight lengths to Europe have been off-putting until now.

Rome; 7 nights
Lucca; 7 nights
Ligurian Coast (SML we think at this stage, am open to suggestions though); 7 nights
Varenna (Como); 7 nights / Varenna 5 nights plus Milan or Turin 2 nights
Paris; 7 nights

We were originally planning to stay in the Val d'Orcia and hiring a car, but the more we thought about not having a car, the more relaxed we became. That is why we are considering Lucca as we can hang around there and enjoy the town or take day trips on a train.

Three other places we have seriously considered over Lucca are Bologna, Parma and Verona, I would love your opinions on this.

Also, would you stay in Como area for 7 nights or add a city for 2 nights.

Any further suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks so much.
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Old Jun 24th, 2016, 08:08 PM
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PS: we are slow travellers and enjoy having relaxed itineraries so we are able to enjoy whatever we may stumble across.

We love food, exploring, being submerged in a different culture and language, history, art...so many things.

The children are excited about visiting Italy and Paris and have definite things they want to see but are very open to new experiences.

We are definitely not a "tick the box" commando style travelling family. For us it's more about sinking into a country and finding out new things about ourselves and each other in the process.
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Old Jun 24th, 2016, 11:18 PM
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I think your plan sounds excellent. I agree with you about the car - much more relaxing without.

From Lucca, I recommend visiting the Garfagnana valley (trains or buses available). It's beautiful.

The only hesitation I have about your plan is wondering whether the sorts of things you'll do and the environment you'll be in will be too similar between Liguria and Lake Como. We did something similar with our kids at age 9 and 12 and tried to mix it up as you have done. I wonder whether you should swap Lake Como for a week in Switzerland? Our kids absolutely loved hiking there and were blown away by the mountains (which of course we don't have here). But of course, Lake Como is lovely as well so there are no wrong choices.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 12:31 AM
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I can't imagine what I'd do with a full week on Lake Como, and I didn't see much of anything to interest kids. It's heaven for English-speaking pensioners. There are some hiking trails near Varenna, but there would be a lot of climbing involved, and it could be very hot in July.

Lake Garda offers more possibilities for kids, including the popular Gardaland amusement park, and the possibility of day trips to Verona and Venice.

Bologna is one of the hottest cities in Italy in the summer. I love the city, but, again, I don't see much for kids there.

From Lucca, you can easily visit Pisa and Florence by train, and the Garfagna valley should be very nice, if the kids like scenery. I've never been there, myself. In Lucca, you can rent bikes and ride along the top of the massive wall, which is a park. Seven nights might be a bit much, though.

Another, very off-the-beaten-track suggestion would be to spend some time in the Park of the Ticino, near Milan. We once spent several days in that area, based in the charming town of Abbiategrasso. We rented bikes and took trips along the canal network in the park. The canals are lined with villas that belonged to the wealthy families of Milan, who came there to escape the summer heat and used the canals to get back and forth from the city. There is almost no foreign tourism in the area, and there were some great little restaurants. Abbiategrasso is served by trains from Milan.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 02:35 AM
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Well both Lucca and Bologna city are good for the train and nice city centres. I'm not so sure the other cities are such great places. However, I'm also not sure that you want a big city like Bologna, just because you need stuff for kids.

My suggestion would be Lucca if you want to focus on that side of Italy or Ferrara if you want to focus on the other side. Lucca's attractions are obvious so I will not take up time on it. Ferrara, on the other hand, is a cycling city, small on the edge of the PO valley, trains into Padua, Bologna, Venice, Modena etc but you should be able to find a place with a pool close to the city centre, better it is in Emiglia Romana one of the best food areas of Italy.

In both cases I'd focus on easy access to the city, easy access to a pool.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 07:39 PM
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thank you all for great detailed responses.

I have been going back and forth between Como and somewhere else, we were originally looking at Positano, but decided that we would focus on north of Rome this time, partly to do with the heat and also the geographical logistics.

Will check out Ferrara and also near Milan. An option is to visit Bavaria as a friend of ours is from a village there and they have a festival happening...I would prefer to stay in Italy though.

off to google...
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 08:01 PM
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I love Italy, but when my kids were just a year or so younger than yours, we lived in Germany and they absolutely loved Bavaria.

With a month, I would strongly consider a week or 10 days in Bavaria or someplace in Southern Germany.

Google towns in Bavaria Germany. Beyond charming! Especially in Summer, and cooler than much of Italy in July.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 09:04 PM
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Just to throw a couple of ideas in to confuse you...

We once stayed in Meersburg on Bodensee and it was lovely. You can hire bikes and cycle on the lakeside. You can take day trips to places like Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, Konstanz and lakeside towns. You could combine with a visit to the festival in Bavaria.

Alternatively, if you want to avoid a flight - always a good thing in my book - consider somewhere between Liguria and Paris (e.g. Nice and surrounding villages, ditto Avignon).

If you prefer to stay in Italy, then consider Vicenza and do day trips from there by bus and train (heaps of options such as Venice, Padua, Verona, Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, Castelfranco, Cittadella, etc). Vicenza is a lovely, affluent city that doesn't seem to see as many tourists as Verona or Venice. Home of Palladio if you're into architecture. See trenitalia.com for train timetables.

Tough choice - lots of great options so you can't really go wrong. I've found my kids want to DO not SEE and I'd guess most kids are the same.
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 02:12 AM
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I have three children, now almost 10,7 and 6. Last summer we spent sometime in Porlezza, which is on the Italian side of Lake Lugano. It is just north of Como. We only did a day trip to Como, but we were underwhelmed with it - it was a little tourist town, with some neat churches and a water front, but it didn't pop for us. We however loved Porlezza, which is much smaller and at the base of steep cliffs. It is also a forty minute drive or less from the other lake towns. Porlezza itself allows for cool hiking trips and strolls around the port and the small town. We stayed at a campground place geared for families. I think it was called International Campground. You rented cabins that are no more than 50 m from the beach. There was a play area, a pool, a football pitch and a restaurant / disco on site. We also like Lugano - which is on the Swiss side. I think you may want a car, although you could get around with trains and buses.
We did Verona in the winter time (for Valentines Day!) and it was a cute city, but we covered it in about two days. We really enjoyed the collesium, especially because it is open to wander around - very little is blocked off. My children spent at least an hour playing gladiators in the pit area. We also enjoyed walking along the famous bridge and wandering around the fortress - I can't recall the name, but found the attached museum was not worth it. It didn't have much that interested us and the security were very unfriendly - which surprised me. My children enjoy museums and know how to act when visiting them - so I was taken aback at how family-unfriendly they were to us- - but maybe they recently had a bad experience. I found compared to other Italian cities, Verona was really for couples (and maybe because it was Valentines Day weekend), and not as geared for kids. Gardaland was not open yet (it was off season) but I have heard it is a lot of fun for kids (it is an amusement park). There are beautiful, quaint towns on Lake Garda that are really quite stunning. The food was absolutely amazing during our trip there!
On our way back from Verona we stopped in Milan for a few hours just to see the Duomo. I am terrified of heights but my kids dragged me to the top - that was a once in a life time experience! There is a lot more to see in Milan, but if you are taking the train, it is easy to get a layover in Milan and they have a very friendly and reasonably priced luggage check in the station.
I would not recommend staying in Switzerland. It is twice to three times the price as Italy and you can enjoy the same scenic trips through mountain and lake regions on the Italian and French sides of the border (in my opinion). If you do the Lake Como region though you are only about three hours from Lucerne, and could go up there for a few days. They have a beautiful lake, an old city centre with a nice river running through it - and kids of all ages love the very much so hands on Transport Museum (not inexpensive, but worth the price of admission and easily you can spend all day there). Hotels in Lucerne are quite expensive, but outside of the city there are cool farm stay/ agro-tourism places that I have yet to try but are on my list.
If you decide on Verona or Porlezza, let me know. I was very happy with our accommodations. In Verona we did a friendly B&B outside of the city center, no more than a few meters from a bus line that took us right into the city. In porlezza, I booked it through air bnb, but I think if you search international campground, you can find it. We were also in Paris in the Spring and I got a great apartment (there were seven of us) with three bedrooms through Air BnB. It was a fabulous location - walking distance to the Louvre and the Opera. The only downside was there was a nightclub on the street so on Saturday night there was a lot of noise. My kids slept through it and I eventually fell back asleep. I felt like the noise was a fair trade off to be in such an ideal location.
Oh, we also had a great apartment in Rome last year - I think someone on this site recommended a website - sleepinitaly.com. We got a great three bedroom place not too far from Castel San Michel and the Vatican - which was great for walking and near bus routes. The subways were on strike when we were there so we were on foot or jammed into one of the few city buses.
Happy Travels!
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 03:05 AM
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I would rent a car when leaving Rome.
With as much time as you have to sink in a car is perfect to go to small remote spots.
Some say it is difficult to drive in Italy but I disagree. I went into small towns with a big car (actually a minibus) for the 4 of you a VW Golf or similar would be perfect.
Lake Garda was loved by our kids.
Italians are lovely with kids. Enjoy your holiday.
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 05:22 AM
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We have spent a lot of time in Val d'Orcia. I really don't think you should be put off by driving. We get a car at the Rome airport and usually drop it at a smaller town or at the Florence airport. Driving around small towns is not difficult. I certainly would rent or return a car in a bog city. We did that once in Florence and that was not relaxing!

Spending a week at an agriturismo is really relaxing. We often spend the morning doing some sort of touring and then the afternoon by the pool. The food and wine are great. We have been going regularly since our daughter was 2 (she now is ten) and she loves it.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 09:56 PM
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We stayed in Lucca over ten years ago with our sons who were quite young then. It was a wonderful location. You will be able to take a train to Florence, Pisa, and elsewhere. There was (assume still is) a Pinocchio park not too far away. I don't recall if there is a train there as we drove. Lucca is charming and very child friendly.

We also spent a few days at Lake Como. We were also underwhelmed by it. On our way to Venice, we stopped in a small town on Lake Garda (don't remember its name) and my husband and I felt that this lake would have been more enjoyable for all of us. If you have the time, I would suggest Lake Garda and/or Venice. My boys were fascinated by Venice.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 10:16 PM
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For an easy day trip from Rome I like www.oldfrascati.com
They do both wine tours and pizza making tours and are located in Frascati which is always a bit cooler than Rome and an easy 25 minute train ride from Roma Termini.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 01:08 AM
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I think 7 nights in SML is too long.
your kids would love to be in a villa that has a pool somewhere in Tuscany.
Hire a car and do morning day trips.
Return afternoon for pool swims.
perfect. kids will love it.
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