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Family Italian Trip Itinerary - Please Review!

Family Italian Trip Itinerary - Please Review!

Apr 10th, 2007, 07:16 AM
  #21  
dgg
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 443
Your children will love Rome and you have a great itinerary. Your hotels look terrific and you seem to have nailed this trip! The Secret Itinerary tour is neat and the AC boat tour looks like fun too.

Based on past experience, I would suggest hiring a private guide for 1/2 day in Rome (for Ancient Rome), 1/2 day in Florence and at the gates of Pompeii. Your boys will get so much more out of the cities, the ruins and the art if you have a guide to bring it all to life for them.

In Rome, make sure you take the boys to the Piazza Navona for an evening gelato & stroll to see the circus-like atmosphere. The Trastevere neighborhood is a lively place to have dinner. Other posters have mentioned all the great sites so I won't repeat, but just walk, walk, walk. On the day of your arrival, do not take a nap as another poster suggested. That will just prolong your jet lag. The rule of thumb is to stay up as late as you can, but at least until 7:00 pm or as long as your boys can handle it. Once you arrive in Rome, they'll be re-energized and ready to explore. The Spanish Step and Pantheon are certainly close enough to easily walk between.

On June 3, you can take the boys out to the Via Appia Antica which is closed off to traffic on Sundays. It's possible to rent bikes and of course, walk along the route. There are some ruins, tombs and catacombs out there which your boys would probably like.

For Tuscany, see Siena, but also play it by ear with the hill towns of Tuscany, stopping along the at villages, wineries and abbeys that sound/look interesting to you and the boys. My kids enjoy stopping at wineries and abbeys to get out of the car and explore. In Venice your boys may enjoy the glass blowing tours. Make sure you wander around the Dursoduro neighborhood for a little taste of local Venetian life. Almost everywhere you go in Italy there will be towers and/or a church dome to climb.

Regarding your car rental, I have 4 kids so we like to have our own wheels. We prefer a car rental for the flexibility, availability in emergencies, economics, etc. The only time we've preferred trains in Europe is when the driving alternative is 6-8 hours on a long stretch, such as your train trip from Venice back to Rome. As pointed out earlier, your car will remain parked in Positano and you cannot drive in Positano since much of the town is pedestrian only. On the other hand, my husband and I loved driving on the AC and we loved having the abiity to stop along the way. Also, I assume you're driving to Pompeii. All considered, I'd get the car rather than hassle with train stations and transfers with the kids, but that's a personal preference.

Have a great trip!

dgg is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 07:59 AM
  #22  
 
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mary09 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 08:20 AM
  #23  
 
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Another suggestion that worked well for our family is to hire a driver to take you from Rome to Positano. On the way, stop at Pompeii for 2-3 hours. This saves you a whole day on June 6 to just enjoy the Amalfi coast and not double back. I don't see the need for a car until you leave for Tuscany.

I agree with everyone on getting guides, it really made a difference keeping the kids' attention. We used Icon Tours in Rome, a private guide in Pompeii, and Florence Walks. Have Fun!
kraav is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 08:31 AM
  #24  
 
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We did two guided tours with Icon in Rome. The kids did not seem to be bubbling over with enthusiasm. But when we were in Barcelona last month (10 months post-Rome), they asked if we were doing any tours like that, because they had really enjoyed them (coulda fooled me1)
missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 08:46 AM
  #25  
 
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Hi Missypie, we used alot of your report to help me plan our trip last summer! Another trick to keep them happy, a promised gelato every day we were in Italy. They couldn't believe their good fortune, and it made for good breaks between all the action.
kraav is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 09:10 AM
  #26  
 
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Children usually can sleep on the plane, even if parents can't. The only "cure" for jetlag is to reset your biological clock (circadian rhythm) by getting as much sun (without sunglasses) as possible. Just accept the fact that everyone is going to be grumpy and no one is going to be hungry at the same time. The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon can easily be done the 1st day, and you could throw in Piazza Navona, too, which is great during the day, and even better at night; or Campo dei Fiori, the huge food and flower market (beware of pickpockets!). The Steps are a great place to sit and people watch and write postcards home. The street directly across from the steps is one of the main shopping (pedestrian) areas. The McDonald's near the Spanish Steps will be a must-see for the boys. Interior fountains, murals, even fancy pastries and beer on the menu. The Pantheon is a great place in the heat of the day or if it's raining. Even the hole in the roof has a drain beneath it. The cafes in front of the Pantheon charge a premium for everything (you have to pay for the view). But you can sit there all day even if you've only ordered an espresso. Buses are cheap (you can get a bus/metro map at the tourist info or at your hotel). "Ancient" Rome and the Vatican will both take at least a full day. Sometimes taking a tour isn't a bad idea. You can usually hook up with a tour at the location (at the Vatican Museo, which will get you in ahead of those who are standing in the line to get in); same thing at the Colosseum. At the Vatican Museo, it opens to those in line at 10:30a, but tour groups are allowed to go in at 9:00 or 9:30. The Sistine Chapel is at the end of the tour. You may have to stand in line for St. Peter's Basilica, too. Depends on the time of year and the weather. Remember, no shorts or mini skirts, and arms must be covered...that goes for boys, too...no tank tops or shorts. I was there when some of the guards even had a ruler measuring how many inches above the knee a girl's skirt was. REMEMBER IT IS AN ACTIVE CHURCH WITH ONGOING MASS BEING SAID. Act appropriately. This dress code goes for all the churches you'll want to visit. You can climb to the top of the cupola (dome) of St. Peter's for an unforgettable view. The kids will have the energy for it. And I dragged my 60+ year-old husband up there, too, so it's not a bad climb. You get an elevator part of the way, if memory serves. The drive from Roma to the Amalfi Coast is not that interesting. I suggest taking the train and renting a car somewhere along the coast. Naples is notorious for car theft and pickpockets...avoid it if you can. Our credit card insurance would not cover driving in Naples. We had to take the insurance offered. When we drove from Roma, we went down to Salerno and then up the coast (since most people come down the coast, there wasn't as much traffic going north). Rent the smallest car you can that will hold your family & luggage. You'll have tour buses everywhere and you'll notice that most cars have no sideview mirrors...they've been knocked off by either collision with another car or bus, or by running into the rocks that overhang the road. Parking is expensive or nonexistant. There are mirrors on the curves so you can see who is coming around the corner. At the same time, racing motorcycles will be passing you all the time. It's the racing motorcycle capital of Italy.

Pompeii is a must, but it's out in the sun, (a little shade in some of the villas) so sunscreen and hats for everyone, take water, too. There is a place inside the grounds for ice cream and drinks, if you can find it. I do suggest a tour guide here. There is a lot to see.

Sienna is beautiful, no need for a car here, unless you want to do daytrips to the surrounding hill towns. Great walking town, too.

Florence is a must. The Uffizi Museo always has a line. Go early. It's worth a wait. June is high season...you might wait 3 hrs. Tour groups go in first, so if you value your time, get a tour, but don't leave when they do. If it's a gorgeous day, the lines aren't as long. Lots of people save museums for rainy days.

In Florence, climb up to see the city from the Campanile (tower) that is connected to the cathedral. It's over 300 steps (I think), but it didn't kill me and I'm chubby and lazy.

The horse-drawn carriage rides are fun, if a tad expensive. And you can see the same things by walking.

The gelato anywhere is not to be missed. Believe it or not, it has LESS fat than premium ice cream here...it's just beaten longer. Florence (Firenze) has the best, I think, but there are some places in Rome that rock, too.

Venice is fabulous and no cars makes it even better...no chance of getting run over by vespas or cars. You can try using a map, but it's probably quicker and more fun to just get lost. Get to Murano to see the glass blowers (no tour needed, just take a waterbus, not a watertaxi). A gondola ride is a must...it was $50 for a short ride when I was there quite a while ago...it's probably gone up. It's worth it no matter the cost...just to say you've done it. Not all gondoliers are singers...that costs extra, too. It's quite romantic at night, but it's great in daylight so you can get some great video or photos. Be sure to visit the food/fish market across the Riato bridge...do it early before the aroma turns unpleasant.

The food in Venice was the worst we ever had in Italy. Avoid tourist spots and try somewhere where the patrons seem to be locals.

The Doge Palace we enjoyed. And be sure to get your photo taken with the Bridge of Sighs in the background. (Go to the bridge near the canal, and then the Bridge of Sighs can be in the background.)

We always seem to manage to find starving artists everywhere, especially in Italy. It will cost ten times the price of the painting (we usually go for watercolours) to get it framed when you get back home, but it will be something you treasure the rest of your life. My hubby says we have no more walls left for art, but I always seem to find a spot. I have paid from $5 to $60, for AMAZING paintings.

The whole Amalfi coast is a wonder. If you get a chance go up to Ravello (a town above Amalfi). The road up there is enough to give you nightmares for the rest of your life (it's barely one car length wide but it's two-way with microbuses coming up from Amalfi.

Ischia has what passes for beaches, the rest of the beaches are more like Nice...lots of rocks. Take reefrunner sandals or watershoes, or be prepared for soggy tennis shoes.

My best advice is not to stick to a schedule. Go with the flow. It's a vacation afterall. Most cities have english language newspapers, or tourist guides that tell what's on for the week (train station magazine stands usually have the best selections in different languages). All places have tourist bureaus...that should be your first stop. There is usually an info bureau in all main train stations and at the airports. Your hotel should be of some help, too.

Have a great time! Ciao!

merlinsmom is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 09:43 AM
  #27  
 
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Yes, we too made the "gelato every day" promise. And when we missed it one day, the next day the kids made sure we had two.

Of course, be sure to take your sons' personalities into account when reading our suggestions. I don't think there's any activity that "all kids like" (except maybe eating gelato). One daughter of mine LOVES living statues and street performers; the other daughter hates them. One daughter LOVED feeding the pigeons at San Marco; the other didn't. Of course, my then 15 year old son came home from Florence and read Dante's entire "Divine Comedy", so you never know what a kid is going to get into!

If you read my Italy trip report, you'll know that we didn't have great luck with restaurants, even though I had a notebook full of recommendations. For our Barcelona trip, I photocopied a map, located each recommended restaurant, highlighted the street and wrote in the name of the restaurant. That way, no matter where we were at meal time, I could pull out my map and we'd have a short walk to a place "on the list." It worked very well for us.
missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 09:54 AM
  #28  
 
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Hi KimiG, just a thought which I don't think was mentioned although you have gotten a ton of wonderful ideas.

Often kids, especially around the age of 12 like to sleep in in the morning. Not all of course but many do and of course I don't know about your children.

I would suggest that you let them know they will need to get up early enough in the morning so you can all enjoy Italy before the day gets to hot. Then after lunch, during siesta time, if they are tired/sleepy they can sleep for awhile. That way they will be rested for the late afternoon and until later in the evening. At least that worked for us!

Also if you rent a car be aware trunks are not real big so keep the size of your luggage in mind.

Have a wonderful time..Italy is wonderful with children. I envy you!!
LoveItaly is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 10:04 AM
  #29  
dgg
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Hi KimiG, I just remembered another site my kids really liked, the Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden House). It's across the street from the Coloseum. The structure is pretty much underground which the kids think is cool. It's like a cave. Anyway,iIt's been closed for restoration, but it looks like it's reopened, at least for a short time. The tours are with an archaeologist and require a reservation. For now, it's only open through April, but I would keep checking to see if they extend that. You will find it on the website www.romeguide.it under the heading Cultural Sites in Rome.
dgg is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 10:05 AM
  #30  
 
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Yeah, our family easly slipped into the late dinner routine. We'd tour for most of the day, then come back to our apartment for a few hours of down time/naps, etc., then emerge for dinner. But yes, we were "up and out" most every morning.
missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 11:32 AM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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I would agree with not driving to Positano. We took the train from Rome to Salerno (a fun way for the kids to travel, rather than the back seat of a car), and then took the ferry to Positano from Salerno. The ferry passes Amalfi, Ravello, Minori and other coastal towns, absolutely incredible views. You really don't need a car in Positano, you can organize transportation to Pompeii from there. I'm traveling to Tuscany with my 2 kids, 12 & 4 in June also. Good luck and have a fantastic trip!!!
LuiseB is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 11:54 AM
  #32  
 
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You certainly have gotten some great advice, and you'll have a great time no matter what! Your hotels in Rome and Venice are ideal. We took our 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter for two weeks last June, and we all loved it! Since my husband and I had been before and were aware of just how MUCH there is to see, we tried to scale back from our usual sightseeing a bit. We also tried to prepare ourselves for the heat and crowds, as we'd not been in June before...unfortunately, they still were factors.

One thing we did ahead of time was to try to read books and watch rented movies about or set in Italy. The kids loved this! Everything from "The Agony and the Ecstasy" about Michelangelo (movie, not book) to "Gidget Goes to Rome," which they thought was hilarious in a campy way. Cornelia Funke's book, "The Thief Lord" is a wonderfully engaging story about a gang of orphaned kids in Venice that we all enjoyed.

Though my kids thoroughly loved the trip, the heat and humidity did slow things down. Every time we walked outside for any length of time, my daughter started wilting. So we made a point of carrying water bottles with us at all times. As soon as we entered air conditioned buildings (which are sparse) or returned to our hotel with a/c after lunch, we all perked up! Aside from frequent gelato stops, we also made frequent purchases of Italian sodas, candy and gum, pastries, etc. which were always amusing to the kids.

I also noticed how different sights really appealed to my kids individually. My son could not get enough of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and my daughter could not wait to get out because it was the end of a hot, 3-hour endeavor and VERY crowded. They both loved any place where they could get in the water, as we did one day by our Tuscan inn's pool, one day in Lake Como, and another in the sea in Liguria...the latter two because they also enjoyed observing the locals.

My kids were easily entertained by the different gadgets, working the various forms of hotel espresso machines, toasters, egg poachers, etc. Not to mention all the wonderful foods that came along with the dining experiences (they became hooked on spreading Nutella on their pastries each morning!) They also enjoyed ordering in Italian, and even taking their own euros into the gelato shops by themselves to order.

A couple of specific sightseeing tips...given your Tuscan apartment's location, you might really enjoy the short trip to the extremely beautiful, small hill town of Radda. It made for a great afternoon for us...just to drive there, have lunch and walk around a bit to explore the cool shops. In Rome, you are right to take it easy the first day...you could walk around the Pantheon (be sure to have your kids try to spot the missing stone in the wall, mentioned in many books)/P. Navonna (great toy store right on the piazza) then head to the Spanish Steps area for the early evening "passagiata" (stroll) and dinner. Or end up in the Campo di Fiore/Piazza Farnese area for dinner. (We loved the lively Osteria ar Galetto da Giovanni in the beautiful Piazza Farnese...great with kids!) We spent just one full day in Florence as well, beginning with the reservations our hotel arranged for us to see "David" at the Accademia in the morning. Our kids loved that experience, as it is so impressive. It's also a very quick museum experience if you have a reservation. In Venice, we all enjoyed the Secret Itinerary, though it was terribly hot. Our kids wanted to see the glass blowers on Murano (this can be time consuming, so I wouldn't recommend it if it's not high on your list of priorities), so that day we walked early to the Rialto fish/produce market...a great experience for all the senses! After picking out fresh cherries to take along, we continued our walk away from the tourist area, toward the vaporetto stop at "Fondamenta Nuova," where we could catch the much shorter ride to Murano (as opposed to taking it from the San Marco stop by our hotel). This was a fantastic walk because it meandered through a local, residential neighborhood, and as we got closer to the end, we saw many storefronts that had items for funerals (statuary, flowers, etc.)...we realized we would go right by the famous cemetary island of San Michele on our way to Murano.

This was probably too much info...it's easy to digress! Buon viaggio and buona fortuna!
guanciale is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 11:54 AM
  #33  
 
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sapphire43 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 12:22 PM
  #34  
 
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Funny that you mentioned the "gadgets". One night in Venice we stayed out pretty late, so DD13 stayed up a few extra minutes to watch the digital clock on the microwave go from 23:59 to 00:00 (the kids always got a kick out of it when it really was 13 o'clock.)

Oh, yes, and you are REQUIRED to make them keep journals. You will treasure them forever-although you may be perplexed at what they think is significant enough to write about (e.g. how the toilet flushed) and what they skip (e.g. the Sistine Chapel.)
missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 12:25 PM
  #35  
 
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One more thing...the boys should get a kick out of the tiny Smart Cars (that look like high top tennis shoes) and Vespas. Our kids' first trip to Europe was to Paris, and the one thing my daughter insisted we take a picture of was a pink Smart Car.

Do your kids have digital cameras? After our Italy trip, DD13 saved her money and bought her own digital camera, so she could take her own pictures on vacation.
missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 12:29 PM
  #36  
 
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I also agree with watching movies and reading books that feature your destination. That is actually why we joined Netflix. I kept looking for films like "Roman Holiday" that they didn't have at Blockbuster, and I'd end up paying a lot for them on amazon.com. I figure we'll for sure save money with the Netflix membership by not having to buy our semi-obscure destination related movies.

missypie is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 01:58 PM
  #37  
 
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hi, Kimi,

the tip about keeping a journal is agood one - when on hols with our DD and DS [now 19 & 16, but we stil do it] every day at breakfast, each of us writes down what is most memorable about the day before. When we get home, this forms part of our trip scrap-book - it's amazing what you forget even in a week and this makes sure that the photos make sense!

your kids will probably like some of the museums like the accademia in florence, though not necessarily for the same reasons you do - last year in Rome and florence, ours held a competition for who could spot the most hideous baby in a picture - there are some real humdingers once you start looking. also the floating heads were endlessly fascinating to them.

don't forget to leave yourselves some down-time and just wandering around time- some of our most memorable experiences were the ones we didn't plan for!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Apr 11th, 2007, 04:08 PM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
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For your day with jet lag - a walking tour is good - stop often for capucino or gellato. Rick Steve's 2007 Italy book is invaluable for precise directions to things. A transportation pass would be a good investment for you - allowing you to use busses, trains, the metro, and trams. They come in 1, 3, and 7 day increments. We've just returned from our 5th trip to Italy - this time with 2 18-year-old grandsons. Try to get to the the Capuccin Crypt - our grandsons found it fascinating. It is located in Santa Maria della Immacolata Concezione on Via Veneto just north of Piazza Barberini.

June 3rd is a Sunday - a great day to go to the Appian Way, as the first section is closed to traffic, except buses, which makes for a pleasant walk. The San Calisto catacomb is easiest to visit (see Steve's book for details on how to get there.

We have done rental cars from Fiumicino and have found getting out of Rome fairly easy, but have always been headed north.

My favorite hill town in Tuscany is Volterra, although San Gimigno is great too. We also like Orvieto, which is in Umbria. Sienna can be very challenging. If I were to go back, I would take the train from a nearby city rather than try to drive there. Florence is wonderful - I second the suggestion for the science museum - it is great and our grandsons consider it a highlight of the trip. Of course, the Uffizi and Academia (to see David) are essential - don't forget to make reservations before you go.

Your trip sounds just great, but you wil find many things to return for - just too much to see and you are covering a wide territory. We have been 5 times and still haven't seen Venice or Pompeii. Buon Viaggio!!
drjeane is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 04:39 AM
  #39  
 
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Great advice so far!
Here's a few other tidbits for Rome -
Go to Villa Borghese (you'll need to reserve tickets in advance) and spend some time in the park (rent bikes!). Bring a ball along.
I would also add a day trip to Ostia Antica while in Rome. It's a relatively well preserved ancient city. Lightly visited so you can really get off the beaten path and clamber over the ruins. You'll just turn a corner and come across a 2000 year old mosaic tile floor.
We liked Angel Tours for the Vatican tour and the Ancient Rome tour.
We watched Gladiator and Roman Holiday before the trip.
Take scissors and a glue stick in your checked luggage so you can paste tickets, etc. into your journal.
Play "best, worst & funniest" every day - what did each person like, hate, etc. We try not to pick the same things but sometimes there really is a big highlight. I always put the answers in my travel notes. The kids now start this independently when we have dinner on a trip - - especially if the funniest means they can make fun of their sibling!
Put them in charge of the metro plans (i.e., what train, what platform, what stop). It is any easy system to figure out and it's good practice for them when they backpack through Europe.
Remember it's your trip too - be sure to program in what you want to do.
keymom is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 04:44 AM
  #40  
 
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Note that June 2 is a national holiday. It shouldn't affect your vatican plans, but last year that was the day I had mentally set aside a few hours for shopping...didn't happen. All the stores (except kiosks catering to tourists) were closed. I don't know if the gift shops surrounding the Vatican will be closed, but the normal clothing stores, etc. were. There was a major parade, jet flyovers, etc.
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