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Family vacay for 6 weeks with 2 Toddlers

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Dec 18th, 2014, 09:56 PM
  #1
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Family vacay for 6 weeks with 2 Toddlers

Ideas please for best locations to visit/stay with a 1 year old and a 3.5 year old from April - mid-May. We are thinking of renting a place in Tuscany for 3-4 weeks, planning some day trips and overnight trips but want to relax and not rush around as tourists. Not planning on visiting many museums/galleries, etc with young kids. Definitely renting a car and may also use the train. Also looking for ideas for after Italy...maybe head to France? Switzerland? We are looking for some activities for the kids, also neat villages/markets/Walks/biking and possibly boat rides. Any ideas would be very much appreciated.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 03:54 AM
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The things you're looking for are easily found all over central Italy, and also in France and Switzerland. You might consider also Umbria, Le Marche, and Abruzzo, as well as Tuscany. These are regions equally beautiful, and less expensive and overrun with tourists than Tuscany is.

In Tuscany, I would suggest staying near Arezzo, which is a nice small city, with good train connections to Florence and Assisi (in Umbria).

We had friends who rented a villa near Todi, in Umbria, for a month, and loved it. I don't remember the name of the villa, but maybe I can find it. There is a little regional railway in Todi, but I don't know much about it. There are also several very nice areas in Umbria that are near the main-line Rome-Ancona train line. Some of these are Terni, Assisi, and Spoleto. In Le Marche, there are villa rentals near Fabriano and Jesi, both of which are in beautiful areas. If the weather is warm in early May (which is never guaranteed), there are some family beach areas in Le Marche that would be accessible from a villa near Jesi.

In Abruzzo, Sulmona is a very nice little city, on a train line, although in Abruzzo (like Tuscany) buses are often more useful than trains.

I don't know Switzerland very well, but we really enjoyed a short stay in Lucerne, which is on a lake with boat rides. It's a beautiful town, with access to mountain excursions.

France is a big country. Do you have an idea of where you might want to go? In southern France, we really liked Nîmes, as well as Avignon.

You would probably want to turn in the rental car before leaving Italy, because there are large surcharges for cross-border dropoff. Wherever you go next, you could rent another car. Switzerland is easily reached from Milan, and you can also go to destinations in France from there, usually with at least one change of train.

Instead of going to another country, you might consider staying on one of the great lakes of Italy, such as Garda, Maggiore, Como, or Lugano. Lake Maggiore is partly in Switzerland, and Lugano is mostly in Switzerland. If you stay on the Italian side of the border, you could keep the car and make excursions into Switzerland. All of the lakes have boat excursions, great scenery, and lots of things to see and do. It might still be a bit chilly in the higher altitudes.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 07:24 AM
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With a car, after Tuscany, you could make your way up to Como and use it as a base to tour N. Italy and Switzerland (as suggested above). I'd suggest looking for an apartment in Varenna. That part of Italy is almost like a separate country from Tuscany.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 08:04 AM
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We stayed at this castle for a week when our daughter was 13 months old.
http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/cast...t_room=1308104

It was a fairly easy drive to Sienna, San Gimignano, Florence, and we even drove to Pisa. There is a little playground which my daughter loved. Also its very reasonably priced. Everyone agreed it was the best part of the trip. We went to Rome and Venice also but I had to put my daughter in one of those little harnesses when she wanted out of her backpack so she would be safe. Overall those cities were stressful. If I had a do-over I would just pick countryside residences with little ones, like you are planning.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 08:07 AM
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That link was supposed to go to Castel Pietraio. We stayed in the tower.I just remembered we also drove to Perugia from here.
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Dec 20th, 2014, 12:17 PM
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I think Lago Maggiore would be a better base for visiting Switzerland than Lake Como, which is not really terribly close to the border. I could be wrong; I've never tried to plan a route from there to Switzerland.

Lake Maggiore is partly within Switzerland.

I mentioned the lakes because of the possibility of boat rides, which seem to interest RThomson. If the boat rides aren't important, the Val D'Aosta would be another possibility. The Swiss, French, and Italian borders all meet in the vicinity of Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc. It's a very beautiful Alpine region; we have relatives that often go there with their young children.
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Dec 20th, 2014, 10:16 PM
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Thank you all for your responses. I think we would enjoy visiting the lakes for sure. We still aren't sure whether we will venture outside of Italy or not,but with 6 weeks we should be able to see a good amount within the areas we choose. As I continue my research I'm sure I will have more questions. I also think our son (3.5 years old ) will enjoy it if we can visit a castle or cave as well. Thanks again.
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Dec 20th, 2014, 10:19 PM
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I'm not sure about France right now, but it is still a consideration. I would love to see Paris but how much would young kids be able to do? Any route suggestions if we start in Italy? Or would it be better to fly into Paris and stay there and around the area for a little bit and then drive south and settle in to Italy? Thanks again.
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Dec 21st, 2014, 02:29 AM
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I think the tough part about Paris will be getting around. It really isn't a place where touring by car. Parking and traffic are both difficult. You will need two umbrella strollers, one for each child, one pushed by you, one by your husband. Because of stairs in the Metro, you are going to wind up taking the strollers on buses. Buses are a great way to get around Paris and it's how hundreds of thousands of Parisian women get their kids around, but if you aren't used to public transportation, it is work. It may be a temptation to take a tandem stroller. A fore-and-aft might work but a side-by-side won't because the sidewalks are too crowded.

On the other hand, Paris is full of play lots (usually behind churches) and playgrounds. The Luxembourg Gardens has the best places for children that you will ever sees, though you will have to explore a bit to find them. Paris has incredible toy shops everywhere, and France and Italy both have the most beautiful children's clothing you can imagine.

I would want an apartment rather than a hotel room. Hotel rooms are notoriously small, like where-do-I-put-the-suitcase small, and in an apartment you could have breakfast and dinner at home. Paris has fabulous take-out food at delis (traiteurs) or you can get food to cook at a supermarket or in a street market. Supermarkets close at 1 on Sundays, so you need to make sure you have everything you need to make it to Monday morning.

In general, people in Italy seem crazy about babies. I honestly haven't noticed that in Paris, but if you are urban residents you know that anything that breaks up the flow of traffic on the sidewalk or the process of serving in a restaurant, for example, is not handled really well. People aren't mean, just busy.
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Dec 21st, 2014, 03:33 AM
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Dec 21st, 2014, 06:25 AM
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bv: >>I think Lago Maggiore would be a better base for visiting Switzerland than Lake Como, which is not really terribly close to the border.<<

No argument about Maggiore being closer to Switzerland. But my advice about staying in Como wasn't just about being the closest proximity to Switzerland. I just happen to like Varenna, and getting to Switzerland from Como, while a longer trip than from Lugano, really isn't difficult.
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Dec 24th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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Thank you for your responses. After a bit more consideration, we have decided to stay in Italy for the entire trip. Definitely want to spend some time at a lake...not sure which one yet. After Christmas we will be doing more research.
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Dec 26th, 2014, 06:35 PM
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What a great trip. I can only speak about the Paris part, as we have taken our daughter from age 11 months to 3 years told to Paris every year. It's a phenomenal city for young ones. The park are an outstanding way to interact with families.

The point about the strollers is well taken: you will be collapsing them at every Metro station to trudge them both up and down the stairs to enter/exit the Metro. These minor inconveniences are worth every memory you will make during this holiday.
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Dec 27th, 2014, 02:53 AM
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I would save Paris for when the kids are a little older and will have their own memories of the trip. It's different if you think you would be back on nearly an annual basis.
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Dec 28th, 2014, 10:34 AM
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Ok so we have decided to stay somewhere in tuscany for 2 weeks, another location for 2 weeks and in the north, probably near a lake for another 10 days to 2 weeks. Possibly include Rome, possibly the Amalfi coast but not set on those. We would like to see Venice as well. We are open to the odd overnight trip, train and car travel. We will have 2 umbrella strollers for the kids. Want to relax and stay somewhere with a pool, especially in Tuscany. Want to do day trips and short drives to see other towns, markets, parks, playgrounds for the kids, maybe a castle or 2, boat rides, walks/light hikes. I appreciate all the feedback so far, just need some more ideas please. We do want to enjoy Italy and see a good amount but don't want to push it with such young kids.
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Dec 28th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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And we have decided to push the dates to May to mid-June2015.
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Dec 28th, 2014, 12:15 PM
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We spent 3 weeks in southern Tuscany last year in May/June. Our youngest son was 16 months old, and our older son was 3.5 years old. I will be honest - there were definitely some rough spots. But there were many, many, MANY more wonderful moments. Our older son still talks about some of his favorite things/people/food from the trip.

We stayed in Maremma for a week (Pitigliano - Casa degli Archi apartment). Maybe it was the time of year we were there, but we literally saw zero fellow Americans during our stay. There were many Italian tourists, German tourists, etc. so there is enough in the way of tourist infrastructure (restaurants, shops, etc).

Our sons loved playing in the piazza in the old area of town. There are a few large fountains and a beautiful bronze statue of a donkey that both boys liked playing on.

We then spent a week in Montepulciano in the Politian apartments. There is a small playground just up the hill from the apartments and there is a larger playground across town. Pienza is very nearby (and also has a playground). We daytripped to Cortona as well (and yes, there is a playground there too).

In general, we found that we could see 1 or maybe 2 sights per day. Then it was time for playtime in the piazza or a playground. We kept to nap schedules as much as possible. We chucked their usually nutritious diet and let them have pizza every day and usually cookies from the bakery too. And all in all, they did really really well.

We loaded a ton of movies and apps onto the iPad right before the trip and that helped our 3.5 year old make it through the 1 or 2 sightseeing things we did every day. He also loved choosing in advance what fun thing we were going to do later (playground, park, etc.).
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Dec 28th, 2014, 12:19 PM
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P.S. A stroller was a must for the 3.5 year old. He wanted to walk everywhere by himself but his little legs got tired quickly.
We found that our Beco Butterfly carrier was much better for the 16-month old. I had him on the front carry option much of the time. Moved him to the back carry option for Venice and he loved that.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 07:02 AM
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@TexasAggie: Ssshhh! about Pit....ano! For heaven's sakes don't tell Rick Steves about it! We don't want another Cinque Terre in Southern Tuscany, do we?
But you are right, it's a delightful spot and very few tourists apart from Italians at any time of the year. It is "saved" by the fact that it's hard to get to that remote corner of Tuscany by public transport.
I hope you visited the tiny Jewish ghetto.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 10:48 AM
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@TexasAggie, thanks for that info. Just wondering, what did your 16 month old sleep in? Our daughter will be 15-16 months old on our trip and I'm just wondering what she will be safe sleeping in. She usually sleeps in a travel crib/packand play when we aren't at home. Did you bring a car seat of your own, or rent from the car rental company?
We have just booked our flights, in and out of Rome, as flights were booking up and we used miles. Any recommendations for apartment rentals that would be close to main attractions, parks, train station (so we can take the train from the airport). Any suggestions on itinerary, as we were thinking of staying in Rome for 5 nights, then renting a car and either heading to tuscany, then Venice area, then lake area, then back down to Florence and train to Rome for a night or 2 before flying home. Any good suggestions on where to stay around Venice so we can train in to Venice or a day trip or 2? We have 6 weeks altogether and definitely plan on 2 weeks in tuscany. We are changing our minds a bit and want to get the most out of our time, but are travelling with 2 young kids so don't want to overdo it. Thanks again.
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