Ideas for what to do with kids

Jan 31st, 2005, 09:05 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Ideas for what to do with kids

Hi All,
My husband, our three children (5, 7 and 10) and I are going to Italy to visit my husbands parents for 15 days in late July(we're also spending 8 days in Switzerland). I know it's not the best time of year to visit, but with work and school schedules - it's the best we can do.
I'm pretty sure the seven of us will be together most of the time. My in-laws only live in Italy four months out of the year (the rest of the time they are in Southern California) so they are expecting me to plan the whole trip.
Our current plan:
fly into Rome, stay 5 nights. (1)one day for borghese and getting over jet lag, (2)next day for guided tour of sites in Rome (colaseum, forum, etc); (3) guided trip to Ostia (4) guided tour of Vatican; day (5) train or car for short visit to Pisa (the children can't wait to see the leaning tower.....) then drive to San Gimigano and spend the night in the walled city. day (6) whole day (I know I'll get tortured for this one..) in Florence to see Accademia, uffizi, climb to top of Duomo then drive to small town near Belluno to the in-laws house. Days (7)(8) do nothing but enjoy being in Italy. day (9) day trip to Venice.. St. marks square, doges palace, gondola ride (10) another day trip to Venice - it's only an hour drive to Venice, so we can't stay in Venice without hurting the in-laws feelings.. vaporetto around grand canal, stop in murano to see glass blowing day (11)(12)(13)(14) down time again.. day (15) drive to Switzerland.

My questions...
Should we go to Pompeii, Naples, Amalphi coast and if so isn't it a couple days to do it right?

We won't have a car in Rome but we will need one for the rest of the trip. Should we rent a car in Rome to drive to Pisa/Florence or take the train and rent a car in Florence (there's between 5 and 7 of us and we will be renting a van big enough for 7)

Does anyone know of any places that children would enjoy (olive oil making factory, farms, nice park to play in, monks chanting, etc)

Any ideas of where to stay in San Gimigano (there will be between 5 and 7 of us) or Florence. We're having a hard time finding places with a room big enough for a family of 5 and I'd prefer not to have two rooms if we can help it because the children are too young to sleep in a room by themselves.

We don't have the lakes on our schedule, but I think it might be fun to go take a boat around one of the lakes and take in the scenery. Any ideas?

Lastly, we have six down days and most of our other days are not full. Any comments on things we absolutely should do - places we should see - but don't have on the list?

Thanks for any comments.
constancelloyd is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 12:48 AM
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I think you have a lot planned esp. with kids. I wouldn't add Pompeii etc. We travel a lot with our children throughout Europe b/c we live here. In the summer, I think that it is vital to have a pool in Italy (not Switzerland). I would recommend going the agriturismo route and find places with pools and running around room. Google agriturismo and the specific areas and many options will come up. There are also many agriturismos with apartments as well. Florence also has apartments available though rental for one night may be a problem in high season, usually 3 nights are requested. Finally, some hotels have apartments attached so they may not have a minimum.

The vatican tour is going to be tough on the two youngest. Perhaps balance it out with a tour through the catacombs?

I would rent the car in Rome and not bother with trains for your crowd. Easier on you and the children.

SloJan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 02:55 AM
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I traveled to Rome 2 summers ago with my 3 kids ages 12, 10, and 8. Despite the fact that it was the summer of the terrible heat wave, we had a fantastic time! From what I remember, my kids were quite jet lagged and each day started later than I had expected. I had reserved a tour of the Borghese Galleries over the internet and by the time we woke up we had to run - run - through the gardens to get there on time and my kids still have not forgiven me! I really don't think that is the best idea for the first day, although I don't know if you mean the gardens or the galleries. In Rome my kids loved a walking tour with Rome Walks of Ancient Rome and we should have done more of those. After that tour, they knew how to walk from the Piazza Navona to the Trevi fountain and they remembered all the gelato stops in between! They loved the Colosseum, the Mouth of Truth, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps (and the Sunken Boat fountain there), the Piazza Navona (lots of street performers), any gelato shops. They got a big kick out of just walking around, seeing all vespas, smart cars, crazy driving.... We did the Vatican but aimed just to see the Sistine Chapel. We must have been there for under 2 hours, you do not need a day. There was a water park we kept hearing about just outside of the city, but we did not make it there. My kids did enjoy a movie about the history of Rome, very dramatic, but I can't remember what it was called. Also, because of the heat, we took an Archeobus tour to see the Appian Way and the aquaducts and for whatever reason the kids really liked this. I had a few guide books which were great - a flip book with pictures of the sites in the past and the way they look now (with overlays), a guide book for kids about Ancient Rome which we bought in the gift shop at the Capitoline Museums (where they have the head of Medusa sculpture, the huge feet sculptures, and Romulus and Remus nursing from the wolf sculpture). My kids preferred the Capitoline Museums to the Borghese.
But the best book I had with me was "Rome with Kids" which had all kinds of anecdotes which my kids loved, such as where Mussolini's balcony was or a story about doomed lovers and a sealed window...
We spent a lot of time in the Ghetto area fo Via del Portico d'Ottavia, because it had a ton of excavations that you could just walk through.
Hope this helps! Have a wonderful time!
eclair is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 02:59 AM
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Agree that Vatican will be a snooze for the 5-year-old and probably the middle child, but it depends on the kids. Take lots of photos of them in the museum to help them remember later on. There is a multi-sensory show about the history of Rome called the Time Elevator, here is information I gave another traveler with a 12-year-old:

Message: A 45-minute "interactive" movie, the Roma Time Elevator, would be a good introduction to Rome for your 12-year-olds. It presents a historical context for the city that is very accessible for kids that age because it is delivered in a way they "get." My 13-year-old enjoyed the movie with all the special effects/ moving seats, etc. It costs about 11 E for adults, less for kids. The website is:

You might want to look into this. And I would also skip Pompeii. Could you have your in-laws, who have undoubtedly "done" the Vatica,, be ready to take the younger children outside to run around and have ice cream while the rest of you continue to tour?

And surely, as even a part-time resident of ITaly, your in-laws have some favorite spots to share with you?
kswl is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 05:21 AM
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Hi constance,

It's about a 4 hr drive from San Gim to Belluno.

I suggest that you drop one day from Rome and stay overnight in Florence.

ira is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 05:43 AM
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I also say skip Pompeii this trip (the heat would be horrendous in late July anyway). One thing I did notice about your itinerary is lack of swimming or anything to do with water (other than the boat rides in Venice, but you don't want to take a dip in the canals anyway). Well, you could add the Lido Beach in Venice.

At this time of year, it's also the height of the season on the Amalfi Coast, otherwise I'd say go for it, since it would be a good place to unwind and let the kids play in the water and collect seaglass.

Maybe a couple of days in Sorrento would do the trick. Find a place with a pool, and you can take them down to the little beach to swim in the beautiful water -- no waves, so it's a great place for kids to swim.
Surfergirl is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 06:50 AM
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Constance - A good option for boating might be Lake Albano (Castel Gandolfo) near Rome. It's possible to hire canoes and rowing boats there.

Otherwise, if you're planning a day in the Dolomites from Belluno you could stop at ALLEGHE and take a boat out on the lake there. (You could combine it with a ride on arguably the best cable-car ride in Europe at Lagazuoi).

Hope this helps ...

Steve_James is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 04:13 PM
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Thanks for the great ideas.

Jan and surfergirl - thanks for the tips on taking time for the water. We live in southern California and our whole family spends hours and hours at the beach and in the pool. My children will go crazy if they don't get to swim for three weeks!!

eclair - I'm adding most of your suggestions to our plan. A few questions for you.. what's an archeobus tour? I'm going to search this site and then google to try to find out. Also, the excavations at the Ghetto Via del Portico d'Ottavia - is this in Rome? Mine children are at the age where they will love any excavations we show them, so I'd like to add this to our trip.

ira - thanks for you comment on adding a day in Florence and taking one away from Rome. Think it might be a good idea.

steve - my in-laws live close to the area you're talking about, so I'm going to look into getting a boat there. Also, hadn't heard of the Lagazuoi cable car so I'm researching that.

kswl - thanks for the insite. I was thinking the Vatican tour would be long for the 5 and 7 year olds. My in-laws haven't been to Rome in 30 years, but I like your idea of taking-off with the younger children to get gelato (let the in-laws finish the tour - I'll get gelato...). and yes, they have lots of special places they are going to show us. They are planning the "down days" for us to do day trips to see some of their special places.
constancelloyd is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 05:23 PM
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I can't imagine your children (especially the two younger ones) will be interested in the Borghese Gallery.

Italy will be hot hot hot in July. Your program is way too ambitious. Please remember almost none of the places you want to see indoors have air conditioning.

If I were you, I would plan some time either at the beach (no place in Italy is far from a beach) or at one of the lakes.

You have way too many things planned. You will never get to do all the things on your list because, after two or three days you will all be exhausted and the kids will have degenerated into terminal whininess.

Again, all those museums and things you would like to spend time at, will certainly not interest your two younger children. If you want to see things like they Uffizi with children, you need to wait until they are older.

I have traveled in England, France and Germany with children but not in Italy. I never spent much time in art galleries when they were small. We would do a visit to look at a few paintings (such as Monet's waterlilly paintings in Paris) and then leave. The children were prepared for what they were going to see ahead of time--and they were 11 & 13 when I did that. I would never have attempted it with a 5 & 7 year old.

You might be able to see more adult things if you can enlist the grandparents in babysitting while you, say, go to the Uffizi. By the way, I went to the Uffizi recently and spent 4 hours there (without kids). You can do that and do the David afterwards, but, if you do, that will be it for your day in Florence.

You know, you said your inlaws are close to Venice. Why not consider concentrating on the north of Italy and Switzerland and save Florence and Rome for another time? Please note that it will be cooler in the north than in places south. You might be able to fry an egg on the sidewalk in Pompeii during the summer. Not fun to tour a site like that when it is hotter than h---.

Just my random thoughts. It is your trip.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 06:23 PM
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We're from Southern California too, where kids learn to paddle before learning to walk, so I understand exactly what you were talking about! We try to find at least a couple of hotels with pools when we travel in summer.

We took our son to Italy and France when he was 13 months, and he loved the Lido in Venice. We were back this summer (he's 15 now), and his favorite places were Positano and Capri. We didn't have a pool in Positano, but spent a lot of time in, on and around the water. The hotel in Capri had a pool, but they also have some great swimming spots and clear clear water, not to mention the Blue Grotto.

Pigeons in Venice was fun at both ages in St. Mark's Square, and Italian pizza is the BEST!

We also enjoyed a side trip to Verona (my son had just read Romeo & Juliet), but I think it's a place that your kids would like -- aside from the city being really pretty, there are fountains in which they could go into when it's hot. Same thing for the Trevi Fountain.

Where are you going in Switzerland? My son's favorite spot (at 5) was Lucerne.
Surfergirl is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 03:51 PM
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Thanks for the insight. They learn how to paddle before they can walk - that's about it! We're going to the Lido in Venice. I'm still not sure if we are going south of Rome to Capri, etc. I think we might be ready to go up north where it's a little cooler (we'll be staying at the edge of the Dolmites)and where I'll have a washer AND dryer... but clear, clear water is awfully tempting!

In Switzerland we are staying with relatives. We are going to Lucerne for sure. We are also going to take lots of train rides, see castles, and be somewhere on a Friday night at 7pm when all the Church bells ring (I have no idea which town it's in, but my father-in-law took us there last time we were in Switzerland and it was amazing). Hey surfergirl - I'm about an hour from the beach but it was such a clear day here that I'll bet it was beautiful at the beach today!
constancelloyd is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:23 AM
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The Archeobus tour leaves from the Piazza Venezia right across the street from the Victor Emmanuel monument (the wedding cake building). It takes about 2 hours and I think it leaves hourly. The delivery of information by the guide is awful, awful (reads from a sheet) and pretty incomprehensible. BUT my kids really were excited about seeing the Appian Way, the first paved road (I think) and the aquaducts. And the bus was air conditioned (so I was happy). It took a little less than 2 hours and there was an option to get out and look around (at the Catacombs, for example), but it was just way too hot.
The Ghetto is the old Jewish section of Rome, one of the oldest ghettos in the world. It is 5 minutes walking distance, or less, from the Piazza Venezia. There is a building which I think was originally a theatre in Ancient Rome and became a hiding place for the Jews from the Gestapo. Also, as I said, you just walk and there are excavations, old columns, pillars, some broken, some standing, archways, etc. Very cool. This is just a tiny area really. Again, that little book Rome with Kids was great for this. There is a story which I mentioned before about a sealed window and spurned lovers, and we found the window! There is also a lovely fountain, the Turtle Fountain, which we had to hunt a bit to find, so that was fun.
I would definitely recommend the Time Elevator movie for day 1 because it gives the history of Rome and then when you go around and see everything the kids will get more out of it.
My children loved the Trevi fountain - they loved the legend about the coin tossing...
Anyway, we were there for 3 days and we saw a lot. As far as the Borghese Galleries go, I had to see it. I have always wanted to see those sculptures and I knew I would be upset if I did not go because my kids did not want to go. You could just zoom over there in a taxi, have a pre reserved admission time, and walk through. I did not think the tour was very good or necessary. But I was so thrilled to be there! So if that is something dear to your heart, do it. Happy to help.
eclair is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:28 AM
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Sorry, one more thing. The walking tour we did of Ancient Rome was excellent, my kids favorite part of the trip. My suggestion is to do an evening walk. I had reserved spots for an afternoon walk over the internet, but when we got to Rome and the heat hit us, we ran over to the tour office and changed the reservation to the evening when it was cooler. My kids were jet lagged anyway, so they were very awake in the evening!
eclair is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:32 AM
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Oops, one more thing. Before we went, my kids watched Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn. She runs up and down the Spanish Steps, goes to the Mouth of Truth, etc.
eclair is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 08:58 AM
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Your kids will probably enjoy the cat sanctuary in Rome. Mine did. You may be frustrated trying to drag your young kids through museums like the Borghese and Uffizi. They are usually crowded, hot, and so full of art--even the buildings are like works of art-- that they are visually (not to mention physically) exhausting. If you have paid full price to get in, you may not want to do a quick half-hour cruise through the galleries and then leave. Better to divide and conquer: one parent does a kid-fun thing (such as exploring the Borghese gardens, or taking a carriage ride) with the youngsters, while the other parent sees the museum, and then switch roles. If you do take the kids to a museum, pick ones that have variety in their collections: paintings and sculpture, or like the Doges Palace in Venice - paintings, architecture, armor, jail cells, good views out the window. Also, get them the audio tour. They can amuse themselves just playing with the tape recorders and feeling in control. But do not ask 2 kids to share one recorder with 2 headsets or there will be trouble! Also, make up your own Scavenger Hunt in advance. Give each kid a card showing pictures of things they should look for in the museum (get this info from the internet). They can cross off the things as they spot them. You can even make it like Bingo or Lotto and give a prize to the kids when they fill their cards. This can make a confusing and "uninteresting" (to kids) museum more accessible.
lesliec1 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:44 PM
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eclair - thanks for all your help. Aquaducts, ghettos, ruins, fountains and Audry Hepburn movies - the whole family is ready to go now! I'm getting the Rome with kids book tomorrow, but I have to say that everything you mentioned is something that we have added to our list of "must see's" because that's just the type of activity we like. I like the idea about the tour in the evening too, that time of your it's a great idea.

As far as museums... there are certain pieces of art that I have to see while we're there so we are all going. My husband and I have been "treating" our children to trips to museums all over since they were infants and they are fine. Most of it is in the presentation - as long as we are excited about it and have shown the children interesting facts about the art ahead of time - they are almost as excited as we are. We have some art books and are letting them pick out pieces that they want to see. I agree, if I wanted to see it and didn't because the children were going to be cranky - I'd regret it. Thanks for your words of encouragement (and lesliec1 - I like your idea about the scavenger hunt...).
constancelloyd is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 07:07 PM
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I don't know where you are planning to go in Switzerland, but my children really enjoyed the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
We took the gondola up to the top of the Schilthorn (expensive but fun and wonderful views if it is not cloudy) and walked a part of the way back down. The Trummelback Falls were a hit (huge waterfall that gushes through the inside of a mountain) as was simply strolling through the valley.
There are train trips you can take up the mountains and other beautiful viewpoints, but these were the ones we did.
KathrynT is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 07:06 PM
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If you are going to be near Interlaken, you can go whitewater rafting there. I do not know the age limit on the rafting (your 5 year old may be too young) but I don't think the trip is too rough. It might be worth asking about. Rafting is always a hit with kids not matter where you do it.

You can also go rafting outside of Imst in Austria. I have done that trip, but that is rougher than in Interlaken and your younger two children would almost certainly be too young for it. I had my son with me when we rafted in Imst, but he was 14, so we did not have the age problem.

By the way, at the end of the trip out of Imst, they give the adults schnapps. My son grabbed mine and as I said, "No!", he downed the shot glass all at once. He still gets teased about that and he is 23. You should have seen the look on his face! Priceless! I don't think he has ever had schnapps again after that gulp.

I have not, by the way, personally done the rafting in Interlaken
FauxSteMarie is offline  

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