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Italy with kids - Venice / Rome / Florence: Itinerary and Suggestions


Sep 29th, 2012, 08:51 AM
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Italy with kids - Venice / Rome / Florence: Itinerary and Suggestions

We're traveling to Italy in late October with my parents and two kids (11 and 6). I'm trying not to run everyone all over the place. Our flights in/out of Milan are set as we used miles to fly in/out Heathrow and the times didn't work any other way (Didn't want to overnight at Heathrow either way).

Day 1: arrive late at night into Milan-Linate, stay near Central Station
Day 2: See Last Supper (booked) and Duomo, lunch in Milan, train to Venice, water taxi to hotel, overnight Venice Hilton
Day 3: Wander around Venice, bookmarked a treasure hunt for kids from this site, Venice Hilton
Day 4: train to Rome, cab to apartment near Piazza Navona, get settled
Day 5: Colosseum etc. tour with Walks of Italy (booked). They are not able to book underground portion until a couple of days before. Should I book separately online and do that after the Walks of Italy tour?
Day 6 (Wednesday): Papal Audience (booked), Appian Way bike tour with Red Bicycle
Day 7: possible day trip to Tivoli, Ostia Antica, Orvieto. Any other suggestions?
Day 8: St. Peter's, Vatican Museums at Night (booked) - do audioguide
Day 9: train to Florence, possible Symbols and Legends tour with Context Travel. Hotel suggestions?
Day 10: day trip to Pisa / Lucca
Day 11: spend day in Florence, late night train to Milan, stay near Central Station
Day 12: cab to LIN early AM flight to LHR

Any reason not to go ahead and book train trips (except for Pisa/Lucca)?

I tried to leave unscheduled time in each city. Anything else I should reserve/book? Did not get Scavi tour as we just booked our flights last week. :=)

We'll probably do one semi-nice meal in Venice, a couple in Rome, and one in Florence. I'm researching restaurant ideas next.

Getting excited!
sdfamily is offline  
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Sep 29th, 2012, 10:17 AM
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You have stuff booked which bolts a few bits in place. I'm going to assume you are flying in freom the states so the Heathrow step will ensure exhaustion/jet lag for much of family for days 1 and 2. Think of a solution for this before it happens.

Venice is worth another day (esp given above)
Hilton (do people still stay in places like this, ah well)
My gosh then you re-cross to Rome, you will get to know the stations well.

I think day 7 you might set something up for the kids, any interest in football (soccer) or fashion or ...

I think I'd stay in Florence for the whole time, but if you want to go out you can take the train to Pisa or Lucca very easily and cheaply.

It all looks very fast, too much stuffed in but if that is what you like then enjoy.
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Sep 29th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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You are doing alot of moving around in a relatively small amount of time - sp given that there are so many o fyou and that you wil have very different interests. Is trongly encourge you NOT to e joined at the hip - but to have some differnt options available - since yuo parent s may well have vry differnt interests than your kids. And it's not really fair to expect kids - esp a 6 year old - to do what the adults will enjoy most.

Not sure how many rooms you ahve booked in each place - bu tI'm hoping that there are enough that everyone gets some privacy - and allow for the differnt bedtimes and even mealtimes (esp for the 6 year old = probably not happy with a dinner from 8 to 10 pm).
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Sep 29th, 2012, 10:35 AM
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Looks like that's exactly what you're doing. Days 1 and 2 will be a nightmare after all that travel. Days 11 and 12 will be, too. And all those bookings! My kids would have mutinied. To each his own, but for me this would be way, way overscheduled, with far too much moving around, especially with kids at that age, and 6 people on the go constantly.
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Sep 30th, 2012, 11:04 PM
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I agree with some of your replies but....
1) yes, flying not only from States, but from West Coast. Gets us into LHR after noon and connections to Italy are limited. Hence Milan...all other cities require an overnight layover in London. So, why not overnight in Milan, see the Last Supper and head to Venice?

2) finding an apartment in Rome for 5 nights for 5 people is what kind of locked us into our Rome days

3) I know it seems like I'm running all over the place, but given our locked in flights we need to spend 1-2 days before Rome and 1-2 days after Rome. Not ideal, but that's the schedule.

So, I guess my question has really turned into: Am I packing too much into each individual day?

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Oct 1st, 2012, 04:26 AM
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Even though you have rented an apartment in Rome, it looks to me that you might not be prepared for Italian restaurant norms and the rigid meal times and shopping hours. Restaurants do not open for dinner until 7.30pm, which can be hard on kids, especially since service between courses is not speedy. But if you are thinking of eating in the apartment, you need to make sometime to shop. Supermarkets are open continuously, but small stores with food-to-go close for several hours in the middle of the day.

Similarly, if you plan to sit down for lunch -- which given all your touring you might very well want to -- restaurants will assume you are there to eat several courses at a leisurely place. If the weather is at all favorable, you should try to sit down at places in pedestrianzied areas with outdoor tables so your kids can get up and run around a bit if they can't really bored.

But in all events, you should arrive in italy armed with places near your apartment and near your target sights where you can get food off-hours, and the names of nearby pizzerie and wine bars that serve lighter meals so that you are not spending hours in restaurants eating more food than you want.

I suggest you not book the Colosseum underground tour until you see how everybody reacts to all this organized sightseeing. I also suggest that you leave your Day 7 completely open. My inclination would be to take the kids toy shopping, just for cheap toys and fun toys and souvenirs they can enjoy during the trip. Remember to pack things for them to do on the several long train rides you are taking.

Your kids will certainly have the energy to keep up this pace (although I think they will need to skip or rest before a Vatican night tour). My concern for your trip is that the kids will be put under too much pressure to take an interest in what they are being told to look at, or never to complain (especially in front of the grandparents). I think the trip will be stressful for all of you, and even if the family dynamic is stellar, it really is putting a lot of stress on the kids.

Sorry to say this, since I don't know any of you, but if there isn't already an agreement in place with the entire family, including grandparents, that the kids will be permitted to not pay attention to anything, they will not be constantly directed to look at this and quizzed about their reactions, and allowed to privately complain within the family that they are bored or not having fun I think that is only fair. I think they are making a big sacrifice to put themselves through all this activity, and it will be terribly unnatural for them to have to be quiet so much of the time in churches, museums and while guides talk.

Your kids may turn to adore every minute of this, it could be the best family trip ever for everybody and it may spur them to a lifetime interest in history and art. But they will still be great if none of that happens for one second. So I hope they can be allowed to be themselves.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 06:39 AM
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I am exhausted by this forced march and I can't imagine what it will seem like to children. I would eliminate the day trips from Rome and Florence so that you have a day to stay put and see a little of the cities without a scheduled tour. Maybe add another bike trip in Florence.

You are spending a lot of time traveling from place to place. If you can minimize some of that (e.g. day trips), the trip might be a little more manageable
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Oct 1st, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Personally, I would definitely, absolutely skip all the running around in Milan and head straight to Venice very early that morning. You will be tired. The kids will be tired. The GPs will probably be most tired. You will see so many other beautiful things on your trip, don't worry about the Duomo and Last Supper. You will see San Marco, the Sistine Chapel and St Peters, David and the Duomo in Florence. You can't see everything anyway, so why put yourself and everybody else through that first morning like that? This is meant to be honest, not mean, but I would be rebelling already by the end of that first morning.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 06:58 AM
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The great thing in Italy is you can eat as little in a restaurant as you wish, so don't let that issue worry you. Too much and too tired is right.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 07:35 AM
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One thing that you need to take into consideration(which people on this forum had told me but it's hard to comprehend until you experience it) is that getting to the train station, buying tickets, finding your platform, figuring out your seats all takes a bit of time and can be stressful(even though it is fun).
We underestimated that this would add to the time needed for travel each day. And while "day trips" can be fun, they also can be exhausting even for older teens. So just something to consider, maybe pick what it is about each of your proposed day trips you think your children would enjoy and weigh the time/enjoyment ratio.
Also, I wouldn't worry about the whole dining out thing. We found plenty of more casual restaurants that were fine for kids and most everyone we encountered was very gracious to our boys, just do some research on this forum, also Chowhound is good.
In addition, getting to each of your propsed sites will take a bit of walking, unless you cab everywhere and this will add to tiredness especially for your little one.
But overall have fun, you know your children best and what they can tolerate and what they will enjoy. You can click on my name to see my recent trip report. My boys are older but it may give you some ideas.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 08:02 AM
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The great thing in Italy is you can eat as little in a restaurant as you wish, so don't let that issue worry you. Too much and too tired is right."

But you can't order as little as you might like, except for the kids. The adults will be expected to order more than one course if you all sit down in an eatery other than a pizzeria or a bar or wine bar. So the kids will be stuck sitting there until your food is served and the check is received, even if they only eat a fraction of their food and are done.

Nothing in my post was meant to suggest that you wouldn't find casual, welcoming restaurants. It was about the availability of food and the length of time it gets to get served in Italy. If most people underestimate how long it takes to buy a train ticket, they also underestimate how long it takes to get the check.

Chowhound is good for getting pointers.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 08:54 AM
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A couple of thoughts:

1. Don't tie yourself down with too many pre-booked things to do -- definitely not more than one a day. You indicate that you've built in some unstructured time, but you are probably still leaning a little too far toward a lot of structure/too ambitious an agenda.

2. Keep Day 3 and 4 low-key. Jet lag will really hit here. I wouldn't even bother with a treasure hunt with only one day in Venice -- just wander casually and enjoy the scenery.

3. Give up the idea of a day trip from Rome. There's so much to do in Rome, there's really no need to herd everyone onto another train at this point in the trip.

4. Keep a day trip for the one to Pisa -- this would be fun for the kids and can be done in half a day and with little pre-planning.

5. You can book your train tickets for the major legs once you are in Milan -- you may want to research the timetables in advance, but just note, what sounds like reasonable times to catch a train when you're home and well-rested, can become another story entirely when you are jet-lagged and navigating new territory (I learned this the hard way -- and while the kiosks are quick and easy to use to buy tickets, changing them means standing in slow, often long, lines for a ticket agent).

6. One thing to keep in mind with eating out is that if you get your heart (and stomach) set on dining at a certain restaurant and need to make reservations in advance -- that is yet another time/place commitment that can end up adding a lot of stress especially when traveling with kids or a larger group.

7. Italy is a great place to visit with kids -- enjoy your trip!
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Oct 1st, 2012, 09:06 AM
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Yes, IMO, you are still packing too much into each individual day. This trip is so "programmed" it makes my head spin...but maybe that's the way your personal family dynamic works and it will all turn out for the best. I agree completely that people tend not to take into account how much time it takes (and what a total squirming bore it is for kids) to eat a meal or get on a train or accomplish all the small logistical things when you're actually on the ground and not just dreaming of being in Italy.

Coming from the West Coast? No one's going to even remember seeing the Last Supper that day after arrival, if they can even drag themselves there. Then a train trip? Starting out a trip by torturing people rarely works out well.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 11:05 AM
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I will echo what's already been said - too much moving around, too much that's scheduled each day. Wait until you get there, see what the group seems to enjoy doing. You can book some of the places after you get there. And feel free, depending on your group's interests, to cut out the day trips.

A comment on the Venice treasure hunt - I'm guessing it's the great one that Peter provided. It really is for teens and older. We tried doing it with our 10yo DD, and she got frustrated trying to find the places.

One thing we did get, which our DD enjoyed very much, was a little book called Kids Go Europe: Treasure Hunt Florence by Ellen Mouchawar and Marvin Mouchawar. There's a Venice version, too, but no Rome version.

At least for your train ride to Venice, and possibly some of your other train trips too, use them as an opportunity for a picnic lunch. (I would say that 90% of European travelers bring their lunches on the trains.) There are lots of opportunities, either in the train stations or elsewhere, to pick up cheese and meats, pastries and breads, types of sweets that the kids haven't seen. Wine (yes it's allowed, or at least we've never been stopped) for the adults, sodas for the kids, and you can have a meal to be eaten at your speed. And a good use of train time, too.

On the semi-nice meals, you've gotten good advice on that. Our daughter is a jr. foodie, and didn't mind the 2-hour dinners. She would usually just order one course; we adults would get two. (Then gelato for dessert.) For lunches, we did lots of pizza-type stops, which is not traditional for Italy (they tend to have pizza for dinner, but you will find plenty of pizzerias at lunch for the tourist trade), but that takes less time, and IMHO still much better than much U.S. pizza. Also, some picnics and some nicer meals. Almost always, lunches were outside, so if she wanted to get up and stretch, she could.

I'm not sure what you have in mind by "semi-nice." But a great local-type family place in Florence was Il Fagioli - in fact, we're planning on having lunch here on our next trip to Italy, in early October. All of our other dinners were nicer and more expensive than Il Fagioli (and we had one 10yo, vs a 6yo and a 11yo), so I'm not sure our other dinner restaurants would be what you're looking for. In Rome, however, a great place for pizza by the slice is La Florida, via Florida, 25. It's also across the street from the cat sanctuary, if your kids like cats.
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Oct 1st, 2012, 12:03 PM
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>>Wine (yes it's allowed, or at least we've never been stopped)<<

Wine is not only allowed on Italian trains, it is sold by the state-run train system itself (and provided free in first class on Frecciarossa trains).
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Oct 1st, 2012, 06:49 PM
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For colosseum tour, I believe the walks of Italy standard tour will overlap quits a bit with the U derground tour, so I would do one or the other but not both.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:56 AM
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"But you can't order as little as you might like, except for the kids. The adults will be expected to order more than one course if you all sit down in an eatery other than a pizzeria or a bar or wine bar. So the kids will be stuck sitting there until your food is served and the check is received, even if they only eat a fraction of their food and are done."

Adults will not be "expected" to order more than one course, I do it all the time and I've spoken to Italians who tell me it is perfectly normal. You can also share dishes (I often share anti-pasta with Mrs Bilbo as it is only supposed to be a flavour to "wake the stomach up", not a real dish in itself. The trick is to ensure that you explain the timings you want to the waiter.

The issue of children who don't know how to sit in a restaurant is another one and best managed by parenting school
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 04:09 AM
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As somebody who has dragged kids this age (as many as 5 of them at once sometimes) around Europe, I don't think the schedule looks half bad. You aren't scheduling too many things on each day-- rather, I would reconsider the number of scheduled, guided tours that absolutely lock you into doing them. If you organize your own walking tour of Florence for instance, you can go at your own pace and add or subtract sites according to how everybody feels. I always plan my days with the expectation that we will not get to everything on the schedule. Vietritiles also has a point about the kids' interest levels - they won't want to spend as much time in museums as you will, but they may spend an impossibly long time taking pictures of pigeons!

BTW, my daughter, who was seven at the time, still talks about The Last Supper (mostly because we had a terrific guide who thoroughly engaged her in the explanations), and the Milan Duomo is my all time favorite (I haven't been to Venice or to St. Peter's however).
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:12 PM
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Yes! If you haven't already thought of this, it's a great idea to have a camera just for the kids to use. We had an inexpensive point and shoot that kept our 7 year old completely engaged and she was thrilled to have captured her own set of memories (including plenty of pigeons!). It was the main reason we had an enjoyable, leisurely tour through the Vatican Museum (and why the visit to the Uffizi was far less successful -- no photography allowed!).

I also agree with lauratg that it will amaze you what will end up capturing the interest and imagination of the younger ones while traveling.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:16 PM
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You may find the time differenced will find you all up early your first morning in Milan and that you are able to do your Last Supper and Duomo visits. I think the kids would enjoy walking on the roof of the Duomo -- how often can you walk on the top of a church? I think you'll be exhausted by the time you arrive in Venice and would keep that next day very low key. Wander around, do a gondola ride, rest. etc.

I think the day trip from Rome may well be too much. Perhaps just take Rome a little more slowly and find parks or playgrounds for the kids to enjoy. If your kids are like mine, they'll find the Capuchin Crypt (bones "decorating" the chapel walls) spooky and fun.

I would only go to Pisa if the kids really want to see the Leaning Tower. Otherwise, I would spend that day in Florence.

If I were traveling with my parents or in-laws, I would definitely encourage them to do some activities independently so that those who want to be on the go can do so while others move at a more leisurely pace.

Have fun!
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