Taking my kids to Europe - Finally

Jun 21st, 2010, 05:14 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Taking my kids to Europe - Finally

I cannot remember the last time I posted on the Europe forum. Always an advocate for traveling with children, I have taken my kids all over the place since they were born, but this will be their first trip outside the U.S. One child is 11, and the other is 7. We have narrowed our choice to Italy, which was the last European destination the parents visited as well. We went to Rome, Venice, Florence, and a very few nearby areas. On this trip (for late September 2010), I am contemplating either of the following but am open to alternative suggestions and would appreciate any tips you can provide. My kids tolerate but do not love museums. They love to climb, explore, see things related to history (ie., gladiators and other "cool" things), eat gelato, eat pizza and pasta, and eat more gelato. I am also hoping to get my daughter more into photography on this trip. The trip will last 11-14 days.

1. Rome (I am thinking 3 days here - spent 5 last time), Naples, Pompei, Herculaneum, Capri, Sorrento, Mt. Vesuvius, Amalfi and surroundings.

2. Rome, Siena, Tuscan countryside, hilltowns, maybe even Cinque Terre.

Optional - I considered northern Italy and Switzerland as well, but the other 2 are my leading candidates.
dan_woodlief is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 05:35 PM
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I think your children would have more fun with option #1 - more exciting things to see and do and a bit more variety over option #2.

The Tuscan hill towns tend to be quiet without much activity for children and Siena is now overcrowded with tourists. The last time I was there 400 people were allowed into the cathedral at a time and there was a waiting line to get in. I remember the cathedral when there were 4 people inside. And the campo is filled with awful pizzerias and cheap souvenir stands. Very much changed.
adrienne is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 06:30 PM
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This may give you some ideas http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...o-and-rome.cfm

Henry is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 10:16 PM
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I'd definitely stick to #1 with the kids.
chazzarelli is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2010, 01:01 AM
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With kids, Naples, Pompeii and the coast are ideal. "Tuscany" is wine country and popular with retirees who like driving, not climbing.

That said, you might add a day to Rome so you can take a daytrip to Orvieto and see an Etruscan hilltown. The atmospheric medieval streets of Orvieto are very photogenic, as is the cathedral, and the countryside views.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2010, 03:27 PM
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Thanks. You have helped me decide on what area to visit, and I love the Orvieto idea. I will definitely try to work that into the trip.
dan_woodlief is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 10:51 AM
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While Rome is my favorite city in Europe, probably because I am Catholic,it is not a good place for young kids. So I would have picked Wengen in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland and then proceed to Tuscany.

Of the two finalists I would pick door number 2. Naples is a cultural experience, but I would not subject my kids to the people density, pollution, crime, and grittiness. Pompeii is world class but would be tough going for the 7 year old. Capri is not worth the hassle. Amalfi drive is great. Sorrento is nice at sunset.

I am taking my 7 and 11 year old grandchildren (boys), and their parents, to Tuscany in July. We are staying here
The farm boasts a strategic location: just 8 km far away from Siena, close to the most famous cultural and artistic places of the region.
We are staying in the family apartment.Very well-known in the area for its Tuscan cooking, the on-site restaurant-pizzeria Il Mulino di Quercegrossa is characterized by its typical architecture in stone “at sight” and by ancient wooden beams of its ceilings.There are the worlds greatest swimming pools (By restoring the ancient medieval millraces, was born Aqualis. This is a natural park of 7 swimming-pools that are communicating each other and that re-create the ancient path of the natural spring waters).
Gelato here:
Choose from:
Day trips to Pisa (your 7 year old is one year too young for the tower climb),Monteriggioni castle, mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy, San Gimignano, really a jewel of medieval architecture, Volterra, Etruscan town, famous for its alabaster production and for its typical crags, Pienza, the Val d’Orcia and the famous Sienese Crete, the Monte Oliveto Abbey, Sant’Antimo, San Galgano, where you can see the famous legendary “sword in the stone”. And also castles and enchanted medieval villages, scattered in the Chianti hills: the Brolio castle, the San Polo castle, Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole and Greve in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga.

In your case you could visit Rome, take the train to Orvieto, rent a car and drive, with site seeing, north to Mulino di Quercegrossa.
dugi_otok is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 01:25 PM
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If you go to Orvieto, take the kids on the underground tour through the caves. And climb down into the deep, deep well near the top of the funicular.
charnees is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 01:51 PM
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Like I said, Tuscany is popular with retirees.


Have you actually stayed at Mulino Quercgrossa? Or eaten a gelato at Antica Delizia? On what basis are you making these recommendations?
zeppole is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 02:38 PM
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I'd pick the Number 1 option. Think about going to Ostia Antica for a day trip. IMHO more accessible for people than Pompeii (i.e. you can walk around, in and get up closer to things in Ostia than you can in Pompeii). This alone might be more interesting for the kids, especially since they love to explore. It's also more green. I remember Pompeii being kind of dry and hot in September. I also liked Herculaneum more than Pompeii. Capri not worth the hassle? Who says? The ride on the hydrofoil alone is worth it for the kids.

I'd also take them to Naples. Realistically, I don't think kids "see" the pollution or are aware of crime statistics or the "grittiness" that adults do. Naples has a lot of action going on. I found it vibrant and crazy and fun. And the pizza is to die for.

Give your daughter a photography project and see how many interesting doors or fountains or dogs(or whatever she's interested in) she can find to take a picture of.
whoknew is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2010, 05:36 PM
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Hi zeppole

Zeppole said
"Like I said, Tuscany is popular with retirees.
Have you actually stayed at Mulino Quercgrossa? Or eaten a gelato at Antica Delizia? On what basis are you making these recommendations?"

I first visited Tuscany in 1964 and have been back periodically ever since. If you read my profile you will see it listed as one of my favorite destinations. Just because it is popular with retirees doesn't make it bad for kids. Or am I missing something.
I made a statement that I will be staying at Mulino Quercgrossa. The basis for my selection is a trip report by maitaitom on this site, the Mulino website, numerous photos on the web,other reviews, telephone conversations and email exchanges with Mulino Quercgrossa personnel
.................................................. ....

We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored


There, about ten miles from Siena, just to the right of the Karen Valentine Highway(222) nestled in amongst vineyards, stood an oasis of swimming pools (yes, plural). I believe it was Mary who said, “What is this place?”

I made one of my many illegal and dangerous U-turns to accommodate that curiosity. We pulled on to a driveway that took us to the Agritourist il Molino. We got out of the car and walked to the adjacent swimming pools to the left of this lodging and were astounded by what we saw. A swimming complex that would have been a Mark Spitz dream and cost somebody tons of euros.

There was a giant lap pool, wading areas, a regular swimming pool, a place you could just walk out into the water and stand, and bridges that connected certain areas, all set out in the midst of this beautiful vineyard setting. Pretty spectacular. There was a place to get snacks and cocktails and a sitting area where you could have late afternoon drinks or cappuccinos in the morning. Oh yeah, it had a restaurant on the premises, too.

Four minds, one thought. What did this place cost a night? A fortune, we were sure. We went up the stairs and chatted with a woman who knew very limited English and asked her how much a night was it to stay here. She wrote down the nightly cost on a piece of paper and flipped it around for us to see.

I hadn’t looked this surprised since Tracy said she would marry me. “Are you sure?” I exclaimed. Kim then game me a look that usually was reserved for Tracy when she thought I was an idiot. He laughed and said, “Would you feel better if she told you it was more? Why don’t you talk up the price?” I knew he was having a good time ridiculing me, so I let him continue.

The cost per night, per room, was incredibly 60 Euros, and since it was September, guests could use the pool (which was actually a new, local swimming complex) for free. Well, let me backtrack, our room (with balcony) was to be 60 Euros; Kim and Mary’s room - sans balcony - was 55 Euros). Knowing that everyone was disappointed with the Piccolo Oliveta, we booked two rooms for Monday and Tuesday nights, got back in the car and headed back for Siena to tell the hotel we were going to cut our visit short.


…….so we rushed back to Il Mulino for a late afternoon around the pool. For a couple of hours, we sat out in this great setting, the only four people using this huge area. We had cocktails, but even better, one of the pools was a “beach low-level water” pool”, meaning we could walk out and the water only came up a little over the knee. All our aching feet would become rejuvenated in the next two days, with the soothing water and surface providing much needed therapeutic relief. Well, that and the Campari.

Since we had the balcony, Kim and Mary joined us for some Volpaia wine in the early evening and a view of a gorgeous sunset in Chiantiland. Our room was located right over the hotel restaurant, so as people walked in the front, we wondered if they would ask how they get the wonderful outdoor tables.

We all went down to our restaurant for dinner, and sure enough, some Canadians sitting next to us overheard our conversation about our balcony and said, “We saw you guys when we came in and wondered if they had outdoor dining, eh?” OK, they didn’t really say eh.

The restaurant was mostly good, with a couple of slight misses. It is relatively new, and we chatted with one of the owners who had previously owned a restaurant in Napoli and in a nearby town before starting this one. The pork in a balsamic sauce was the night’s big winner and so was the ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta in my beloved Pecorino sauce. The two house wines cost 6 Euro and 12 Euro respectively…and they were pretty tasty.

The bed was fine, and we slept well. Tomorrow would be our relaxing day in Chianti as we would refresh our bodies before hitting the big three of Florence, Venice and Rome before heading home.


Mary and Tracy were at the breakfast table sobbing uncontrollably, complaining that I made them walk too much , Kim was throwing a tantrum over his croissant being too hard and I was threatening to leave these whiners behind at the Il Mulino.

I was so sick of these people that I downed an entire bottle of Campari before breakfast. Oh sorry, that’s Barb’s post.

After a nice sleep, we enjoyed cappuccinos outdoors overlooking the beautiful vineyards surrounding the Il Mulino. Not as exciting as my lead, but boringly true.

Tom’s Tuscan Tours was in relax mode before hitting the “Big Three”, so after breakfast we headed out by the pool for some relaxing reading time. While the others concentrated on convoluted novels, I delved into my new book, “Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini.” The title alone was longer than most books I read, and the book now shares a prominent spot in the Tom and Tracy guest bathroom.

The day was beautiful, and we were the ONLY people who were enjoying this little slice of Chianti heaven. Although we had brought trunks and swimsuits, we quickly adhered to the new Italian terminology of these clothing items. They were now known as our “swimming costumes”, which it was stated would be apropos for pool activities.

As Kim and I tried to figure out how much the swimming complex had cost, we also realized that if we came back in two years, the price of this place would probably be double. “Still, a good bargain,” we said.

Boy, that reading can make you hungry, and damned if it wasn’t time for lunch. We hopped in the car and made the ½ hour drive to Monteriggioni (hill towns, nothing but hill towns). This town, dubbed “The Crown of Italy”, has some ramparts, a nice piazza, restaurants and a church, the Santa Maria Assunta, where Mary could dip her hand in holy water again. It has a population of 60, who must all work at restaurants.

We congratulated ourselves for the find of the trip. If anyone is contemplating staying here, they do have a couple of apartments for families (I think the cost is only 110 euros for an apartment). The menu is in Italian, English and German, and we were told that they do get a good clientele from both Great Britain and Germany.

I love gelato. I did not recommend Antica Delizie, but I am going to try it based on a post on TripAdvisor-"Absolutely the best ice-cream in Tuscany" and Dean's Tuscany restaurant list on slow travel-"My favorite Gelateria in Toscana." My favorite in Rome is Giolitti's.
dugi_otok is offline  
Jun 24th, 2010, 08:16 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 301
Like you, we have been traveling with our two boys since they were babies. We took them to Paris and Italy in 2007; the one turned 9 on our trip, the other turned 11 right after we got home. Your description of your kids could be mine, lol.

We were in Paris for close to a week, then went to Venice for several days. I won't talk about them since that is not on your plate.

Next, we based ourselves in an apt in Lucca for a week and made day trips to Vinci (Vinci museum with replicas of some of DaVinci's inventions; Pisa (climbed the tower, then ran around on the Field of Miracles, walked on the wall by the river, then headed to Viareggio (beach) for the afternoon; Cinque Terre to hike what we could of the trail between the towns; rented bikes and rode the wall in Lucca plus climbed the two towers in town.

Next week went to Orvieto for the day and did the Underground Tour, and Civita de Bagnoregio. Spent the night outside of Rome, then went to Sorrento. Made a day-trip to Pompeii from there.

Then back to Rome for several days. Had a private tour of the ancient sites, which was truly a highlight. Went to St Peter's Basilica and climbed to the top and Castel Sant'Angelo.

The whole trip was marvelous and my children loved every minute. As you can see, we did lots of climbing up things, outdoor activities, wandering around etc.
amamax2 is offline  

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