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Tips on Italy in December/January

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Nov 2nd, 2011, 01:58 PM
  #1
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Tips on Italy in December/January

My wife (who will be 7 months pregnant) and our three young children will be flying into Rome after Christmas and staying through New Year for a total of about a week. We plan to sightsee in Rome for a maximum of 1-2 days but want to get out and see other parts of Italy. We thought about going north to see the Leaning Tower for our kids and then get a house in Tuscany. Or going south and getting a house on the Amalfi Coast as a base for exploring that area. Just trying to get a sense of where services might be more available (I've heard a lot of restaurants, etc may be closed during that time) and differences in weather, etc. Also trying to keep it family-friendly and more on the low-key side given my wife's pregnancy. Any help would be appreciated!
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Nov 2nd, 2011, 03:33 PM
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Weather is so unreliable throughout the darkest days of the year in Italy that you really can't take the risk of bringing a woman 7 months pregnant into the Italian countryside. Likewise the remote Amalfi coast.

If you want services but you don't want Rome, my advice is to take a train to Lucca after Pisa and stay put in a rental apartment. Your children will have a pedestrianzed town to get to know, with a carousel for Christamas, and if the weather turns warm, you can take them bike riding around the walls. Your wife will definitely appreciate that the town is flat. There are trains you can take to Florence if the weather is pleasant and you all feel up to it.
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Nov 2nd, 2011, 05:56 PM
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Bouncing around Italy with 3 kids is not going to be very relaxing for a woman 7 months pregnant. (And do check the airline you are planning ot use - some will not let women fly if they are - or appear to be - too close to delivery - since the increased atlitude can bring on early labor).

I would pick one town/city and get an apartment there - in an area with playgrounds for the kids (I assume they are young). Amalfi Coast is NOT a place to go in midwinter. Many hotels and restaurants are closed, ferries run on reduced schedules - if at all - and you may well not be able to visit Capri. Also, the towns are cut into the side of the cliff and many areas are almost vertical with dozens if not hundreds of steps. And hotel pools will be closed.

Tuscany might be better - if you find an agriturismo with animals that the kids might like - and that serves dinner on the premises. But you can still get weather that is chilly and rainy/sleety - so no one will want to be outdoors all day.
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 01:55 AM
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Thanks for the tips. Yeah, it's a tough call -- rather than sitting around in cold/wet Geneva for the winter holiday, we thought we'd try to get somewhere reasonably close that had a chance of somewhat warmer weather. Thanks for suggestion on Lucca--I like the idea of picking a single pedestrian-oriented place. The reason Rome is the base is that the flights to there are cheapest. We didn't necessarily want to spend our whole time there, though, as it doesn't seem like it would be the most relaxing place. I've never been there so I could be wrong. Any other suggestions for a smaller town (like Lucca but nearer to Rome--decided may not be worth drive all the way to Pisa) that is family-friendly with parks & walkability with services likely to be available at that time?
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:13 AM
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weather2travel.com Climate guides

Better to do Rome and Head south...

No clue bout your budget but was there in May.

Sheraton South Roma $69 Hotwire.com great for my flights

Intercontinental.com Roma Ville on top of Spanish steps

betterbidding.com Priceline $180/nt great 5 star

Head to Sorrento best that time of year more going on

We stayed for $60/nt www.hoteldelfino.com

booked www.otel.com GREAT deal food views.

Frontal rain colder in the north ...

so head south and have fun!

travelforkids.com eurocheapo.com/rome for good info

fun
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:23 AM
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I don't think at that time of year you should plan on driving. Use the trains to get to some place other than Rome where you can rent an apartment. I would not pick an agriturismo in the countryside, or a hilltown, because a snow or ice storm could strand you.

Rome doesn't have to be hectic, but I think you probably would do better in a smaller place where you don't have to worry about traffic, and getting back to the apartment for a rest or to get out of the rain is only matter of walking 10 minutes.

If you don't want to go as far north as Lucca by train, you could consider Cortona, or Arezzo, all of which are big enough to be year-round small cities with services. If you look at train schedules, you will see that train travel from Rome to Lucca is about 3 hours (with a switch in Florence) and train travel to Cortona or Arezzo is slightly over 2 hours.

I tend to think that Lucca has the most kid-friendly parks activities. All three towns, as well as Pisa, can be reached by train. Cortona is the closest to Rome, but it is the least flat, and the one with the fewest train connections to places of outstanding interest. Lucca has the best options for interesting day trips, with train connections to Pisa, Florence, Montecatini Alta (an old funiculare chugs up a hill) and even pretty coastal walks if the weather turns out to be dry and sunny.

If the weather is fantastic, you can rent a car in Pisa, Arezzo or Cortona when you get there. But I would reserve that decision, because you will pay a lot for a car big enough for your family and actually get very little use of it if you are staying in a small city, and you will pay a lot to park it. Also, you definitely don't want to be stuck with a car if the weather turns unsafe to be driving. Trains will run in weather where cars stay off the roads.

Wherever you rent or stay for lodgings, explain that your wife is pregnant and that you have small children and get a solid guarantee of plenty of heat. In some apartment rentals, you may be asked to pay extra for it.
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:31 AM
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PS: If in the end you decide you want to head south, Sorrento is the only location other than chaotic Naples where you will find sufficient services. You really must double check on heat in Sorrento, so you have it if you need it. I think there is much less to do in Sorrento if the weather is too cold to be outdoors most of the time. The biggest attractions of Sorrento are its proximity to Pompeii and the availability of bus rides to the Amalfi coast or boat rides to Capri. However, your wife may not be up to a trek through Pompeii, and the kids may not be able to handle the sometimes nauseating bus or winter boat rides to scenic destinations.
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 03:22 AM
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If you're in Geneva and wouldn't mind central Italy, then you can forget about planes and take the comfortable train - more comfortable and safer for a pregnant wife. You could even drive and that would really widen the options. The weather can be rainy or brilliantly clear in Tuscany just after Christmas but it will for sure be cold so make sure your house has central heating and /or a fireplace. There's useful relevant info on http://www.bella-toscana.com/
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 06:01 AM
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The weather can also be icy and snowy in Tuscany at that time of year, and unexpectedly so.

If your youngest children are old enough to wear backpacks and thus need no assistance with luggage, leaving you free to carry your wife's luggage along with your own, then you can easily use the trains. Renting an apartment with a washing machine will really help your kids pack very light.

But if one or more of your children is too little for a backpack, negotiating train stations and trains during the extremely busy holiday season is going to be quite a challenge. In that instance, I suggest you rent a suitably sized apartment in Rome that has a washing machine, good heating and an ELEVATOR. The area around via Cola di Rienzo might be a good place to target -- a fairly residential area with more modern infrastructue, plenty of great pizza and informal kid-friendly eateries, lots of food shops, enough car-free nearby to let the kids run around (including St Peter's). You'd want a taxi to the Colosseum and the Forum, but otherwise there's lots of attractions reachable by foot, and plenty of fun shops along the pedestrianized via di Ripetta and the via Margutta across the river.

Another possibility would be to rent a car right at the airport and then head directly to lodgings outside of Rome. I honestly believe it is not wise for your wife to be in areas of the countryside where weather could suddenly strand you there, nor would it be a good idea to rent a country villa where owners are not on the property. The small art city of Cortona would give you the reassurance of full services right at hand.
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:47 PM
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Thanks again for everyone's help. We've been doing a lot of train travel around Europe thus far, but there's definitely a tradeoff between the convenience/flexibility for the kids and duration of travel. But definitely food for thought as it sounds like we might be more oriented to points north of Rome and closer to trains to Milan/Florence from Geneva. So is it safe to say that the weather may not differ significantly at that time of year between places as far north as Lucca and as far south as Sorrento? An assumption that the south would be warmer was driving my original plan. Also, as a family of 5 (although youngest child is a baby) we ran into a pretty rigid rule of max 4 passengers in taxis in Barcelona--is this also the case in Rome? Any other tips on kid/family/pedestrian-friendly towns to use as a home base for exploring would be appreciated! Zeppole, do you mean the Cortona by Peruggia? Actually, any thoughts on Peruggia?
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 03:28 PM
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The south will be warmer, but your only option for a "base" is really Sorrento, which is a full-fledged summer resort town that will be half-shut up in winter. There is next to nothing to do if the weather gets lousy except go to Naples -- and the chaotic traffic and grit there, and the wild goings on around New Year's Eve is probably not what you want. If the weather is sunny, you can of course go out to Pompei from Sorrento, or get a bus or rent a car to drive the Amalfi Coast. But how well will your pregnant wife be with a trek around Pompei (and it is a trek)? Can ll the family tolerate a possibly nauseating bus or car ride along the cliffs of the Amalfi? The towns will be fairly shut up and there is not much for kids to do except climb stairs.

There is no guarantee you will have nice weather anywhere in Italy, and around Lucca or anywhere north of Rome you could get very frigid weather, even snow. The only advice I can give you is to stay someplace where you have services -- good heat, lots of shops, enough indoor activities, medical help at your doorstep should you need it or should bad weather force you indoors. Don't strand yourselves in some scenic or farm location.

I think Perugia is too steep for your wife. It is a ziggeraut town mostly made up of staircases. Lucca and Cortona are better bets. Rome is a better bet, but ratchet down your ambitions for conquering the city if you stay there. Pick a corner of Rome and enjoy it, and venture out further if you have the energy. I don't know the rules for Roman taxis -- you can put up a separate thread to ask, which might be a very good idea, since you are landing there.

If you use public transportation around Rome, use money belts and carry as few valuables on you as possible. Rome is not a dangerous city, but it has plenty of clever pickpockets who will spy an opportunity with a large family. If you got by in Barcelona, Rome isn't going to throw you. Just take the same precautions.

If you are thinking of taking a train from Switzerland, both Trento and Verona have high quality services, plenty of pedestrianzed areas, and should be very Christmasy. (Trento especially.) They will probably be frigid, but Italy is a land of 1,000 microclimates. Nobody can tell you if it will be stormy in Sorrrento and sunny in Verona or Lucca, or vice versa.

I have never been to Lugano, but I know they have palm trees, so you might check it out.

The bottom line of my advice to you is that you need to stay inside small or large cities that have full services in winter.
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Nov 3rd, 2011, 03:37 PM
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Another thought is to fly on from Rome to Catania in Sicily, base yourselves in Siracusa/Ortigia, and do a little driving around there. Ortigia is the old part of Siracusa, an island with little car traffic. The weather should be noticeably better in Sicily -- but no guarantees.
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Nov 4th, 2011, 01:06 AM
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Personally, I would not drive in Sicily with many children and a pregnant wife.
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Nov 5th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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zeppole, why not? And does the same apply to mainland Italy?

In a car you at least have all the kids and all your luggage contained together.
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Nov 5th, 2011, 01:13 PM
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Given the age of our boys and our need to stay within close proximity of a good hospital (just in case), we'll probably stick with either Rome or Florence. Do you have a view on which has more for kids? I notice that Rome has a children's museum and zoo, not sure about Florence. Does one have more parks/playgrounds? From Florence, we could go see the Leaning Tower which may be more interesting for our young children than the historical sights of Rome (which would be interesting for us). Looks like Rome would be a bit warmer also--but my impression of Rome is that it's hectic, full of traffic and not relaxing. Again, I'm open to being shown otherwise. Thanks for everyone's input!
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