Tuscany or Emilia-Romagna with baby?

Old May 13th, 2021, 01:41 PM
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Tuscany or Emilia-Romagna with baby?

Hi there! My husband and I are planning on a trip to Italy in the fall 2021 (if it's safe and open to Americans) for 3 weeks. We will be bringing our daughter who will be 20 months old then. We will likely fly into Rome and stay for a few days before heading either to Tuscany or Emilia Romagna. Our plan would be to stay in a city like Florence or Bologna and then head into the countryside. Any input on which would be best for a baby? She is happy to be strolled around in her stroller for hours and I know that might be tough in a city like Florence, where there is a lot of cobblestone. We'd prefer to stay in one area as opposed to try and see it all since we will already be a bit slowed down by the baby. We love art, food, and of course, beautiful views. Would love any input on where to go or even a new spot that maybe we aren't aware of!
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Old May 13th, 2021, 02:25 PM
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Which area of Tuscany appeals the most? It's very varied. If you would like to use public transport, then I'd check out which has the best train routes. Buses are okay but slightly more hassle with a stroller. For example, Emilia Romagna has a better train network than Val D'Orcia, which is more serviced by buses, but northern Tuscany has reasonable train links.

I'd invest in a baby backpack. They allow you to travel more freely over rough services and give bubs a better experience. Some come with little wheels if that helps. Bologna has a lot of covered arcades with smooth paths but they are fairly frequently interrupted by steps for intersecting streets. Much less jolting than cobblestones though.
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Old May 13th, 2021, 05:12 PM
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Big wheels are better for cobblestones - those jogging-style prams are helpful as the wheels stand up to the juddering better. However we did a lot of Germany / Austria with cobblestones when our daughter was little and we had a lightweight $20 pram with tiny hard wheels and our daughter regularly responded to the juddering by falling asleep, whereupon we found a cafe, pushed the pram back so she lay prone and put a blanket over her and let her sleep it off. We just had a throwaway pram in case something happened to it as we had to travel a lot for work, but if I were to invest, it would be one with big wheels.

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Old May 13th, 2021, 05:46 PM
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To be honest, I don't know a lot about Tuscany but like the looks of a place like Lucca with rolling hills and mountains in the background. Ideally, we'd stay somewhere scenic that either in a town or walkable to town. Good to note about the train network in Emilia Romagna. I think we would prefer to travel by train. And we will definitely be bringing our baby backpack as well as a stroller. Thank you so much for your help!
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Old May 13th, 2021, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
Big wheels are better for cobblestones - those jogging-style prams are helpful as the wheels stand up to the juddering better. However we did a lot of Germany / Austria with cobblestones when our daughter was little and we had a lightweight $20 pram with tiny hard wheels and our daughter regularly responded to the juddering by falling asleep, whereupon we found a cafe, pushed the pram back so she lay prone and put a blanket over her and let her sleep it off. We just had a throwaway pram in case something happened to it as we had to travel a lot for work, but if I were to invest, it would be one with big wheels.

Lavandula
Thank you! This is good to know. We will likely invest in a stroller that can handle cobblestone streets!
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Old May 13th, 2021, 11:40 PM
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Cobblestones all over the place.

Tuscany (northern) along the Florence/Pisa valley have great train links so that includes Lucca, I could well imagine staying in one of these cities ( or even some of the smaller ones) and just doing train journeys along the valley and to the coast. Going south into hilly Tuscany is harder.

E-R is more or less the south of the PO valley, again the train systems are good and you have a bunch of cities that link up well with a great hub of Bologna. The real south of E-R is very hilly so the trains peter out there

If it were me I'd try and find a nice little hotel/appartment with a few regular places I could go. Many Italians love babies (the family is generally more trusted than the state) so your baby is a passport into local life as much as a way to win tables in restaurants etc.

Lucca is a great base, very flat (unlike Siena which is all pushing up hill) and very few cars (unlike Florence) and the passegiato (the evening wander around, is very comfortable). I think the lack of cars in town is critical, even the cyclists are calm.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 04:31 AM
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Originally Posted by dreamon View Post
Which area of Tuscany appeals the most? It's very varied. If you would like to use public transport, then I'd check out which has the best train routes. Buses are okay but slightly more hassle with a stroller. For example, Emilia Romagna has a better train network than Val D'Orcia, which is more serviced by buses, but northern Tuscany has reasonable train links.

I'd invest in a baby backpack. They allow you to travel more freely over rough services and give bubs a better experience. Some come with little wheels if that helps. Bologna has a lot of covered arcades with smooth paths but they are fairly frequently interrupted by steps for intersecting streets. Much less jolting than cobblestones though.
Thumbs up for baby backpack! We had Manduca several years ago while travelling but I guess they make good products still today. It gives a lot more freedom to move then strollers. I would consider one of those if I was you.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 05:23 AM
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Another city you might like in this general area is Padua (Padova) but that is just north of your planned area. A glorious old city centre, little traffic and good train links to Verona/Venice and down to Bologna.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 07:20 AM
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These are all wonderful recommendations. Thank you! Seems like both Tuscany and E-R are good options. Now just have to choose! Being able to also see Venice if we went to E-R would be fun. But Tuscany seems incredibly beautiful. I've been to Florence twice before (years ago) but my husband has not. Does anyone have any input on one vs the other? Better food in one area? Is the art all around best in Florence? We love the artist Morandi and looks like there is a Morandi Museum in Bologna.

Also, is it possible to travel without a carseat and only take public transport? We are dreading lugging around that huge carseat.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 07:55 AM
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I've cycled around both and used trains as back up. Trenitalia is a great website but has its own idiosyncratic issues. Try seat61. Com to understand the rules, bahn.de is good for the timetable. There are basically two types of train , fast and slow. Fast requires seat bookings and the slow which is a fun free for all, easy access and cheap. Buses tend to fill the gaps but there are Pullman which are long distance buses. Pretty good and relatively punctual. Loos in slow trains are not always perfect but even the smaller stations will have reasonable ones or a bar nearby.

I have been to Italy at least 12 times and only used a car twice. So I'd give it a go. Taxis are very professional ( drivers are middle class and keen to show high standards).

Food: in tourist areas you get tourist food and pay for it. Step back a block and generally quality goes up and prices down. E-R is famous for its food, Tuscany is famous for its wine and truffles.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 08:02 AM
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Ravenna used to be the capital of Roman empire and it shows, Faenza has a world class pottery museum, Padua has some nice churches.

Siena has a cathedral that makes Florence's look like a hack's job. Frankly get a library book of Italian art or look at the Rough guide for Italy both are great value.

My only warning would continue that the Tuscan hills are harder to travel in by public transport than the north or E-R, a fair bit harder which might end up with having to kill hours especially around lunch time when stuff slows down.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 08:38 AM
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The Uffizi is hard to beat especially, Roman statues, early religious and then realistic (Holbein) to the 19th. There is very little like the Uffizi in the world, plus the Boboli gardens, the cathedral and the baptestry. But Pisa has the golden field and Siena the main square del campo and the Duomo.

Thereafter many other places had to avoid the French stealing their stuff, the Germans, the Brits, the Americans .. etc etc. So old buildings did pretty well as they were less damageable or stealable. Venice has some great buildings like Padua, Ferrara, Modena

Or you could visit food making places in E-R or the Ferrari centre say.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 10:17 AM
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Does anyone have any input on one vs the other? Better food in one area? Is the art all around best in Florence? We love the artist Morandi and looks like there is a Morandi Museum in Bologna.
Your inclination toward an artist is one way to help choose. As far as food, I would not say "better" but different. I love to get into the nitty gritty of regional food variations--that can inspire a trip as well. Even within Tuscany I found marked differences in food. You can't really go wrong either way, but it helps to find something that pulls you in one direction. Fall means mushrooms and hearty food, like boar in Tuscany especially--and really both areas excel at that!
RE the car seat, will you be using it for the flight? (I don't know when this requirement ends, etc.) If you are taking it anyway, you might as well rent a car at some point and see the countryside. Could be a nice way to enjoy nap time!
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Old May 14th, 2021, 01:12 PM
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I don't know whether it is legal but when my son was very young and I had to travel in a taxi which did not have a carseat, I put him in a fabric sling on the front of me and then put the seat belt around both of us. (The sling allowed him to face towards me or away from me.) I didn't do it often but it felt safe enough for the occasional car or bus journey. The sling folded up into almost nothing.

Bologna has such good train links that if you want to use public transport, then I'd choose there. But with three weeks, can you not have a week in each of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Rome? Maybe Bologna, Lucca (or Siena) and Rome? You could fly into Bologna and out of Rome. Choose your bases and any day trips you'd like to take, then I'd check rome2rio to see how best to travel between places. And if you are doing day trips, remember that you don't have to do them. If you wake up in the morning and don't feel like going, then don't. And split up occasionally - you and your partner can head in different directions for a few hours, maybe one to the park or piazza with junior and the other to a gallery (or something like that). That may seem obvious but while the joys of travelling as a family are clear, the feeling of being fancy free for a few hours (or a day) in a strange place is wonderful. Apologies if that's a complete a motherhood statement but so many people stick like glue together when travelling.

If you do end up in Lucca, I recommend seeing if you can hire a bike with a child seat and cycle around the town walls and maybe out along the river.

I so envy you this opportunity.

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Old May 14th, 2021, 01:24 PM
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dreamon Absolutely! I am considering doing all three spots now. That sounds like a great plan. And yes, we are very keen on the idea of splitting up every now and then. I used to travel solo a lot and miss those days of wandering through a foreign city by myself! Right now I'm thinking Rome to Tuscany (Lucca or Sienna) and then to Bologna with day trips to smaller towns. That way we get the big city feel in Rome, a smaller town feel with Lucca or Sienna and then a medium size city feel with Bologna. (correct me if I'm wrong here!) Seems very achievable with the train system. Now the goal will be how to travel light with stroller, pack n play, and maybe carseat in tow! For a base in Emilia Romagna, is Bologna the best spot for us to stay?
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Old May 14th, 2021, 01:55 PM
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Bologna is a good place to stay, loads of students. Great access to other towns.

Me being fussy, but hopefully helpful as well.

Italian is a very clear language as long as you spell it right. Sienna is a woman's name, Siena is an Italian city. To an Italian they sound very different. There is no such competition as Spelling Bee in Italian.

I like the idea of 3 bases.

Italian law is very strict on children in cars. But why not rent them when you rent a car?

Last edited by bilboburgler; May 14th, 2021 at 01:58 PM.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 10:19 PM
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Great advice above.

We love going by train and we love both Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. I use both Bahn.de and Rome2Rio -- sometimes use Trainline to book ahead for major legs. But, renting a car for parts of the journey could be handy, maybe for a couple of days tooling around Tuscany.

In Tuscany, one thought might be an agriturismo in a smaller town near Florence, but one on a bus route, such as Impruneta--about a half-hour ride from Florence. The big blue busses are comfortable and on time. Other direction from Lucca, Arezzo is on the train line but a medium-sized rather than small town.

In Emilia-Romagna we love to stay in Ravenna, about a 40 min. train from Bologna, and much smaller (outlying areas not so attractive but a real jewel close to antique center) -- incredible centuries-old mosaics and contemporary ones. Wonderful Piazza del Popolo, apperitivo hour with complimentary snacks around the piazza and throughout town, and wonderful passagiata in the early evenings. Lodging and food are both quite reasonable. AND, the antique center is for pedestrians and bikes only!

But Bologna is definitely central for trips there and Ferrara and other towns. As mentioned above, Bologna has those long stretches of covered sidewalks for the baby buggy, though plenty of foot traffic. Beware that it hosts many conferences and lodging can be booked up or sky high in price.

Bologna's about two and a half hours by fast train from Rome; Venice a couple hours more, so definitely doable. So Rome, Florence, Bologna-ER/Venice could work well.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 08:13 AM
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These are all awesome recommendations! We will be flying in and out of Rome since flights seem to be best priced with that option. Not sure of the exact order yet but we will stay in Rome for three nights before heading to Tuscany or E-R with about a week in each spot. I just want to make sure we have a small town experience as well as a lesser touristy medium town. Ravenna looks lovely as well, thanks for the tip annw. Still have a ways to plan but getting a better idea. We may opt to rent a car in Tuscany and if we do, we will rent a carseat so we don't have to carry it around. If anyone else has any crucial tips for traveling abroad with a baby, spill!
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Old May 15th, 2021, 12:51 PM
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If you are flying home from Rome, then I'd stay in Rome last to minimise the stress of missing your flight. To avoid moving hotels an extra time, you could travel to Bologna on arrival in Italy - but it does depend a bit on how long you will have been travelling to get there. As adults, that would be easy but if bubs is tired and cranky might be harder, in which case you may be better splitting your week in Rome into two separate stays. Anyway, something to consider.

I would also check out what the risk is of kids catching COVID before making bookings. This pandemic is a long way from over.
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Old May 16th, 2021, 11:56 AM
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I highly recommend flying into one airport and out of another close to your last destination if at all possible. Round-trip to Rome might be less expensive at first glance, but don't forget to add in the cost to travel back to Rome to get the flight home. Also consider the "cost" of the hassle of another train trip with a baby to get there, and I assume you will have to change trains in Rome to get to the airport. But, as mentioned, it's best to be in the city you're flying home from the night before.
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