Traveling with kids and teens in Italy is a natural combination. Pizza, pasta, gelato, beautiful cities and wonderfully welcoming people who adore children, what’s not to love! If you you are traveling with a baby, you will be a big hit with the Italian locals, as children are treasured.
Last summer I planned a trip to Italy for some friends and their three teenage boys. I researched all things that would appeal to teens in Rome and Tuscany.
I came up with a few bike tours; one on cruiser bikes in the pedestrian area of Florence and one on Appia Anitica (Appian way) mountain biking over the ancient cobbles outside of Rome.
The boys got to be gladiators for day, learning from some of the trainers that coached the actors in the film, The Gladiator. They seem to love the Piazza Navonna and returned at the end of their trip to hear a fabulously funny old man lip sync to pop hits!
Of course, with teen boys, you can not go wrong with a pool, some pigs on a farm and a torture museum. I loved that they loved uncle Giancarlo of Podere Spedalone in Tuscany (previous blog) and how the boys found respect for this man and helped out where they could (read dishes).
Their father, John, gives his account of their trip, traveling in Italy with teens and his experience with Custom Tuscany (Thanks John!)…His guest blog follows:
My wife and I had taken our 3 boys to Europe a couple of times before last summer. Somehow we had not yet made it to Italy though. So as the summer of 2010 was approaching Italy became our destination. Fortunately my wife had a good friend, Betsy Bothe of Custom Tuscany to turn to for advice.
After about 5 minutes of conversing with Betsy it became obvious that we would need her help. Traveling with our boys (14, 13, 11) we needed to find a balance between the educational aspects and the pure fun activities that we wanted. Betsy knowledge of Italy over many years convinced us to have her plan a few days in Rome followed by a week in Tuscany.
The planning started with meetings between my wife and Betsy. My wife LOVES being a tourist, walking through churches, museums and such. The boys and I like ruins, biking and generally anything that keeps us moving.
A week or two before our departure I was invited to see the trip itinerary that Betsy had put together with my wife. I was truly amazed. The preparation that had gone into three binders was beyond what I had ever expected. We had pages of itineraries with flight details, train schedules, maps, contact phone numbers, etc. Talk about details, she even provided phone numbers to call in case we lost any credit cards we carried!! We had photo copies of all of our identification, very detailed maps of biking trails in Tuscany that Betsy had ridden, as she and her husband are bike freaks. We had the name and the cell number of the guide she had hired to give us a private tour of the Coliseum in Rome (highly recommended). Betsy had set up a private biking tour on the Appian Way in Rome with Roberto. Again highly recommended. She found a large private apartment in the perfect location in Rome, right near Spanish steps.
Arriving in Tuscany by train, we were met by her friend who was renting us a van for our stay there. Best yet, Betsy had found us the perfect place to stay in Tuscany. Let me start by saying that I hope to return to Tuscany. Perhaps many times. But as long as Giancarlo will have us, I will only stay at Podere Spedalone. Why? I am sure there are comparable places in this beautiful part of the world. However, I’ve never experienced the joy of becoming “family” while traveling.
A prettier setting you won’t find. Anyone considering staying there will have read up on the history, the grounds, the pool, etc. Betsy suggested that we eat at least one dinner with Giancarlo and proceeded to make reservations at a variety of local restaurants for most of our 7 night stay. She assured us that Giancarlo was an excellent chef and host. Arriving late the first afternoon we settled in for our first meal in Tuscany. On the back patio, looking west across the rolling hillside and the sunset beyond, we enjoyed cheeses and a concoction of sparkling wine and local fruit. The dinner inside that followed was interesting in that it was as good an Italian meal as I had probably ever had, yet was in such a warm and relaxed rustic setting. My brain told me that I’d have to have been in some very expensive restaurant in Manhattan to find food like this, yet here I was in what felt like my Uncle Giancarlo’s private home. We had found our Tuscan home!
During the day we did our tourist activities, seeking out churches, biking to an organic farm and so much more. With the exception of one night, we ate all our dinners WITH Giancarlo. Simply because we could not have eaten better, felt more at home and been able to learn Italian history and culture from a true renaissance man. A bonus was that my boys got to help serve and cleanup and spend time with Giancarlo. It was interesting to see kids who generally don’t help out much around our house transform and consistently ask Giancarlo what they can do. Besides working in and around the meals, they loved slopping the hogs and even got to cut grass with a riding mower.
We knew we’d love Italy and we were not disappointed. We were very fortunate to have found Betsy and Custom Tuscany. The logistics of travel, lodging, transportation, meals, activities, in a foreign country are always hard. We are a family that likes to explore and be on our own. No conventional tours for us, we need more freedom to be flexible. Looking back on our trip, Betsy made a good trip to a great country just about perfect. Now we need to get Giancarlo to visit us to return the hospitality he showed us.
Don’t be afraid to travel with kids, especially in Italy. You will always cherish those memories with your entire family in such a special place. My daughter has been traveling in Italy since she was a baby, at dinner our Italian family would pass her around the table. She now loves all-things Italian and as a teen gourmand, savours excellent olive oil and truffles on her pizza, but not the chocolate kind-hee!
To learn more about traveling in Italy with small children or teens contact Betsy at Custom Tuscany.