We’re off on an Italy Vacation with Travel Mom Amy on this episode as her family explores Rome, Florence and Venice.
For more vacation inspiration, check out all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!
Tell Us About Your Italy Vacation
We had the classic Italy starter trip for my sons’ spring break in March.
I have two sons, one is 15 and a freshman in high school, and then my other son is 11 and in fifth grade. My high schooler is taking Latin and thinking about all things Rome. So that was his choice for the trip. We had 8 days, and we packed in Rome with a side trip to Vesuvius and Pompeii, Florence with a side trip to the Tuscan countryside, and Venice. My Mom also joined us on the trip.
Our travel style is to be on the go, which was very conducive to this trip as we covered a lot of territory.
Italy Vacation: Rome
We started in Rome and stayed in a hotel I highly recommend, Palazzo Scanderbeg. It’s in a tiny piazza, 50 feet from the Trevi fountain, but far enough away that you feel like you’re outside the crowds. It was perfect for families as we had plenty of room to spread out, it was an efficiency, and we had someone who brought in our food every morning, which made it very special and fun for the kids.
Golf Cart Tour
The first event we planned was a Golf Car Tour on the first night at six o’clock. They are becoming more popular in Rome. We requested to do it at night so we got to see things lit up and we had great views of the city. We also found doing something like this on the first day/night gives us an orientation of the city.
We worked with LivTours for all our tours. I can’t sing their praises enough. On every tour we went on with them, we had a local guide, someone who was thoughtful and easy to work with, and flexible and had great stories.
We went to see the Cat Sanctuary where KeeKee lands in KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Rome, Italy book. Although tip…don’t go at night as you won’t see many cats. >^..^<
Our guide also told us about his favorite gelato place and that all gelato is not good gelato (don’t be fooled by gelato that looks puffy and has a lot of toppings on it).
The next day we spent a really long time in the Colosseum and did the Forum tour, which was incredible. Again, we had a great guide who was both local and a real expert. It was a private tour, so she could gear it towards the kids and translate things into language that was easy for them to understand, and made it relatable without making it feel like it was a kid tour.
And then one of the neatest things is that since June of last year, you can now tour the bottom level of the Colosseum with a guide. On this level, we got to see things like where the animals were held, and you could walk the area where the gladiators actually came in, and you see the whole underbelly.
Roma Soccer Game
That night the boys and I wanted to have a really authentic Italian experience. So we went to an A.S. Roma game. Live Italia had an amazing package designed for visitors who are soccer fans.
We had great seats, and we were really with the Romans cheering on their favorite team. It was really magical. It was one of the most authentic cultural experiences we had. We arrived early, and the guide toured us around and told us about the songs they would sing and their meaning. They gave us a scarf so we could participate because there’s a ritual when they sing. The boys just loved it.
Vesuvius & Pompeii Day Trip
The next day was our day in Vesuvius and Pompeii. We had a driver take us down so we could sleep in the car after our late night before (it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive).
We had a tour through Pompeii with a great guide in his late sixties. He grew up as a child right on the other side of the walls, and the ruins of Pompeii were his playground. So he had great personal anecdotes. The history was so fascinating.
Then, we climbed Vesuvius, which was much more strenuous than expected. It was mesmerizing, but it was a hike. We went all the way up to the crater, and it took us a little while, but it was well worth it.
And they planned a great lunch for us in a sunlit restaurant on our way up. You are right on Vesuvius with beautiful views. It was gorgeous.
The next day we went to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. I love art and history. The boys love history. They’re beginning to appreciate art, but we knew there would be many art, museums, and ruins throughout the trip. So instead of doing a four-hour guided tour of the Vatican, we did it on our own to spend as much or as little time as we wanted.
We had a great, self-guided tour. We all downloaded the Rick Steves guided audio tour, which is free where you get your podcasts. So my kids probably listened to about half of it, but I was able to listen and then guide them and point out things.
Rome Food Tour
One of my insights from our Iceland trip was you can get history on many different tours. Many of the stories are the same, or the things people point out are the same, so my boys, being growing boys, really love it when there’s food involved. So we decided on a Pizza and Gelato Food Tour.
And we had, again, a great local guide, who is a sommelier so he was well equipped to talk about pizza and gelato. That was easy for him. But he also had great recommendations for wine, and he had great recommendations for restaurants in the other places that we went. And we crossed the bridge to Trastevere to explore. It was a great night.
Italy Vacation: Florence
The next day we took the train to Florence, an easy ride. We got into Florence, and our hotel was two minutes from the train station, so we could walk to it. It was called Grand Hotel Minerva, and I would highly recommend it
It’s on the beautiful Santa Maria Novella piazza. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we had a beautiful lunch on the piazza and sat outside in the sun.
After lunch, we had a tour with an American who actually has teenagers and has been living in a suburb of Florence for 15 years. She had also done an academic program in Florence. So she really knew the art, the history, everything, and was prepared to have teenagers.
The first thing we did was we went to a little jewelry shop in a little basement with a jeweler who is 96. He has been doing this since he was 15, taught by his father, who his grandfather taught.
He showed us how the jewelry was made and talked about the symbolism used in the jewelry and how he reflects the artisans of Florence. And it was a beautiful family business, almost out of a storybook.
We ended with David at the Accademia Gallery. And our guide, Molly, was really perfect in knowing just how much context and information to give.
The next day we went out into the Tuscan countryside, and we had a driver take us, which made it possible. We really struggled to figure out where we wanted to go because there are so many great options that are family-friendly and there are so many great little towns and places that we could have spent all day at.
So we decided to do three things. We went to a family-owned winery, a small one, and a family-owned olive oil distillery. And then we went to San Gimignano, which is a little fortress town, at the end of our day.
We had this great tour of a winery. It was a family that told us all about the science of it, which the boys actually found to be interesting. Then we went to an olive oil distillery, and the nephew took us around the property and showed us everything from how the olives are grown to the equipment and the machinery used to make it. And the boys really found that interesting. And then we had the loveliest lunch I might have ever had. The grandmother cooked the food, and the nephew served it. It was picturesque and beautiful.
It was a nice way to experience the food culture. The kids were inspired to try new things because there was this wonderful grandmother cooking for us, and it just felt really special.
We finished our day in San Gimignano. We spent an hour and a half there, and that included getting gelato at the controversial best gelato in the world shop. One of their flavors was garden vegetable, tomato basil flavored. Everyone seemed to smirk when they said this was the world’s best gelato. But there was a line around the corner. And we spent the time hiking through this kind of fortress city, climbing little staircases to look out on Tuscany.
Italy Vacation: Venice
We had decided to go ahead and venture to Venice for this trip as the boys hadn’t been, and it’s so magical. It’s an easy train ride from Florence, so that was our last stop.
We indulged in taking a private boat taxi from the train station to our hotel rather than taking a water taxi. We got on this beautiful boat with just us, and it was like out of a movie. And they took us to our hotel, which was on the Grand Canal but tucked away, Hotel L’Orologio. It was a lovely hotel with a watch motif, with a little restaurant and bar on the ground floor and a little patio up top where you could get a great view of Venice.
And one of the best things for us was it was very close to everything so we could easily explore in our short time there.
We also chose a food tour here which was excellent. We knew it was going to be different, much more seafood and a different kind of Italian cuisine. And my kids are open to trying things on vacation but not too adventurous. So our guide knew that and ensured we had a good mix of food for everyone.
It was really useful because we had a local guide that navigated us through the back streets of the city. So we were in neighborhoods that we never would’ve made it to had we been on our own.
Gondola Ghost Tour
Then for our final night, we wanted to do a gondola ride and found this gondola ghost tour.
So we took a gondola ride with a guide, and then we walked around for a couple of hours and heard stories about ghost tales from different parts of Venice. And we were in little nooks and crannies that we would never have been in otherwise. It was fun and different, and we learned a lot about the history and the local customs of Venice.
What’s your next trip?
We are going to Germany for summer vacation, to Berlin, then Munich and the Bavarian Alps. In the Alps, we’re staying at Schloss Elmau, a historic castle home to G7 summits. It has some history and looks like a beautiful place in the mountains where we’ll do outdoor stuff. So a trip with history, city, food, and culture. And then, the outdoor stuff that we love to do on vacation.
🇮🇹 🌍 🇮🇹 🌍
For more family vacation inspiration, tune in to all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!