It doesn’t matter if your kids are old enough to travel to Italy. The country is safe and fun. Italian culture is also one of the most child-friendly cultures in the world. Italians are open-minded and friendly to all ages. Don’t be surprised if your child helps you cross cultural barriers with locals. It will be the most memorable trip of their lives, as they get to see amazing sights, learn about new cultures, and enjoy delicious Italian food.
Our guide will show you how to make your trip to Italy as fun and educational as possible.
Start the excitement early
Start preparing your family for your trip a few months in advance. The best books for this area are age-appropriate ones about Italy and Rome. You can make your children more excited about seeing the places you plan to take them. Here’s a list of our top books on Italy for young readers. We’d love to hear about your favorites, so please leave a comment.
Strega Nona The classic Tomie dePaola picture book is loved by both adults and children. Walks HQ always has at least one copy.
The Roman Mysteries Caroline Lawrence’s series on young detectives in the Roman Empire spans 20 books. All of them are beloved by young readers, and well-respected by educators and Classics fans. Perhaps there is no better way to introduce young readers to the first century AD than through this accessible and fun book. Many of the first books were set in Rome. However, you will find at least one story about every place you visit in Italy.
The Thieflord: This is a stand-alone, YA novel that takes place in the narrow streets and winding canals of Venice. Cornelia Funke, a German children’s author and best-selling author of Inkheart, wrote this hilarious adventure that is loved by both children as well as adolescents.
City: An Story of Roman Planning & Construction: This book is for visually-oriented children. David Macaulay creates a fictional Roman city with detailed building diagrams that show the key elements of Roman architecture. This is a must-read if you plan to visit Pompeii or the Roman Forum.
Ancient Rome- Eyewitness Books – Another stalwart on the Walks bookshelf. This book brings Eyewitness’ all-seeing eye to the art, architecture and relics from ancient Rome. It’s written for younger readers but we still find ourselves using it as a reference.
Children’s Travel Guides/Scavenger Hunts There are many books that provide tasks, information, and ways for kids to understand and enjoy the sights and sounds they see during their trip. They are loved by some, while others find them tedious and over-prescribed. They are most effective when parents are available to accompany their children on the scavenger hunts and tasks they contain. It is a good idea to do some research on the options available and determine if they are right for you.
Make sure your kids are able to enjoy the sights and activities you plan.
In each day’s schedule, include a place that is of particular interest to your child. You know your child better than anyone, so ask him/her what interests you. Do you think she would prefer to be outdoors hiking up Mt. She could be outside hiking up Mt. Vesuvius, or on Positano’s sandy beaches. Would he prefer to see the Pitti Palace’s costumes and armory? It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, it is important to set aside some time each day for something active. Even the most child-friendly museums can be too much for children who need to get out and play in the fresh air. However, you shouldn’t expect to find large playgrounds in Italy. It is a common practice for Italians to take their children to local parks and/or public plazas for recreation and ball games.
Insiders’ Tip: It can be difficult for children to play in the sand on Italy’s Mediterranean shores. You can find information on where to find family-friendly beaches by visiting our blogs on the top beaches in Italy as well as the best beaches close to Rome, Florence and Venice.
These are our top picks for kids’ attractions in Italy.
Colosseum – There is a reason that this iconic symbol of Rome is so beloved. It’s captivating for all ages. It’s worth taking a moment to learn about the gladiator fights and other spectacles that took place in the arena, especially for children.
The Aquarium of Genoa It’s one of Europe’s largest aquariums and features outstanding displays of marine life from around the globe, as well as some large tanks.
The Catacombs of Rome are a perennial favorite for kids on Walks of Italy tours. The Capuchin Crypt contains real human remains. Although it may seem scary to some, most children find the remains fascinating.
Take a train ride on Bernina Express, one of the most beautiful train lines in the world. This passenger train service connects Northern and Southern Europe by cutting through the Alps. We also mentioned that the train passes through a UNESCO World Heritage Site on its way.
The Bergamo Outdoor Zoo in Lombardy – A 100,000 square meter park with all kinds of exotic fauna and a giant bird sanctuary.
Mirabilandia Amusement Park, Emilia Romagna – While you probably don’t have to travel all the way from Italy to ride rollercoasters, we couldn’t resist adding another amusement park to our list. This is the largest Italian theme park and a favourite of European youth.
Matera – It’s hard to find a more whimsical or unique town than this historic settlement with extensive cave dwellings. They aren’t abandoned, but they’re part of a thriving community.
Climb a Volcano on Sicily or Naples – For active kids, there is nothing quite like hiking up/around an active Volcano. Mt. Vesuvius, in Naples, and Mt. Etna in Sicily
Leaning Tower at Pisa – All of Italy’s “perfect” architecture can be merged for young eyes. You can climb to the top, but make sure you don’t fall off.
Pizza Making – Italian pizzas are a must for all children visiting Italy. takes them behind-the scenes at a pizzeria so they can make their own pie.
Take a Venetian boat tour. You don’t need to be on a boat in Venice. You can either take a boat tour and spend for a gondola or you can use a local water taxi (aka vaporetto) which will cost around EUR1.50.
Take the kids with you when you go sightseeing
There are certain sites that you’ll want to visit, even though they may not be suitable for children. They can be difficult to navigate, or you can make them more fun for younger children. They have an idea for how to deal with children who are agitated in museums. They take the time to present visual challenges to the children before they enter a museum such as Vatican. Can you name all the Roman gods in the artworks of Rome? Is there a specific type of animal that is represented in the sculptures? What number of angels are you able to find in the Raphael rooms’s frescoes? It is best to give them a notebook so they can take notes and to meet up at the end to discuss what they discovered.
The scavenger hunt idea can be applied to many places, they don’t even have to be museums. These are some of our favorite scavenger hunts:
- You can count the number of small dogs that you see in Milan.
- Keep track of how many churches you visit in Rome
- Who can count how many David-like replicas are there in Florence?
- Locate the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican City.
- You can connect family symbols with famous works of art, such as the Barberini bees on the St. Peter’s Basilica baldachin.
You can find some great ideas on blogs and in books such as Kids Go Europe.
Take a tour
Tours are a great way for your kids to experience a different culture. These tours are fun, informative, and packed with lots of information from local guides who know the city and its landmarks like the back of their hands. These guides can save you time and allow you to see a city in a different way. You’ll be amazed at all the interesting facts they will pick up later. Warning: A full-day tour, which usually lasts 6 to 7 hours, is too much for children. Teens will still be able to enjoy it. For children younger than 12, consider a half-day tour. Keep your eyes open for outings that include hands-on activities or food tastings like our pasta-making class.
Give them control
Let your kids make the decisions. This will ensure that they are engaged and excited about your trip. If they have the time and patience, you can let them lead you through Venice’s alleyways to find Piazza San Marco. Or let them decide to spend some time at Rome’s Forum instead of hurrying to get to the next activity. You can give them the GPS to help you navigate to the Ponte Vecchio or tell them about the Basilica of Santa Croce. It all depends on how old they are. They will be more connected to their destination and have more fun.
Make a plan
Adult patience is tested by the lines that form outside of the most famous Italian attractions. Imagine what it’s like for children to wait in these lines. Another key tip to enjoy Italy with children is to avoid the long lines and large crowds at the top attractions. Book everything you can ahead of time and plan as far as possible. This will ensure you get tickets in advance for all the major attractions and high-speed trains for seamless travel. Another trick that is quite effective and surprisingly easy to do is to show up early. It can be difficult to get children out of bed, but it is possible to drag them out earlier than 90% of other tourists in Italy.
We offer the Sistine Express Tour as well as the Vatican Highlights Tour for families with short attention spans. These tours will allow you to get in and out of Vatican City before everyone else while still showing you all that the Vatican has to give.
Plan your itinerary for kids with
Planning your time well is an important step to make sure you have a wonderful trip. Plan your trip around your children’s schedule. This means that you budget plenty of time for breaks and extra time to get there. And of course, snacks. Too much travel and too many sights can make trips stressful for both parents and children. Too much is the biggest mistake made by travelers to Italy, with or without children. Instead, plan your itinerary based on the age of your children. Be prepared to make some stops when energy levels drop and to allow for time to play.
Push back bedtime
Italy is known for its late dinners. The Italian breakfast is light and rich in sweets. Lunch is flexible – from noon to 2:30pm, but dinner will not be served before 7:30pm. It’s common for Italians to bring their children along and not eat after 9pm. While babies might fall asleep in strollers, adults can chat about a delicious meal. However, most often toddlers to teens are kept awake past 10pm. Anything in the name of a tasty dinner! Make sure to plan ahead with plenty of snacks and enough time to adjust to the new schedule. Talking of snacks…
Stop for gelato – always!
There’s nothing that stops us ordering a post-dinner dessert while on vacation. So why should it stop you from doing the same for your children? gelato Italian ice cream is a popular treat for kids in Italy. You can find a gelateria almost anywhere. Enjoy the opportunity to make everyone happy by offering plenty of gelato pit stops. It’s the perfect place to relax and get sugary recharged.
Your children should never go hungry
It’s not necessary to worry about children in Italy. Italians are generally very generous with children, and it is a part of Italian culture to have them out in public. Italians love to travel with their children, even to expensive restaurants. You can take your child anywhere you like, as long as they behave well. Some restaurants may offer a menu for children (menu bambini), but many others will not. You’ll need to stick with the regular menu. You are fortunate to find some of the best Italian dishes. There will be something that your child loves on almost every menu. If not, don’t hesitate to request a change! A lot of children have survived trips to Italy with only gelato or the traditional Italian staple, pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Most restaurants will accommodate your child’s requests if they have the right food.