Summer in Rome and Tuscany With a Toddler and Pre-Schooler

It’s that moment when your kids are dancing in the piazza with the locals or when you’re all in a gelato haze completely captivated by the rolling Tuscan hills when a wave of relief and exhilaration hits you. Your crazy plan to bring the little darlings halfway across the world has paid off. We did in fact think we were crazy for even entertaining this idea, but the lure of summer in Rome and Tuscany and our love of all things Italian was too strong. So we prepped and packed our busy 18-month-old and curious 4-year-old for a two-week Italian adventure. We made a lifetime of memories, an iPhone full of pictures and were sweetly surprised that our trip to Italy for kids went rather smoothly.

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italy for kids
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

Traveling with kids is all in the planning. One of the best things we did was have a consultation with Ciao Bambino. The team behind this fantastic website and travel service knows kids and Italy incredibly well.

In a 30-minute phone call, Ciao Bambino founder Aimee literally saved me hours of internet research. Aimee gave such practical advice only a local would know—but this was like having a local who knows the needs of parents with kids of every different age. Absolute gold!

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Ciao Bambino tailors itineraries and advice to the age of your kids and your interests. They can advise everything from where and when and how long to stay, to how long it takes to travel between cities. They will tell you things you won’t find through an internet search, the best activities for you kids, must-see sights, restaurants that love kids and the right accommodations for you and your family. The value in that consultation saved me several euros, not to mention a good deal of time, and it made our trip go so smoothly.

Rome

Our first stop was Rome. It was magical, and much better for kids than I expected. It’s all about where you go and how you do it but we found spacious piazzas, large parks and gardens and a fun kids museum. Throw in a daily gelato stop or two and everyone was happy.

italy for kids
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

It’s easy to get around with a stroller or go for an infant carrier of some sort, depending on the kids’ ages. We used the hop on, hop off bus as transport and walked a bit as well.

To make the most of this Italian adventure and enjoy the build-up to it, we immersed the kids in creative Italian workshops with Mini Italia Lab in Melbourne for six months before the trip. This is seriously the most fun and engaging activity even if you have no need to learn Italian! Alessandra is the Creative Director and her award-winning workshops take the kids on the most captivating Italian journey of song, dance, art, stories and more for a multi-sensory Italian experience.

Alessandra was born and bred in Rome and was a wealth of information for things to do with kids there!

Highlights for kids in Rome:

  • Borghese Gardens: A huge park where there’s loads for kids from tandem bikes, mini trains, merry-go-rounds, a puppet theater and an indoor play area.
  • Museum Explora: An interactive children’s museum where the ground floor is a kid-size town with shops, a post office, a bank and more. The first floor hosts a variety of educational events.
  • 100 Fontane at Villa d’Este: A little town close to Rome with a hundred fountains of water and sounds. It’s quite a sight for children to enjoy.
  • Gladiator School at the Colosseum

But it’s often the simple things that children love best:

  • Having fun with you! Young kids especially are just happy to have you to themselves,. They grow up fast, so soak up that quality time.
  • Dancing to buskers in the piazza is pure happiness.
  • Gelato—no need to explain!
  • Rome’s fountains—One of the best things about this city is you can drink from the fountains! We had a great time splashing in the fountains and filling our water bottles.
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

For the first half of the trip, I was lucky enough to travel with my wonderful parents. It was a pretty special experience in and of itself to see these beautiful and ancient places with my folks and for the kids to make lifetime memories with their grandparents was gold.

Tuscany

Our next stop was Tuscany! We rented a car to hit up the world heritage site Val D’Orcia area—think Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino. Lots of amazing scenery and bite size hilltop towns, perfect for exploring, wine and gelato tasting!

italy for kids
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

Tuscany is perfect for traveling with kids for lots of reasons, but even just driving through the divine countryside is a thrill. And when the kids are happy—it’s possibly the most relaxing thing you’ll do while traveling with littles! We were also pleasantly surprised that most villages had excellent playgrounds, and the piazzas are so perfect for the kids—no cars, plenty of space to run and play and dance if there’s a busker about.

italy for kids
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

Activities for kids near Pienza:

  • Taking a cooking class or a tour at an organic farm like Podere il Casale
  • Exploring small villages. They each seem to have playgrounds with amazing views!
  • And of course, eating gelato

After a few days here, we headed further north near San Gimignano to the most amazing place for one whole week of heaven.

A Stay at Borgo Pignano

If you want a luxury break and outstanding accommodations in a lesser known area of Tuscany, this is it. Borgo Pignano (read reviews on TripAdvisor | book here) is a stunning stately country house with maisonettes and separate houses in the surrounding valley and it undoubtedly checks the 5-star luxury family travel box in terms of service, style, food, facilities, scenery and experiences.

Italy for kids
Photo: Borgo Pignano

There is a certain magic about this place. From the hypnotic lavender-framed view across the rolling hills to the excellent food, mostly organic and grown on-site. Because it is off the beaten Tuscan track, you feel as if you’ve uncovered a secret.

The main draw for us was a Montessori-inspired art program for our four-year-old daughter each morning. To have an organized activity for her each day was just what she needed. And this was unique, not your average kids club—which by the way is all included in the price. The kids coordinator was all about art—using the gardens and woodlands for inspiration, taking the children for walks then coming back to the art room to create using what they’d found.

italy for kids
Photo: Sarah O’Bryan

Over the week, our daughter amassed quite the collection of artwork, and we had a mini-exhibition when we arrived in Florence with it all just for fun!

The hotel also has an option in the evenings for kids to have dinner together, play and watch a movie so that parents can dine in the restaurant.

This place was a huge highlight—we stayed in this amazing place for a week. We soaked it up and hardly left the place.

There’s no denying that traveling with kids is no “holiday.” Sure it can be frustrating, logistically challenging, and you can’t really pop into each gorgeous bar and café you pass. But if you get the basics right and choose activities wisely, it can be the most fabulous adventure for you and them.

Recommended Accommodations:

Borgo Santo Pietro
Pienza
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here
Stylish guesthouse with beautifully appointed rooms with loads of room, lovely pool area, restaurant on site and stunning gardens.

Tenuta La Bandita
Pienza
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here
Stay in the modern and super-stylish townhouse in the heart of Pienza, or their country house 20 kilometers outside of Pienza. Both are great options, depending on whether you prefer a village stay or a countryside experience.

Borgo Pignano
Volterra
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here

For more recommendations on Italy for kids, check Ciao Bambino for family accommodation reviews.

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About Sarah O'Bryan

Sarah O'BryanSarah is a writer, mother, traveler, flower tragic, photo taker. She runs The Flower Press blog with weekly flower content for flower lovers, articles on travel and flower experiences, styling tips, plus chats with growers and florists from everywhere. Sarah is based in Melbourne but travels regularly with kids in tow.

Click here to read Sarah's articles

Need travel tips on Italy for kids? Read about one family's wonderful trip through Rome and Tuscany with their 18-month-old and 4-year-old.

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