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Best Places to Visit in Italy with Kids – By a Mom in Italy

Updated on January 15, 2024

Italy is one of the most incredible places in the world to travel with children! Here’s why:

  • Italians love children, so you’ll feel the love from them as you journey around the country.  You’ll also get help if you need it.
  • Italy has something and somewhere for all interests (give examples – sports, art, fashion, architecture, history, food, etc).
  • Italy is a safe place to travel with kids (use common sense).  And, you have easy access to hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors.
  • There are easy transport options.
  • You can travel in Italy with kids using both types of travel – off-the-beaten-path and ‘someone’s already done the work.’
  • Italy is amazing for parents and kids.

In one country, you’ll find incredible:

  • History
  • Nature
  • Culture
  • Food
  • Friendly People!

I live here with my three kids and I’ve been traveling throughout Italy with them since 2014.

I also spent over 10 years traveling with families in Italy, and I have been helping families plan vacations to Italy since 2004.

In this article, I’ll go over:

  • How to choose destinations based on age
  • Activities to do with kids in Italy that will help you narrow down destinations
  • The best places to visit in Italy with kids
  • Travel tips for visiting Italy with children

You may also want to read Realistic 10 Day Itineraries for Italy with Kids

Italy with Kids – Choosing Destinations By Age

‘Italy with Kids’ is a pretty broad phrase.  After all, traveling through Italy with a baby is a much different experience that traveling in Italy with a ‘tween or teen.  Keep this in mind as you look through the destinations below.  I’ve also noted if a particular area works well (or doesn’t!) with a particular age group. 

Babies – This is an excellent time to travel to Italy with kids if you want to experience Italy (mostly) on your terms.  Yes, you’ll need to schedule in nap times and keep your baby fed and changed, but you can pretty much go sightseeing like you would on your own.  Want to see the Uffizi Gallery in Florence?  Strap your baby in a baby carrier and go see the Botticellis!  Want to take a boat on Lake Como for a ride by George’s villa?  Roll napping baby’s stroller onto the ferry and enjoy the ride!

Toddlers – I think this is the most challenging age child to explore Italy with.  Sure, they’re adorable, but these early walkers can be exhausting in places with open water (Venice, beaches, ferries) and drop offs (many archaeological sites, hiking trails, streets).  They also love expressing their desires at this age, which may not mesh with your travel plans. 

I find it’s helpful to sometimes have one parent trade off and focus on the toddler(s) while the rest of the group does another activity.  For example, while mom and older child take a cooking class, dad and toddler visit the playground and get a gelato.

Not traveling too much also seems to work best with kids this age.  Agriturismo stays in Tuscany or renting a beach house in Puglia work well.

Elementary Age Kids – This is a really fun age to bring kids to Italy.  They understand some (or all) of what they’re looking at and it’s amazing seeing their reactions as they walk into the Colosseum, climb up Etna, or make their own ravioli in a cooking class in Umbria.

While it’s important to take your child’s interests into consideration, you can go pretty much anywhere in Italy with elementary age kids.  Scavenger hunts, local guides, and interactive tours and activities work well for this age group.

Tweens – Another fun age to travel with kids in Italy.  If your ‘tween is struggling with being away from his or her friends at home, make sure you find a way to keep those connections (evening FaceTime at the hotel, send postcards home).  This is also an excellent age to keep a private trip journal and to let your ‘tween choose something to focus on during the trip.  For example, if you have a budding fashionista, make sure you make a trip to Milan, meet with a shoe artisan in Florence, or visit a silk factory in Como.

Teens – Traveling to Italy as a teen can be life-changing (I’ve seen it!), so this is a special travel opportunity for your family.  Getting your teen involved in the planning is crucial, and your chosen destinations should reflect his or her interests.  Have a sports car enthusiast?  Visit the Lamborghini and Ferrari Museums in Emilia-Romagna!  Does your teen loathe art museums?  Then skip them on your trip (or trade of with your partner if you really want to see them).

Read our complete guides
Italy with a Baby or Toddler
Italy with Teens

Kids Activities in Italy

While you’re looking at the best destinations in Italy to visit with kids, keep some of these activities in mind for your children.  They’re not necessarily location dependent:

ACTIVITYDESTINATION*
Cooking classItaly wide; Bologna, Florence; Sicily; Puglia
Kid-friendly museumsSee Ötzi in Bolzano; Milan’s Science Museum; Leonardo da Vinci Museums (multiple)
SwimmingItaly wide; Puglia, Sicily, and Sardinia beaches; Italian Lakes; swimming pools; water parks
PlaygroundsItaly wide; especially in the Dolomites
Archaeological SitesColosseum; Roman Forum; Pompeii & Herculaneum; Greek Theatre in Taormina
Theme parksGardaland; LEGO Water Park; Mirabilandia; Leolandia; Cavallino Matto; Pinocchio Park
Explore castles and historic buildingsItaly wide; see our list of Castles to Visit with Kids
Guided tourItaly wide; Vatican Museums; city tours; Mt. Etna
Go on a boat!  Lake, or coastAmalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Italian Lakes
Soccer GameItaly wide; read about Going to an Italian Soccer Game with Kids
Ride Bikes  Bike paths in Dolomites valleys; Mountain-biking on gravel roads in Tuscany
Rock-climbingDolomites; Liguria
Learn about a new culture  Italy wide; Ladin and Austrian in the Dolomites
Practice the languageOpen air markets; take a language class; go to summer camp
Learn an artisan craftRavenna mosaics; Paper marbling in Florence; ceramics in Deruta
Stay at an agriturismoItaly wide; Tuscany; Umbria
Participate in a harvestItaly wide; Olives (Puglia, Tuscany, Umbria); Grapes (Piedmont, Sicily)
See a GardenTrauttmansdorff; Villa Garzoni; Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore
ParkChianti Sculpture Park; Giardino dei Tarocchi
*This isn’t a complete list of where your kids can participate in these activities.  They are just to give you some ideas.

Read more about Fun and Memorable Things to Do in Italy With Kids

Let’s take a look at some of the best places to visit in Italy with kids:

Tuscany – Best Classic Italy

Tuscany has something for kids of all ages – art, architecture, nature, beaches, charming villages, and the birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence.  It’s one of the easiest places to travel in Italy with children.

Yes, we live in Tuscany, so I’m a little partial to it, but we love exploring the region. 

Highlights:

  • Florence – Stibbert Museum, walking across the Ponte Vecchio, seeing Michelangelo’s David, walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset, tasting gelato, watching a Fiorentina soccer game
  • Lucca – cycling the city walls, experiencing Italian city life, climbing the Guinigi Tower
  • Pisa – seeing the Leaning Tower, exploring the botanical garden
  • San Gimignano – Tuscany’s medieval Manhattan is busy, but kids love exploring the towers, museums, cobbled streets, and trying some of Italy’s best gelato
  • Countryside stays – playing in the olive groves, swimming in the pool, meeting farm animals, cooking together
  • Learning about food – cooking classes, food tours, visiting markets
  • Beaches – while not the most spectacular beaches visually, beach culture in Tuscany is strong and the Mediterranean Sea coast is fun for kids of all ages

Best Ages:  Any age.  Toddlers will love the playgrounds, merry-go-round in Piazza Repubblica, and playing in the piazzas.  Older kids will enjoy kid-friendly visits to museums, exploring small villages, and opportunities for moments of independence. 

Avoid If:  No big reasons.  You can find something for everyone in Tuscany.  The only thing I’d avoid is visiting in the summer without a car (you’d be forced to spend a lot of time in cities and it’s toasty in July and August).

When to Go: Tuscany with kids is best in the spring or fall, or for the Christmas holidays.  If you’re visiting for the summer, avoid spending the daytime hours in the main cities – it’s too hot.  Summertime is for agriturismo stays or beach rentals, swimming pools, beach time, and exploring villages and cities in the evening.

Best Transport Option:  If you want to explore the countryside, it’s best to rent a car so you can drive out to the smaller villages and destinations like San Galgano (the sword in the stone!), the Giardino dei Tarocchi (Gaudi-esque), or Tuscany’s hot springs.

You can also make your base in a city and take day tours or take buses to some destinations (for example, bus from Florence to San Gimignano for the day).

Where to Stay:
Agriturismo in the countryside
Hotel or beach rental on the coast
Hotel or apartment in Florence or Lucca

Read more about
Florence with Kids
Florence with a Baby or Toddler
Florence with Teens
Lucca with Kids
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Montepulciano
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Pienza
Forte dei Marmi Beach

Sicily – Best for Exploring Ruins and Culture

I think Sicily is one of the best places to visit in Italy with kids if you’re up for adventure and your family can ‘go with the flow.’  In Sicily, things may not always go as planned, so if you have a baby that must eat specific foods and go to bed each night at 7:00pm, this may not be the place for you. 

If you’re ok with that, Sicily is one of the richest places culturally (and it’s gorgeous!). 

There are archaeological gems, beautiful beaches, unique cities full of history, and some of Italy’s best kid-friendly foods (show me a kid that doesn’t love arancini – friend rice balls).

As a parent, I find Sicily to be a lot of work for family travel, but our Sicily trips are the trips my kids still talk about.

Highlights:

  • Palermo – this historic, vibrant city is a blast with kids.  We especially recommend a guided family tour if you have kids elementary age and up.  See a puppet show, play with locals at the playground on the water, eat amazing street food.  Don’t miss Palermo with your kids!
  • Archaeological Sites – Read up before you book them, but take a look at Taormina’s Greek Theater, Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Segesta, Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, Neapolis in Siracusa, and Selinunte.  But just pick one (or two) unless you have a child that really wants to see more. 
  • Siracusa – Another highlight for kids and adults in Sicily.  Take an ape (small Italian vehicle) tour in town, let your kids play at the little beaches, see real papyrus, visit the lively market, have aperitivo while your kids run around Piazza Duomo, and dine on delicious seafood.  Be sure to stick around for the evening sunset.
  • Mt. Etna – a highlight for any kid – who doesn’t want to walk on a volcano?!
  • Taormina – a favorite of adults and kids, stroll the main drag, look at the views of Mt. Etna (sometimes you can see orange lava flow at night), explore the Greek theatre, have a granita
  • Cefalù – play at the beach, wander through the historic center, see the ‘male Mona Lisa.’
  • Beaches – There are so many spectacular beaches in Sicily (and also some not-so-spectacular ones).  Find a family-friendly beach like Mondello or Sampieri.  Check out the Italian pediatricians’ best family beaches in Italy.

Best Ages:  Any age, but if you have a baby that needs to stay on a strict schedule or diet, you may find Sicily challenging.  Also, Sicily isn’t particularly stroller-friendly.    

Avoid If:  You can only visit in the hot summer months.  Yes, you could just hang at the beach, but there are so many amazing things to see in Sicily besides the beach.  Also, Sicily’s huge!  So, don’t try to visit the entire island on one trip – focus on an area, or at least eastern or western Sicily.

When to Go: We love visiting in the spring, fall, or winter.  Winter is one of our favorite times to visit because it’s quieter, less expensive, and the weather is usually still fabulous (we were swimming at the beach this past December and January).  Archaeological sites are also less crowded and not sweltering hot.  

Best Transport Option:  Yes, Sicily has public transport, but I recommend renting a car in Palermo or in Catania and exploring with your own two wheels. There are so many places you can’t reach in Sicily without a car.

Where to Stay:
Agriturismo in the countryside
Hotel or apartment in Palermo, Taormina, or a Val di Noto town

Read more about
Palermo with Kids
Cefalù with Kids
Modica with Kids
Taormina with Kids
Mount Etna with Kids

Sampieri – A Family-Friendly Beach Town in Sicily

Dolomites – Best for Outdoor Exploration

boys hiking resciesa above ortisei, italy
My boys on the Resciesa hike above Ortisei

The Dolomites in northern Italy are one of Italy’s most family-friendly destinations.  That’s probably part of the reason we’re back every year and I’m always telling people to visit with their kids. 

It’s a gorgeous area, there are multiple cultures, there are outdoor activities galore (and for all fitness levels), and it’s an easy place to travel with kids.

I also appreciate the earlier bedtimes, amazing playgrounds, and excellent public transport network. 

Highlights:

  • Mountain Villages – stop in some of the area’s beautiful villages, like Castelrotto, Ortisei, Fiè allo Sciliar, Corvara in Badia, and Cortina d’Ampezzo
  • Alpe di Siusi – One of the most beautiful alpine areas, full of hiking trails for all levels, rifugi (mountain huts) with play areas and animals
  • Bolzano – Visit castles in town, play at our favorite area playground, stroll the porticoed streets, see Ötzi the Ice Man, eat traditional South Tyrol food
  • Cinque Torri – watch the rock climbers (or take a lesson), visit the WW1 open air museum
  • Learning about new cultures – your children will encounter three cultures in the Dolomites – Ladin, Austrian, and Italian – through their food, language, and traditions

Best Ages:  Any age.  I’ve visited the Dolomites with each of my kids since birth and I’ve brought other families to the Dolomites with kids from toddler-age to teens.  There is something to capture the hearts of every kid in these mountains – even kids who proclaim they ‘don’t like mountains and prefer the beach.’  You can bring babies and toddlers on trails in backpacks or baby carriers, or let them walk!  There are a ton of kid-friendly trails and even trails that you can bring strollers on.  We also love and recommend cycling Dolomites valley trails (all ages – babies can ride in a bike trailer).

Avoid If:  You want to dress up every day (it’s very casual here), go shopping for Italian designer clothing (most of the shopping is either boutiques like in Bolzano, or mountain focused clothing and gear in the smaller villages).

When to Go: We love visiting in the summer or winter.  Spring and fall are ‘iffy’ weather wise (there may be snow on some trails into June), but October can be sunny and beautiful (and full of larch trees changing colors).  Winter is a fantastic time to visit – not only for the snow sports and kid-friendly options, but this area of Italy has the best Christmas markets and holiday celebrations.

Best Transport Option:  You can move around the Dolomites equally well with your own car or public transport.  We’ve done both and even if we drive up to the Dolomites, we still use the local buses to get to hike starts and to villages.

Where to Stay:
Rifugio (mountain hut) – best with kids elementary age or older, unless you stay at one you can arrive to with a car or chairlift. Read more about Where to Stay in the Dolomites with Kids.

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Dolomites with Kids
Bolzano with Kids
Alpe di Siusi with Kids

Corvara in Badia with Kids
Ortisei with Kids
Castelrotto with Kids
Fiè allo Sciliar with Kids

Lake Molveno with Kids
Seceda with Kids
7 Day Itinerary in the Dolomites with Kids
Visiting the Cinque Torri

Alpe di Siusi or Seceda – Which Should You Choose?

Puglia – Best for Exploring Unique Villages and Gorgeous Beaches

Puglia, in southern Italy, has some amazing beaches (think turquoise waters and white sand) and unique villages (some of them look like they could be in Greece).  And, if you’ve never slept in a trullo or watched someone make fresh mozzarella, you and your family should get to Puglia pronto. 

Yes, you’ll see some trash on the side of the road, and like Sicily, things may not run exactly as planned.  But Puglia is full of joy, it’s beautiful, and while there aren’t a ton of ‘kid-focused’ activities, I find that kids love trips to Puglia.

Nights run late here (you’ll see small children out at 11:00pm or midnight) and beaches are very crowded in the summer (book a spot at a beach club – it’s worth the cost).

Highlights:

  • Monopoli – We use this as our base, and it’s a great location for exploring other parts of the coast (like Polignano a Mare, the Adriatic Sea beaches, Alberobello, Martina Franca, Ostuni, and Locorotondo). 
  • Alberobello – home to the ‘cone-roofed’ houses, feels like wandering in a fairytale.
  • Beaches – some of the best beaches in Italy!
  • Grotte di Castellana – a network of underground karst caves, exciting exploration for preschoolers and up. 
  • Food exploration – this is an excellent place to have your kids try to make mozzarella or fresh orecchiette pasta, or sample freshly-pressed olive oil
  • Matera – not Puglia, but it’s just over the border in Basilicata and it’s a fantastic stop for kids; step back in time and explore the sassi and the cave homes in this magical city. Read more about Visiting Matera with Kids.

Best Ages:  Any age, especially if you’re planning to spend time at the beach.  All ages enjoy the villages, but for different reasons (toddlers can run around the piazzas, teens can check out how Italian teens live). 

Avoid If:  You need everything to be set up perfectly.  You are planning to visit in the summer but want to get to bed early (things run late here).  You are bothered by ‘not-perfectly-manicured’ scenery.

When to Go: If you want to hit the beach, visit from May to September.  July and August are very crowded (like you can apply your neighbor’s sunscreen crowded).  Note that we’ve also visited in October and had the warm beaches to ourselves, but the weather can be hit-or-miss at this point.  Winter is quiet at the beach, but you can explore the villages just the same (best for older kids).

Best Transport Option:  You’ll definitely want a car in Puglia unless you’re staying at a beach hotel and planning on hanging there your entire trip.  I recommend renting a car so you can visit the small villages and see multiple beaches.

Where to Stay:
A trullo in or around Alberobello
A masseria (fortified farmhouse) in the countryside
An apartment or hotel near the beach or in Monopoli

Read more about
Puglia with Kids
Ostuni with Kids

Alberobello with Kids
Polignano a Mare with Kids
Monopoli with Kids
Locorotondo with Kids
Grotte di Castellana

Rome – Best for Classic Italian Sites and History

Boy walking in the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums.  Maps hang on the walls and the ceiling is intricately decorated.  There are other people walking ahead of the boy.  Open window on the right lets light into the hallway.
My son wandering through the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums

If your kids are coming from somewhere like the United States, where historic sites may be 200 years old, a visit to Rome will be jaw-dropping. 

I’m a big fan of Rome trips to kids, but specifically when they’re about kindergarten-age and up (of course, it depends on the kid). 

If you, as the adult, really want to see Rome, you can definitely do it with small kids, but our best trips to Rome have been without babies or toddlers. 

Your kids will love exploring the historic sites, seeing everyday Roman life, and seeing the layers of history right in front of them (literally).   

Highlights:

  • Colosseum and Roman Forum – a highlight for kids (and adults)
  • Pizza – sure, there are other kid-friendly Roman dishes, but little ones can’t get enough of Rome’s pizza (pinsa romana)!
  • Vatican Museums – Either take a family-friendly tour or choose a few things to find as a family.  Our kids love the Gallery of the Maps and the Egyptian section
  • Piazzas – Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza di Spagna
  • Trevi Fountain – everyone needs to throw a coin in!
  • St. Peters Basilica – climb to the top and check out the views of Rome
  • Villa Borghese Gardens – perfect when you need some shade or green space

Read more about
Things to Do in Rome with Kids
Villa Borghese with Kids

Best Ages:  I think a visit to Rome is best from about 5+, when kids can walk into the Colosseum and know what they’re looking at (vs running after a toddler to keep him from climbing on the ancient ruins).  Yes, you can visit Rome with babies and toddlers, but with the crowds, distances between monuments, and cobblestone (not-super-stroller-friendly) streets, it’s not ideal.  ‘Tweens and teens love exploring Rome and seeing what they’ve read about in class and getting to see a vibrant Italian city with fun neighborhoods (Trastevere, Monti).

Avoid If:  You want a relaxing countryside vacation with a swimming pool.  Rome is a big city!

When to Go: Rome is at its best in the spring and autumn, when the weather is nice enough to eat outdoors, but without sweating through your outfit.  Also, it’s tough to keep babies or young children cool in the summer in Rome.  There’s a lot of concrete and not a ton of shade.

We also love Rome around the Christmas holidays – it’s magical.  If you want to avoid crowds, skip an Easter or Christmas visit or high summer (when everyone’s visit on summer holiday).  My favorite month is April (not Easter week), when the weather is pleasant, crowds aren’t crazy, and flowers are blooming in places like the Roman Forum.

Best Transport Option:  When you’re visiting Rome with kids, move around on foot, with a golf cart tour, with buses, or with taxis.  My kids also love the hop-on-hop-off bus and even if that’s usually not your style, it’s a nice way to see the huge city or just give little legs a rest.

Where to Stay: Apartment or hotel in Monti, near the Forum and Colosseum, or in Trastevere

Venice – Magical City on the Water

Boy in Piazza San Marco on a sunny day in Venice, Italy.  You can see St. Mark's Basilica in the background.
My pre-schooler in Venice’s Piazza San Marco

Venice seems to be a ‘love it or hate it’ city for visitors to Italy, but it can be absolutely magical for children.  A city on water – yes!  Taking a boat to school – yes! 

If you can swing it, I definitely recommend a visit to Venice with little ones (except toddlers – more on that below). 

Venice is deceptively large, and it takes a while to get from one place to another (even more so with kids in tow), so it’s important to have a plan for your day if you don’t have much time in the city.  This is contrary to popular Venice advice (“just put your map down and get lost”), but I find that with kids, you will be lost all day moving about 100 meters every hour.

Highlights:

  • Gondola or Vaporetto Ride – fork over euros for a family gondola ride, or just take the vaporetto up the Grand Canal
  • See Venice from up high – we like to take the elevator up the San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower for epic views of Venice
  • Seeing Glass Blowing on Murano – our favorite island in Venice, interesting for kids and adults, we also pick out a small ornament or something to bring home
  • Checking out Venetian Masks – they’re fun to look at through the window, or take a workshop and make a souvenir
  • Eating Cicchetti – Venice’s ‘tapas’ are kid-friendly and fun to eat.  These small bites are perfect for kids who want to try new foods.

Best Ages:  Venice is tough if you have a kid in the early walker stage or a child who doesn’t listen well.  Why?  Because there’s a lot of open water (no railings between streets and canals) and thick crowds.  It can be done (I do it, even though I don’t recommend it), but it’s exhausting for the adult in charge.

Avoid If:  You’re the only adult and you need to bring a stroller.  It’s tough carrying a stroller over all of the bridges.  You’ll hear both sides of the stroller argument.  I bring mine with a toddler because I can strap him in and have a place for him to nap.  If I’m alone, I don’t because it’s too tough to carry the stroller over bridges by myself.

I also recommend avoiding the summer months due to the heat and extreme crowds.  I know this can’t always be avoided, so if you’re visiting at that time, try to rest during the day and do most of your exploring in the morning or night.

When to Go: Our favorite time to visit Venice is in the winter, when it’s not crowded.  It’s especially lovely during the Christmas holidays.  We also enjoy it in the early spring (April) and late fall (October and November).  If you’re visiting in a Biennale year, go see a few of the pavilions with your kids.

Best Transport Option:  Walk or take the vaporetto, a water taxi, or a gondola to move around Venice. 

Where to Stay: Apartment or hotel in Cannaregio or Castello

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Venice with Kids
Burano with Kids

Emilia-Romagna – Best for Super Cars and Super Food

I think Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy’s most underrated regions, especially if you’re visiting with kids. 

Emilia-Romagna has a little bit of everything, and if your kids love race cars, mosaics, or food – you’re in for a treat!

Highlights:

  • Race Car museums – Ferrari, Lamborghini, and other companies have their headquarters and museums in Emilia-Romagna
  • Bologna – sample some of Italy’s best food, climb a tower, visit the Ducati museum, explore the market
  • Ravenna – lovely town center, see the UNESCO mosaics and visit the TAMO Mosaic museum
  • Mason’s Labyrinth – all ages love exploring this gigantic bamboo labyrinth and checking out the owner’s unique art collection
  • Food factories – learn how parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma are made
  • Small villages – kids love the colorful, mural-filled Dozza and climbing to the tower in Brisighella
  • Parma – explore the colorful city center, fun for teens in the evening
  • Modena – sample balsamic vinegar, climb the tower, visit the Albinelli market

Best Ages:  Any age.  The cities tend to be fairly stroller-friendly, and there are green spaces for kids in all of them.  Food factory tours aren’t toddler friendly, so you may want to leave one adult outside with the little one. 

Avoid If:  You’re visiting in the summer and only want to visit cities – too hot. 

When to Go: Spring and fall have the best weather and fewer crowds.  The summer is also fine if you can avoid visiting the cities during the hot hours of the day.  Winter is also an excellent time to visit.  You’ll find a few ‘touristy’ things have more limited hours (like the little train in Bologna).

Best Transport Option:  If you’re just planning on visiting the major cities, you can easily move around by train.  Otherwise, it’s fun to have a car so you can explore.

Where to Stay:
Hotel or apartment in Modena, Bologna, Ravenna
Agriturismo in the countryside

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Bologna with Kids
Modena with Kids
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Ravenna with Kids
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Lamborghini Museum MUDETEC

Cinque Terre – Best for Exploring the Coast

Boy points to the sea while standing on rocks at the edge of the sea. Colorful buildings of Vernazza on the left in the background.
Colorful Vernazza

The Cinque Terre is a popular stop for many travelers, and I see plenty of families exploring the area.  I think it’s best for older kids – not babies or toddlers – but it definitely can be done with all ages.

A visit to the ‘Five Lands’ – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore is a highlight for many travelers, and if your kids love water and the sea, it will be a highlight for them as well.

Take a boat

Swim in the pebbly sea.

Highlights:

  • Hike between the villages – if your kids enjoy hiking, this will be a great accomplishment.  You don’t have to hike all of the villages – you can always take a train from one village to another (except in Corniglia, you’ll have to walk down because the village is set high up the hill).
  • Pesto and focaccia – pasta with pesto and focaccia (alone or as panini) are excellent kid-friendly local foods
  • Swim – visit a sandy beach (like in Monterosso or Vernazza), or older kids and teens can swim from the rocks along the coast
  • Take a boat ride – get a new perpective on the terrain by taking a boat ride between the villages.  You can take a ferry or a private boat transfer.  You may also want to visit other nearby towns like Camogli or Santa Margherita Ligure.

Best Ages:  As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s best visited with preschoolers and up.  I’ve visited with a baby and found that it’s more enjoyable when you can hike the trails without worrying about the heat and baby schedules.  Yes, there are playgrounds for babies and toddlers, but I found it to be more fun with older kids who can swim, enjoy the boats, and do some hiking. 

Avoid If:  You need to bring a stroller.  You can use a stroller in the villages and on the path from Riomaggiore to Manarola (Via dell’Amore), but if you come with a baby, it’s best to bring a baby carrier.  Also avoid if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination.

When to Go: Spring and fall have the best weather and fewer crowds, but the weather could be poor (rainy).  Summer has the best weather but it’s busy.  I’ve enjoyed spring visits the most (and have always ended up with sunny weather).

Best Transport Option:  Walk between the villages (and on other area trails) or take the local train. 

Where to Stay: Hotel or apartment in one of the five villages.  It’s best to be ‘in the action’ and to be able to easily explore one of the villages in the morning or evening.  If you’ve got kids with you, you’re more likely to enjoy a dinner in one of the villages if you can just shower and walk out the door (vs having to get back on a train).

Read more about
Vernazza with Kids
Monterosso al Mare with Kids

Sardinia – Best Beaches for Kids

Boy sitting on beach in Sardinia, Italy.  Water is clear, turquoise and there are boats in the distance.  Boy wearing a hat and sitting next to colorful beach toys.
My son at the beach in northern Sardinia

Sardinia has (in my opinion) Italy’s best beaches.  And not just one!  Everywhere you go around the island, you’ll find gorgeous white sand beaches with clear, turquoise water.  My father-in-law always says it’s our ‘secret Maldives.’  Well, the water’s not quite as warm, and Sardinia isn’t a secret (you should see the place in August), but it is a spectacular island and it’s perfect for a family beach vacation.

If you’re not interested in beaches, I’d skip Sardinia and head elsewhere in Italy. 

Highlights:

  • Beaches – From north to south, east to west, Sardinia is teeming with spectacular, kid-friendly beaches.  We love the north coast.
  • Mountain villages – If you need a break from sun and sand, head inland to Sardinia’s small mountain villages.  We particularly love San Pantaleo and its piazza in the evening.

Best Ages:  Any age.  If your kids love the beach, they’ll love Sardinia. 

Avoid If:  You’re not interested in the beach.  Yes, there are other things to do on the island, but I recommend it for a beach vacation with kids. 

When to Go: Summer through early fall.  It’s busy and expensive from mid-July through August, but you can still get amazing weather in June and September.  Avoid winter and early spring (we actually came home early from one spring trip to Sardinia because the weather was so poor and we couldn’t go to the beach). 

Best Transport Option:  You’ll want to have a car in Sardinia, unless you’re planning on basing at a beach and walking everywhere.  We do that (park, walk to the beach, then walk to dinner in town), but we also like having a car so we can visit a mountain village or go to a larger city if we want (for a stroll, to go to the cinema, etc).

Where to Stay: Apartment near the beach

Lake Garda – Best for Theme Parks and Family-Friendly Lake Activities

Lake Garda is extremely child-friendly, and it’s full of families during the summer months.  The area has activities for kids, a huge lake, and many of Italy’s best theme parks. 

Our kids love it (and always want to go back), but it’s important to recognize that some visitors are disappointed in Lake Garda because “it doesn’t feel Italian.”  There are a lot of tourists from elsewhere in Europe and you’ll find menus geared to their tastes, and you’ll hear a lot of languages besides Italian. 

Highlights:

  • Theme Parks – Gardaland Resort, CanevaWorld Resort, and LEGOLAND Water Park are just a few of the local theme parks.  They’re popular with Italians just as much as visitors (or more).  Our kids loved all three of the above.
  • Lake Garda – There are beaches on the lake, and many are kid-friendly.  Our kids loved the beaches in Sirmione and the pebbly beaches near Peschiera del Garda.
  • Evenings in towns –A great thing about having so many families around is that the evenings in towns are full of families, so kids can play together in piazzas.
  • Sirmione – climb the unique castle, play at Jamaica beach (careful of the stone slabs with small kids), stroll the town center

Best Ages:  Any age.  Towns around the lake are very stroller-friendly, restaurants have kid-friendly menus, there are a ton of family lodging options.  This is an easy place to travel with kids – one of the easiest in Italy. 

Avoid If:  You want a ‘mamma mia,’ super Italian experience.    

When to Go: If you want to visit the theme parks, you can visit year-round (just check calendars for opening dates).  If you want to enjoy the lake, visit in the summer months, but be sure to book kid-friendly properties well in advance.

Best Transport Option:  If you want to explore the lake, it’s nice to have a car, but know that traffic can be bad.  You can also take ferries on the lake, and depending on where you’re staying, you may be able to walk everywhere.

Where to Stay:
Family friendly apartment, bungalow, or campground in Peschiera del Garda
Hotel or apartment in Riva del Garda

Read more about
Lake Garda with Kids
Sirmione with Kids
LEGOLAND Water Park

Gardaland – Our Tips for Your Visit
Our Favorite Lake Garda Beaches

Honorable Mentions

Umbria – Umbria, the ‘green heart’ of Italy, is full of small villages that are fun to explore with children.  It has a similar feel as Tuscany, but is less visited. 

Le Marche – A popular vacation spot with Italian families (especially where we live in Tuscany), the region has beautiful beaches and small cities and towns that are more ‘off-the-beaten-path.’ Read my guide to Le Marche with Kids.

Italian Destinations to Think Twice About or Avoid With Kids

Amalfi Coast – Yes, plenty of families visit the Amalfi Coast with kids, but I think there are a lot of destinations that are more kid-friendly.  Things that are fun for us as adults (seeing the beautiful tile and ceramics, having a meal at a chic restaurant with a view, shopping for linen clothing, taking the ferry to and walking around Capri, laying in the sun at Positano’s pebble beach, walking up (and up) and down (and down) stairs) aren’t necessarily a blast for kids. Exceptions are traveling with teens (then the Amalfi Coast can be a dream trip!) or if your kids are interested in Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Mt. Vesuvius. Read my guide to Pompeii with Kids.

Tips for Traveling in Italy with Kids

Boys in a stroller in the center of Florence, Italy.
Out with my boys in Florence

Strollers – Not all Italian destinations are stroller-friendly (many aren’t).  It’s best to bring smaller strollers to Italy (large strollers won’t fit on sidewalks or through many doorways), or bring a baby carrier.  Read more about Strollers in Italy.

Toilets – You won’t find a bathroom everywhere, which can be a challenge if you’re coming from a country where you can always just ‘pop in’ to a shop to use the toilet.  Read about Bathrooms in Italy.

Water – Most Italian cities and villages have water fountains, so you can get a drink or fill up your water bottle while you’re out and about.  However, you won’t find them on every street corner, so you may need to buy bottled water occasionally. 

Diapers – You can find diapers in stores throughout Italy, including popular brands like Huggies and Pampers.  Diaper changing tables aren’t the norm, but you will find them in some restaurants, and in many museums and tourist attractions.  Learn more in our article on Diapers in Italy.

Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding is not only acceptable, it’s normal – and you’ll see women breastfeeding in public (outdoors and indoors).  You do not need to use a cover, but you are certainly welcome to if it makes you more comfortable.

Snacks – We don’t have many packaged snacks here (like fruit snacks), but we do have a small selection of granola bars.  You can also buy amazing fruit and delicious sandwiches.  We also have packaged crackers and cookies, and of course, gelato.  If your child really likes a particular snack, you may want to bring some extras with you.  Also, I recommend bringing some snacks for the adults (like beef jerky, protein bars, nuts, etc), so that you can take care of yourself too.

Medications and Illnesses – Bring copies of important prescriptions and any OTC medicines that your child prefers.  For example, our pain reducer syrup ‘has a gross taste’ according to my oldest son.  Read about Going to the Pharmacy in Italy.

Meals – While you’ll see multiple courses on Italian menus, you can order one course for your child.  Order a mezza porzione or have your children split a dish.  We tend to eat later here (restaurants open up between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, depending on where you are in the country), but major cities will have restaurants that open earlier in the evening (or stay open all day).  You may want to print out our Italy Coloring Pages for Kids or our Italy Word Searches for your kids to work on while you’re waiting for your food.

Packing – You may want to look at our Italy Packing List for a Baby or Toddler and our Italy Packing List for Kids.

Sleep Schedules – Kids stay up late here.  You can fight it (I did, and sometimes still do), or just go with it.  It’s helpful in the summer, when it’s so hot during the day.  Let your child stay up late (and enjoy the cool hours of the day), but make sure everyone in the family rests during the day (whether that means taking a nap or just relaxing with a book at the hotel). 

Shoes – Bring comfortable, worn-in shoes.  Don’t worry about ‘cute outfits.’  I recommend having a pair of sneakers and another pair (sandals in the summer or another pair of close-toed shoes in the winter). 

Baby Products – You can find all baby products here (diapers, wipes, diaper cream, lotions and shampoos, baby food, baby formula, etc), but we may not have the same brands your baby is used to.  If your baby has sensitive skin or dietary preferences, bring your products from home.  Otherwise, you can find what you need at grocery stores, pharmacies, and baby shops.

Prepare – Your trip to Italy will be more fun and memorable for all ages of kids if you prepare a bit.  For example, learn some of the language with a podcast, watch YouTube videos about Italy, read books about famous Italians or Italian history.  Get an overview of your itinerary using a Printable Map of Italy or a Printable Map of Italy for Kids.

Trip Planning – Have your kids be a part of the trip planning.  They’ll be more engaged during the trip if they’ve participated in its creation.

Don’t Move Around Too Much – This is one of the biggest mistakes I see in family travel to Italy.  Remember that everything takes time here, especially travel (whether by train or car, the two main modes of transport in Italy).  And as far as daily plans, just pick one main activity each day and complement it with gelato, playgrounds, and strolls.

Have an amazing time visiting Italy with your kids – I hope this has helped you choose a destination (or destinations!) for your Italy itinerary. 

Buon viaggio!

boy hopping on a street in Palermo, Italy
My son lovin’ life in Palermo!
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