Tips for visiting Italy with Kids
Cinque Terre for Families
We recently found our family of four on a last-minute, unplanned trip to Cinque Terre. We drove in from Bologna for the day. Look at a map and you’ll see that means we likely didn’t have too much time visiting Cinque Terre. It was ok because our plan was just to hang out at a beach.
If you’re unfamiliar with the logistics of getting Cinque Terre, here it is in a nutshell. You don’t usually just drive to one of the villages. You can hike or take a train from La Spezia. (There are roads, but I heard bad things and we didn’t go that route.) My guess is most families will do the train like we did.
We ended up, like many, many, many other people. Purchasing a Cinque Terre pass at the train station in La Spezia. A tiny office with a line out the door. People with a lot of questions about which pass is best for them, and a friendly staff pre-empting all questions and limiting potential issues by giving all the pass details.
Our wait in line was about 30 minutes, which isn’t that bad, but also isn’t neccessary. The pass can be purchased in advance. While we didn’t even know we were going until the night before, I’m sure there are many people who know well in advance. And so my tip for visiting Cinque Terre with your family – buy your pass in advance.
This link will take you to the official site with information about the card options available (a hiking pass, and a train pass that includes everything the hiking pass includes and the train).
If you’re going to the beaches, the nicest one closes to the train station is at the last Cinque Terre stop, Monterosso al Mare. There are two beaches to pick from. One right at the train station, and one a 10 minute walk away. This village is also the perfect place to do some souvenir shopping and to dine.
The other popular, and easy beach destination is Vernazza. That is the stop directly before Monterosso al Mare. I like this stop because there’s a cute shopping area to walk through before getting to the water. The beach is much smaller, but it is so beautiful and heart-bursting that you should go here, too. I had my best meal in Italy here, Truffi with Pesto, and I read it is also an overall great destination for shopping and dining.
We didn’t make it to the other villages in Cinque Terre. They all have their charm, though, I’m sure. The beaches just may a little bit farther out or there may not be as much shopping available. This area of Italy is one I would return to again and again.
Italy’s Motor Valley for Families
My son loves fast cars. So we spent a few days outside of Bologna and a day exploring the sights that are combined to be known as the Motor Valley.
The areas of Modena and Maranello are known for many things, among them they house places that Lamborghini and Ferrari lovers will appreciate. We noticed that there were many tours ranging from $300 – $800 offering day trips from bigger cities to the museums, but we opted to do something a little different.
Hotel Maranello Village
First, we stated at the Hotel Maranello Village outside of Maranello. It is a Ferrari-themed hotel that offers apartments to their guests. We had a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, living room, and washing machine plus a buffet breakfast every day of our stay for under 175 Euros a night. I was expecting a Disney-like atmosphere with a gaudy, overdone theme and a lot of kids. Instead, there was just a lot of Ferrari imagery with a lot of serious Ferrari fans. They also provide a free round-trip shuttle to the Ferrari Museum.
There’s a restaurant on site for dinner and we really enjoyed it. It was very affordable with a friendly staff. It’s also where I had my favorite dessert during our whole trip to Europe. It was a simple whipped mascarpone with shaved chocolate and cost less than one Euro. We also enjoyed the Restaurant Paddock right outside of the property. Great service, delicious food, a playground for the kids, and good wine. If you’re visiting during nice weather you’ll want to make a reservation if you want to sit outside. We didn’t and ended up inside, but it was fine for us.
Please note: There is also a Hotel Maranello Palace. From what I could gather it is closer to the action, but doesn’t offer large rooms like this place does.
Ferrari Museum in Maranello
The hotel is close to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Once you get close to the museum you’ll immediately notice something. Lots of Ferraris on the street and lots of Ferrari shops. We didn’t explore all of it, just the museum. Of the car museums we visited in Italy, it was my favorite. There were lots of cars on display and everything was in English and Italian. My favorite part of the museum was a room where you could hear what the engines of different Ferraris sound like when ignited. My least favorite part of the museum is that most of the other interactive stuff cost extra (and I found it expensive), plus the gift shop was extremely expensive.
Prepare for the trip with children’s books about Ferraris (click on the images):
Lamborghini Museum in Modena
The theme of the Lamborghini Museum in Modena is the Lamborghini in Hollywood movies. It was fun to see famous cars on display throughout the museum. While the museum itself was pretty affordable to enter, the attached production facility was around an extra 75 Euros more (though, I believe it’s free if you have proof that you own a Lamborghini). We didn’t visit the production facility. The museum was a very quick visit, too.
If you’re planning to visit the Lamborghini Museum consider food and walking. Restaurants in town were closed in the afternoon. The museum doesn’t have a cafe. There was a cafe directly across the street, though, and they also offer Lamborgini rentals to test-drive on the local streets. Another frustrating thing about the museum is there wasn’t dedicated parking. It wasn’t easy to find a spot. My favorite thing about the museum is that I found their gift shop very affordable, which worked out since my son’s favorite car is the Lamborghini so if he’s going to want anything, it’s from that gift shop.
Prepare for the trip with this children’s book about Lamborghinis:
Other Motor Valley Car Stops
We also visited the Mazaratti shop in Modena. It’s free to visit, with no parking and an expensive gift shop attached. They do have walking tours that we opted out of, so it felt more like a really nice car showroom than a museum. To round things out, there is also an Enzo Ferrari house to visit, places to rent these fancy cars and drive on a race track, a Pagani museum, and fancy motorcycle places, too.
Overall, if you want to just visit the museums, I don’t know why so many tours are so expensive. We easily spent less than 300 Euros for all four of us and that included eating and one-night hotel stay. Unless they include a lap on one of the race tracks (which I don’t believe they do), I think you can do it cheaper on your own. It’s pretty easy to get around this particular area of Italy, just difficult to find parking sometimes.
Italy Family Tour Suggestions
Short family tours around Italy’s famous cities are a great way to quickly introduce your young ones to all the best the city has to offer. With so many options available, you can customize it to fit your family’s personality. Below I have some provided via Viator. They all promise kid-friendly and knowledgeable guides. Expect them to keep everything interesting for the kids.
Tip: Do one of these tours early in your city stay so you can get extra expert advice about things you should do for the duration of your time there.
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Florence for Families – Private Tour
It’s just you, your family, a private guide, and skip the line access to popular Florence sites. This four-hour tour is a great introduction to one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. More information here.
Florence Organic Cooking Class
A professional chef will teach your family how to make some of Italy’s favorite dishes. This includes pizza, pasta (from scratch, of course), two sauces, and a dessert. Enjoy the meal afterward. Bon Appetit! Here’s more information.
Milan bike tour – for ages 6+
Take in as much of Milan as you can in this three-hour, guided bike tour. Find more information here.
Make your way to Pompeii on your own, then meet your kid-friendly guide. The guide will give you two-hours of Pompeii filled information and question answering. Link to more information.
Pompeii and Sorrento – Pizza Class and Olive Oil Farm
A trip’s success correlates to the quality of food you eat. But, you’re planning a trip to Italy, so good food is guaranteed, right? Of course. But the added experience of making your own pizza and visiting an olive oil farm is one of those experiences that kids will remember long after they’ve returned home. More information here.
Rome Colosseum Tours – Audiovisual private tour
Although my kids were born in Germany and traveled around Europe extensively when they were young, it is important to me that now that they’re older visits to Europe include something they’ll learn about in books. (I also like them to visit off the beaten paths, but I want to make sure the history they learn in school comes alive for them.) And that’s why my next European trip will include the Colosseum. There are many kid-friendly tours available, here are a few:
- This Audiovisual Private Tour relies on iPad like devices for the guide to share with the participants what they are seeing. It starts with a 3D rendering video of ancient Rome, and then skip the line access to the Colosseum with the guide using the iPad to help tell the story.
- This private tour has an enthusiastic guide to show your family the way through the Colosseum.
Among memorable, cool experiences for both parents and adults, I’d rank a tour in the Vatican starting an hour before the official opening up there. If you agree, this may be the one for you. The first hour of the tour starts before the opening, and continues for two hours. So, it’s a total of three hours exploring the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel.
Venice for Kids – Small Groups Walking Tour
This two-hour walking tour will keep kids entertained and provide interesting tidbits for adults as well. The guide will expertly navigate around Venice’s confusing (and often crowded) streets, which helps maximize your time. Link
Venice Carnival Mask Making Class
I came across this while planning my own trip and – wow! What a unique and fun family experience. There are two types of classes that allow you to either make the mask from scratch, or decorate an already papier-mache’d mask. Or, do both! Link