Adequately preparing for your trip to Italy with a toddler is crucial, and can impact the experience of an entire trip. Here are the things I learned from our recent trip to Italy.
Why you shouldn’t visit Italy with a toddler
Suppose you envision wine tastings, cooking classes, museums, experiencing late-night life, or even wanting to attend concerts/ operas. In that case, I will discourage traveling with your little one and postpone it for a more adult trip. But if you want to make it an adventure with the entire family, there is so much to do!
Why you should visit Italy with a toddler
One of the first things we heard was that Italians love children. We found that to be true. Traveling with a toddler is challenging, but overall I recommend traveling to Italy with your kids. Traveling through their eyes can give you a different perspective. Here are some things I learned from our two-week trip to Italy.
- Read more about our two- week trip to Italy: How we enjoyed a two – week trip to Northern Italy with a toddler
How to travel in Italy
I recommend traveling by train; this was our preferred means. You can easily purchase tickets through Trenitalia.
Some of the benefits of train travel with a toddler:
- Toddlers travel for free
- No need to hassle with car seat
- Your child can walk around the cabin and have more freedom. This was ideal for our little guy
- Easy access to bathrooms
- Dining carts are available on many trains
There are so many major airports in Italy that catching a flight to your ideal location can be easy. Many airports also have a train station located inside or very close. Kids older than two years old will need to have their own seat.
I can’t speak about driving in Italy, but if you’re brave enough, you can rent a car. Make sure to bring a car seat; it is illegal for your little one to be in a car without one. We avoided all cars, including taxis, because we didn’t travel with our car seat.
Buses are an excellent resource to get around the cities! Utilize them. If traveling with a stroller, you must fold them up and put them in the designated area. I recommend traveling with a more compact but sturdy stroller for your trip.
Is Italy stroller friendly
Because we were traveling light, we decided to forgo our stroller and bring the carrier instead. Throughout our two-week travel to Italy, we saw many with strollers. The one location on our trip that stood out as not being stroller friendly would be Venice, with its many bridges.
Although overall, Italy is stroller friendly, there are things to remember.
- It can be very crowded, especially in the city centers.
- Many streets are made of cobblestones, so I recommend a stroller with sturdy wheels.
- If using public transportation, you must fold up your stroller and put it in a designated spot.
- Many restaurants are small, and there can be little space for the stroller. Many of the restaurants had stairs.
- Although many of the museums and places to see are “stroller friendly,” they can be pretty crowded, and difficult to manage a stroller.
- Allows your little one to take a nap while on the go
- Many of the subways and train stations do have elevators
- Many of the restrooms do not have to change tables, so the stroller can help take the place of one
So the answer is yes and no. But I do think you will have an easier time replacing the stroller with a carrier.
Should you bring a baby carrier
I highly recommend bringing a carrier; this was a lifesaver for us! It was convenient and allowed us to move with ease. In addition, we didn’t have to worry about non-friendly stroller streets or the above-mentioned disadvantages.
My toddler loves the carrier, and this was typically how we got him to take a much-needed nap. I suggest that the carrier be comfortable for both you and your child. In Italy, plan to do a lot of walking.
Where to buy necessities for your toddler
We traveled light and therefore purchased most of our toddler’s necessities as we needed them. Every morning I would go through the diaper bag to make sure we had all of the essentials packed for the day.
The supermarkets are much smaller than the ones in the USA, but they have small selections of the items we need. Sometimes they were difficult to find.
Snacks– They typically always had some type of snacks that were ideal for my toddler to eat
Diapers– there were a couple of times we had trouble finding the right-sized diapers in the smaller stores.
This was our ideal place to run in and grab some baby wipes. They always had them, and all we needed to do was ask. We didn’t have to go hunting around for them. For any medications, you would also purchase them here, we found that the supermarkets didn’t have any medications.
H&M and ZARA were popular clothing stores we saw in almost every city. But, of course, you can also stop at the souvenir shops and purchase some clothes there. This was an easy option, and although it may be pricier, it was convenient.
Water Closets/ Toilets
We figured out early that many bathrooms needed to have changing tables.
Some helpful tips:
Bring a small changing matt
Use your stroller
Although they can be challenging to find, many of the public restrooms require a payment of 1-2 euros.
Be prepared to get creative. For example, we often would change our toddler to a more secluded area like a park or a park bench.
We often purchased coffee, water, or snacks at a cafe to use their toilet. That was far more convenient than locating the public water closets.
Most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30; even then, the restaurants are pretty bare. Italians eat late. We did find that many of the restaurants that were geared towards tourists on the main squares had more flexible hours. However, these restaurants tend to be more expensive, and the quality is not as excellent.
High chairs were limited in many of the restaurants. If your little one needs a high chair, I recommend bringing an easy travel one.
Take advantage of the cafes and restaurants in small secluded plazas and parks! These were our go-to spots. It allowed our little one some freedom and a safe space to run and play while my husband and I ate a snack.
Many restaurants did not provide kids’ menus but were more than willing to make a small pasta dish, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, upon request. Be sure to ask. My husband and I tried to order an additional dish a couple of times, but the server declined, suggesting it would be too much food.
Breakfast was by far the easiest. First, we would stop by one of the many bakeries and grab something on the go. Italy’s croissants are thicker and often filled with jelly, Nutella, or honey.
What to do in Italy with your toddler
My husband and I missed many museums, wine tastings, tours, etc. As I previously stated, if that’s what you have your heart set on seeing, it’s probably best you not travel to Italy with a toddler or a baby.
That being said, there is so much you can do! It is possible to see many famous sites, but be flexible. Book in advance, and be prepared for changing or canceling plans based on your little ones.
Tours that can be considered rides
Some of our favorites:
- Hop on, hop off buses. I highly recommend these! Depending on the city, you can easily purchase a 1-3 day pass. Sometimes we would get off to check out sites, while others, it was just a way to see the city. My son was obsessed with being on the top. It can also be an excellent means of transportation if you don’t have a car seat. You can check out the destinations, routes, and prices for this line we commonly used here.
- Smaller city driving tours. We took a horse carriage ride in Florence, which my son loved. Many cities also had more miniature “train” tours that lasted about an hour.
- Boat tours. The downside to these is that there needed to be life jackets provided. But other than that, we really enjoyed them. In Venice, they have both the Gondola and the Vaporetto (water taxi rides) that I would recommend. You can purchase the Vaporetto tickets here.
explore the parks and playgrounds
- This would be something I probably would have overlooked if I didn’t have my son with me. But honestly, the days at the parks were perhaps my favorite! Italy has some beautiful parks and hidden playgrounds. We visited parks in every city and would suggest you do the same.
Run around the plazas
- Some plazas were more child friendly than others. For example, the Duomo Plaza was too crowded for our liking. But many were a perfect place for our son to run around and chase the pigeons. If you find a more secluded plaza, that can be ideal for an outside lunch or dinner.
- Chase all of the pigeons!
Take a child friendly tour
- We LOVE food tours, and there was no shortage of them in Italy.
What child doesn’t like ice cream or gelato? So we took a food tour in Milan and Verona. In which we learned a little bit about gelato.
Both guides provided us with this same information.
- Authentic gelato shouldn’t have bright colors. Likewise, true gelato shouldn’t have food coloring added.
- It shouldn’t be piled up high. Although it’s aesthetically more pleasing, the guides said it should typically be in more of a tin or covered.
- True gelato needs to be scooped not with an ice cream scoop but with a flatter spatula utensil.
I recommend hunting down and trying a gelateria tucked away! But if you’re looking for convenience, there are gelaterias everywhere! And your little one likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
When to visit Italy with a toddler
This has been my first trip to Italy, so I can only speak about my experience during the Spring. However, The weather in April was perfect. We caught a couple of rainy days while in Geova, but other than that, it was sunny and warm (in the 70s F).
The spring isn’t quite the busy season, and the weather was pretty. There were places already too crowded for us, so I would avoid going in the summer during the peak season. I don’t have any personal experience visiting Italy in Fall or Winter.
Forget something big?
I did not utilize this service, but I looked into it before our trip. MammaMamma can rent out a wide variety of baby and kid necessities. According to my research, it primarily ships to Northern Italy. This could be an option if you need to travel a bit lighter.
What Italian cities are toddler friendly
We did a two-week tour of Northern Italy, Including Rome, and honestly, each was pretty toddler friendly—some more than others. Be sure to click on the links for more information on each city!
Venice was the city to be the most cautious with. The canals could be dangerous, and the boats did not provide safety jackets. But plenty of areas within the city were perfect for our little ones to run around. We saw some strollers, but there are so many bridges, and only a few have ramps. I suggest a carrier over a stroller.
Rome, the Vatican, and Colosseum were a bit crowded for a stroller, but with a carrier was so easy to manage.
Genova is right on the coast. It’s also a cruise ship port. It had a beautiful aquarium I would recommend if you ever stop by. The ocean walk is gorgeous, and you can even visit the beaches.
Verona “little Rome” There were so many pedestrian-only streets and alleys! This was so wonderful. Outside the miniature Colosseum is a huge plaza surrounded by restaurants for kids to run around. Here you can catch several different bus tours.
Milan Is a small city with some fantastic places for little kids. There is a beautiful park that has some children’s rides! My son loved the Duomo Plaza to chase pigeons. However, it was reasonably crowded.
Florence and Tuscany– Florence was already a bit crowded in April, but overall we had an excellent time. There is a huge merry-go-round in a city plaza and many pedestrian-only streets. Tuscany is close enough to take a day trip, but be sure to book travel accommodation ahead of time.
Be sure to call ahead to make sure it is child friendly. You will also need to let them know you have a little one.
We decided to stay in AirBnB. Some even provided a crib.
Essential items for experiencing Italy with a toddler
Carrier- I would choose a carrier over a stroller.
Stroller – I suggest bringing a sturdy but more compact stroller if you decide. Strollers are nice to have until they are an inconvenience.
Travel crib/pack-n-play – Call ahead to your accommodations to see if it is something they can provide.
A travel high chair – If your little one needs one, consider bringing a portable one. Many restaurants did not provide them.
Helpful tips for a trip to Italy with a toddler
Embrace the adventure! My husband and I completely changed how we traveled to accommodate our toddler, which made for a better experience. Read what we did here and how we faced our challenges as parents.
Limit time in the busy city centers and cities. Branch out from the high tourist traffic areas.
Bring entertainment! We carried an Ipad and a few toys with us every time we went out. This was ideal for traveling by train or eating at restaurants.
Always have snacks and water.
And always be patient
Have you traveled to Italy with young kids? I would love to hear any tips!