The Italian Job

Without a doubt, all my best travel experiences have been on personal recommendations. You can only google and read Trip Advisor so much, but getting advice from someone who has been on the ground I reckon is priceless. I still get emails each week from people asking about where we stayed in NY or London and I am so happy to give all the info I can…that’s one of the best things about the internet…bringing people together and sharing useful info.

For those wondering this was the Air BnB apartment we used in London.
And the Air BnB apartment we stayed in in New York.

Last year lots of our trip through the UK was from your suggestions in this postΒ not to mention all the tips and hotels for Singapore and I am once again hitting you guys and all your knowledge up again…this time for Roma!


We are heading to Italy in September for a special family celebration in Lucca and will be flying into Rome where we have 6 nights to get used to time zones before heading up to Lucca to a villa for a week. Things will be slightly different this time because: 4 MONTH OLD BABY and all that so I figured that another apartment or home through AirBnB would be best for us all to use as a base to explore from. Knowing how we were when we arrived in London, we needed space for kids to be feral, watch TV, catch up on sleep and be able to walk to things from…and that didn’t include a frazzled old mother or new baby.

Has anyone stayed in Rome before with your family? Got any good recommendations of hotels or places to stay? Or even what area would be best?

From Rome we are heading to Lucca but perhaps we could spare a night or two somewhere along the way? Maybe in Florence or do you think it would be best just to soak up Rome for those 6 nights and then get the train up?

So many questions I know, but just thought I would ask on the off chance someone has done this very thing! After our week in Lucca we have about a week to get back to Rome…do we explore different parts of Italy…if so any ideas?

Molto Grazie! Heaven help my family and my year 8 Italian that will be in full swing on this trip. I can sing Pinocchio like it’s nobodies business and can ask to ride a Bicycle to the train station which will be SO useful.

So, andiamo! Dove?
Stayed anywhere in Rome with kids? Which area would be best do you think?
Should we just pack down or attempt to go somewhere before Lucca?


  1. We did Rome, Florence and Venice in Dec 2013 with a 2 year old. We found the Italians to be AMAZING with children. We stayed in the Hotel Artemide on the via Nazionale. However I would stay next time in Trastevere. I’ll Pm you link to our travel blog that has links etc

  2. Oh Italy! My most favourite place
    in Europe! We’re still deciding where to escape this summer and everyone wants to go back to Italy!
    I haven’t stayed in Rome with kids so no help there. I adore the Tuscan countryside just outside of Florence (and I adore Florence).

    My one tip, take your Apple TV otherwise kids will be forced to watch Italian TV (everything is dubbed there), may help with frazzled kids. That’s what we do.


    • PS: I can’t find the post that has all the tips for Singas. We’re stopping for a couple nights next month and looking for somewhere to stay.

      • Oh bugger…I think it might have been on Facebook. I tried to find it but can’t seem to…sozza! The hotel we stayed in was close to Orchard Rd etc but was pretty old school. Best thing about it was the size though….HUGE rooms that fit us all in and IO’m sure they would fit all of your guys. can look it up you want?

      • Corrine – We stayed at Orchard Parade Hotel. We were in one of the family suites. I think it had a king bed plus 4 singles, large bathroom, little dining/lounge room and it was right on orchard road. We walked everywhere.

    • I remember you telling me that tip from last time. I will defo do it!

  3. Reemski is so right. Italians adore kids. Be prepared to be fussed over and given all sorts of gelato treats at every point! We stayed in a hotel not an apartment in Roma, hotel Capo d’Africa which was amazeballs. Close to Colosseum with little trattorias all around and even supermarkets. Excellent service.

    Personally I’d piss off to Florence for a few days, we found it hard to find anything that wasn’t purely touristy in Rome, as awesome as it was. Florence is just a bit easier to get down amongst it, I reckon. An Sussie called Freta runs Florence tours (Freya’s Florence Tours) and whilst a bit Exey you can tailor them to your needs , ie playground stop offs and not too much museum gear but still getting a divine taste of Firenze. Often literally. Also, my surprise pick was Assisi. If you can, do it. Beautiful beautiful beautiful. Wish we had longer there.

    We were there in early October last year so similar time and it was heaven.

    Oh. And we caught the train from Naples up to Venice and then to Paris and St Pancras and it couldn’t have been easier. If you do a sleeper from Venice to Paris don’t be fooled into thinking the dining car serves actual food. Proper awful, inedible. Bring picnic stuff to eat or you will regret it.

  4. we have been to Italy for the past 2 years with our 6 year old. Italy is a wonderful country for children, the food, the abundance of Nonna’s, the gelato!
    Train travel can be easy if you are going during the week or can pay for first class, you need to weigh that up against the mental drivers and driving in cities is impossible.
    The best holidays we have had include a stay at an agrotourism. This is a government scheme to keep farms alive and you usually get self contained accomodation on a farm, with owners and other guests around. Sometimes you can get half board which is Devine to come home and have Nonna cook, or are self catering. They usually have playgrounds and some space for kids to run around; and my son has always made friends with the other kids.
    We stayed in a lovely apartment in Montereggioni – a medieval town on a hill, and it was a fantastic base for lower Tuscany/chianti.
    Rome – we stayed for 2 days and although the AirBnB place was good on the communication and the place looked just like the pics – it was located in a red light district, which we discovered when the daytime “girls” would congregate outside our apartment. Made for some amusing window conversations though.

  5. Rome is awesome to wander. Get lost in the streets (but try have SOME idea of where your hotel is), eat as many gelato as you can, also eat Nutella crepes, drink from the little water fountains on the corners, see the swallows about the forum at twilight… just take SUPER comfy walking shoes because those cobblestones are tough on tourist feet. Flats don’t have enough support. I’ve never been there with kids, but, I think they’d have so much to look at while you wander, that they shouldn’t get bored. There’s entertainers and noises and colours and foooooood. Enjoy!
    At the same time, the Isle of Capri is absolutely stunning!! Just down near Naples.

  6. How exciting! You MUST read the book ‘Vroom with a view’. It is one man’s journey through Italy on an old Vespa and it was one of the best books I have ever read. Big call, but true. Lots of on-the-ground info is embedded in the pages of that book, and there is a whole chapter dedicated to his time in Lucca.

    Unfortunately when I did travel to Italy I couldn’t make it to Lucca, but I wish I had because it sounds breathtaking.

    I would highly recommend Florence. It oozes charm and has some of the best food I have ever tasted! I say spend a few nights in Rome and a few in Florence.

    Happy travel planning!

  7. Rome is amazing (as is all of italy really)
    We stayed in Trastevere & would definitely recommend it as a location.
    This is the apartment we stayed in ( which will prob not be suitable for a family of 5, but the woman who owns it is lovely & can probably recommend elsewhere for you.
    Would also recommend day trips to the hill towns outside of rome. We loved Frascati
    Florence/Tuscany is worth a stop too

  8. How exciting – we had five days in Rome last September and loved every minute. First time for the kids and second for DH and I. We stayed in Trastevere too – great neighbourhood – lots of lovely cafes, restaurants, gelaterias etc. We did a couple of private tours through Rome with Kids – one was an early morning, ‘beat the crowds’ tour of the Vatican. Our guide was fab and really engaged with our then 10 and 12 year olds. The second was a tour with a guide and driver pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. I second the advice about wearing comfy shoes (your Frankie 4 red lace ups would be ideal!) and just wandering around and soaking it all up.

    We stayed in a great guesthouse called Villa Santa Maria – all the rooms were situated around a courtyard and they provided yummy breakfast and free drinks and nibbles each evening. However, I think you are probably on the money about renting an apartment this time around.

    As far as other places to visit go, we had a few days in Venice back in 2010 prior to a Greek Islands Cruise – bit hot, sticky and touristy for the kids but us adults loved every minute. This time around, we went down to Positano and then up to Ravello for a family wedding – beautiful spot but maybe a bit out of your way – although the trains are excellent and very fast. We have never taken the kids to Florence or Tuscany – Cinqueterre is on my ‘must do’ list – trying to save some cities for them to discover on their own rather than do it all with us!

    Very envious – besides a quick trip back for me to London to see my parents, we are having an Australian holiday year..

  9. Ahh I have travel envy Beth! And I’m no help with ideas on where to stay because I haven’t been to Europe since I was 16 and we stayed with my Mum’s side of the family, all crammed into little homes, thousands of us! So I’m really no help by commenting here – except to say TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!!! I’m a kick-ass baby snuggler πŸ™‚

  10. Lisa Mckenzie says

    How exciting I’m no help at all I’m sorry x

  11. Rome is great to visit, although very busy and touristy. We all LOVED Florence, kids and adults alike. We stayed in a great place called Hotel Serena. It was close to the markets (we went every day) close to the centre of town and the owners were lovely and spoiled the kids thoroughly. Breakfast included.
    Venice is amazing, if you can manage it – no other city like it.
    Have fun with the planning!

  12. I second the suggestion about visiting Assisi. It is truly beautiful.

  13. Hi Beth, this is my sisters blog. She and her husband have been living in Milan for the past 18 months. They are now travelling for 6 months before heading home. She has been to Rome before and will be there from next week for 7 nights before heading to Sicily. She does great posts and has lots of information on where to eat etc.

  14. warning – this is a really long comment – I couldn’t help myself! sorry, sorry, sorry. I’d say grab a glass of red but you know..pregnant belly and all ….so better make it a cup of tea!

    How exciting – LUV Rome. Heading back myself there with hubstar in June sans children but was there with kids and my parents (so 6 of us) in 2013 (and before that in 2008).

    Just a quick thought on flights – book quickly if you haven’t already so you can secure that very precious bulkhead for baby’s bassinet (life saver!) – and I’m always tempted to break the flight with an overnight stay (we always opt for Singapore) but I know other people are of the JFDI variety and just get there but 20+ hours + kids – yikes I have to break it up.

    Totally agree that an apartment is the way to go – so much more room to spread around and means you can chill out whilst littlest member of the family catches up on sleep – easier with meals too after shopping at beautiful food markets.

    I’ve got 2 apartments in Rome but both too small for your lovely family (as they were for mine) so go Airbnb or try – try one with a balcony/terrace for even more room to enjoy Rome. Agree with others re Trastevere – it’s got a great vibe and lots of great places to eat and drink. I also like the area around Campo de Fiori/Piazza Navona but really I like everywhere!

    Couple of tips on Rome – if you’re going to Vatican – pre-book to avoid the very long queues to get in.

    Maybe take a special guided morning tour of the Colosseum as this gets you access to the underground areas (and avoids ticket queue) or buy your ticket up at Palatine Hill (used to be no queues but people could be cottoning on to this!) If kids are into it, a morning at gladiator school would be a lot of fun too (outside of Rome).

    We’re taking a twilight walking tour of Trastevere with lots of tastings with and they also offer a pizza cooking class for kids held in a real pizzeria (inc dinner)

    The Capitoline Museums which houses the the world’s oldest public collection – has a great kids’ audio tour for €4.

    Climb to the top of St Peter’s cupola when you visit (NB its 231 steps and not good for those with claustrophobia) but you’ll get great views of Piazza San Pietro and the rooftops and domes of Rome.

    Personally I’d opt for 6 nights in Rome packing down and getting over jetlag etc (and not slot something else in) before moving to Lucca (use the trains for daytrips to other areas if you want to break it up) as I find that everytime I change location I lose the day in transport (particularly if you’re hiring a car and then exiting out of Rome), re-settling into accommodation etc but that’s just my preference.

    Where to after Lucca – oh so many possibilities. Umbria is a wonderful area – places like Orvieto, Assisi (gets another vote), Todi, etc – base yourself somewhere with a car and explore. Or settle into Siena and explore it and nearby Cortona and other gorgeous places – the list goes on.

    Have a wonderful trip. Look forward to following your travels come September.
    Ciao bella!

  15. Amy Cadusch says

    Agree with Trastevere in Rome – it is a fantastic spot. Really quaint and feels like real Rome. You can walk lots of places from there and there’s a tram nearby too.

    We loved Lucca too, can’t go wrong there. No apartments to recommend though – we stayed in great ones in both spots but both were 2 bedrooms.

  16. Wow so exciting. Rome and Italia!
    I have no tips about travelling to Italy with kids or babies but I am currently on a mini break with my kids and my parents and brother sans partners in southern Chile and Argentina (patagonia) enjoying natural hot thermal pools and beautiful mountains. So when you decide to travel back to southern South America I can give you tips;)
    Obviously always rent a place with a pool during summer or close to a park and beach ( I am sure this may be difficult in Roma).
    Can’t wait to hear about your travel plans and what others suggest in their comments!
    Yamila xx

  17. SNAP! We are going to Italy at the same time as you.

    My husband and I are going to be in Rome until 31 August and then head to Florence, Venice, Verona, Cinque Terra and then the UK. Our holiday will be a little different to yours though as we are going kid free.

    Having never been there before I will be of no help in the planning, but I am eagerly following the suggestions put forward as I still have a lot to book!

    Very exciting for us all

  18. I loved Rome so much when I went last year. Not with kids so I’m really no help there but I absolutely think you will have loads to do in Rome when you’re there.
    We also did Tuscany and stayed in an awesome villa outside of Florence (Airbnb) which was a great base – we did Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano (one of my favourite towns!!), Siena and Lucca from there. I liked Florence, we only spent a day wandering around though because I much preferred the smaller old cities around the Tuscan region to Florence. We had a car though which helped a lot.
    I’m very jealous, I would love to be heading back to Europe!

  19. I think Trastavere is an excellent choice and there is plenty to do in Rome for 6 nights. Post Lucca we went to the Cinque Terre. You can do it by train. Google some photos. It is stunning! Lots for the kids to do too.
    We had a lovely holiday in Umbria but I’m not sure it would be as much fun for the kids.

  20. I. Can’t. Even. Believe. How exciting!!! I am no help, but will be waiting for your posts every day, soaking in a pool of jealous broth and amazement! Would love to go. Will live vicariously through you and the blog recommended from above.

  21. We stayed in Trastevere-fantastic place to be with bars, restaurants, transport, Tiber river-incredible. We had 3 br apartment-on 2 or 3 rd floor-not sure that would work with baby but most places inItaly are upstairs. The apartment was great-near everything. Link to it

    Rome with kids is fabulous. Trains to other towns easy. Lucca not far away.

    We also stayed in agriturismo in San Gimignano- pool, view, wine, food. Need a car to get around. it is called poggio muleti-it has a website. Perfect for a couple of days on your way to Lucca. San G is incredible-kids would love it but just don’t take them to the Torture Museum..

    • Best thing we did was prebook attractions such as Colosseum-fun, Forum, Vatican. Trust me it saves you hours and the kids will love you for it. There is a card called Roma Pass-check it out-good value for attractions and transport-no queues.
      If you take trains, you can book from here-good savings if you lock in your dates. First class is good.
      Venice is incredible with kids-water, boats, ferries, islands-we were there in September 14 but our apartment would be too small-check airbnb. Guggenheim Museum, parks, gondolas,
      Spritz for you every night-

    • Thanks so much for the tips πŸ™‚

  22. Clelia Douglas says

    Hi Beth,
    We have done a few trips to Italy with kiddos in tow. Our very favourite place to stay with the kids is Villa Pia (in a teeny tiny village called Lippiano on the Tuscany/Umbria border). Check out the website – for families it is perfect, kids meals, then babysitting/baby monitors so the adults can have a wonderful meal. We found staying in one place and doing a day trip every second day was a winner (lots of places within 1 hr drive of here) with the kids (moving constantly can be a total mare in terms of packing and also the unfamiliarity). The food was amazing, the staff brilliant, and we actually had a great holiday (all inclusive so no nasty surprises – it also changed my attitude toward the all inclusive holiday).

    Lucca is amazing – my favourite Italian city by far – you will love it.

    Rome – don’t bother with the pram, the cobblestones will kill any thought of having a calmly sleeping baby, not to mention give you some jack hammer style injuries. We did a brilliant tour of the Vatican with a university professor who bought the whole history alive in a way the older kids could understand. We also spent a substantial amount of time in Villa Borghese blowing out the cobwebs with the kids. Don’t expect too much in the way of places to change nappies – I became quite dextrous at the lap change (and at 4 mths you should still be good).

    The best thing about Italy with the kids – the Italians mostly adore children, the kids adore the attention, and the food – well who doesn’t love pizza and pasta washed down with at least 2 gelato a day!

    Have an amazing time!

  23. Another vote for Trastevere for your stay in Rome. You cross one of those bridges and it’s like you’re in another place! So many of the postcards you see of ‘Rome life’ – cats on stoops, washing hanging from windows, etc – are all Trastevere. Our stay there was pre-kids, so I can’t suggest accom; we had a room in an old convent.

    Lucca is beautiful! And you may be surprised just how useful your year 8 asking to ride a bike to the train station could be while you’re there. The asking to ride a bike anyway – if you can, get bikes and ride (or walk, if you can’t) around the wall that surrounds the old town. Such a beautiful way to pass a morning.

  24. Lucca is fantastic! We went in the Fall and the weather was lovely – not too hot during the day, nice and cool at night.

    Our favorite place to eat, by far, was Antica Drogheria. It’s a little store with a restaurant in the back that serves the best, best pizza and calzone you will ever have. We went there every day for lunch πŸ™‚ They have a website:

    Just a warning – we found the crowds and lines at the Vatican truly dreadful.

  25. Hi Beth

    We are an Aussie family currently on a sabbatical living in sunny Spain. We just visited Rome in Feb with our 3 little girls ages 8,6 and 2. We stayed 6 nights in an absolute gem of an apartment near the Colosseum. We found it on air BnB and it was perfect, clean, spacious, warm and the hostess was such a warm, friendly genuine person that we felt like we were visiting a friend. There is a wee sunroom off the main bedroom where our 2yr old slept. Rome is a stunning city and very easy to get around and the metro was a short stroll from the apartment. Pre-buy your tickets for the touristy sites online as the queues at ticket offices are very long eg, Vatican, Colosseum etc. The hop on-hop off buses are a good way to do a quick tour of all the main sights. Make sure you make time for a visit to the Explora museum … the kids will love it. Hope you have a fabulous trip xx ps. happy to share details if you’re keen to hear more about our experiences.

  26. Hi Beth,
    we’re off to Italy in September too. I’ve discovered a blog called – it’s by an ex-Melbourne woman who now lives in Rome – specifically in Trastevere – so has great recommendations about restaurants, cafes, etc in the area. I’ve also been reading about the Monti area as a less touristy spot to visit – is sounds fantastic. Our third visit to Rome – best city in the world!

  27. Need a nanny? πŸ™‚

  28. – go here for dinner! the most amazing deli with fresh cheese and meats and amazing pastas and pizzas and bread and everything you can imagine – right near the main square


    San crispino gelati near the treve fountain, try the caramel meringue gelato, and the armagac


    Taverna trilussa – GO HERE!!! – little restaurant tucked into the back streets of Rome – amazing fresh pastas served in the copper pan’s they were tossed in

  29. I’m reading all your comments with interest! We’ll be in Italy for the first week in July and staying down the bottom end of the boot – in various places around Lecce before flying (Ryan Air) to Milan and overnight for our trip home.
    I can’t wait and will be relying on Flynn’s Y4 Italian!! Thankfully our friends who are living there are much more up to speed with the language.

  30. Oh my word, I’m all shades of envious! I’ve loved Rome since we first visited there and it will be amazing with the kids, Beth. Italians absolutely go ga ga for kids. That said, I’ve never been there with children so I have no goodies to send your way. x

  31. Hi (again) Beth,

    Since we are forgoing our annual trip to Italy to go to Japan this year (I know, poor us, spending our single child’s private education fund) I am happily planning your instead of mine.
    Italy is wonderful but the main things we have found:
    1) The drivers are mad – and you do not want to drive in a big city. We have white knuckled a few taxi trips through rome and it is insane!
    2) The trains are easy – relatively cheap (look out for the tickets that include “Bimbi gratis – free children” tickets – and you can book in advance (some have free changes – and it can be much cheaper – or even on the day with your phone and show the codes/online tickets to the conductor. – sometimes you need to click on “le frecce or all trains” to get more options
    3) Don’t try to go to the Cinque terrre from Milan on a Saturday in July – you will find that the entire country will be on that train – and even if you have a ticket you will still be sitting on your bag in a corridor. Try to do the big trips midweek or book first class. Watch out for pickpockets at major train stations. Lots of gypsies about and lots of people trying to help you get on and off trains. Be bold and aussie and tell them to go away.
    4) Trains don’t go everywhere and sometimes you need to have a car. Tuscany for example, whilst the north (near Lucca) is quite industrial – once you get to the chianti region it is mind-blowingly beautiful.
    Your trip (in and out of Rome) – airport train is good – taxi can be scary – you can prebook a taxibus to take you to your accommodation – for a family it is worth it.
    We have driven in and out of rome a couple of times, and once you get used to the big scary circular roads, and the directions you need to look out for, it is relatively easy to navigate (see for some good interactive maps that actually show you what the street signs are going to look for, and when to pick up toll ticket and when to pay).
    The week Lucca is perfect as it is a lovely compact town and close enough to Florence to get away for a day and Pisa is close by. We were planning a couple of days as it was such a beautiful place.
    Rome is a great base and if you want to try to negate the hassles of moving around with whole family, then having a base in a big city like Rome will mean you can do daytrips for the first week: Orvieto is beautufil and easy to get around with a direct train and then a firnicular (tram going up a hill) taking you to the town, which is beautiful. You can also do a daytrip to Pompeii – the girls would love that and I hear it is very beautiful.
    Also that final week of getting back to Rome to fly out – I would suggest getting a car at Lucca (or Pisa) – we have often picked up a car (we use Hertz or Avis) and dropped back at Rome airport- and the car will give you the flexibility to travel through (in my humble opinion) the most beautiful area in the world Tuscany and Umbria. It might be a great opportunity to base yourself somewhere in the middle (chianti through to Umbria is very central) and a Agritourismo would give you a great insight into how Italians live. We stayed here: which was about EUR100 a night for an apartment and there was a pool and lots of space for son to run around, and we got to eat figs from the trees and fruits and vegies from their garden and eggs from the chickens, and we met lots of other families on holidays and they even put on a special night for all guests where we ended up sampling all their home made liquors! But lots of places to stay. Villa’s can get very expensive so agritourisms can be a good option – this seemed to be the best website
    It took us about 90 mins to get from Ficulle (Umbria) to Rome Airport and it made it very easy to get home.
    Hope you have a ball – I love planning trips to Italy – it is foreign but once you work out how things get done (“non c’e male” “its not bad”) it makes it easier.

    If you can tell me what to do for 16 days in Japan in July I would be most grateful… its like a foreign country…

    • These are amazing tips…thank you SO much! My brother and his wife just went to Japan and absolutely loved the country…raved on about it forever. Alas no personal tips but I think you will have an amazing time.

  32. If you want to head to Tuscany, you MUST stay here:

    Magical farm, have been multiple times…very special place and such a wonderful family xx

  33. Reading all these comments makes me want to go back – we spent Dec/Jan in Italy with a teenager, starting in Rome and finishing in Venice. Trastevere is a great area, but even better is Testaccio. Try staying near the Pyramide metro station and you are 10 mins to the Colosseo. We hired a car and picked up at Termini (Rome’s Central station). This was scary but perfect as we went straight up into the Tuscan hills near Orvieto. Our Agriturismo was a tiny 1 be cottage but the area is well worth a visit. Verona might be the place to base yourselves after Lucca as it is relatively central and still a lovely place to stay. We were in Milan in July and loved it so that’s always an option too. Venice is a bit too touristy for me… So exciting!!!!

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