Travel

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

As I’ve mentioned, we just took a family vacation to Italy, and the country completely stole our hearts. I’d love to share a few anecdotes and photos, if you’d like to see…

ROME

Our Italy Vacation

Our first stop was Rome. We knew our trip would have lots of logistics, so Alex and I decided to slow waaaaay down to the boys’ pace. For us, that meant a walk through the Colosseum, a fun afternoon at the Borghese Gardens, pasta lunches, playing in squares with fountains, and afternoon naps at home. The lazy pace ended up being really great and taking the pressure off all of us.

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

One morning, we met up with an awesome Cup of Jo reader and her two kids who live in Rome, which was a treat. We went to the Borghese Gardens and had a great time running around playgrounds and riding the little train. (I wasn’t able to sneak away to the Borghese Gallery on this trip, but it’s utterly fantastic with a gripping audio tour — next time!) Afterward, our friend took us a gelateria nearby, where they pour melted chocolate into the bottom of the cone. NO BIG DEAL.

Our Italy Vacation

Have you ever heard of Scooterino? It’s an Italian app like Uber, but you hitch a ride on the back of someone’s Vespa. How cool is that?! Alex took it a couple times, and the boys were totally starstruck.

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

We let the boys stay up late — Italian-kid style! — and all went to dinner at neighborhood restaurants, which generally opened around 7:30 p.m. It was kind of freeing to not have to make it home for bedtime, and we just enjoyed the evenings together. (Of course, we figured they’d sleep in the next morning, but no such luck! #5AMforever)

Our Italy Vacation

We had an especially fun meal at La Carbonara in Monti. The walls are covered with graffiti, and diners are encouraged to add to it. Alex etched “J+A” and Toby carefully wrote “Tobias.” :) It’s funny, when you take a romantic getaway with your partner, you often get extra schmoopy; but I felt the same way on this family trip — I fell even more in love with my children. I mean, look at that face!

Our Italy Vacation

Our last night, we walked over to the Trevi Fountain. The square is completely packed at all hours of the day, but oh my gosh, how beautiful is it? Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder, you’ll return to Rome (or two coins for love, and three coins to get married). Crazily enough, a whopping 3,000 Euros are tossed into the fountain every day. It’s then collected, cleaned and given to charity.

BAGNOREGIO

Our Italy Vacation

From Rome, we rented a car to drive to Tuscany, but on the way we stopped for a night at the stunning hilltop town Civita di Bagnoregio. It’s teeny tiny — there are are only seven year-round residents — and you get there by taking a footbridge high over the valley.

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

We stayed at an apartment in the town, which was magical and peaceful, especially once all the daytime tourists left at around 6 p.m. The homeowners invited us to their apartment upstairs for dinner, and we gladly accepted. We had pasta with peppers and zucchini from the garden; and they grilled bread and sausages in the fireplace. For dessert, they gave the boys “Ugly But Good” cookies!

TUSCANY

Terre di Nano

The next day, we continued on to Tuscany. We stayed at the agriturismo Terre di Nano, which two friends had recommended. It’s a working farm with vineyards and olive groves, and they rent out two apartments and three cottages.

Our Italy Vacation

One huge bonus is that you can request breakfast and dinner each day, if you’d like. The first night, the chef, Georgio, served spicy pasta, lemon chicken, and beef with vegetables. It was Anton’s fourth birthday, so we were planning to put candles in his bowl of gelato — but after our meal, Georgio, who had overheard us celebrating, strolled out with a CHOCOLATE CAKE he had just whipped up! It was the sweetest moment for our wide-eyed little boy.

Our Italy Vacation

I often feel restless on trips and want to run around and see/eat/experience things, but the agriturismo was just so relaxing and chill. We spent our days swimming; playing bocce ball; petting their two dogs; visiting the goats, geese and chickens; and reading in lounge chairs tucked all over the property.

Every afternoon, the boys would get gelato from Terre di Nano’s cart. (Hazelnut was the crowd favorite.)

Our Italy Vacation

Our Italy Vacation

Honestly, I cannot explain how lovely this place was. I’d LOVE to come back with more family members and share the magic. I can see now why Tuscany is so beloved!

VENICE

Our Italy Vacation

After four days in Tuscany, we drove to Venice to stay with my friend Skye. She’s a food writer in London now, but grew up in Venice and comes back every summer to visit her mom.

Our Italy Vacation

It was fun to stay with a local and feel like we kind-of lived there. We took their boat out on the water, had pastries at the neighborhood café every morning, and drank wine at home in the evening.

Our Italy Vacation

It’s easy to think of Italian food as one big type of cuisine, but each place we visited had very specific regional dishes. In Rome, we had pizza and cacio e pepe; in Tuscany, Alex went bananas for the steak; and in Venice, we had things like fennel risotto, shellfish pasta, and fried zucchini flowers and sage. I’d love to learn more about the regional differences — I remember interviewing an Italian chef many years ago, when he told me, “To me, fusion is uniting Ligurian basil with tomatoes from Campania.”

It was also a joy to just soak up the boys during this trip. At home, I sometimes feel busy and distracted by work, and we’re often running around and hurrying from one place to another. But on a trip like this, it was so nice to just walk and hold hands and chit chat and chase pigeons and do a whole lot of nothing at all.

LAKE COMO

Our final stop was Lake Como, just a few hours from Venice (and close to the Milan airport, where we were flying out). We rented an apartment in this ivy-covered building, above, about a ten-minute walk from Bellagio. We spent A LOT of time swimming and chilling on that bench!

Feeding ducks at Lake Como

One evening, a woman named Monica, who lived around the corner, walked over with a giant bag of bread left over from restaurants. She sat on the steps and started feeding the ducks, pigeons and swans. I encouraged Anton to ask if he could help (“Posso avere pane, per favore,” he whispered nervously) and she welcomed him with open arms. She even taught him how to feed ducks from his hands. “Bravo! Bellissimo!” she kept exclaiming. The following night, we made a plan to meet her at the same place, same time, and Anton was thrilled.

Our Italy Vacation

Of course, as always there were bumps along the road: Early mornings, sibling squabbles, little boy meltdowns, long drives with wrong turns, trying desperately to get the boys to be quiet in quiet places, even a fender bender with a Roman cab (!). But needless to say, all that was worth it, times a million.

Our Italy Vacation

We had such an incredible trip and keep pinching ourselves. We miss you already, Italy! xoxoxo

P.S. On Instagram, we got a few questions about where we stayed, and I’m happy to share links…

Rome: We ended up staying in two different apartments, for logistical reasons — I wouldn’t recommend switching spots in the same city, but the bright side was that we got to check out two different neighborhoods. The first night, we stayed in this central family apartment, which had beautiful views and TONS of kids’ toys. The next two nights, we stayed in this comfy place in the cool, laid-back neighborhood of Monti. (One tip for traveling to Rome in the summer: Look for apartments with AC. It gets hot!)

Civita di Bagnoregio: This apartment.
Tuscany: Terre di Nano.
Venice: Our friend Skye‘s house.

Lake Como: We also stayed in two different spots here because we couldn’t find a place that was available for all four nights. First, we stayed for two nights in Bellagio in this incredible building (we stayed in Apartment Two). One head’s up: Bellagio’s town center was a 10- to 15-minute walk up lots of steps, and Anton always wanted to be carried, haha, so keep that in mind if you have younger kids. Still, I’m glad we stayed there, and it would be especially fantastic for adult groups. Our final two nights were spent in Varenna, the most relaxed, lovely little town that we all adored. (I wouldn’t recommend the rental apartment we booked, though; it wasn’t great.)

A few people asked about car seats and strollers. We brought a car seat for Anton and a booster for Toby, plus a basic folding stroller for Anton. We knew we’d be walking pretty long distances and he’d sometimes be jetlagged or need a nap. I doubted whether we’d need it, but Alex pushed for it, and in the end, the stroller was a lifesaver!

Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thank you so much for reading. xoxo

P.S. A Tuscan wedding, and 16 tips for traveling with kids.

(Photos by us, except first photo of Tuscany by Ashley Bruhn/Hither & Thither.)

  1. Hi Joanna! What a beautiful trip! Would love to see a break-down of what you packed for yourself and the boys (I read your earlier comment about packing only three wheelies) and would love to see what you guys actually brought!! Thank you!

  2. This sounds like a brilliant trip :-)

  3. Joanna says...

    Love. Love. Love.
    Your pictures, your text and everything.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. I’m so glad you went to the Borghese Gardens! When my husband and I went to Rome last year, we got tons of recommendations about where to go and what to see, but no one mentioned Villa Borghese. We ended up there by chance our last day in the city: we had already dropped our suitcases off at the station and wanted somewhere pretty to wait until our train. We ended up wandering around the Borghese Gardens for three hours, admiring the art and talking and having lunch. It was so beautiful and relaxing and a wonderful break from all the crowds of the city. It ended up being our favorite part of Rome!

  5. Seeing the photos made me miss Italy so so much!

  6. Veronica vega says...

    Uuuuum.Anton is Four. WTF.

  7. Rachel says...

    My wife and I and our two 13 year old sons just took a two week road trip through the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle, walking to the grocery store, one of my lanky boys draped his arm around my shoulders. “Mama, I like how you are on vacation; you’re more fun.”

    (Me, swallowing my first sharp response) “So, you think I’m different on vacation?”

    “Yup”, nodding his head.

    “Do you think you might be different on vacation, too?”

    Eyebrows raised, eyes slightly widened with this new thought. “Yeah, maybe I am too. At home we usually have lots of things to do and a schedule. It’s different on vacation.”

    It’s different on vacation. So grateful to have it. Welcome home.

  8. Amanda Tallerico says...

    Give me the nitty gritty: how bad were the flights??? We are hoping to go to Italy either this October or next summer with our 3 young children (7, 5, and 2). Though they are frequent fliers, they’ve never done such a long flight and I’m terrified! ?

  9. Nat says...

    Really enjoyed reading about your trip it sounds amazing and so happy you mentioned the many regional foods in Italy. As an Italian, it’s frustrating sometimes when people think of Italian food just as pizza, pasta and gelato etc…every region is different. I’m from Liguria, the region where pesto comes from and so much more. x

  10. Seems like a great, relaxing trip! We are heading to Italy for a few days next month – thank you so much for some ideas of places to visit! My husband has gotten really into landscape photography, so he was excited to see Civita di Bagnoregio – it’s near our Tuscany hotel and will be really gorgeous in the morning or at sunset. I’m hoping to do some photography around Tuscany too, as well as the Riviera which we’ll stay in one night. If anyone has any suggestions of unique scenic spots, or places where there’s a lot to photograph, I’d love to know!

  11. Rachael says...

    I would love to know if you are heavy packers or light packers. And how many outfits you packed for each person. I’m about to do a very similar trip and am trying to figure out what to pack for everyone. Also I love the dress your friend in Venice wore. What a beautiful print.

  12. Allison says...

    Loved this overview and it got me so excited for a Thanksgiving trip I’m taking to Rome, Florence and Venice.

    Can you share the restaurants you most enjoyed?

  13. Julianna says...

    oh my word, cannot believe how big your boys are getting!! sounds like a lovely family vacation!

  14. How lovely your trip sounds!! Such beautiful memories created for the boys.

    Now it is a part of your cellular energy as a family:)

    Italy is definitely on of the most wonderful countries I have had the good fortune to visit.
    Have you seen the film Bread and Tulips? Sigh, one of my faves!

  15. MK says...

    The trip sounds simply marvelous. Any restaurant recommendations in Rome besides La Carbonara? Traveling there shortly and trying to hunt down the best restaurants!

  16. Sam H says...

    Awesome trip! I just had a tour of Italy… at Olive Garden

    • OMG I almost just spit out my orange juice!

  17. Lauren says...

    Love your friend’s dress in Venice. Reminds me of Umbrian pottery.

  18. Nina says...

    Hi Joanna! What an incredible trip! I’d love to have the opportunity to travel to Italy one day with my family. Any tips/tricks for purchasing tickets? Did you book super far out or closer to the date? Is there a company you went though or a particular website that you used? I just looked at prices for next July and it would cost well over $3K to fly my family of four to Rome. Yikes!

    • Karla says...

      Jumping in to say we are headed to Italy soon and I found killer flights on sky scanner — $450 round trip from LAX. The trick was to search for an “entire month” if you have flexibility, then pick the cheapest days to go. I was open to locations so I searched “everywhere” too and Rome was one of the cheapest.

    • Nina says...

      Thanks so much, Karla! Super helpful :)

  19. Gillian says...

    This makes my heart sing!!
    My mom (and her best friend) took all their kids to Italy the summer I was 10- there were 5 kids and two brave moms who drove a manual shift minivan in a country where they hadn’t been since college.

    We still talk about that trip and how crazy and brave our moms were. It sparked an insatiable appetite for Italy and travel. My sister and I both studied abroad there, I ended up living there for a bit, and my sister got married in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

    Anton and Toby will forever remember this, I promise! Brava, Joanna!

  20. Liz C says...

    Thank you for sharing details about your trip! Through your words and photos I was brought back to my honeymoon almost six years ago. Tuscany and Venice were our favorite stops – very magical!

  21. Vanessa says...

    Thank you for sharing the sweet details from your family trip! It brightened my day and made me really feel like I got to tag along! Definitely inspired me to travel with our little one to Europe sometime soon. It’s so nice that you got to slow down and soak up your kids. Such a beautiful trip!

  22. love love love Italy as well. You’re making me want to go back! I have been to La Carbonara! Yum! I have family in Alassio, a small coastal town on the Mediterranean about one hour from Nice, France…it would be perfect for lazy beach days with the kids..hoping to get there again soon!

    • Cristina says...

      I am from Alassio too!!

  23. Kate says...

    I’ve been waiting for this post all week, thank you for sharing so quickly after returning home! I fell in love with your kids just through this post! (just kidding, I already love them!) I’m ready to book your exact itinerary with my 2 & 5 year olds.

    I love your thoughts on parenting more than anything. I know it must be hard to decide what to share with us, and just want to say how much I appreciate it.

  24. Cortney says...

    What an incredible trip! I’m curious, did you and Alex get a moment to have dinner or spend time just the 2 of you? If so, smwhat did you do (or would you have done) as far as child care is concerened? I’m always curious what to do when traveling abroad and looking for a night sans kids!

  25. I am new to your blog and have had a great time reading your stories. My husband & I are heading to Munich in early September and then a week in Italy! We are planning to stay in the Tuscany area and it’s been quite overwhelming trying to decide where to stay. We’ve spent many, many hours scouring Airbnb, VRBO & Trip Advisor. Thanks for sharing your trip, your photos are beautiful. I’ve taken some info you shared and have begun yet another search! haha! I’ve got one month to plan the Italy portion of our stay!

    • Wuselbibi says...

      Enjoy your stay in Munich. It’s beautiful!
      Additional, if you can, be sure to spend a day in the mountains. The Alps are breathtaking and full of fun things to do. Or you could cross the Alps by car?
      Just suggesting because we’re living one hours’ drive north from Munich, so I know my day-trips.
      Much fun and great weather for your vacation!

  26. Nicole says...

    I love this vacation recap so much. Your time in Tuscany sounds like magic and that part about Anton and the woman in Lake Como feeding the ducks almost made me cry. I bet he’ll remember that for the rest of his life :)

  27. JoAnna says...

    This looks like such a lovely and sweet trip. Thank you for sharing :)

  28. Alex says...

    Your trip looks AMAZING! What lovely photos and memories you shared.

    I’d love to see more posts about traveling/vacation styles (especially with kids). My husband and I have done a complete flip in our travel styles since meeting each other. I’m American and used to feel similar to you – lets pack in as many places and activities as we can into a one or two week trip. But my Aussie husband wasn’t having any of it – he preferred to go to one place and immerse himself for at least 3 or 4 weeks. (It helps that in Australia full-time employers must give a minimum 4 weeks paid leave! And the work culture there supports it – your coworkers cover for you when you’re out and expect the same in return.) But now he’s been sucked into the American (over)working ethic. He says, “There’s something to only taking one short vacation a year – because you REALLY make the most of it when its all you have and you don’t take your time off for granted.” While I’m like no-way; after a few long, slow, Aussi-style vacations I’m never going back!!

  29. Marissa says...

    We just returned from Italy with our family of 5 as well. We only stayed in Tuscany, but I am completely obsessed now. It was so lovely and I miss it and being on a slow paced family vacation so much! Thanks for sharing, it brought me back for a while.

  30. Sigh… Italy (and Tuscany in particular) is my happy, happy place. Would love to even possibly live there one day. We loved taking the kids there a few years ago – looks like you soaked up every good thing about Italian life!

  31. Claire says...

    I always read your posts about you guys traveling as a family and I am instantly inspired! Joanna can do it, so can we!

    This was beautiful. The food, the fun, the weather. I’m glad it was so wonderful for you guys and thanks for sharing.

  32. Phoebe says...

    Looks like you had an amazing time. So happy for you and the family! Would love to hear more about your friend Skye…I’m really interested in food writing and am always curious about how people found their way into the business. Xoxx

  33. Emily says...

    Joanna, what are your thoughts on being able to speak conversationally in the countries you visit? We just returned from Switzerland where nearly everyone spoke to us in English, but I can’t help but feel like I would have felt better about myself (and less like an American idiot) if I at least tried to carry on a conversation in German. I love that you encouraged your Anton to speak Italian.

  34. Alice says...

    Beautiful! Sounds like you planned the parameters carefully and let the days unfold freely – perfect! And totally stealing this approach for our upcoming trip to France. Hope my boys come away with smiles and happy memories as wonderful as your two.
    Hope you’re feeling sufficiently rested to continue with what is, in my opinion, the best content anywhere online.
    Welcome back :)

  35. anna says...

    Beautiful post, thank you for sharing. Makes me so excited for my two week trip to Italy (we’ll be based in Sicily) next week with my four year old. I am most looking forward to not being on a routine (I feel like I am constantly telling my son ‘please hurry, we’re late…’) and truly enjoying my family.

  36. Aaaahhhh thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and stories! It looks like you all had a lovely time! :)

  37. Maja says...

    my boyfriend and I just went to Italy in May! we didn’t get to spend much time in Tuscany (only Florence) but Venice was my favorite. Whatever anyone says about it being stinky or crowded is by far overshadowed by it’s charm. Getting lost and doing nothing but eating and drinking is truely the best way to experience Italy. Dying to go back, your photos make me miss it so much!

  38. JAM says...

    Looks like an amazing trip! I adore all parts of Italy- but Tuscany is particularly magical.

    Do you have any recommendations for restaurants or activities in Lake Como? I’m heading there at the end of August for the first time, staying in Bellagio, and am eager for personal recommendations. xoxo

  39. Erin says...

    This sounds like such a wonderful trip – I always love getting away from daily life and reconnecting with my kids & husband. We are staying at Terre di Nano in September with our 2 and 4 year old – it sounds like we may never want to leave (hello, gelato cart!!!), but if we do, anything you recommend seeing (or eating) in the area?

  40. kira says...

    What a trip! Thank you for including links to so many great places.

  41. Oh what a beautiful trip. Italy is on my bucket list for sure! I did have a random question for you. Did you like the neck pillow that I saw on Instagram? We are about to leave to go adopt our daughter in China and have a 15 hour flight ahead of us!

    • Sam says...

      Congratulations on the adoption of your daughter!

  42. Karen says...

    Read Claudia Piras “culinaria italia” for regional cuisines in Italy!

  43. Maggie says...

    I would love to know what you packed! What you were so glad you brought, and things you realized you didn’t need.

    • BMP says...

      Agree! I love packing posts, but they usually feature solo travelers. With kids, that’s another story!

    • Anne says...

      Agree! Love to see what families pack.

    • CB says...

      Another vote for this topic! We have been talking about trying to put together a Europe trip next year with my then 3 and 6 year old girls and one of the only parts of planning that stresses me out is how to deal with all the kids stuff!

  44. SC says...

    I got to the end of the comments and cannot stop thinking about that pool and ledge in Terre di Nano is quite similar to the ones in the Master of None S2 (the wedding scene where they all jump to the pool). Is it? I just have to see the episode again!

  45. shopgirl says...

    O, so beautiful, what a great places!!

  46. Terry says...

    Really enjoyed these photos and the happy mood of this trip! I have enjoyed many visits to Italy and just wanted to clarify something in the comments: Florence is part of Tuscany, which is a province, a region. In fact, Florence is the capital city of Tuscany. So when you go toFlorence, you are in Tuscany. The whole region is so beautiful!

  47. Love all the pictures ans stories, looks like such a great holiday! I love Italy so much :)

  48. Chiara says...

    Oh my beautiful Country! Love to see it through a “stranger’s eye”: it makes me aware of how wonderful Italy is.

  49. Susie says...

    I saw some of these pics on IG – amazing! It looked like you and Alex got a few date nights to dinner…how on earth did you manage that with two little boys in tow? Did you use a local babysitting service? We have two young boys and would love to do this trip but I don’t foresee any time to ourselves?!

  50. Pilar says...

    I love your article. It is very inspiring. I’m already looking forward to planning a family vacation with my 5 year old son.
    Greetings from Spain

  51. Elise says...

    Oh Italy…your food and your people have my heart. I live right above and have only gone a few times. I love the picture of Anton walking out of the gelateria and the two people at the end of the line looking at him :). It looked like a great family vacation!

  52. Jane says...

    Jo, your boys have become a wonderful internet meme: Toby’s patterned t-shirts, Anton’s ice blonde bowl cut, Alex’s beard and Aviators. :) Predictably sweet. I can only hope to have a family of boys as cute as yours someday!

  53. Evelyn Del Rosario says...

    your boys are the cutest! and thank you for sharing your family vacation!
    wishing to experience the same trip with my loved ones in the future!

  54. Aww this makes me want to re-visit Italy so bad!! Seems like a perfect vacation for the family, and I suppose it turns out Italy can give a very authentic, fun experience for a family as well (not just lovebirds!) And honestly, their gelato is to die for. I’ve never heard of that place where they pour chocolate into the cone, but gosh that must’ve been a dream.
    Really nice photos, reading through this post actually made me so happy! Haha x
    Have a lovely weekend.

    Joanne

  55. MyHanh says...

    Italy is our special place, too. what a wonder it would be to live there- perhaps one day!

    Thank you for including the bumps along the road and being real that that instagram/photoshop life isn’t real! ;)

  56. Mel says...

    So very lovely!

  57. Thank you as always for being real and sharing the good AND bad of your trip. I appreciate your transparency so much!

  58. Arzina says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your holiday with us. You have a wonderful knack for drawing the reader into your life and as usual I felt like I was right there along with you.

  59. Lauren says...

    It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I hope the memories fill your family for a lifetime!

  60. Jas says...

    Thanks Jo! Am headed to Italy with a 11mo (then!) In October and this came in really handy! :) will be attending a Tuscan wedding and going to the same few cities too! It also reminded me to slow down and just soak in the lovely Italian vibes rather than trying to see everything at once
    First time commenting though I’ve been reading your blog for years!! Pre kids till now:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how fun, jas!! you’re going to have the best time :)

  61. Suzie says...

    I would love to know from any parents who have traveled to places like Italy with children with food allergies, or any Italians who may have any experience with this. I have a young child who is allergic to wheat and dairy. So…is Italy out of the question? It certainly would involve a lot more planning. No one would be able to make an impromptu pasta dinner or chocolate cake for us (without knowing about the allergies) that my son would be able to eat. And he wouldn’t be able to feed birds with leftover restaurant bread, lest some of it end up in his own mouth and he has an allergic reaction. :(

    • Wuselbibi says...

      I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of emergency food in local italian drugstores to substitute in emergencies.
      Of course I’d recommend planning your meals ahead, but I’m sure you’re used to that.
      Sorry to hear of your son’s allergies. It’s hard for both kids and parents! I know that first hand, since my son is allergic to the meat of turkey and chicken.
      All the best to you (I live in Germany, and we’ve eben on vacation in Italy a few weeks ago)

    • Amy says...

      I’ve traveled in Europe with a child with a dairy allergy, and, to be honest, it was very difficult. I tried to learn and use the appropriate phrases in the languages we needed, but found that there was still a lot of confusion. Once we realized we could not feed her from cafes or restaurants, and began carrying her food with us, I was able to relax a lot. So, I would say Europe is possible, as long as you have a kitchen available to you! Do make sure you read labels even on familiar products. Oreos in the US do not contain dairy, but the ones in Belgium did!

    • Elliesee says...

      Hi, I am in Italy with kids; most things are labelled Gluten Free as food is practically number one for Italians and people with wheat intolerance/allergy eat very well here. Soya milk is readily available and food is well labelled. I hope you will find people as considerate as I do.

    • Caitlin says...

      I went to Italy a few years ago with 2 friends who were had gluten free diets. It was amazing how many restaurants served gluten free pasta and pizza and how many were sensitive to allergy requests. It’s certainly a little more difficult but not impossible!

    • Nina says...

      You shouldn’t worry, because Italians do no gluten/no dairy very well. In most big supermarkets you can find all kinds of food for people with allegries, also there are restaurants that cater to this kind of ‘lifestyle’.
      It would only need some more planning on your part, and wherever you might go let the proprietors or the hotel know about the allergies and they will be really helpful to do all they can to help you :)

    • Sara says...

      My friend who has Celiac’s went to Italy and managed just fine. She ate a lot of prosciutto and melon and fish, so I think it’s doable.

    • Suzie says...

      Thank you for the reassurance, everyone!

    • Emma says...

      I travelled through Italy with a gluten intolerant roommate – we soon learned to say “senza glutine!” (Without gluten) with gusto when ordering! It was never a problem.

  62. Lee says...

    Ciao!
    Sounds like you had a whirlwind of an Italian adventure!
    I am curious about how you felt about staying for such a brief time in each place? My husband was born in Italy and so we go back every three years or so for a month. We rarely visit more than three or four cities (1-2 longer train trips and a couple of day excursions). We have a home base there where we spend time with family and so, we always try to allot at least a ten days for that. Still, I think I’d be too exhausted to enjoy more than a handful of cities and experiences. I need time to digest and unwind. Constantly packing and unpacking makes me edgy. On the other hand, I’ve been to Italy about 4 times now and I haven’t seen very much of it considering.
    Would you do as many places if you were to go back or would you focus on fewer with more days spent in each?
    Also, Amsterdam is a fun stopover on your way to Italy. We stayed a few days and cut out flight price in half doing so. Plus, we got to hang out in Amsterdam for a few days.

    • Elliesee says...

      I wonder the same thing; it’s probably a mindset:) I’m here with my 4 children and the first week is ”wasted” on resting from the jet lag and the heat. I’ve also done a week of traveling before arriving at my parents’ and it was fine – the child accompanying us wasn’t mine though:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a good question! i always love moving around from place to place because somehow it makes the trip feel longer. that said, it would be amazing to return to tuscany for a week or two sometime and really just get into a groove and relax. there are huge benefits to each kind of trip! fun to think about :)

  63. Emma says...

    3 years ago my mom planned a family reunion in Tuscany (Cetano). I think it was part of the argitourism group as well. My family is mostly from Holland, the U.S., and Australia but my mom found an INCREDIBLE and reasonably priced villa in Italy that slept 19 people for two weeks (using VRBO). So we had a family reunion in Italy as non-Italians. It was THE MOST INCREDIBLE UNFORGETTALE trip ever. Our villa looked a lot like yours with a huge pool and it came with the most wonderful Chef – Bea. We played Marco Polo in the pool, went on nature hikes, drank thousands of bottles of wine, and took day trips into Rome and other surrounding areas. I even got to drive our rented Audi’s on the Italian freeways. So liberating. I could cry just thinking about Tuscany. These photos are bringing me way back. While our next reunion won’t be in Italy because the family wants to try new spots, I will forever have the best memory of that country. Love Love Love.

  64. Mimi says...

    One great big giant vicarious thrill to read. Thank you !!!

  65. Gen says...

    Impromptu chocolate cake for 4th birthday?! SOOOO SWEEEEET!

  66. Anna G. says...

    Oh, what a gorgeous trip Joanna, thanks for sharing!! I would love it if you could share any nice restaurants that you liked in Venice. I have been there several times and it’s been the only Italian city where I have not managed to find good food (on a medium budget, that is). Would be forever thankful!! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for your note, anna! we actually mostly ate at skye’s house while we were there, which was such a treat — i wish i had good recs for you!

  67. This has got me SO EXCITED for my trip to Italy at the end of September. We’re doing Rome, Cinque Terre, and Bologna. It all looks so magical, and I can’t wait to just eat my way through the cities. Looks like you guys had such a lovely time. <3

    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  68. Jac says...

    It hurts my skin. I want to go to Italy soooooooo much. Between you guys, Master of None, and my love of Liv Tyler movies, I must go! Is there one tip you would give up about saving up for a big trip or saving on the cost of flights and hotels and dinners? Florence calls me. There’s a meme out there that says I was born poor, but cursed with good taste. BUSTED.

  69. Natasha says...

    I love your mention of slowing down to your boys’ pace. What a lovely trip!

  70. Teresa says...

    We have two kids about the same age as yours, and I’m curious to know – what was the sleeping arrangement like in each apartment? Meaning, did the boys always have a separate bedroom with a door? Or were you guys sometimes all sleeping in the same room/space?

    Also, did you do any date nights and then get a babysitter or something?

    And how did you find renting a car and driving? Was it pretty easy?

    I’ve been dreaming about a European vacay with the kiddos for months but get overwhelmed by the logistics.

  71. Allison Z. says...

    Can you recommend any specific restaurants you loved in tuscany/venice/como? Planning a September Italy trip and the picture of the stuffed squash blossoms is going to haunt my dreams! So lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  72. Karla says...

    Gorgeous! I’m headed there in a few weeks with my own two (slightly older) kids and am SO EXCITED! I love the recommendations in the comments, too. If anyone wants to reply and add more, we’re doing Rome, Florence, Venice, Sicily (Cefalu), back to Rome. I’d love to hear more.

  73. Sam says...

    I can’t believe it! I never post comments and when you had previously asked for advice on where to go in Italy with your family, I suggested Civita because we had just been there! What is even more crazy, is you stayed in the same apartment we did. Must be kismet. Wasn’t it incredible?! So happy you all got to share in the magic that is Civita. :) Now just don’t tell anyone else! ;)

  74. Is it nerdy to say I’ve been looking forward to this post all week?! With an 18-month-old and my last travel experience (Argentina) already THREE years ago, I’ve got travel fever real bad. The first couple episodes of Master of None season 2 did not help AT ALL. So glad you had a wonderful time and it’s inspiring to think that maybe when my little gal is just a couple years older we can be frolicking around Italy!

  75. Kerri says...

    Bookmarking this! Sounds like a dream trip- Next summer with a toddler, perhaps!

  76. Michelle says...

    Wow, your pictures are beautiful! Looks like an incredible trip. How far in advance did you make your accommodation reservations?
    We have a trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark coming up with our 5, 7 and 9 year old. I love the part about slowing down and enjoying your kids. Soak them up. Ahhhh. I want to remember that during our trip. Thanks for the reminder.

  77. Judy says...

    This is so beautiful and enchanting – I feel like I went on a virtual vacation! Can I ask how the traveling-between-places logistics worked? Were you mainly driving rental cars to get between cities and towns, using regional trains, or something else? I love visiting Italy, but am nervous driver – the thought of driving in Italian traffic amongst Italian drivers gives me heebie-jeebies!

    • Wuselbibi says...

      Oh, I can relate to that. I’m a nervous driver too and in bin cities I’d rather have my husband drive- but that goes for our home-country too.
      On vacation in Italy, driving was just driving. No need to be afraid of it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we flew into rome. while we were there, we walked, took taxis and used public transportation. then we rented a car to drive from rome to bagnoregio and then to tuscany. we kept the car in tuscany to drive around the little towns, and then we drove to venice. we returned our rental car at the venice train station. in venice, we walked and took the water bus. then after three days in venice, we rented a new car from the venice train station and drove to lake como. after four days there, we drove the car to the milan airport and returned it. hope that helps!

  78. Lucy says...

    This was a fantastic overview of your trip! Sometimes I find these posts too long, or lacking information and too many pictures but this was the perfect balance! I’ve only ever been to Venice for the day, and stayed at a seaside resort town called Lido di Jesolo in Italy. You have really sparked my eagerness to really explore the place. Especially Tuscany, what a dream!

  79. Cheryl says...

    Thanks for sharing. I love reading about and seeing your beautiful family enjoying the trip to Italy – wonderful memories with your growing boys!

  80. Charlotte K says...

    I know so many parents who postpone until their kids are a bit older and I say–don’t wait!! You did it right. Looks glorious.

  81. Jennifer says...

    Beautiful! I almost feel like I’ve been on a holiday after reading this. Thanks for sharing :)

  82. Tara says...

    Oh man this is $$. I could get 10 outfits for the price of 1 dress. I would love budget options. I use thred up a lot and local thrift stores. Hard to find good stuff for 5 ft lady.

  83. Jean says...

    Hey Joanna,
    Your trip looked beautiful! I was wondering though, how being a blogger and knowing that you have to document and share your vacation affects your trip (if it affects it at all). Any insight would be super interesting!

  84. Loved all these photos! Thanks for all the Italy tips! I’ve always wanted to ride around Rome in a scooter ever since my Mom showed me Roman Holiday.

  85. AJ says...

    Wow what a trip! Gorgeous photos. You did so much – but sounds so relaxed too! Amazing memories for your boys.

  86. Catharine says...

    We drove from Ireland to Tuscany via France and Switzerland a few years back with our two boys who were then 10 and 7. We stayed in a chalet on a campsite near Florence. We visited Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano and Siena. My friend was living in Siena at the time and he and his wife brought us on an insider’s tour of Siena(places only the locals know). I had visited with them before so some of the places I’d seen, but some were new also. Seeing the reaction on my kids faces was a complete joy as they saw churches, buildings, gelatarias ( these especially ☺)
    We then travelled to Milan to stay with another close friend and her family. Again we were lucky to see the tourist sites and those off the beaten track.
    Italy is such a beautiful country and a wonderful place to bring children. Mine are always asking when can they go back.
    We took them to Florida earlier this year to do Disney and Universal ( now 13 and 10 yrs). When asked did they enjoy it they said yes but not as much as Italy!!

  87. Dawn says...

    Any suggestions for restaurants or sites or must sees in/near Montepulciano? We are staying near there and also wondering if Civita de Bagnoregio is worth the hour plus drive (with 2 teenagers).

  88. Lindsay says...

    Italia!!! Ahhhh such a dreamy, beautiful place. I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip.

    Thank you for sharing ideas for where to stay.

    We’d like to take our kids there this fall but I’m wondering if the weather will be warm enough for swimming ?

  89. Jen says...

    Wow, this looks like an incredible trip! I’ll admit, this post has me feeling pretty emotional. I just love the way your talk about your children: it perfectly expresses how I feel about my 20-month-old daughter but don’t often get the chance to say out loud. How lovely to have uninterrupted, unscheduled time with them in such a magical place. We just moved to London from the US and it has been a delight (minus, like you said, the initial early wake-ups and meltdowns on the tube- ahh, there’s nowhere to hide!) to explore the city with my little gal pal and see it from her point-of-view. The tube! The bus! So many pigeons! Such enthusiasm and wonder for what adults often consider the most mundane things. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity, and almost overwhelmed with making sure we get as much out of it as we can- but now I’m inspired to relax a little and take it all in as it comes. We’re planning a vacation for October and can’t decide where to go, but Italy it looking preeeetty good right now. Thanks for sharing, as always :)

  90. Stephanie says...

    What an amazing trip!! Italy is just the best and I loved following your adventure on insta! xo

  91. Trish O says...

    Looks like a lovely trip. I am such a novice of booking apartments for trips. Unless I am at a place like Kiawah (beach resort) I tend to stick with a hotel. A) I am in my mid40s, so tend to be stuck in my vacation ways and B) I feel like with hotels you know what you are going to get. I have visions of creepy apartment rentals that look great in the photos be end up being shockingly like the dump I lived in during college. Any tips on making the leap to appartment vacation rentals? I am very intrigued with the thought of “living” in a city for vacation rather than just visiting in a hotel. How do you know what you are going to get? Do you just use Airbnb or have other suggestions? Thanks for the ideas.
    PS, morning sleep is coming. My sons are teens and I had to drag them out of bed at the crack of noon today.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg, your postscript is music to my ears!!!

      and as for making the leap to rentals, i definitely have advice.

      on airbnb, i’ve found most places to be very similar to the photos online. but if you want to triple check, read the reviews — they’ll let you know what the place is really like. also, if i’m nervous about something specific, i’ll go into the reviews section and search for a keyword. (for example, if we’re staying in a city, i’ll search “loud” or “noisy” or “quiet” and see if people talked about the apartment’s noise level.) another idea to to click on the filter section and only choose “superhosts.” that way, you’ll know you’re getting an experienced, trusted host.

      we’ve stayed in many, many great airbnbs (and kid&coe and homeaways and boutique homes), but if you want to feel really taken care of, you might try One Fine Stay. they’re run almost like a hotel, where they put in fresh white towels and little toiletries, and someone from the company meets you there to show you around, and they leave pastries and local foods for you. when you’re abroad, they’ll even leave a charged local cell phone for you. anyway, just a thought! i think you’ll really love staying in apartments :) https://www.onefinestay.com/

    • Trish O says...

      Thanks, friend. Wonderful ideas.

    • Eve says...

      Trish – I have stayed in Airbnbs all over the US and a few internationally. I really like them for certain situations, especially extremely expensive cities where hotels are too much to justify), but I think sometimes hotels are the right choice too! Airbnbs are always a small gamble. Like you said, you know what you’re getting with a hotel, but you really have to scour an Airbnb review (like, does it have air conditioning? You expect a hotel to but many Airbnbs don’t. Or, what size is the bed? In a hotel it’s always a king or queen but sometimes in Airbnbs it’s some tiny twin bed and it’s hard to tell from the pictures! Also an Airbnb may expect you to clean up after yourself by doing the dishes and taking the trash out). So I think there’s a place for both hotel and airbnb travel – hotels when you want predictability, when it is affordable in that particular city, when comfort and service is a priority. But airbnb is amazing in more expensive places, when you want to feel like you actually live in and experience a neighborhood, and when you’re in a position to gamble a little bit with the quality of the place. Just my .02!

    • Trish O says...

      Eve, thanks for the insight and helpful tips.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      totally agree, eve! i love rental homes when we’re traveling with kids or other family members, but i LOVE hotels on romantic getaways.

  92. Silvia says...

    Ohhh! I am a long time reader, but never commented before! Just wanted to say that this is the absolute best blog, and that you are FANTASTIC!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, thank you so much, silvia! What a sweet note :)

  93. Heidi Goos Larsen says...

    Dear Joanna.

    I’m going til Venice this week and Would like to ask if you remember the name of the restaurent where you got fried zucchini flowers?
    Thanks ?
    Best
    Heidi (Denmark)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it was actually at our friend’s house! but they’re definitely on menus around there. have a wonderful time!

    • Kate says...

      you MUST go to La Zucca in Venice! If you can, call and make a reservation before you get to Venice because it books up fast!

    • Lauren says...

      I had lunch at La Zucca 3 years ago, I would also recommend it! Very relaxed and good food. It’s also in a lovely area of Venice that is not overrun with tourists!

  94. Nicole says...

    Thank you for generously sharing your itinerary and recommended spots. This post is so inspiring and the photos are swoon-inducing!

  95. Alex says...

    We’re going to Rome and Tuscany in our honeymoon in a few weeks! This has definitely added a few extra places to check out!! Looks like you all had a wonderful trip xx

  96. Aly says...

    beautiful! love! love to see a major trip WITH kids as i’m expecting my first child this fall and wonder about traveling aboard with kid(s). I’m sure you have some great family-packing tips and I’d love to hear what worked (and what did not).

    • Lisa says...

      I think you’ve done them before, but maybe another one on travelling with kids? Maybe at different ages (as their needs are so different!) eg with a baby, toddler (my word that can be hard), 5 onwards, 10 onwards and then teenagers?
      We travel a lot with our toddler (and went to four continents with him when he was a baby) and have another coming along soon. It can be daunting, but if you know what to bring along / what to expect it can help a huge deal. Also, what kind of trip works. Eg with a toddler – weekend city visit – nope. Beach trip – yes. Staying with another family who has a toddler – amazing

    • Nina says...

      Ashley from http://hitherandthither.net/ does great travelogues with kids. She has a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, and has been traveling with them since they were even younger.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks so much for your note! and congratulations on your baby news :) hope you’re feeling well.

      we’ve been traveling to california, england, austin, atlanta, chicago, vermont, etc. with our kids since they were babies, and i have to say, the only really hard patch was when they were about 1.5 years old. they wanted to run around the plane and couldn’t sit still! but even that was fine in the end :)

      i’ve written tips for traveling with younger kids here:
      https://cupofjo.com/2011/05/motherhood-mondays-ten-tips-for-traveling-with-a-baby/
      https://cupofjo.com/2012/12/10-ways-to-entertain-a-toddler-on-a-plane/

      and here’s some advice from friends:
      https://cupofjo.com/2017/04/flying-with-kids-travel-tips/

      but overall, it’s REALLY fun to travel as a family!!! i’d totally encourage you to do it. if we’re at the beach or a house with a pool, we do a lot of relaxing! but we’re in a city with kids, we generally fall into a daily ritual: wake up early (we switch off getting up with the kids, so one parent gets to sleep in a little), do a fun morning activity (a museum, a park, a zoo, a little beach, barton springs, exploring a neighborhood, etc.), have lunch at a restaurant, then go home to rest and play quietly for a couple hours, do one fun afternoon activity, and then come home for dinner. sometimes we’ll get a local sitter at night so we can go out to dinner, just adults.

      it’s also an awesome bonus if the rental house has toys. kid & coe has great family-friendly rentals; and sometimes i’ll look on airbnb to see if they have kids our age (and thus great toys!)

      hope that helps! i could talk forever about family travel :)

  97. love the photos. looks like a fabulous trip!

  98. CR says...

    What a great trip! Thanks for sharing.

    Did this vacation and experience make you rethink any of your parenting styles?

    I am from Mexico, but have lived here two-thirds of my life, and, compared to the US, parenting there tends to be more free and less restricted. Kids are usually not only tolerated but welcomed to almost all occasion and spaces; bed times are not enforced; they play on the street with minimal supervision; mom breastfeed everywhere; babies/toddlers/kids nap on their stroller, parent’s lap or on a sofa.

    I am in my early 30s and don’t have any kids yet but a lot of my friends are starting to have kids and I often find myself a bit frustrated with how restricted they are by the baby/toddler and their self-imposed schedules. I totally agree that there should be a balance but I just feel like on most occasions they are limiting themselves and missing out. My aunt spends half of her time in Switzerland and the other in Uruguay with many travel stops in between. She has two kids that are so well adjusted to this hectic lifestyle that has really made me question the American parenting methodology. I attribute most of this to our culture; kids are not welcome or tolerated in the same manner but I think this is unfortunate.

    My husband and I keep promising ourselves that we won’t be like that but, of course, only time will tell…

    Again, thanks for sharing!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you! i really loved letting the kids stay up late and have dinners out with us. at home, we’re pretty relaxed with our kids — letting them run all around, play outside on their own, be noisy at home, dress themselves however they’d like, join in at family parties, etc. — so i think it’s possible to find a happy balance for you and your family wherever you live (at least to some extent!).

    • t says...

      Parenting is so tough. We are super, super relaxed letting our kids play and stay up and go to things that are more adult-geared -it is great. they tell us when they are tired at night and put themselves to bed. we let them go out and make decisions about what is dangerous and what isn’t when riding scooters and bikes and climbing trees and such. we are definitely not helicopter parents and that has been great because our four year olds are pretty independent BUT…

      they also have more tantrums/melt downs because their sleep schedule isn’t consistent and when we need to restrict things it is much more of a challenge for them to accept.

  99. Suzanne says...

    Such beautiful photos and memories you and Alex have given your children, Joanna. To this day, our girls still talk about the month we spent in Paris in June 2013 in a charming apartment in Montmartre. They were only 5 and 2 at the time (our youngest celebrated her 2nd birthday there) and our days were mostly unstructured and carefree, with daily gems of joy found in everything, from bus rides, playing in fountains, eating macarons, watching street performers, and discovering playgrounds on every other corner. Experiencing foreign travel through the eyes of your children is profoundly gratifying and Toby and Anton will surprise you with how they weave this time in Italy into their frames of reference and world views. I’m convinced that Paris is why my youngest daughter now considers the Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants to be a fifth food group. XOXO

  100. TNelly says...

    Never wanted to go before – but this post makes me want to slow down and save to travel travel travel. Incredible!!

  101. I did Italy, well, Rome and Tuscany, with my extended family of 13 people ranging in age from 2 to 72. We rented a villa near Florence, with two rental vans, and it was great. The same thing could easily work in France, as well. It’s harder to get to the capital (Paris vs. Rome), because of the distance, but you could very easily fill a two-week itinerary in the area where I live (around Carcassonne), with things to do for all ages.

  102. Jen says...

    I did my study abroad in Rome 20 years ago. My fantasy is to learn Italian and retire there one day. It’s truly a magical place.

  103. Tessa says...

    Alex and Anton’s faces in the first photo! Priceless! Alex has that look when a wiggly kid is on your lap and Anton is just having a blast. So cute.

    Glad you had a great trip (notice I didn’t say vacation). You need to go on more trips so you can share with us! I love reading about them.

    • I love the trip versus vacation distinction. Did you see the Huffington Post article about that recently? It’s hilarious! I have a friend who made this distinction a while back, and I completely agree. It helped me see that visiting the in-laws across the country is a wonderful thing to do but it’s not a vacation, it’s a trip. And then I can plan some at least mini-vacations that are truly relaxing without feeling like I should be happy we already went somewhere!

  104. Rossana says...

    Thank you for your incredibly descriptive post of the Country I love most. Loved that you did this trip as a family with two little ones. Gives me courage to try it next year with my 7 year old daughter. By the way, so funny to see pictures of Civita di Bagnoregio on your blog. I studied there many years ago and stayed an entire summer on that little hill town. I can’t even begin to tell you how many trips I took up and down that pedestrian bridge with bags of groceries. What a great trip down memory lane you have given me! xx

  105. Lucy S says...

    I’m so delighted you had a great time, meltdowns bumps and all. Italy is wonderful for small humans- when we took our daughter age 4 months we were always made so welcome, and again last year when she was 18 months.

    Tuscany always makes me think of the J K Rowling quote “where your treasure lies, there shall your heart be also,” after excavating there for many years. I have a book for general readers coming out in the fall on the Etruscans, if you’d like a copy?

    • jennice says...

      er…that quote’s not really from jk rowling

    • Meg says...

      J.K. Rowling is practically Jesus. ;)

    • Lucy S says...

      Just googled it and feel like a total chump now!!

      Spot the person raised atheist ? I hope I didn’t offend anyone…

      I swear I know more about Etruscan religion than Matthew’s gospel.

  106. hokidoki says...

    so awesome that your kids enjoy it as well, i am worry about taking such trip for fear my kids will be bored, they prefer resort and beaches. how do you keep the kids entertained?

  107. Lauren says...

    Thanks so much for the post! I love reading details about the itinerary and trip and appreciate the reminder about slowing down. I’m heading to a family wedding in Florence and meeting friends in Lake Como with my husband and 18 month old daughter in October. It’s great to see what you all got up to. We haven’t decided what town on the lake but seeing your pictures Bellagio and Varenna are both contenders!
    This is our first big trip with our daughter and I appreciate the tangible (car seats, pack small) and intangible from your post.

  108. We took our kid to Italy when he was seven. I found the major advantage to staying in rented homes/apartments was giving him a space to play BY HIMSELF for an hour or so each day, and Italy was full of surprisingly affordable rentals that allowed us to do that. I don’t know if this is just our family dynamic, but we all needed a break from one another occasionally, and vacations were so much more enjoyable when we weren’t sharing a series of hotel rooms for three straight weeks. There were things I didn’t love about Italy (mostly how aggressively people tried to sell us stuff), but it was a remarkably kid-friendly and inexpensive place to stay.

  109. Audrey says...

    My husband and I are headed to Italy in a few weeks for a delayed 10th anniversary trip (sans kids) so loving the tips and recommendations (also from your readers in your request for ideas post)! Coincidentally we had also gone to Amalfi Coast for our honeymoon. Love Italy. Thanks for all the inspiration (on your travels and daily!)

  110. Rebecca says...

    Amazing!!!!!!! I fell in love with Rome while on a European trip a few years ago and wished we had planned more days in Italy. Hopefully we’ll make it back when my son is a bit older (he’s 18 months). So very inspired to take little ones on big trips!!

  111. Alexia says...

    My parents took us on a similar, Mediterranean trip when I was your boys age (I was 5, my brother 3/4ish). I still remember the trips I took around that age, even now! I know people say that kids don’t remember, and sure, they’re not going to remember every last detail, but they will remember the feeling the experience gave them. I say, if you can, it’s worth it to travel with little ones!

  112. Silvina says...

    I visited Italy for the first time this spring (Turin, Florence and Rome). What a beautiful country <3

  113. Pooja says...

    We were just in Colico and Como. We may have crossed paths!

  114. Heidi says...

    I love your advice about slowing the pace down to match your children. I will have to remember that! (Also, I think that could also apply to regular, non-travelling life too, no?) Beautiful photos… so glad you had a great time!

  115. I’m literally going to Italy from Boston in two months for a wedding! My husband and I are flying into Rome, driving to Tuscany, and then heading to Bari where the wedding takes place. So happy for your recommendations!

  116. Sarah says...

    Thank you for sharing Jo and family, we went to Rome and Bagnoregio with our 2 about 5 years ago, it was so lovely, Italy is such a chill place.

  117. Maya says...

    Absolutely wonderful!! We are taking a trip to Italy with our (soon-to-be) four year-old twin girls next summer, and I’d love some more tips on traveling specifically with 4 year-olds! How bad was the jet lag? Any secrets to share? Anything to avoid?

    PS – I LOVE Skye’s Dolce & Gabbana dress!!!

  118. Laurel Hammond says...

    Wonderful way to experience Italy!!
    How did the car rental go? Did you get full coverage and what company did you use to book it?
    Thanks!!! I am so nervous to rent a car in France. Any tips appreciated!

    • Ashley says...

      Most credit card companies have auto rental insurance built in! Scope out your card before you spend extra bucks on car rental coverage.

  119. Kay says...

    Ah, so wonderful. Glad you & the fam had a great trip…now you’ve given me wanderlust!

  120. Meg says...

    It looks like an amazing trip! There is just something so special about Italy! And I loved your honest paragraph about the bumps in the road that inevitably happen on family vacations but are all part of the international travel experience! I honestly believe it is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

  121. Rachel says...

    How did the plane pillow work out?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha it was comfy for the five minutes i wore it before the exhausted boys draped themselves all over me and i had to sit perfectly still for the rest of the flight haha.

  122. Becky says...

    This is almost exactly what my husband and I did for our honeymoon 11 years ago. You’ve made me want to do it all again now with our boys!

  123. Looks magical! How were he boys on the plane? I know it isn’t their first time flying but the thought of long flights make me restless!

    Thank you including the hiccoughs along the way and keeping it real!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for asking! they were okay! on the overnight flight to italy, they slept pretty well, and on the way back, it was a 9 1/2 hour flight and they didn’t nap at all. (insert cringing emoji here) but alex and i did our trick of sitting apart on the plane — so one parent would have both boys for two hours, while the other parent got to relax/read/watch a movie, and then we’d switch. so it wasn’t so bad overall, and the boys were entertained by a refreshed parent every two hours!

    • t says...

      I wish my kids would do this. They ONLY want to be with me so it would be a screaming crying fight I think and I would certainly lose.

  124. Bethany says...

    How did you keep the boys occupied and avoid meltdowns at the later dinner time (we do early dinners with our boys but often wonder how a late dinner would go over if on vacation)? was a nap part of each day? or did you just go with it- when in Rome ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      both! they would usually nap at home after lunch, but if not and they were melt-y, we would make sure that the restaurant’s bread basket came out right quick! :) we would also let them get a special fizzy drink (like a san pellegrino aranciata) to cheer them up a little.

      the first night, toby was so tired from jetlag that he was eating bread with his eye closet and then basically fell into my lap, haha, so that’s an option too haha.

  125. Leah says...

    We ate at La carbonarra 3 years ago! Love it there! Now I want pasta for dinner..

  126. Ellie says...

    Thanks for sharing the bumps along the way. It can be so easy to look at everyone else’s trips and think, “Their’s is perfect! Why isn’t ours?!” But it looks like it was such a magical time! :)

  127. Kato says...

    It looks like you guys had an amazing trip! Honestly when you shared earlier you were going to Rome, Florence and Venice. In July! I really thought OMG what are you doing? Italy can get so hot and to hit busy cities with two little boys.. but you found some great relaxing places! It looks awesome! We were actually in Italy at the same time; in the cinque terre region. Amazing, we had such a good time; really a recommendation for next trips! X

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much, Kato! So glad you had a great trip!

  128. Diana says...

    beautiful trip!! even more beautiful family!!

    can you do a post on packing tips.. how many suitcases did you take for 2 adults/2 kids? and was staying at 7 different places hard/annoying? i imagine the packing/unpacking to be.. not the funnest thing in the world, especially on vacation.

    thanks!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, good question! the logistics were a pain sometimes, to be honest:)

      first off, needless to say, i definitely wouldn’t recommend staying in two different apts within the same city (for random reasons, we had to do that on this trip).

      but overall i do love moving around during a vacation to different towns because it makes the trip feel so much longer! and it’s exciting. even if it adds logistics, i think it’s often worth it overall.

      we packed really lightly — we took three small carry-on wheelie bags (one for me, one for alex, one for both boys); and we had three backpacks, each filled with things like books, drawing pads, wipes, our camera, etc.

      hope that helps!!

    • Diana says...

      wow, 3 small carry-on wheelies? that is SUPER LIGHT! i love it. i’m assuming you do laundry while there?
      thanks for responding joanna! you and your blog are just the greatest.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww, thank you :) :) :)

      and yes, we did laundry at a few rental houses, although tbh by the end i was down to wearing bikini bottoms haha!

  129. Honore says...

    Loved this post. My husband, parents and our son (he will be celebrating his first birthday on the trip!) will be heading to Lake Como in late September. Any suggestions on websites to look for family (aka baby) friendly accommodations? Do you recommend staying in Varenna?

  130. Awwwww. I so love this. Your trip looked magical.

  131. Scout says...

    Okay, so the trip looks amazing, I’m totally jealous, blah blah…BUT. I’m SUPER distracted by that firetruck shirt! Do you know where you got it/was it recently? My nephew would LOVE it!

    • Scout says...

      Thank you! Also, I’m glad y’all had a good time!

  132. A says...

    As another commentator said, this made me totally teary with happiness and I can’t wait to have my own family and go travelling with them.

  133. Cindy Fried says...

    Oh dear. How I loved this post, but am feeling Italy pangs as we just got back from Puglia last night.

    I am planning another trip based on your post now!

    PS I picked up Siracusa by Delia Ephron at the airport, it is set in Rome and Sicily and is a psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down (except for Campari and/or gelato).

    • El says...

      That book had me up SO late to finish it. Amazing. I lived in Ortigia (the ancient island town connected to Siracusa) for a year once upon a time, and I loved reading about it– took me right back. Beyond that, damn that plot! Gripping.

  134. Zoe says...

    what are those fried leaves next to the zuchinni (?) blossoms?! that looks crazy!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sage! they were amazing.

  135. samantha furry bridges says...

    just beautiful! italy is one of my absolute favorite places on this little blue planet. i traveled there in college with a dear friend, and out of all the places we ventured, italy was it for me. you mentioned falling extra in love with your boys, i feel like i fell in love with myself there! it’s such a special place that even the touristy spots can’t ruin.

    thanks for sharing these lovely snippets of your journey!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “i feel like i fell in love with myself there” = i love that, samantha.

  136. Annie Green says...

    That sounds perfect. Italy with children is fun because….well, just is. Sunshine, friendliness and ice cream. Plus pools. Great coffee.

  137. Kassie says...

    Looks like you’ve had an amazing trip!!! I’m sorry, I feel so rude, but I couldn’t help but notice a typo in the Trevi Fountain section. The sentence is “It’s then collected and clean and given to charity.” Just fyi. I’m glad you had such a good time, your pictures have definitely given me a travel itch!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, kassie!!

  138. Mandy says...

    Looks like a fantastic holiday! Italy is my favourite place too :)

  139. Sarah says...

    It’s all beautiful. I’m about to run out the door and straight to Italy with my husband and 10 month old daughter!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      do it!!! :)

  140. Cindy says...

    where’s your blue dress from? looks really comfy and flattering :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh yes! that dress was so great for travel: http://bit.ly/2tuCPWl

  141. Tiffany says...

    I’m not quick to get emotional about strangers vacations, but something about this made me feel real sappy. Great photos, great adventures, delicious gelato, and heart melting memories. Good for you!

  142. Hannah says...

    Wow, everything looks so beautiful! I’m glad you all had fun :)

    I’m going on a solo trip to Italy at the end of August, and I’m trying to decide how to tackle the Tuscany/Florence region. It looks like you guys didn’t really venture to the museums etc. in Florence. Would you recommend spending more time in Tuscany vs. Florence? Hopefully that made sense haha. I just kind of want to see both, but I don’t want to be over-scheduled (I could probably stay in the region for 4 or 5 days). Also I’m not sure where to stay in Tuscany on a semi-budget. Looks like it’s easier for families and couples to travel around there.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      a solo trip, that sounds wonderful! i’m sure you’ll have an amazing time.

      i loved just relaxing in tuscany. maybe you do 2-3 days in tuscany, and then 2-3 days in florence? honestly, they’re both such amazing places, i don’t think you can go wrong with how you split it up!

      the agriturismo near montepulciano (where we stayed) actually had individual rooms for rent. you might check it out, it’s so so lovely there: http://www.terredinano.com/interno.asp?id=22&lang=eng

      and airbnb has some affordable places with great reviews, too. for example, here are a few places around montepulciano starting at $10!
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8794354
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4712707
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/317547

      it’s SO beautiful in the val d’orcia — with all the rolling hills and hilltop towns! have such a fun trip :) xoxoxoxo

    • Tis says...

      Museums can be difficult with kids, but on a solo trip, you MUST MUST MUST museum in Florence! I have no knowledge or understanding of art at all, but I burst into tears when I saw the statue of David. Still one of the oddest and most magical moments of my life.
      Enjoy your solo trip! I’ve yet to travel any other way. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so beautiful, tis. xoxo

    • Hannah says...

      Wow thank you both for the great advice!! That really helps me a ton :)

    • Nina says...

      As an avid solo traveler (beofre I met my husband), I would spend 3 days in Florence, look at the sights, hit the museums, wander around Oltrarno, and would then rent a car and do nature and rolling hills of Tuscany. There are many airbnb’s that let you just share the room and while you’re at it, you get to know locals, which is fantastic. I have been everywhere in Tuscany, but my favourite was Siena on a hot Sunday afternoon.

  143. Marni says...

    what a magical experience for your boys! thank you for sharing these photos. makes me want to plan a trip ASAP.

  144. Naomi says...

    Omg! I went to the same gelateria when I was in Rome! Absolutely delicious, I’m so glad you enjoyed your Italian vacation! Italy is magical :)

  145. Kristy says...

    How absolutely lovely. Every little bit!

  146. Sarah says...

    My husband and I recently celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary with a trip to Italy and drank wine on that same bench on lake como! How funny. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! Xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a small world! happy anniversary, sarah xoxoxo

  147. Becca says...

    So fun! We’ve got an 11 day road trip out west (AZ, CA, NV) in mid-August and this got me even more excited than I already am! It can be done!

  148. brianna says...

    So beautiful. I love that you guys took it slow and didn’t force a bunch of touristy stuff on yourselves and the boys. We see so much of the touristy side of places in books and movies (hello, Da Vinci Code!), but there’s so much better stuff off the beaten path, or seeing it with local friends, as you did. Also, I love that their version of Uber is a Vespa.

  149. Alison Briggs says...

    loved following along on instagram with you! Beautiful photos and trip! You make me so excited to travel like that with our kids one day!! thanks for sharing! xo