My inspiration for writing this Family Travel article is simple. I want everyone who has ever dreamed of taking a trip to Italy with their kids to know YOU CAN DO THIS! Our 10 day, 9 night trip last summer to VENICE, ROME, and the AMALFI COAST was not something I planned years in advance. In fact, we only had a 30 day window once our airfare was booked and my husband and I started planning our epic adventure. For reference, my kids were 13, 8 and 6 at the time of travel.
Last summer we traveled to Italy as a family and it was the best decision we ever made! I can make this statement with ease now, but beforehand, trust me, there were ALOT of moving parts to tackle. First things first- I had to convince my husband this was a good idea, and the kids were the right age, and we would have the time of our lives. Luckily he agreed and after finding super reasonable airfare to Rome in August it was go time for me to start planning this somewhat last minute European vacation.
As much as I like to ask people for recommendations from time to time, I also prefer to do my own research and gather opinions until I start to see similarities and crossover information which means I’m on the right track! My VERY FIRST STEP started by googling “sample 10 day Italy itinerary for first time family vacation”. I absolutely cannot tell you how helpful this was to me. I already had an idea of the cities I wanted to cover and these itineraries broke them down in a way I could visualize our trip best and then go from there. In hindsight it would have made more sense to fly directly into Venice since our trip was beginning there, the airfare was far more economical for a family of five coming and going from Rome.
Once I had my days and nights mapped out of what I “thought” was a good plan, my husband and I realized this may be a bigger job than we anticipated planning all the details. Don’t get me wrong, we are savvy New Yorkers, take the NYC subway everywhere, never splurge on unnecessary items but the idea of using a travel company felt right! My husband had an online contact who had used Travel by Luxe and this connection was life changing. Next, I surrendered myself fully to one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Planning a trip 90% over email and back and forth messaging isn’t ideal, but Amy and her team at Travel By Luxe made it work!!! She found a few holes in my original itinerary and although she loved the flow of cities, she suggested adding a day of more sightseeing in the middle of our trip. I wanted our experience to be the best one possible and since these type of moments don’t come back with young kids, I was on a mission to get the itinerary right!
Day 1: After overnight trip which was a direct flight was JFK to ROME, our weary travelers arrived to their first gelato street side vendor and tasted one of “many” gelatos. When in Rome, right?
I researched our travel options extensively. With five people, there were times when it was the same price to either take another flight (for instance Rome to Venice) or train, or car. Timing is another thing! Because we needed to maximize every minute of our trip, timing was key. For this journey, we decided the high speed train would be best and it was a fun experience for us. We arrived very early to the train station and had some time to wander around. The train ride from Rome to Venice was around 4 hours and light snacks and beverages were served. The kids were able to sleep but as an adult, I personally find it hard napping anywhere other than a bed.
Keep in mind the first day will always be the hardest out of any trip. If you can survive Day 1, you have it made!
The train station in Venice opens up to the magnificent Grand Canal. Our water taxi was pre-arranged by Amy and her team which worked out perfectly. We easily located our boat driver and he took us to the nearest access point to our hotel. We loaded in, luggage and all, and even though we were tired, seeing this picturesque city on the brightest and most beautiful day was truly special.
For anyone who has been to Venice, you know how tricky it can be to get around. The streets and water taxi stops don’t make a ton of sense and the GPS on my phone wasn’t much help either. Luckily my husband prevailed and after wandering around the narrow alleys we found our hotel!
Planning a trip in a short amount of time forces you to make quick decisions and sometimes this works out! Hotel Ca’ Nobile Corner was a true gem and I feel lucky to have found availability during our stay. I used Booking.com and to my surprise received multiple emails from the hotel in advance. The staff was so friendly and even helped me with silly first time questions and helped to make dinner reservations. The 14th century castle turned hotel also happened to be near the train station AND in one of the best areas for dining, and family friendly night life. It was also one of the few places that allowed our family of 5 to stay in one room. Connecting rooms aren’t always a thing in Europe and many places only allow a 4 person max capacity.
Make sure you pre book EVERYTHING! Sure, you can take a chance, but why risk doing all the things you want to do when there are no guarantees on availability. This is the one thing that held us accountable. By have a daily schedule with set activities, we didn’t deviate much from our set agenda. If you know us you may be laughing right now, but it’s true….. we stuck to our schedule!
A gondola ride is a must when visiting Venice. Our travel company set this up and all we did walk walk to the specified location. We chose to extend to 60 minutes, but honestly 30 may have been sufficient. Again, leave yourself extra time, because finding places in Venice can be extra tricky. We lucked out with a beautiful evening and although the girls were almost rocked to sleep by the melancholy ride through the canals, it was something we will always remember! I’ve only seen Venice in postcards and was it everything I could have imagined.
Day 2: Our wonderful Venetian guide met us at the hotel in the morning and we took a water taxi to the most popular area in Venice, St. Marks Square. We had tickets to see the Doge’s Palace which she explained to the girls was like our “White House”. The Venetian Gothic style palace opened in 1424 and is one of the main landmarks in the city of Venice. A week after we left, the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show was held at the palace for the first time…. very dramatic I’m sure!
The Venetian glass is stunning. The detail is extraordinary and I loved seeing it in the palace. If you look through the window, the scene almost looks like a painting…. but it was very real! Many people take the trip to see the Murano glass factory which is just a short distance away, but we decided to save this activity for another time.
Another perk of having a full tour day was being taken to spots that were “off the beaten path” if you will. For instance, we never would have discovered this little restaurant tucked away had our guide not taken us here. She explained the menu to us made recommendations and we relaxed for awhile before heading back out.
When in Italy, you can easily spot an “aperol spritz” wherever you turn. This local favorite is so popular and the perfect afternoon, or evening drink. It’s both refreshing and light which makes it a great choice. There’s no shortage of outside dining for both locals and tourists to enjoy the scenery.
In case you didn’t know, Venice is known for masks. You will see them everywhere you go, and there was a shop near our hotel who supplied the infamous masks for the film, Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. While planning our itinerary, our Travel by Luxe suggested we take the kids to a mask making workshop. We were all in! This family owned shoppe, was a one of a kind. Sogno Veneziano Atelier was the real deal and the kids had such a memorable time. They selected their mask of choice and spent the time paining and decorating it while my husband and I had some time to explore Venice without kids. It was a win win for everyone!
I can’t thank our tour guide enough for her patience, suggestions, and wealth of information she gave to our family. She kept us moving on pace and made sure we experienced all that our day allowed for and then some!!! I’m so thrilled to have spent time with someone with such passion for her city and to have the benefit of her vast knowledge. We wrapped our day before dinner which gave us the entire evening on our own.
Venice is known for great seafood. My husband and son were in heaven with such fresh seafood and pasta. We also found the neatest floating fruit and veggie boat on a canal. My daughter, still talks ALL THE TIME about the delicious strawberries she had in Venice. I’ll admit, they were perfection in color, shape and texture.
We hated to say goodbye to Venice. Ideally, one more day here would have been great! We can still taste the gelato and all agreed it was our favorite spot in Italy for this crowd favorite. Gelateria il Doge located at Dorsoduro, 3058/A, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy.
Day 3: We took a water taxi to the train station and headed back to Rome. One took last look at the grand canal before we went inside. If it looks like we’re wearing the same clothes….we are! My rule was one carry on per person and no more. Somehow we made it work.
After our 4 hour return train ride, we arrived back to Rome the beautiful eternal city. This would be our next place of adventure for three days and we had ALOT to see. I’ll admit, my curiosity peaked when our taxi driver started driving up a very long and big hill to our hotel. It seemed as if we were climbing to the top of the city and in hindsight, we were doing just that! We arrived in the mid afternoon to The Rome Cavalieri A Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
After a seamless check in, we were escorted to our garden view rooms. Notice I say 2 rooms, because this was a hotel that did require our party of five to have adjoining rooms. Let’s just say it worked our beautifully and gave us all a little more space. Aside from my wedding night in NYC, I’ve never stayed in another Waldorf Astoria property. The Rome Cavalieri was next level luxury with beautiful rooms, amenities, and sweeping views of the sculpture garden, pools, and city all from our balcony! We were also told upon arrival there was a kids club with daily activities for the little ones. My girls were ready to go as soon as they heard these words!
Once we dropped the girls off at the kids club, I was anxious to explore the stunning hotel. There were breathtaking works of art and tapestries around every corner and it was easy to get lost while gazing at them . I certainly wasn’t expecting such an impressive art collection at a hotel and learned The Rome Cavalieri is home to one of the greatest private collections of art in the world with pieces dating back to the 16th Century.
The tapestry below entitled “Triumph of Mars” is enormous (almost 8 metres) and is part of a series which was made in the 18th century. It tells a story in such detail and was just magnificent.
The Rome Cavalieri is an exceptional hotel with both beauty and special features such as a 3- Star Michelin dining restaurant, outdoor and indoor pools, an award winning spa, fitness center and on site activities that include “gladiator training”! Guests who reserve the Imperial Rooms or Suites have access to the Imperial lounge. This area was one of the most special spots with an outdoor balconies overlooking the magnificent city of Rome. We could see the Colosseum as well as the dome on St. Peters. After the longs days of sightseeing you could find us here and my kids would even joined one evening after their time in the kids club.
Day 4: This was an earlier morning for us. Our guides were understanding with our family rhythms, but insisted we get an early start for our “Colosseum Day”. I’ll be honest, my primary reason for traveling to Italy was to see these landmarks as a family and know were are giving our kids something more valuable they will remember. Because we got such a late start planning, tickets were already booking up and seeing the newly opened “underground” was a must for me. Our amazing tour company was on it and made sure to secure tickets right away.
Seeing this largest outdoor amphitheater ever made and also the largest still standing left me speechless. The Roman Colosseum was larger than life in so many ways. Our underground tour was on a strict time limit, as was our time on the actual arena floor but we did it! Our fabulous guide told us interesting details the entire time and things we would never, EVER have been aware of if left on our own. It was such a value to have her with us and she even brought my young girls a children’s book explaining our surroundings. My youngest daughter immediately recognize an area we were standing in which was so cool! I had no idea the ceilings would have been painted bright blues and reds and how every spectator was given as actual tickets. There was also a tarp in the summer for sun protection. The Romans truly were incredible architects and its proof by the Colosseum which is still standing and was originally built in 80AD.
After our Colosseum tour our guide walked us all around the ancient ruins. It’s hard to believe these structures are still standing and how ancient they truly are. The details and designs are incredible and hearing the stories behind them really added to our experience.
Day 4 was by far our most “touristy” day. After the colosseum, we booked a private car that drove us around a few other sites we wanted to see. Please note, this can all be done on foot since they are in close proximity…. but having access to the car allowed us to do it in 1/2 the time and less stress with kids.
Our first stop was the Pantheon. This temple opened in 125AD and is the most preserved of all the ancient ruins. The line was too long to get in and we just took a few photos outside.
While traveling with kids, we learned any little stop was useful to keep energy levels high. It’s easy to get drained while walking around ( for adults too). Luckily, there’s no shortage of gelato in Italy and we always made time for this!
Next stop, The Trevi Fountain. I’ve seen so many photos of this pristine fountain and to see it in person was really amazing. We bought some souvenirs from the street vendors to get coins and we all made our wish! The fountain was originally built as a water source for the city.
Next stop was the Spanish Steps. We climbed the 174 steps to the top and this was our final “sight seeing” activity of the day. The girls found a beautiful fountain to play in afterwards
Once back to our beautiful hotel, our day didn’t stop. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon pool side and relax. The pools at the Rome Cavalieri are gorgeous and there’s so many spots to unwind and soak up the sun (or shade).
Day 5: Vatican City- Once again we secured tickets in advance for the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Note there is a strict dress code and all shorts, dress, or shirt must some to the knee with shoulders covered. We saw people turned away so just be on the safe side…even kids!
Our tour began in St. Peters and it was all just overwhelming with beauty and gold. We were lucky with low crowds throughout the Vatican and at times almost felt empty. The Pieta sculpture is behind glass now but we could still see it very well.
The Vatican Museums can take many hours to go through and you will still never be able to see everything in one visit. Our guide was just amazing at showing us the highlights and filling our ears with so much interesting information along the way. She was a true historian and had incredible insight for everything we saw. I learned so much about Michelangelo which was a highlight in her studies.
The kids really pushed through, didn’t complain, and I was so proud of them! I snapped the picture below of my newly turned 6 yr old. She found the tiniest nook to relax for a split second and then carried on. If you think your kids can’t do it…. they can!
The day was long but we saw so much and have such a new appreciation for these structures and ancient artifacts. I know we will carry these experiences with us and I’m so happy we have them. Our guide was so amazing and we can’t thank her & Travel by Luxe enough!
We had a lovely remainder of the day at the Rome Cavalieri. The kids checked out the indoor swimming pool and had a blast (swim caps required!) I thought we would have more time to explore Rome in the evening but honestly the hotel has such amazing food, we opted to stay in and relax with the amazing views and convenience. This was the perfect choice! There was something for everyone and our last night sitting poolside was really special!
Day 6: Leaving Rome was hard because it was such a beautiful city. This is one more place I would have loved a “free day” to explore but there’s always next time. Thank you to the Rome Cavalieri for an exceptional stay. On our last evening, my middle daughter broke into tears when we told her it was our last night. The kind waitress told her the hotel would always be here to welcome her back. Thank you Rome Cavalieri!
Our next stop was the Amalfi Coast. We opted to drive door to door. The other option is a train + ferry + taxi. It wasn’t too far and we had the added bonus of the most scenic drive I’ve ever witnessed!!! I mentioned earlier how tightly scheduled we were. Because everything was planned in advance we had no choice but to keep up with this schedule. We had exactly 40 min upon arrival to then leave for our infamous “Lemon Tour“!
There are so many amazing towns in the Amalfi coast and after all my research, my initial reaction was to stay a couple different places. However, once our travel company suggested we had the extra night in Rome, it just made sense to pick ONE location. After ALOT of back in forth I went with my initial desire to stay only in Positano. It’s not easy packing everything up for 5 people so this was the perfect choice! This picturesque postcard town is known for their stunning seaside views and epic sunsets. I made the right choice and feel so lucky we were able to find a room that allowed 5 of us! I found the Art Hotel Pasitea while by searing on Trip Advisor. You may have been warned by large websites like this, but honestly it was a dream come true. This hotel was exactly as described and was just incredible in so many ways. The hotel had a lovely breakfast each morning and even gelato at night when we came back home. Because the entire town is built on the side of a mountain, its important you find a place not too high or else you will be walking even further on your beach days.
It would be unfair to say we saved the best for last, because every minute of our trip was pure magic… BUT, the Amalfi Coast was more relaxing and the only city where we did not tour a museum. We did, however, take private lemon tour as suggested by our travel company. When we heard the description, there was no way we could say no. If you ever have the chance to do this ( Feb-Aug)…. don’t even hesitate! We took a car from the hotel and then a little golf cart up the mountain to one of our favorite experiences of the trip.
Our private lemon grove tour started with a nice taste of a lemon taken right off the branch. Lemons are my daughter, Harper’s FAVORITE thing in the world so she was loving every second. This family owned business shined a light for me what it takes to run a lemon grove. The hard work, dedication, and love that go into it could only come from family that greatly cares about their product. At times we were walking up vertical inclines and it was very strenuous exercise. Lucky we have many stops along the way that included sampling the “product”. The fresh-made lemon cake, lemonade and lemon candy was out of this world. The adults even could sample some limoncello that was equally outstanding.
Our tour was at the end of the lemon season, but there were still beautiful lemons on the trees and the smell was unbelievable. If you are looking for a really fun experience this is the one to book!
Thank you to Salvatore and your entire family for such an unforgettable and memorable experience! We have a new appreciation for lemons and think about our tour often!
I thought I was prepared for the “steps” in Positano but it was still an experience we will always remember. There are not many ways to get from your hotel to the beach without walking alllllll the way down. Luckily my husband was able to navigate us along the “very” narrow streets and find the staircase entrance. The first time is always the hardest but also the most memorable, wouldn’t you agree?
The weather was picture perfect on this late August day and once we got set up, our day of “relaxing” could officially begin. The kids played in the pebble beach for most of the day and we could easily see them with our lounge chairs so close to the water. Our hotel arranged our reservations in advance at Da Ferdinando and it was a great choice. This beach club restaurant was not on the main strip and a little off the beaten path. The food was amazing and I still think about the pizza I had there! BTW, The turbans are from my amazing Italian born friend who created these for her love of Capri. Thank you Dani!
Day 8: Our second day in the Amalfi Coast by popular vote was the very best day of our trip. We hired a private boat tour to the island of Capri and it was just the best day! Thank you to Travel By Jen for recommending our Sorrento Limo transportation services and private boat tour for the day! I have already recommended them myself to several people and will continue to do so!
Our full day boat trip to Capri almost didn’t happen due to choppy waters, but luckily everything worked out! We departed from Sorrento and our captain Mario made sure we had the best trip as we set out. Everyone genuinely loves being on a boat. The open waters, and sea breeze can do wonders for your mood. Our family spends most of the year in NYC, so having this opportunity was extra special.
We learned real quick staying on the boat was our best option after a failed attempt in going inside a lagoon. I had dreams of seeing the blue water and reflections but none of us braved all the way inside the cave. Maybe next time!
Mario made our experience a celebratory one, and surprised us with history lessons, delicious snacks and even champagne! We were all perfectly content and enjoyed our time so much as we circled around the beautiful island of Capri. The iconic rocks were magnificent and I’m so glad I finally was able to see the in person!
Our Caption Mario arranged for our amazing lunch in Capri. We had the best views, food, and it was perfect! We didn’t tour the Island, so this is definitely on our bucket list for a return trip some day. There’s always so much to do and see but its also nice to save some things for next time!
Thank you to Mama Mia Tours for an incredible day we will never forget. You made our time in Italy so special and memorable!
Positano at night is just as beautiful with all the lights. We feel so lucky to have taken this trip of a lifetime and I loved documenting our time.
Day 9: Our last day was spent going to the largest beach area in Italy, the Spiagga Grande. There’s no prettier view that I’ve seen compared to this beach view set against a cliff. This is the most popular area and what is normally seen in photos with all the colorful striped beach chairs lined up perfectly by the water. It truly is a thing to see and I’m glad we saved this for the last day. It’s a little more touristy than other areas, but not in a bad way. We enjoyed our last full day in the Amalfi Coast and indulged in some favorite treats and delicious Italian food. I wanted to try many of the restaurants, but there is never enough time to do it all. We opted to go with our original plan and just relax in the peaceful summer air and watch the kids play in the water one last time.
Leaving Positano was challenging for me to say the least! The picturesque postcard views really were my favorite of the entire trip and hopefully one day we can return.
Walking up the stairs one last time was bitter sweet and at least we had the stunning views as a reward. We will remember this trip forever and look forward to our next family journey where ever it may be.