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If you’re wanting to travel to Italy but aren’t sure if you can do it with a baby, let me put your mind at ease. You can travel to Italy with a baby and have a great experience. And this is the perfect guide to help you on your way to a successful trip!
When we planned a two-week trip to Italy with our 11-month-old baby, I was afraid people would think we were crazy.
In fact, in the weeks leading up to our trip, I didn’t even want to bring it up to anyone. I didn’t want to face raised eyebrows and that subtle “are you sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?” vibe.
And it wasn’t just a hang-out-at-the-hotel and eat gelato kind of a trip we were planning. Neither my husband nor I (or our baby for matter, not that he cared much) had been to Italy before, and we wanted to see everything we could. And eat gelato. But mostly see everything we could.
We packed our itinerary with multiple cities, all of the sites we could cram into two weeks, and no room for rest or nap breaks. And then we hoped for the best. Wishful thinking on the part of first-time parents? A recipe for disaster? Surprisingly not.
The trip was, for lack of a better word, amazing. It was filled with incredible sights, hilarious moments, sweet memories, and yes, a meltdown or two. I mean, what do you expect when traveling with a baby?
But overall our son did better than I could have hoped for (take that, naysayers!) and left me wanting to travel more with kids, not less.
So if you’re wanting to travel Italy with a baby, I say do it! Here’s our guide to make it simpler.
Is Italy Child Friendly?
First off, you might be wondering if Italy is a good place to travel with young kids. The truth is, Italy is very child-friendly. In general, Italians love children and are quick to make accommodations for you and your child.
Our son brought smiles to faces everywhere we went and people were constantly playing with him and trying to engage him.
Logistically, travel in Italy is convenient and easy to manage with a baby. We also found that most hotels had cribs available (call and check before your trip to be sure) and restaurants often had high chairs.
Should You Bring a Stroller to Italy?
You can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should…
We chose not to bring a stroller on this trip because we wanted to pack as light as possible. But there are areas where a stroller could be very useful (think airports and museums).
However in general it can be tricky to navigate the cobblestone streets and uneven paths with a stroller.
And there will be many sites where you really can’t bring a stroller. In that situation, you either need to plan ahead and leave your stroller at the hotel or find somewhere to store it when you’re at a location that can’t accommodate a stroller.
Also, plan on bringing one that’s sturdy enough to handle the roads (not a cheap umbrella stroller!) and can fold up quickly for hopping on and off public transportation.
And even if you do bring a stroller, you’ll probably want to bring a baby carrier as well (see the point on baby carriers below).
Since we wanted to be able to easily move between cities, we decided to pack as light as possible. We didn’t want to be weighed down with luggage and baby gear while trying to navigate through crowded streets to find the train station.
So we ditched the car seat and chose to only use public transportation. We left the stroller behind and opted for the baby carrier.
And we packed everything we needed into one carry-on bag. Yep, two weeks’ worth of clothes for three people, diapers, toiletries…you name it! All in one carry-on size bag.
I also brought a diaper bag for our baby’s everyday needs and my husband brought his backpack.
And you know what? I didn’t find myself wishing for something we didn’t bring. We had all we needed in that little suitcase. Packing light is possible! Even with a baby.
Tips for traveling light in Italy with a baby
Bring fewer clothes and wash as needed
When I said we brought two weeks’ worth of clothing, I guess I should clarify. It was actually one week’s worth of clothes plus some laundry detergent. I washed our clothes as needed so that we could last the two weeks while still packing as light as possible.
You can get a travel laundry detergent like this one and hand-wash the clothes in the sink at your hotel, then hang them up to dry. Just make sure you’re staying in that location long enough for the clothes to dry before you need to pack them up.
Another option is to use a laundry service. Some hotels have one, or you can usually find one near where you’re staying if you look online. The trick is to make sure that they can have them back to you before you move on. Otherwise, you might be one sad little traveler.
Pack clothes you can mix and match
If you’re only bringing a limited number of clothes, coordinate them so that they are easy to pair together. This will help everyone’s clothes to stretch further while still feeling like you have variety to your wardrobe.
Bring one jacket that will go with all of your clothes. Pick bottoms that will match with multiple combinations of shirts. Choose one or two pairs of sturdy, versatile shoes to go with all of your clothes.
Use packing cubes
Packing cubes are suuuper helpful for neat and concise packing. It allows you to pack tightly, utilizes your space well, and (bonus!) makes everything easy to access and repack.
I really love packing cubes when traveling with kids because I can keep everyone’s stuff separate and easily find what I’m looking for. And that helps keep my stress down.
Have a detailed packing list
When you’re not packing much, it’s important that you’re packing the right things. Especially with a baby. It would be unfortunate to get half-way across the world and realize you forgot diapers (we’ve done this on a trip before…big oops!) or the only pacifier your baby will take.
Granted, you can buy some things when you get there, but it’s inconvenient and slows down your trip. Plan ahead to make sure you have everything you will need.
Tips for traveling Italy with a baby
At the risk of overgeneralizing, I would say that if you’re traveling with a baby, Italy is a great place to do it. It’s relatively easy to get around, the language barrier tends not to be too much of a problem, and you don’t have to worry about food-safety issues.
And in our experience, the people were great. Most of the Italians we had contact with were very accommodating and positively fawned over our baby.
If you can handle the long flight to get there (depending on where you’re coming from), it can be a great trip, little guy and all. For tips on a successful flight with a baby, see this post.
Here are a few tips we found that help to make a trip to Italy with a baby a little easier:
Bring a baby carrier
For this trip, we chose to do without a stroller. But even if you do bring a stroller, I would highly recommend bringing a baby carrier as well if you’re visiting Italy with a baby. Very highly. As in, don’t go without a baby carrier or you’ll probably regret it.
Like I mentioned above, there are so many places that are just plain tricky to navigate with a stroller. Lots of ruins, staircases, towers, etc. A baby carrier will save your back. And your sanity.
On this trip, we brought our trusty Ergobaby carrier. Comfortable, easy to use, great for naps…I can endlessly sing the praises of the Ergobaby. If you want a more detailed explanation of the benefits of babywearing while traveling, take a look at this post.
Have a nap strategy
There was absolutely no time allotted for naps on our Italy trip. Which meant that all of our baby’s naps were naps on the go.
Luckily, our son slept great in the baby carrier. And the added benefit was that while he was napping, we were able to have a little peace to explore whatever museum or gallery we were visiting that day.
This strategy might not work for everyone. Maybe your baby naps better in a crib or you prefer being able to put your baby down someplace to nap.
In that case, you will need to adjust your schedule to account for naptime. And make sure you have a place for them to nap. On our trip, if we were switching cities, we didn’t have a hotel until the evening. So naps at the hotel weren’t even an option.
Whatever you end up doing, make sure your baby is getting adequate sleep or your whole trip will suffer.
Eating out in Italy with a baby
Eating out with a baby can be a bit tricky, especially in Italy where the meals tend to run long. I always tried to make sure I had a few small items to pull out to keep my baby distracted, whether it was his teether, a small rattle, cups to stack, or small snacks to tide him over.
Sometimes either my husband or I would take him for a little walk around while we were waiting for our food so he wouldn’t get too bored.
However, the most enjoyable meals for me were the ones where my son was sleeping. If we timed it right, I could put him to sleep in his baby carrier right before the meal and he would sleep through the whole thing.
Also, keep in mind that Italians eat dinner a lot later than you might be accustomed to if you’re coming from the US. You usually won’t be able to find a place serving dinner before 7 or 7:30 pm.
Plan for all of those museums and churches
If your goal is to get a good feel for all that Italy has to offer, you’re going to be visiting a lot of churches and museums. You can’t visit Milan and not go to the Duomo or Rome and not experience the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
This can be tricky with a baby. One museum, sure. Two, should be fine. But once you start visiting back to back museums and basilicas (like we did for our trip), you’re going to need some ideas to keep your baby happy and content. Check out this post for some tips for tackling museums with a baby.
Watch out for pickpockets and scammers
The sad fact of the matter is that pickpockets and scammers target tourists. And Americans. And especially American tourists. This is just smart business on their part because often tourists are easy prey and make it worth their while.
And know that traveling with young kids can make you even more of a target because you are often distracted feeding your child, changing a diaper, etc. So be sure take precautions so that you aren’t an easy target.
Tips for avoiding scammers
Wear your valuables in a money belt under your clothes, keeping just a small amount of money in your wallet. And do not access your money belt in public. The whole point of a money belt is so people don’t know where your valuables are.
Avoid sitting on the corner of outdoor cafes, an easy place for a pickpocket to snatch a wallet or purse.
Be cautious on buses and public transportation, especially if you’re standing near the door. Pickpockets will often snatch something and jump off, immediately disappearing into the crowd.
Wear your backpack in front of you in crowded areas. Put your purse strap over your head, not just over your shoulder.
Be suspicious of someone asking for change for large bills. We actually fell prey to this one in Rome. A very sincere-seeming man came up to us asking for change to use for a train ticket. Normally we would have been suspicious, but we were distracted trying to find the right train and he seemed very genuine.
We helped the man out, only to find out later that the larger bill he gave us was a forgery. Although we reported it, at that point there’s really nothing to do but take it as a lesson in street smarts. And to be suspicious of anyone asking for help in the future, unfortunately.
Here is an overview of what the trip to Italy with our baby looked like:
Day 1– Fly into Rome, train to Florence
Days 2-3– Florence
Day 4– Train from Florence to Pisa to Riomaggiore
Day 5– Explore Cinque Terre, night train to Milan
Days 6-7– Milan
Day 8– Milan to Venice
Day 9– Venice
Day 10– Day trip to Murano and Burano, evening train to Rome
Days 11-13– Rome
Day 14– Vatican City, late flight out of Rome
As you can see, it was a pretty busy trip. But we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We packed a lot into those two weeks and had a great experience in each of the places we visited. And it gave us a perfect overview of the splendors of Italy.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Italy with a Baby
When we told people about our plans for our Italy trip, I’m pretty sure there were a few who thought we were biting off more than we could chew. And to be fair, it was a lot to take on with an 11-month-old.
I remember packing before we left and thinking, “I hope by the end of this trip, we have more to say about it than just, ‘Well, we survived…'”
So now that it’s over, I can say, “We survived. And it was awesome.”
So I guess here’s the takeaway: You can travel with a baby. You can travel light with a baby. And you can have a fast-paced, busy trip with a baby.
Not only that, but you can do all of those things and have an incredible, memorable trip!