little girl playing with drinking water fountain in Rome, Italy; Courtesy of MNStudio/Shutterstock
All Ages

11 Best Italy Family Vacations

See recent posts by Allison Tibaldi

Few countries welcome children more than Italy. It’s a family-centered society where parents bring their children practically everywhere, including top restaurants and the opera.

Locals will embrace your bambini with open arms, squeezing their cheeks and patting their heads.There’s so much to do and see, from big cities like Rome and Florence to the glorious beaches of Elba to the snowy ski slopes of the Dolomites. You could spend months exploring and there’d still be more to discover.

Get ready for a first-hand taste of la dolce vita at these Italy family vacation destinations.

Venice; Courtesy of Mirco Toffolo

1. Venice

Venice is a dream for visitors of all ages. Drift along the Grand Canal on a waterbus called a vaporetto or go for broke and enjoy the view from a private gondola. Marvel at the architectural beauty of Piazza San Marco while the kids chase its countless resident pigeons.

A visit to Murano is an artistic immersion. This little island is known for its production of colorful decorative glass objects. Visitors may watch the skilled craftsmen demonstrate the glass blowing technique at one of the factories that specialize in this art form.

There’s not a car in site as everyone in Venice travels by boat or foot. Allow plenty of time to get lost in the colorful back alleys for a glimpse of local life.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel OLIMPIA Venice

Dolomites; Courtesy of Helmuth Rier

2. The Dolomites

The Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for their Alpine beauty and dramatic mountain scenery. This part of Italy is an excellent choice for families looking to unplug and re-connect with nature. These jagged snow-capped peaks are a wonderland for winter sports enthusiasts, with superb downhill skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snow biking. Warmer months are also a fine time to visit thanks to an abundance of colorful wildflowers and peaceful green meadows. Active options include mountain biking and hiking.

Explore the small mountain towns that dot the landscape. They are filled with storybook chalets and adorable Tyrolean huts that look just like Heidi’s house.

Recommended Hotel: ADLER Lodge ALPE

 

Elba Narengo Beach;

3. Elba

Located off the Tuscan coast, Elba is a mecca for history buffs. Napoleon was exiled here and many sites pertain to this period. Visitors may explore the two Napoleonic residences, as well as the Museum of Napoleonic Relics in Portoferraio.

As significant as the historic sites are, the island’s natural beauty and sublime beaches make it tempting to spend all of your time submerged in the turquoise water fringed by lush vegetation. Boating and fishing are popular pastimes.

Recommended Hotel: Villa Rodriguez Hotel 

The Langhe, Piedmont Region; Courtesy of The Langhe_ Vineyards

4. The Langhe, Piedmont Region

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path slice of Italy, the vine-laden hills of the Langhe in the Piedmont region fit the bill. With natural beauty and a prestigious cultivation of wine grapes, the area has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Elegant small cities like Alba and Asti offer majestic castles and culture, while the countryside is awash with hiking trails.

The area is famed for its seasonal white truffles, available each fall for just a few months. Truffle hunters use adorable dogs to sniff for these expensive, earthy mushrooms. Most truffle hunters do their work at night, so have the kids take a nap, dress them warmly and join one of the truffle hunting tours for an up-close look at man’s best friend at work.

Recommended Hotel: Albergo dell’Agenzia

Milan Castle;

5. Milan

This wealthy Northern city is home to important sites such as Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the gothic-style Duomo with its gargoyles. The city’s castle, Castello Sforzesco, hosts several museums; children will find swords, suits of armor and a resident mummy scattered inside this massive building. It’s next to Milan’s biggest park, Parco Sempione, with its green spaces and playgrounds.

Milan is a global design and fashion capital. Teens and tweens may appreciate the people watching, with stylish residents parading the streets in elegant designer clothing.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Milano Castello 

Florence

6. Florence

This Tuscan city is a jewel-box of Renaissance treasures surrounded by a ring of picturesque hill towns. The city’s beautiful Duomo is an ornate pink, white and green cathedral. Let the kids burn off energy and climb to the top of the bell tower (414 steps!) for a magnificent view of Florence below. The Uffizi Gallery is home to a fabulous art collection, including Botticelli’s ethereal Birth of Venus. Don’t miss a stop at the Museo Galileo; the museum is loaded with celestial objects, including Galileo’s telescope. Act like a local and ride the old-world carousel at Piazza della Repubblica and picnic at the Boboli Gardens.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Pendini

Lake Como view from Villa Fiori; Courtesy of Villa Fiori

7. Como

Lake Como has been a popular family getaway for generations, but the arrival of Hollywood stars (hello, George Clooney!) has upped its profile. The town of Como sits on the shores of stunning Lake Como, as do several other lovely villages including Tremezzo and Varenna.

Favored activities include sailing, windsurfing and rowing on the lake. Lakeside hikes are flat enough for young children and are paved for pushing a stroller. The area is home to many high-end retail establishments, but there are also numerous authentic open-air markets held in the town squares. It’s fun to shop for fresh produce and delectable picnic provisions.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Villa Flori

Rome city view from hotel; Courtesy of CARBONELLI&SEGANTI

8. Rome

The Eternal City is a must-see for families. Historic sites include the Colosseum, the Bernini fountains and Saint Peter’s Square. Explore the maze of back streets and watch the Romans zip through traffic on motorbikes.

Villa Borghese, Rome’s beloved park, is a good place for the kids to let off steam, perhaps at the playground or the low-tech zoo.

When hunger strikes, sample the city’s most famous pasta dish, cacio e pepe, long ribbons of noodles coated with a windfall of grated cheese and sprinkled with a touch of freshly ground black pepper. For dessert, you’re never far from a refreshing gelato no matter which small, cobblestoned street you venture down.

Recommended Hotel: Starhotels Michelangelo

Genoa Aquarium; Courtesy of  Genoa Aquarium

9. Genoa

The birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Genoa is steeped in seafaring traditions. It’s also home one of the best aquariums in the world. Located in the old port, the interactive Aquarium of Genoa houses thousands of sea creatures and many multimedia exhibits. After you’ve exhausted the aquarium, head next door to the Children’s City, an engaging play space.

Genoa is also a convenient base for exploring the Cinque Terre area, a string of five gorgeous seaside villages on the Italian Riviera. Walk along the shoreline promenade, rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and go for a swim in the sea as you watch the parade of boats sail by.

Recommended Hotel: Grand Hotel Savoia

Turin Egyptian Museum

10. Turin

Host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, Turin’s manageable size and family-friendly attractions make this Northern city a winner. The National Museum of Cinema offers spectacular exhibits in Italian and English. Want to fly with ET? You can do it here as you dive into the smoke-and-mirrors magic of movies.

The Egyptian Museum, with its collection of mummies, is as good as it gets without going to Cairo.

Turin is headquarters of the Italian car manufacturer, Fiat, so it’s a fitting location for the National Automobile Museum. Cars are displayed as sculptural works of art. Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari are well represented. Hands-on activities make this museum a fine stop for families.

When it’s treat time, Turin is famous for its plethora of chocolate shops that would satisfy even Willy Wonka.

Recommended Hotel: Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte 

Naples pizza

11. Naples

This Southern Italian city sits on the Bay of Naples, a prime jumping-off point to catch the ferry for a beach day at one of the nearby volcanic islands such as Ischia.

Naples is also a short distance from both Pompeii and Herculaneum, so it’s an excellent base for families who want to explore the volcanic ruins of these two ancient cities.

In the city center, family-friendly attractions include Naples Underground, a guided tour of the mysteries below the city’s hectic streets and the Naples’ Archaeological Museum.

The Margherita Pizza was invented here and families will want to take a gastronomic plunge into its origins at Pizzeria Brandi, where the original recipe remains intact.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel della Piccola Marina

Allison Tibaldi is a travel writer based in New York City. With her husband and two kids, she has lived in Rome; Tuscany; Melbourne, Australia; Toronto; and Los Angeles. She studied early childhood development in graduate school and believes that travel is an important part of education. She writes for CNN, TravelChannel.com, HGTV, USA TODAY, Time Out New York, am New York, Family Traveller, Family Travel Forum, Travel Weekly, off Metro and numerous other publications. Follow her @gourmetrav.

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