February 25, 2012, 02:59 PM
Tuscany with children... advice please?
My husband and I are planning on visiting Tuscany with our 2 young children (ages 7 and 5). Here is our Italian Itinerary incase you have some other tips to add:
July 6th - 8th: Rome (2 nights)
July 8th: Rome to Florence (by train)
July 8th - 12th: Tuscany - Staying in Florence (4 nights)
July 12th: Florence to Venice (by train)
July 12th - 14th: Venice (2 nights)
July 14th: Venice to Verona
July 14th - 15th: Verona (1 night)
July 15th: Verona to Milan
July 15th - 16th: Milan (1 night)
July 16th: Milan to Paris
1. In Tuscany itself, we hope to see a little of Florence on the day we arrive. The next day we hope to see some greenery in Montepulciano and any other gorgeous town you can recommend on the way before returning to our Florence hotel for the night. On the next day we hope to visit Pisa and any other nice place along the road that you can recommend before returning to our Florence hotel for the night. On the final day, we hope to see more of Florence before leaving for Venice.
2. We are not keen on driving as we have never been to Italy and don't know what the roads are like - but if given some realistic/safe driving advice, we would probably choose driving to Montepulciano and Pisa for the comfort of the children. However, if there is a safe comfortable route that suits children to take our trips around tuscany, please let me know.
3. How easy is it to buy food? We are vegetarian and dont consume alcohol, so are vegetarian pasta's/pizza's/foccaccia's etc readily available without alcohol in the ingredients? Is food very pricey?
4. What train travel is cheap but comfortable when travelling between cities in Italy?
5. Finally, how can we make this trip more child friendly? My husband is tempted to make this a child-free trip but I don't think I could leave my children at home, so some child friendly tips would really help.
Thanks a million! x
March 5, 2012, 06:09 PM
Traveling with children in Tuscany
Ciao HBillah and welcome to our forum!
Traveling with two young children is definitely possible in Italy, it will just be important to remember that you will have to tailor the trip to meet their interests as well as their attention spans. You can't take them to museum after museum or expect to have hours long meals.
But there are definitely many museums that are seeking to offer specific itineraries for children. In Florence, in particular, the Palazzo Vecchio has sought over the last years to create a Childrens Museum and have have created various tours of the museum especially aimed at children. For example, having tours led by people dressed in historical costume to take you back in time. Take a look at their website here: http://www.palazzovecchio-familymuseum.it/
The Galileo Science Museum also has many of its exhibits be "hands-on" to encourage and teach kids about various scientific principles.
Driving in Tuscany is not very difficult - the most important thing to remember is that Italian drivers can be a bit aggressive in their driving style while being pretty safe drivers. This is important to remember because no matter how fast or slow you drive on the two lane roads, many will tailgate you. So ignore them, let them pass at their own peril when they want to and just concentrate on your driving and enjoying the hilly roads and landscape. Get off the road whenever you want to stop and take pictures. There generally isn't too much space to the sides of the road which can make them seem very narrow - if you see much-tracked on space to the side of the road, it is safe to pull off and stop there. If you choose to drive, then you can include Montepulciano on your itinerary - otherwise, you cannot easily reach it at all by train. Keep in mind that Montepulciano is in southern Tuscany, about 1.5 hours from Florence and you pass near it as you head from Rome to Florence so if you really want to see AND do plan renting a car, it might be better to drive up from Rome instead of taking the train and stopping in Montepulciano for a night. The area near Montepulciano is one of the most beautiful in all of Tuscany, so I'd recommend to also go toward Pienza and Montalcino. Pisa is not along the road down south to Montepulciano, it is due west from Florence. Not doable on the same day.
If you decide not to drive, then day trips you can easily do from Florence by train include Pisa and Siena.
You won't have problems buying vegetarian meals although you'll notice there is an abundance of non-vegetarian offerings. In particular, traditional Tuscan dishes that are completely vegetarian and non-alcoholic include:
- Pappa al Pomodoro - tomato and basil soup with bread soaked so completely in the sauce, it has turned into a bread soup.
- Ribollita - vegetable soup with bread pieces inside that have soaked up some of the sauce
- Panzanella - summer bread salar with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sometimes with tuna added so ask before ordering!
- Crespelle Fiorentine - egg crepes with spinach and pine nut filling and bechamel sauce on top
- lots of various types of pasta dishes that are vegetarian, particularly in the spring and summer with seasonal vegetables. A Tuscan speciality is Pici all'Aglione - basically hand made spaghetti soaked in a tomato sauce with lots of garlic, which might sound overpowering but it isn't, it is just very flavorful.
- lots of pizzas are completely vegetarian - many have various vegetable ingredients on them, such as olives, artichokes, spinach, some even with an egg on them (cooked sunny side up in the oven ) I like the foccaccias that often will have rucola and mozzarella on top, they are basically cold pizzas.
As far as train travel between the larger cities, you'll find the most comfortable to be Eurostar trains but there are also lots of more recent "faster" trains called "frecciarossa" that offer nicer, newer trains. Keep in mind that they all offer "first" and "second" class and generally second class is already very comfortable without the needed expense of going first class. All these assign seats so you have to make sure to get on the right car and then find the right seats.
All regional trains within Tuscany do not offer separation of classes, so there is just one ticket and no seats assigned, you just get on and look for seats you like. You can look at train schedules on their website here: www.trenitalia.com
Hope I've addressed all your questions, if I forgot something do let me know!! You'll have a great trip in Italy, don't think you need to leave your children behind to make it fun as long as you and your husband adapt your expectations of what you can do and see to their needs.