Italy is the most picturesque place that I have ever visited. Everywhere I went I wanted to stop and take a picture, it’s unreal! We left for Italy the day after Todd’s graduation with my parents and sisters. This was Theo’s first trip outside of the country, and being only nine months old, I was a little nervous about the flights, but we survived! He was a happy traveler and we had four extra family members wanting to hold him whenever we got tired. We even snuck in a date night in Florence. We couldn’t have done the trip without our Ergo 360 carrier. He was able to take tons of naps and adjust to multiple positions to give our backs breaks. Seriously, if you are traveling with a baby, you need one! A stroller is only feasible in a handful of places. (For more tips, read More Tips for International Travel with a Baby.)
On our trip, we hit Rome, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Milan. I have to say that my favorite place was Siena, I felt less like a tourist and more immersed in the culture during our stay. I also tried the best gelato and the most interesting pizza combination during our stay (American style pizza topped with hot dogs and French fries… yuck!). We also made a dance video for the Sonnet James contest on the balcony of our room. If you haven’t seen it, or you need a good laugh today, head over to my Instagram account (@thetravelingrunner).
I also loved Rome and all of the history, I am fascinated by the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. We booked an incredible tour through LivItaly that allowed us access to the entire Colosseum, which included the Colosseum floor, the underground, and the third tier, which are restricted to general admission. Our tour also included the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill. Our guide Rachel was very knowledgeable and also happened to be a Tarheel!
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the food was, all I can say is it’s a good thing we were walking everywhere hauling a 20 pound baby, otherwise we would have been in trouble! Some of my favorites included Nutella pizza, fresh macaroons, daily pastries, sandwiches at Luini in Milan, and of course tons of pizza, pasta, gelato, and chocolate bars.
We used Homeaway and AirBnB during the majority of our stay and loved it. We had a few hiccups in Rome, but overall each home was exactly what we needed and in close proximity to the main attractions. Taxi rides were definitely expensive (and terrifying!) but worth it to skip the Metro when we needed to get back quickly. In Venice, we stayed at the Ca’ Dei Conti hotel. We loved our room, it had a balcony which allowed us to put Theo on the bottom level to sleep.
We stayed in the Hotel Minerva. Our room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the city, which is where we shot our dance video. We kept catching maids and other hotel employees looking out the window watching us. It was hilarious! You can hear the church bells playing in the distance. We spent a lazy morning listening to them play with our door open.
In Milan we stayed in the Boscolo Milano and I am so glad we did! We were at the end of our trip and only planned to stay one night before flying out. The hotel is close to the Duomo and was extremely luxurious.
We bought all of our tours and admission tickets in advance to avoid long lines. For each museum, we made sure to pick the first time slot to get in and out faster with less crowds. I was surprised with how many people showed up the day of and stood in line just to buy tickets. Buying tickets online can seem a little scammy, so triple check that you are on the right website when buying your tickets. Most of the official websites look like they were made in the 90’s, I cross checked every site with reviews and info on TripAdvisor.
For travel in between cities, we rented a car to take us from Rome to Siena and then onto Florence. It was HILARIOUS driving a giant nine passenger van through the narrow streets of Rome. Definitely a memory from the trip that I will never forget! We used the trains to get from Florence to Venice and then to Milan.
We had some travel delays on our way home which resulted in spending an entire day in the Milan airport followed by a night in a hotel, more waiting in lines the next day, motion sickness on the flight home, and lost bags. BUT we made it home in one piece and loved our trip! We are happy to be back in the United States, but I hope we can go back someday to explore more of this beautiful country.