2016 was eventful to say the least, and as 2017 approaches Ana and I wanted to sneak in one final trip for the year with our 10-month-old daughter, Melina. So we decided to do a family road trip through Italy. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, but never with a baby in tow so I knew this would be a trip of firsts in many ways – first time with a baby and all the things that she needs (stroller, diaper bag, snacks, clothing, toys, etc.)
View of St. Peter’s Basilica
Any parent will agree that the list is quite long, but that’s why you’ll find some great tips in this article. In all, I am so glad that we did it. It honestly feels like a huge accomplishment and we have tons of amazing memories and photos to show our daughter when she gets older. Whatever you do, DON’T get discouraged to travel with a baby. It’s not impossible, just different.
View of Il Duomo in Florence from one of the towers
To be honest, traveling to Europe during winter is A LOT cheaper than summer, so it was just a matter of narrowing down exactly where we wanted to go. Since I have family living throughout the Umbria region, I thought it best to post up in Perugia, the capital of Umbria, and do day trips from there. We also spent the first three nights in Rome and the last two in Florence so we wouldn’t miss out on two of the best cities full of amazing sightseeing.
We knew that Melina would have to take naps, keep her regular eating schedule (breakfast at 8 am, lunch at noon, dinner at 5:45pm, and snacks in between), so our itinerary was loosely planned in case we had to return to the hotel for any reason.
Showing Melina the amphitheater in Gubbio
Day 1: Arrive in Rome, check into Airbnb apartment, and relax
Day 2: Go to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fontain, Spanish Steps and the Parthenon
Day 3: Vatican City, Castel San’Angelo and Campo di Fiori
Day 4: Pick up our rental car and drive up to Perugia. Check into Airbnb and relax in Perugia
Day 5: See historical town of Perugia and have lunch
Day 6: Relax and explore more of the medieval city and have lunch
Day 7: Day Trip to Gubbio to explore the medieval old town and have lunch with relatives
Day 8: Day Trip to Todi and lunch with relatives
Meeting her Italian family for the first time (she’s happy I swear)
Day 9: Relax in Perugia and enjoy Christmas market
Day 10: Day Trip to Assisi
Day 11: Relax in Perugia
Day 12: Day Trip to shop at The Mall outlet stores in Tuscany
Day 13: Return to Gubbio for lunch with relatives
Day 14: Drive to Florence: 2 Hour drive from Perugia. Check into Palazzo Gamba with Hotel Tonight. Explore the center. Dinner at
Day 15: Explore Florence
Day 16: Explore Florence
*Note the lunches with relatives take up the full day – in Italy they feed you until you pop. It means they love you!
Visiting the Colosseum With a Baby
There are plenty of spots to take a break (and feed the pigeons) in the Roman Forum
We tried to get there as early as possible, but with a baby it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when you’ll leave the house. We ended getting there at 9:30am, an hour after the site opens, which only meant we waited in line to buy tickets for about 5 minutes. Since we walked from our apartment, we had the stroller with us. Here are some practical tips:
- If you can buy tickets online to skip the line entirely, do it! Just because we got lucky with a short wait, it doesn’t mean you will have the same experience. Unfortunately we thought about this after we left home. FYI entrance to the Colosseum is free on the first Sunday of each month.
- There are stairs: if you plan on seeing the upper level of the Colosseum where you’ll get the best views, be prepared to have two people carry the stroller up some stairs. The ground level is stroller accessible except for a couple of stairs.
- Your Colosseum ticket includes access to the museum and Roman Forum: Head there after you see the Colosseum. It’s about a 5-minute walk away (mostly uphill but not impossible with a good stroller). Once you’re at the Forum, you can post up at a bench and give your baby a snack or a quick break from the stroller.
Visiting Vatican City With a Baby
Interior of St. Peter’s Basilica
Unlike the Colosseum, Vatican City was a little trickier with a baby. A tour of the Vatican Museums will require you and another person to carry the stroller up and down several flights of stairs. Also, strollers are not permitted inside St. Peter’s Basilica (you have to check it in nearby). We decided to take our stroller anyway because carrying our 22-pound baby on a carrier was not an option for our backs!
After a while she got bored in the stroller so we switched to the carrier for a bit
My wife bought us a Vatican City tour with fast track entry on Tinggly, which made it easy to get in without a wait. Despite having to carry the stroller up and down stairs, we managed to have a really fun time and see the incredible Sistine Chapel, as well at the Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo in the Basilica. We took the baby carrier too in case. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- There are lots of stairs. If your baby is very young you may just want to carry him or her throughout the tour in a carrier
- There are restrooms, a café, and a restaurant in the Vatican Museums if you need a break
- The stroller check for St. Peter’s Basilica is free and close to the entrance
What We Packed
Since we knew the weather would be cold (50’s during the day and 40’s at night) we had to pack smart. To make things simple, here’s what we took:
Warm and happy in freezing Rome!
- Stroller: UPPAbaby G-LUXE in Pascal (grey) ($259.99). We already have the VISTA for every day but that was way too heavy to travel with. We knew that we needed a high quality stroller to maneuver through the busy streets of Rome and Florence, and tackle the bumpy cobblestone streets of the towns we visited in Umbria. This stroller only weighs 15 lbs, making it the ideal travel stroller. We also got the Travel Bag ($69.99) and the CozyGanoosh Footmuff ($129.99) to keep our daughter warm. This was hands down the most useful accessory because we spent most of each day outdoors and she was able to sleep peacefully in her stroller without feeling the cold.
- Luggage: Two Spectra 32” 8-wheel suitcases by Victorinox ($339.99) that only weigh 10.1 lbs each and one Victorinox Avolve large carry-on ($212.49) for the baby that we ended up checking in. We needed durable and lightweight. We were really happy with the way these glided so easily and protected all of our belongings.
- Clothes: I partnered with Canadian cold weather brand Roots to dress us for the occasion. Lifesavers were the Peakside Parka ($322.00) and the wool cabin sweaters that all three of us had. Dressing the baby in layers was the best way to go so that we could take off a layer if she was feeling too warm.
- Camera: I wanted to take really good photos, especially since it was Melina’s very first trip. I rented a 5D Mark IV Digital SLR camera and two lenses from BorrowLenses. I find it much easier to rent the best and latest camera equipment from them rather than purchasing it myself. That way, I have exactly what I need for each trip.
- Baby Food: Since we knew we would be eating lunch out of the apartment every day, my wife took along several pouches of Happy Baby Organic Baby Food in several flavors. The pouches make it easy to squeeze the food straight onto a spoon without needing a bowl. If your baby is older, he or she may even be able to eat the food straight from the pouch. While we were traveling, we stopped in the supermarket and bought the baby the star-shaped pasta “Stelline” and baby biscotti snacks, both of which she absolutely loved.
With her new Italian book about to have a bite from a croissant
- Extra Supplies: We packed enough diapers for the first week. We ended up buying more diapers there. Thankfully diaper sizes are universal. We also took 2 crib sheets, 2 blankets, a change of clothes for the baby for each day of travel (we had a washer/dryer at each place we stayed), 2 pairs of shoes, 1 warm hat, 2 bibs, a large pack of baby wipes, extra Ziploc bags, antibacterial hand wipes, travel sized baby wash and moisturizer, infant Advil, kids Benadryl, 4 footed pajamas, and a hooded parka from Baby Gap that she wore pretty much every day over her sweater.
Where We Stayed
Traveling to Italy with a baby meant that we needed a kitchen to wash her bottles and prepare her dinner, so we decided to book apartments in Rome and Perugia on Airbnb. For Florence we booked a hotel room with a kitchen on Hotel Tonight. We requested baby cots (pack n’ plays) before arriving to each place.
The Perugia Christmas market was steps from our front door
In Italy, everyone walks everywhere, but if you don’t want to walk very far with a baby in tow, I highly recommend booking in the city center. Campo di Fiori in Rome is an ideal spot – close to supermarkets, restaurants, shops, and major sites.
Palazzo Gamba was a 10-minute walk to the Ponte Vecchio bridge
Our hotel room at Palazzo Gamba in Florence couldn’t have been in a better location. The next building over was the Duomo! Perugia was a little trickier because cars are not allowed in the Old Town, but there is a mini metro that will take you up to the town from the free 24/7 parking lots.
Tips for Long Car Rides With a Baby
View over Perugia
A car isn’t necessary in Rome, so we rented a car on the AutoEurope website before heading to Perugia. I like booking on this site because it lets me compare prices from several agencies and choose what type of car I want. We didn’t bring a car seat with us, but it wasn’t a problem. We just added one to our rental when we booked online. There are car seats for every age and boosters for older kids. We chose the car seat we wanted at the car rental office and did a quick install ourselves in the rental. Thankfully, our car rides were 1-2 hours tops, but Melina did get a little fussy at times. Here are a few tips for long car rides with baby in Italy:
- If possible, have someone sit in the back seat with baby
- Try to start your drive around morning nap time so that baby will sleep in the car (this worked most of the time)
- Bring along some toys for the car. Activity books and hand puppets work well and there aren’t any small pieces that could get lost in the car.
Getting ready for a day of shopping at the luxury outlets
- If you need to take your baby out for whatever reason, there are plenty of gas stations and rest stop cafés along the highways. I can tell you from personal experience – most have excellent coffee and pastries and clean bathrooms. Don’t be discouraged because “it’s a gas station.” Italians don’t like to eat badly and even the croissants at these cafés are excellent. Your baby may just need a diaper change and a change of scenery before continuing. Also, you can take advantage of the stop and have yourself a doppio espresso like I always do.
- Bring along euros because there may be tolls along the A1 where you pick up a ticket and pay when you exit. Many of the machines only take cash.
- You can also add a GPS to your rental when you book on AutoEurope, but I opted to use Google Maps on my phone instead
Flying With Baby
Miami International Airport
First thing’s first. You’ll need to get your baby his or her first passport. This can take up to a month, so do this as soon as you think you may be traveling. Do your research! Every airport and airline has different rules regarding babies. For example, Miami International lets you wear your baby on a carrier while going through security screening, but Florence airport makes you carry them in your hands. All strollers need to be able to fit through the X-ray scanners at the security check, so it’s important to choose a collapsible lightweight stroller like the UPPAbaby G-LUXE. The stroller travel bag is covered by the UPPAbaby TravelSafe program. All you have to do is register your bag online prior to departure and any damage caused to your gear during air travel is fully covered by UPPAbaby!
Most airlines don’t require that you purchase a ticket for children under 2 (they ride on your lap), but we ended up purchasing an extra seat with our miles so that we would have extra space. If the airline offers a baby crib during the flight, take advantage! We bought our daughter some new toys and didn’t give them to her until she began getting fussy on the flight. There’s no better cure for fussiness than a little distraction. Some blocks and a singing activity book did the trick! Remember to bring plenty of baby food and extra clothes for your baby and you too.
Baby crib in use during our transatlantic flight on Air Berlin (had to be requested in advance)
Overall, we had an epic family vacation with our daughter. I was able to reconnect with my cousins in Italy and they got to meet the bambina for the first time after seeing her only in photos. Yes, there were times when the baby was fussy and there were moments of frustration due to jet lag and long days, but I think she really enjoyed seeing new things. The trip was well paced and pretty relaxed – we didn’t make many concrete plans other than the main sites in Rome and our family days. If you are thinking about traveling to Italy with a baby, I highly recommend it! Italy is a kid-friendly destination with plenty to see, do and eat! It’s a safe country, plus Italians are fond of babies. Our overall impression was that everyone was patient and understanding of our situation at restaurants and stores. High chairs are readily available at most restaurants, as are kind people to open doors for the young couple with the baby stroller.
Happy baby = happy parents!
What did you think about our guide to traveling to Italy with a baby? If you’ve traveled with a baby and have tips to share, leave us a question or comment below!