With everything from ancient treasures to dreamy beaches, snowy mountains and the world’s best gelato, Italy is made for family travel. Whether you’re into history, outdoor activities or seaside fun, there are plenty of adventures to be had in the bel paese (beautiful country). To make the most of your time, plan ahead.
Best Regions for Kids
- Rome & Lazio
Ancient Roman ruins, creepy catacombs and sensational sliced pizza make Rome an exciting prospect for older kids.
- Naples & Campania
Gold for every age: subterranean ruins in Naples, gladiator battlefields in Pompeii and natural high drama – think volcanoes, thermal pools and coastal caves.
- Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria
Blissful beaches, whitewashed towns, islands loaded with swashbuckling adventure and glorious food add up to summer fun for all the family.
Summit volcanoes with sporty teens, laze on the beach with sand-loving tots, explore ancient ruins, enjoy traditional puppet theatre – Sicily has inspiration and entertainment for one and all.
A natural paradise overflowing with dazzling beaches, water-sports action, horse riding and scenic hikes suitable for all ages and abilities.
- Trento & the Dolomites
Ski or snowboard at some of Italy's best family-friendly ski resorts. Summer ushers in mountain hiking and biking for all ages.
Italy for Kids
Family travel in Italy offers a wealth of different experience. The nation's cities are crammed with historic sights and cultural riches, and with the aid of audio guides, smart-phone apps and inventive guided tours, parents can find kid-appeal in almost every museum and monument.
Outside cities, the pace slows and the appeal of the great outdoors kicks in. Hit the coast for sandcastles, swimming and easy beachside ambles – beach-rich Puglia, the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Sicily sizzle with family fun on and off the sand. Inland, mountains and lakes demand immediate action from kids aged five and over – the older the child, the more daredevil and adrenalin-pumping the activity gets.
Museums & Monuments
When it comes to learning about art and history, Italy's museums and monuments beat school books hands down. Few organise specific tours and workshops for children (though there are exceptions in Florence and Venice) but many cater to young minds with multimedia displays, touchscreen gadgets and audio guides; some even have augmented-reality headsets.
To get your kids in the mood for sightseeing, prep them with tales of Italy’s legendary past such as volcanic destruction at Pompeii and brave gladiators at the Colosseum. As well as ancient ruins, there are also creepy catacombs to explore, (leaning) towers to climb and castles to clamber over.
Feature: Discounts & Free Admission
Discounted admission for children is available at most attractions.
At state-run museums and sites, admission is free for under-18s and EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 pay €2 for tickets.
Many other museums and monuments offer reduced admission for children, usually from age 6 to 18. Family tickets are also sometimes available.
To cut costs, try to take advantage of free admission days. These could potentially save you a fair bit, particularly in museum-laden cities such as Rome and Florence. All state-run museums and sites are free for 20 days a year: the first Sunday of each month between October and March, for a special week of openings (dates vary from year to year) and for a further eight days at the discretion of the individual museum or site.
Eating out is one of the joys of travelling in Italy and with gelato, pizza and pasta on the menu your children will be just as excited as you are.
Kids are welcome pretty much everywhere, especially in casual, family-run trattorias. These places are usually pretty informal with friendly, indulgent waiters and menus of simple pasta dishes and grilled meats. Pizzerias are another option and once you’ve gotten to grips with the Italian approach to toppings (often just one or two ingredients plus tomato and mozzarella) you’ll be a fan for life.
Italian families eat late and few restaurants open their doors much before 7.30pm or 8pm. Some serve a menu bambino (child’s menu), but if not it’s perfectly acceptable to order a mezzo porzione (half-portion) or a simple plate of pasta with butter or olive oil and Parmesan. High chairs (seggioloni) are occasionally available, but if your toddler needs to be strapped in, bring your own portable cloth seat.
Pizza al taglio (sliced pizza), panini from delicatessens, and gelato are tasty on-the-run snacks. And markets everywhere burst with salami, cheese, olives, bread, fruit and other inspiring picnic supplies.
Baby requirements are easily met (except on Sundays when most shops are closed). Pharmacies and supermarkets sell baby formula, nappies (diapers), ready-made baby food and sterilising solutions. Fresh cow's milk is sold in cartons in supermarkets and in bars with a 'Latteria' sign.
- Sardinia Horse riding, rock climbing, caving adventures and water sports on some of Italy's top beaches.
- Aeolian Islands Seven tiny volcanic islands off Sicily with everything from spewing lava to black-sand beaches.
- The Dolomites Hit Alto Adige's Alpe di Siusi and Kronplatz for abundant blue and red ski runs, or cycle through orchards and farmland on family-friendly trails in Val Venosta and Val Pusteria.
- Venice Glide across Venetian waters on a sailing or kayaking tour, or learn how to row standing up like a bona fide gondolier.
- Lago Maggiore & Lago Garda Lakeside beaches, water sports, climbing, mountain biking, canyoning (from Riva del Garda), swimming, horse riding, easy cycling etc.
- Grado A kid-friendly island on the Friulian coast with safe, sandy beaches, a water park, tons of water sports and cycling.
- Abruzzo Take to central Italy's first zipline for a thrilling ride over the village of Pacentro in the Parco Nazionale della Majella. Kids can use it if their parents agree and they're over 35kg.
Colosseum, Rome Conjure up the drama of ancient Rome with tales of brave gladiators and ferocious wild beasts at this, the city's iconic arena.
Palazzo Comunale & Torre Grossa, San Gimignano Slip on augmented-reality glasses in this Tuscan town to learn about frescoes and its medieval past.
Matera, Basilicata One of the world's oldest towns set around two rocky gorges riddled with sassi (habitable cave dwellings).
Museo del Monte San Michele, Friuli The Italian front in WWI is brought to life through digital displays and an excellent, immersive Virtual Reality experience.
St Peter's Basilica, Rome Climbing the dome of the Vatican's largest and most spectacular church is an unforgettable experience.
Duomo, Florence Summit Brunelleschi's legendary red cupola (dome) in Italy's favourite Renaissance city. (Best for kids over five.)
Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo Duck down into Palermo's eerie catacombs, packed with mummies in their Sunday best. Find more catacombs in Naples and beneath Via Appia Antica in Rome. (Recommended for kids over 12.)
Napoli Sotterranea, Naples A secret trapdoor, wartime hideouts, sacred catacombs and ghoulish cemeteries make this guided tour of subterranean Naples gripping. (For kids over eight.)
Leaning Tower, Pisa The bare interior of this pearly-white icon is accessible to children aged eight and up; otherwise snap your kids propping up the tower.
Torre dell’Orologio, Venice Climb Venice's celebrated clock tower to examine its Renaissance mechanisms and the two bronze Moors hammering out the hour. (For kids over six.)
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands A guided trek to the firework-spitting crater of this volcano is a total thrill for active teenagers.
Faro della Vittoria, Trieste Trieste's spectacular 1930s lighthouse with sweeping views across the bay.
Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia, Milan Italy's best science and technology museum makes budding inventors go gaga.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin Multimedia displays and movie memorabilia make this museum a winner for kids and adults alike.
Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige, Bolzano Drop in on Iceman Ötzi, Europe's oldest natural human mummy.
Teatro dei Pupi di Mimmo Cuticchio, Palermo Ornate Sicilian puppets are brought to life at this hidden theatre in Palermo.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence Theatrical tours for children and families through secret staircases and hidden rooms, led by historical figures.
PAFF! Pordenone Dedicated to the art of comic books and illustration, this unique museum is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Free Sunday workshops (mainly in Italian) introduce kids to contemporary art at this fabulous canalside museum. (For four- to 10-year olds.)
Pasta Challenge your child to taste different shapes and colours of pasta: strozzapreti ('priest strangler' pasta) is an Umbrian highlight, while in southern Italy Puglia's orecchiette con cima di rape (small ear-shaped pasta with turnip greens) is the perfect way of ensuring your kids eat some vegetables.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani, Anzola Gelato-themed tours with lots of tasting, or make your own with masters from the neighbouring Gelato University; 30 minutes from Bologna in Anzola.
Cook in Venice Kid-friendly food tours and cooking classes by Venetian mamma of two, Monica Cesarato.
Casa del Cioccolato Perugina, Perugia Perugia's 'House of Perugina Chocolate' offers Wonka-esque guided tours.
Eataly Torino Lingotto, Turin Food counters at this temple to Slow Food allow every member of the family to dine on a different cuisine.
Florence Town, Florence Gelato classes or pizza-making with a professional pizzaiolo for all the family.
When to Go
The best time to go largely depends on what you want to do. A seaside holiday and you’ll be wanting June to early September. Beware August, though, when prices (and temperatures) soar and what seems like Italy’s entire population decamps to the beach.
For city sightseeing, spring (April and May) and early autumn (September and October) are best. Likewise, spring and autumn are ideal for exploring the countryside.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Italy's agriturismi (farm stays) are perfect for families: think self-catering facilities, mountains of green space to play in, and stacks of outdoor activities (swimming, tennis, horse riding and mountain biking).
Italian campgrounds generally offer family-friendly facilities, ranging from swimming pools to playgrounds and on-site restaurants.
In Puglia, you can treat your kids by staying in a whitewashed trullo (a traditional conical-roofed stone house) or a masseria (a farm stay like the luxurious, family-friendly Masseria Torre Coccaro near Alberobello).
In Sardinia, you’ll find plenty of seaside accommodation in resort towns such as Cala Gonone, Stintino and Santa Teresa di Gallura. In Sicily, consider Cefalù, Taormina, the Aeolian or Egadi Islands.
In cities and towns, family and four-person rooms can be hard to find and should be booked in advance. Alternatively, a number of hotels and boutique B&Bs offer family-friendly self-catering apartments – check out Hotel Campo de’ Fiori in Rome and Palazzo Belfiore in Florence.
- Italia Kids (www.italiakids.com) Family travel and lifestyle guide to Italy, packed with practical tips and accommodation listings.
- Context Travel (www.contexttravel.com) Superb guided walks for families in Rome, Naples, Milan, Venice, Florence and other Tuscan cities.
- Ciao Bambino (www.ciaobambino.com) Tours, activities, recommendations and planning advice, put together by family-travel experts.
- Baby Friendly Boltholes (www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk) Search for kid-friendly accommodation in Le Marche, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany and Umbria.