Since giving birth to my daughter in January 2019, I have been slowly collecting information on how to be a mom here in Italy. Not the late nights, dirty t-shirt norms, wipe or wash the binki experiences of moms worldwide, but the how, where and what of the reality of transporting, entertaining and feeding a small human, throughout italia.
So, here are some of my best tips for other families planning to travel Italy with little ones in tow.
TrenItalia offers kids under 15 years old to travel free if accompanied by one adult. When you buy the ticket online, you can select that you have a minor under 15 and get a seat for free. Infants on the lap are always free also. Be sure to bring documentation, if someone is close to looking over 15 they may ask to prove their age.
On Italotreno, kids under 14 travel free with at least one adult family member. Babies up to 36 months can ride on a parents lap and are always free. This is limited to a max of 4 people total in the family and travel must be in the “smart” class of ticket price.
In Italy there is no law stating kids or babies have to be in carseat if they are riding in a taxi or other public or private car service with a driver. The child must sit in the back, on the lap of another passenger who is at least 16 years old. Obviously, this is quite dangerous, so many people will want to travel with a car seat if you plan on taking taxis in Italy.
In a rental car, It is obligatory to have a car seat. Some rental agencies will provide these for a fee, or you can bring your own. Keep in mind the rules for EU car seats will be different than car seats from other countries, so potentially this could be a problem if you were to be stopped by police. The easiest option, in my opinion, is just to rent a car seat when you rent the vehicle.
Each region of Italy and city for that matter, can set their own rules for babies and kids aboard public transport. Most cities allow children under 3 to ride free, some allow kids up to even 12 years of age. Your best bet is to ask when you buy the ticket.
There is a kind of unspoken rule in northern Italy that those with kids eat earlier, those without kids eat later. This is definitely not true in the South where babies are awake or out with parents (passed out in their stroller) at all hours of the night. But, north of Rome, I find that parents generally take the first opening for lunch and dinner hours, so later on seatings (past 9pm for example) are reserved for diners without kids. This is absolutely not a rule, but a kind of unspoken courtesy I noticed over the years. If you have kids, fit in with the locals by eating dinner and lunch “early” (12:30pm for lunch and 7/7:30pm for dinner).
Almost all restaurants have highchairs available (called a “seggiolone” in Italian) so be sure to ask for one if you would like it. Also, when making a reservation, be sure to let them know how many people plus how many kids. It helps them when picking the table size and location if they need to fit a stroller or an additional chair for example. Restaurants here are small, so it’s customary to reserve a table indicating especially if you have a stroller or small children in tow.
When booking a hotel, most will add a “lettino” or a crib for free in the room. Some places might make you pay a fee for this, but it entirely depends on the hotel.
Be sure to ask before you book, if you are in need. I have seen some hotels that only have a limited number and once they are reserved, that’s it! Don’t get into that situation and call and ask before booking.
If you rent an apartment you should keep in mind that it will likely not be babyproof, they may not have a crib and you should be weary of stairs. I personally wouldn’t book anywhere that didn’t have an elevator. They might not have space for you to leave the stroller and you would be stuck hauling the kids up and down plus the stroller and their bags etc multiple times a day. Some larger cities will offer crib rental services, but again this is something to ask before booking, definitely don’t just assume!
Food, formula, diapers and creams, OH MY:
You can find baby food, formula, diapers, baby rash cream (my favorite is Bepathenol (available only in pharmacies but without a prescription), but any “crema prottetiva” in the baby section will work) etc at any supermarket. The brands will likely be different (especially for food and formula – but personally I think in a good way, check out this article on the differences in formula between the US and Europe). You can still find organic if that’s your thing (called, “biologico” here) and an array of fruit, veggie and meat purees. One thing I will mention is 1. The meats are different (think veal, rabbit and horse as all options on the table) and 2. There aren’t as many “snack” foods as the US, adapted for babies. I for example order my “puffs” from the US because they just don’t have anything similar here, that isn’t laden with sugar and additives. I would bring any foods you MUST have, from the US and then experiment a bit with the purees. My kid already loves seabass, rabbit, salmon, veggies of all kinds, parmigiano, and more, thanks to the vast selection of baby food available.
Additionally, they do have lots of baby adapted pastas, pasta sauces, rice cereals, whole wheat cereals etc, so if you’re baby or child isn’t picky, you can likely just buy everything you need here.
Renting of Babygear:
Finally Italian’s have realized there is a market for people coming to Italy and not wanting to haul all their baby e equipment with them! Companies are popping up all over the country that offer services such as renting strollers, cribs, car seats and more.
Here are some I’ve found:
http://www.gokid.it/ (Milan but will ship all over Italy)
https://wonderfulitaly.eu/en/pagina/baby-and-child-equipment-rental-service-177.html (Will ship anywhere in Italy)
If you’re traveling and craving a night out, without the little ones, you can often find a babysitter that the hotel recommends and uses, but it will likely cost about 20 euros an hour. Instead, if you want to pay a more reasonable and acceptable rate of 8 euros an hour, you can try on the site, Sitly. You have to pay to look for sitters, but it’s only 10 euro for a one time one month subscription and you will find people reviewed, recommended, nearby, and all over Italy (thus useable as you go around the country). I have used it in Florence, Viareggio, Sardegna and more and I honestly LOVE it. The great thing about it too is the site is also available in English and there are tons of students (American, British) that are here in Italy and looking to make a few bucks, so you can very easily find an English speaking sitter in most large cities. Of course, it’s all your comfort level and if you trust them etc, but personally I use it often, like it and recommend it to other mom’s frequently.
Ok, great…But now what is there actually to do with kids in Italy?
First off, the great news is, Italian’s love babies and kids. They are patient to their cries, smile at them as they walk by, offer up their seat in trains or busses and generally love to see and be around bambini. So, if you’re worried Italian’s won’t appreciate you bringing a kid in tow, rest assured that will not be the case. Your kid instead will likely win over many Italians and maybe even get you special treatment from time to time.
In terms of cities, Rome and Milan both offer similar experiences to what you might find in the States if you’re looking for organized kids events. Gymboree, science museums, Kid’s museum (milan) Kid’s museum (Rome)etc are all possible. Smaller cities will not have those types of resources but all cities, even small ones, are as I mentioned, generally very accepting of babies and small children. My personal theory is since the birth rate here has been so low for so many years, people have learned to cherish each child that comes through. Don’t hesitate taking your kids to explore museums, tourist attractions, restaurants etc. Some museums even offer tours or workshops for kids and if not, at the very least, you will not be met with strange stares if you bring a kid along to any type of museum or cultural event.
Some of my favorite things to do with V:
- Take her to the park (ask your hotel, google, or consult a map for green space or playgrounds (parco giochi)
- Go for a walk through the city (beware of poorly maintained sidewalks, have a good stroller!)
- Lunch sitting outside
- Visit a ludoteca (this is like a free kids indoor space, you might have to get a “tessera” or a membership card, but once you do, you can visit as much as you want for free. If you have to get a tessera it’s usually only about 20 euro for the whole year). They usually have games and toys and lots of other kids around, so it’s great if you’re looking to socialize.
- Visit a children’s library
Unfortunately Florence doesn’t have children’s museum like Rome and Milan but you can read more about what to do in Florence in this article.
Did I miss anything? Anything else you are wondering about for your upcoming trip?