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Italy 3+ week summer 2017, family of 4

I am planning on a July 2017 3+ week trip to Italy with my family of 4, which includes a 12 and 14 year old.

I have learned, though rough vacations in the past, that my family enjoys staying in one place for more than just a few days. So I feel that my 3 week itinerary should include just 3 stays, minus those travel days, of course. So my trip could be 21-24 days.

I have been focusing on Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast as my three stops. I am not that interested in Venice or Cinque Terre, but you might convince me.

What we are looking for:
- beach (swimming) time: I understand most beaches aren't sandy, but swimming is important
- small town time: I would like my kids to feel somewhat comfortable, enough that they might be able to roam a bit on their own.
- local time: Along with above, we would like to visit markets and not eat much in restaurants
- airbnb options: Would like to stay in town, or near the water
- Rome time: Not my kids speaking here, but my wife and I would like to see the sights
- some quiet time: I know that summer in Italy is far from quiet, but can we stay in a small town that is somewhat quiet at times?

1. Are there other areas that we should visit/replace?
2. What is the best flow for these three areas?
3. Where to fly in and out of?
4. What are the best towns to stay in in Tuscany and Amalfi?

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for your advice!

Posted by
9447 posts

Smart plan! I like the three weeks in three places a lot. We did a similar thing, just the two of us, 4 weeks in December, one week in each of 4 places and it was fabulous!

  1. Are there other areas that we should visit/replace?
  2. What is the best flow for these three areas?
  3. Where to fly in and out of?
  4. What are the best towns to stay in in Tuscany and Amalfi?

Fly into Florence and out of Naples, if you can, or vice versa.

Either go Tuscany-Rome-Amalfi Coast OR Amalfi-Rome-Tuscany. You can day trip like crazy: Pompeii from Sorrento Area (north end of the AC), Tivoli and Orvieto from Rome. You can possibly even go to the Cinque Terre for a day from Tuscany, or better yet a beach in the Maremma area of Tuscany.

I recommend you stay in an agriturismo with a pool in Tuscany. Near Montalcino is nice, and affords lots of options for beautiful drives to see other small hilltowns. Many agriturismi have apartments. Tuscany is the only place you will need a car. The rest is best done by train adn bus.

I like Sorrento because of access to Pompeii and Herculaneum, but you might really enjoy Positano because of the beach. In Rome, stay near the center. There are oodles of apartments in VRBO and Cross-Pollinate. You will probably have to go to a private pool and pay a day rate if you want pool time in Rome, or brave the crowds at Lido di Ostia.

Posted by
1108 posts

Laurel is spot on as usual.

In Tuscany, definitely stay in an agriturismo like Cretaiole instead of staying right inside a town. Wonderful hospitality and you can relax after driving and exploring the numerous wonderful villages of the region !

We have stayed in the Chianti region of Tuscany to explore San Gimi and Volterra, and stayed in the Crete Senses region (Cretaiole) to explore Montepulciano, Todi, Cortona, Pienza, Spello, and Spoleto. You can't go wrong in any location. Peruse the map and see which towns interest you and attempt to stay in a wonderful agriturismo that is within a 2 hour drive of the towns you wish to visit.

Explore the Green Lagoon and the beach at Furore on the Amalfi Coast.

Posted by
16996 posts

Those are all lovely areas and I like the idea of staying put and day-tripping. However, have you considered the possibility that you might run into unrelenting heat in July? Last year it seemed to hit 85 to 95 every day in June and July. I was able to escape the heat only by going up into the Dolomites. You will surely look for air-conditioned accommodations (and rental car!), but I found that small cafes and some museums were air conditioned barely or not at all, so the hotel was my only refuge. It was physically draining on a long trip, and I think 3 weeks might be long enough for it to get to you..

Posted by
44 posts

Yes, I am a bit worried about that, but my wife is a teacher and that is our only time to travel. I am rethinking the timeframe - kids get out of school June 15, we probably should head out as soon as possible.

I am also hoping that swimming often will help with the potential heat misery.

Posted by
44 posts

Well, dammit, I have done a bit more digging into the Italian Riviera and it seems like a place to go. And dammit, Venice seems like a place to go, too.

What do you think of a Venice - Italian Riviera - Tuscany - Rome trip in mid-June? Better to start South and head North?

My original trip was Amalfi Coast - Tuscany - Rome.

Posted by
1708 posts

I am so happy to hear that you're considering Venice! It's magic! Definitely worth seeing. You have plenty of time for 4 destinations in a 21 day trip. You could do Venice for 4 nights, Tuscany 6, beach area 4 and still have a week left for Rome.

Posted by
44 posts

Would you recommend starting in Rome and moving north? To try to beat the heat, just a little?

Also, this is our first trip oversees as a family, maybe starting slow at a beach town is better than hitting Rome first? Or maybe starting off at a sprint is better?

Would love to hear advice on this.

Posted by
1708 posts

I tend to do my most exhausting cities first if I can as I run out of steam as I travel. For your trip, I think I'd start with Rome and end up in Venice but everyone on this site says the Venice flights back to the US all leave really really early so keep that in mind.

Rome is a site-heavy and very busy city. You could do a week there, then do your beach time. Depending on what you choose, you'd might have to then backtrack a bit to where you choose in Tuscany. Then you train to Venice. Venice has a few sites and could use a little planning, but nothing compared to Rome. Mostly you just go and wander....the beauty is in the fact that the city exists at all...the canals, the architecture. It's really special.

Do check the flight times from Venice back to the US and make sure you can handle them. I know the American flight that goes nonstop from Venice to Philadelphia leaves at noon, which is a nice departure time. Not sure what your home airport is.

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks so much Valerie. Would it be crazy to do this:

Venice 3-4 nights
Rome 5 nights
Tuscany 7 nights
Sestri Levante 7 nights?

Take the fast train from Venice to Rome and then work our way north? Fly our of Genoa?

ETA: my airport is Seattle

Posted by
1708 posts

Oh, your home airport is my home airport! Make sure you check my favorite airline then...Condor. They go in and out of Frankfurt but they're partnered with a lot of airlines, including Lufthansa, and so they can sell you tix into Rome and out of Venice. They have some great prices.

I don't think I personally would backtrack like your describing. I would just start in Rome and head north. Is there some reason you were considering backtracking like that?

Posted by
9447 posts

Would it be crazy to do this:
Venice 3-4 nights
Rome 5 nights
Tuscany 7 nights
Sestri Levante 7 nights?

Not crazy at all. Starting in Venice is perfect, IMO. It is a 3+ hour very nice train trip from Venice to Rome. You can rent your car as you leave Rome, then return it in Sestri Levante.

Posted by
44 posts

Pulled the trigger! One way tickets to Venice on June 23rd of next summer.

Now the real research begins, you will be hearing from me again! Thanks for all of your help, so far.......

Posted by
1708 posts

Congrats! Be careful on your return tickets...some airlines charge an incredible amount for a one-way purchase. Not sure who you bought through....if you used Condor, no's actually cheaper with them to buy two one way tickets instead of a round trip, for some reason.

Posted by
44 posts

Yes, it will cost a bit. These tickets cost $156 to book, but much better than $8,000 it would have cost me to purchase today in retail.

Posted by
62 posts

Have a wonderful time! I went last July for 3 weeks with my extended family of 7, and we all agreed that staying in fewer places for longer was the better way to go next time (and not do 7 people again, but that's another story!) ;-)
The heat was pretty stifling, but we also had to go then because my bestie is a teacher. The swimming will help!

I too am glad you are visiting Venice - it's a must-see - but I have been there with a couple of people, and I don't need to go back. It's wonderful *after all the cruise shippers go back to their boat for the night. Get off the tourist path and find local spots... it can be pretty crassly tourist-focused. Definitely walk around at night when it's calmer.

I have a soft spot for Vernazza in the Cinque Terre. That is probably the only place I'd let kids wander around with relatively little supervision. The harbor is self-contained, there are lots of other local kids playing and they can swim nearby to their heart's content. But I would definitely spend a night or two there. It's also gotten overrun with cruise-shippers and it was a little sad to see it today vs. when I first visited in 1994. The townspeople truly appreciate people who come and enjoy their little town instead of popping in, buying some pizza or gelato, walking down the main street and leaving again.

Definitely build in some flexibility... with three weeks, you need some down time or the go-go-go wears you out. Try a night tour of the Vatican museums if you can -- we did that (they only offer it on Friday nights in the summer). The crowds were way better and we had a very good guide who was an art student.

Have fun and plan to eat gelato twice a day!

Posted by
4 posts

We just got back from a 3 week June/July Italy trip with our kids who are pretty much the same age as yours plus a 4 year old. We loved Venice (highlight: row Venice), cinque terre (we didn't stay in the 5 towns but of those, our favorite for swimming was Manarola), Tuscany (stayed at agriturismo near Siena that had a pool), Amalfi Coast (stopped in Pompeii on the way), and then Rome (stayed at an apt in Trastevere; I also recommend booking the night tours/visits - we just booked through the websites for both the Vatican (just night tickets plus audio tour) and the Colosseum (underground night tour.)) the 3 weeks flew by and all 5 of us loved every moment.

We found most of our accommodations through this listserv:

Borgo Rapale in Tuscany
La Zinefra in Minori (amalfi coast)
Apt 19 in Rome

Posted by
44 posts

I am so excited, just booked airfare and airbnb for our first stop. We arrive in Venice on June 24 and depart from Naples on July 14.

June 23: Fly out of Seattle
June 24-26: Arrive in Venice at 1:40pm, stay a total of three nights

That is what I have so far. I would like to spend the next parts of the trip in three places: Tuscany, Rome and Amalfi Coast.
Florence looks heavenly, would you suggest that we stop there next for 3-4 days and then find a spot in the country for another 4-5 days?

Maybe this:
June 23: Fly from Seattle
3 nights: Venice
3 nights: Florence
4 nights: Countryside
4 nights: Rome
6 nights: Amalfi
July 14: Fly home from Naples

This is so hard. I really would like to only stay in 4 places, not 5, but I've heard Florence is fantastic. If you had to cut out one place, what would it be?

Posted by
467 posts

When our family of 4 visited Italy for the first time together, Florence was the hands down favorite of everyone. A smaller city feel and or girls ( a couple of years older than yours) felt comfortable walking around together. Of course it is crazy busy around the Duomo area but if you explore around the city you will find many wonderful things to see. Easy to make day trips from Florence also.

Posted by
7124 posts

My sister plus her husband and 2 boys (15 &13) are considering 3 weeks in Italy at exactly the same time. I proposed the following (with some hotel suggestions that offer family rooms) ...

19/6 Venice (4 nights)
- day trip to Verona or Padova

23/6 Florence/Tuscany (5 nights)
- day trips to Siena, Pisa+Lucca & Chianti

28/6 Sorrento/Amalfi Coast (5 nights)
- day trips to Pompeii, Positano & Capri

03/7 Rome (4 nights)

Posted by
14003 posts

Consider a longer stay in Venice. You will want a day simply to adjust - wander the back streets, ride the vaporetto (water bus) up or down the Grand Canal once during the day, again after dark. Eat gelato and soak up the atmosphere. There's a beach on Lido, just across the lagoon. You can day trip to Verona, Vicenza, Padua. Look into a gondola-rowing lesson. The kids will love it and it's probably cheaper than a gondola ride.

Are you planning to rent a car? Staying in a Tuscan agriturismo usually means either staying there or driving. If you do, then consider day trips to Florence instead of splitting your time. Also consider seeing some of Umbria as well as or instead of Tuscany (the hills are as beautiful).

Without a car, I'd suggest basing in Bologna or Ferrara. Ferrara is great if you like to ride bikes, but the historic center is a tad far from the train station. In Bologna, it's about a 20 minute walk from the historic center to the train station - you could stay between them. Bologna has excellent train connections to lots of great towns (Modena, Ferrara, Ravenna . . .) and is relatively laid back - it's more of a college town than a big tourist destination.

Posted by
143 posts

We did this in summer 2015 with our two girls - aged 13 and 15 at the time. Best trip ever!
I would add a night or two to Venice. Our lesson with Row Venice was a highlight and my girls absolutely loved Venice. We rented an apartment in the Dosodoro for four nights and it was perfect. A day trip to Verona would be nice but we didn't have time. The Secret Itineraries tour was a hit, too.
We stayed in a b&b with a pool just outside Montepulciano, the L'Orto di Panza - divine! I wish we had spent a night in Siena and definitely plan to go back. We had a car for Tuscany except for the three nights we stayed in Florence. We went a bit out of the way to go to Civita and am so glad we did! I hope it is still there after the earthquake today!
Rome! We rented an apartment there, too, in the Camp dei Fiori area. It was lovely and so convenient! Definitely see the Vatican but get a tour - the crowds are crushing. We did the Pristine Sistine tour and it was very good.
One thing I wish we had done is to do a family cooking class - pasta making, maybe? I think we would have all enjoyed that. I guess we will have to return!
You are going to have a fantastic trip!

Posted by
44 posts

Thank you all for the advice. I have spent more time thinking, here is the most recent, with questions:

June 24-26 (3 nights): Venice
Arrive at the airport around 2pm. Booked an apt already for these three nights. I feel most comfortable with this part of the trip, happy with it.

June 27-July 3 (7 nights): Tuscany
This should probably be split in two, but am thinking some time spent in Florence (4 days?) and the other time spent in Lucca or Siena or an agriturisimo. What do you think about that? Is Florence and Lucca/Siena too similiar, at least when compared to an agriturisimo? Spend time in Florence and day trip to Siena/Lucca? I have two teens, looking to shake up the walking and touring all the time, maybe the agriturisimo with a pool would do that. Would also think of renting a car sometime in here.

July 4-7 (4 nights): Rome
Is this enough time? Should I add a day?

July 8-12 (5 nights): Amalfi Coast
I like the idea of spending the last part of the trip here, hopefully visiting Capri and spending time near the water. Any suggestions on where to stay - Sorrento?

July 13 (1 night): Naples
Early flight at 7am, short sleep in Naples.

Posted by
11613 posts

If you have 5 nights, don't spend all of it in Sorrento. I would spend two or three nights actually on the Amalfi Coast.

Firenze is quite different from Siena, and different from Lucca. Siena is great as a base for southern Tuscany if you have a car, but buses will get you around as well. You might consider Arezzo also.

Posted by
80 posts

Great, great trip. You'll have a blast from beginning to end.

Just a small warning about Siena- the Palio is July 2, so you either want to be in the middle of the experience, or far away, depending on your desires. The experience is incredible, but so are the crowds!

Robert in Montreal

Posted by
72 posts

Jeff, I am planning a similar trip next summer as well, although I've only got about 16 days. We'll have our 14 year old son with us. We're flying to Venice on June 25, arriving the next morning at 9:00 AM. I booked our flights on points so those were grabbed the day they became available. Our itinerary:

Venice: two nights
Train to Florence: three nights
Car to Tuscany agriturismo: five nights
Drop car at La Spezia, train to Riomaggiore- two nights
Train to Rome: four nights
Fly home from Rome

I've booked all of our hotels and B&Bs at this point. I prefer them to renting an apartment because our stays are relatively short and I like having staff to help with questions. I started my planning by finding and booking the agriturismo of my dreams, as those tend to be small and availability can be limited. We're staying near Pienza and plan to day trip to villages, relax by pool, taste wine, perhaps take a cooking class, etc. I used Sawday's to look for unique properties then cross-checked them with other sites like TA. Once that was secured, I booked our stays in the main cities.

I look forward to following this and other posts for other great ideas for families. Happy planning!

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks ksinclair, I would love to hear about the planning for your trip, too.

I just finalized the tail end of our trip. We've decided to stay in Atrani on the Amalfi Coast for 6 nights. Spent time with the kids tonight looking at pictures and talking about what we can do there and where we can go from there. Seeing them so excited made it easy for me to hit "book".

Also booked an apartment in Florence for 4 nights, so the trip is coming together nicely.

June 24-26 Venice
June 27-30 Florence
July 1-2 Lucca?
July 3-6 Rome ?

July 7-12 Atrani
July 13 Naples, early flight on July 14

Posted by
72 posts

I will look for you in Venice and Florence! Those are the same dates we will be in both places! ;-)

Posted by
44 posts

After a final talk with the family, we have decided to do 3 days in Lucca, which means we take one day off of Rome. When asking which towns/regions that family wanted to see the most, Rome fell near the bottom.

We can always go back!

Posted by
524 posts

I really think you are making a mistake by taking away a day from Rome,mi was even going to suggest 5 days. We did Venice, Rome, Positano. It's wonderful ending in Positano and swimming. Sorrento you can't. Plan on spending a couple nights there...don't forget your water shoes, the pebbles hurt.

Posted by
44 posts

Thank you for the reply. Sure, I agree with you, but I have come to grips with not being able to do everything AND trekking with two teenagers I value their opinion. Their moods will dictate much of the trip. We will go back sometime in the future.

Posted by
75 posts

We just returned to Seattle from France & Italy, first trip, my husband and I took our girls 10 & 17. In Rome you should check out Borghese Park- rent pedal surries, bikes, it really is like central park in many ways

In Rome, we stayed at a fantastic VRBO- great location, wonderful gelato next door, the host was amazing. (listing # 1697635 Icarus Daedalus and Apartments in the heart of downtown Rome-- there are 2 apartments on this listing..) We walked everywhere from here-- with the exception of the Colosseum- took a bus and metro..

We flew Condor home- rome to frankfurt to Seattle. 10.50hr. flight- long bus ride from plane to airport very long walk through the airport, through customs & security.. no huge lines just a lot of walking. The flight attendants were very nice- just not impressed with the cost savings vs how long it really did take for us to get home.. (to get seats together is an additional cost.)

We personally thought 2 full days in Venice would have been enough- so if you stay longer, take people's suggestions and plan a day trip or class. it's a lot of shopping cute streets. We did not go to Lido- the more I read about it, the more it sounded like a lot of work to go to a public beach-I may be wrong but a 45 min water taxi, then walk 5-10 minutes (in hot humid weather), -bring your own towels, pay to use the toilets (and what did it for me is someone mentioning that some people chose not to pay for the toilets- so keep an eye out when you swim..) You might be able to pay to use the private beaches at the hotels- if you're not staying there.

Near Florence we stayed at a beautiful villa w/a pool -- the private cottage we rented had it's own small pool as well. It was a 40 minute bus ride to Florence-- we did not rent a car. The bus really does just stop 1/2 block from the villa - (to/fr the Tran station in florence-- very easy..) The village of Impruneta is small- you can rent bikes at the villa.

Posted by
7124 posts

Your trip sounds wonderful and has morphed along similar lines to my sister's (with 2 teen boys) for next summer. There was a desire for longer stays in Tuscany and Amalfi, with minimum time for museums and churches, and maximum time for swimming and walking.

18/06 Arrive in Venice (3 nights)
19/06 Venice sights
20/06 Venice sights
21/06 Train via Florence to Siena for Tuscany with rental car (7 nights)
22/06 San Gimignano
23/06 Florence
24/06 Volterra
25/06 Pisa
26/06 Monteriggioni
27/06 Siena
28/06 Train to Salerno, ferry to Positano for Amalfi Coast (7 nights)
29/06 Positano
30/06 Pompeii (& Herculaneum ??)
01/07 Capri
02/07 Praiano
03/07 Naples
04/07 Amalfi & Ravello
05/07 Ferry to Salerno, train to Rome (2 nights)
06/07 Rome sights
07/07 Rome sights (before evening departure)