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Sorrento and Amalfi Coast with Kids

Just back from an amazing trip to the Sorrento and Amalfi Coast....wow! This was our second time visiitng Italy, and on the first trip we did the must-see list...Rome, Venice, Milan and Lake Como. (skipped Florence for Lake Como because we thought our kids had enough art in Rome) I think we enjoyed Sorrento more than anything except Venice. I do love Venice.
We travel as a family of four, with kids aged 13 and 10. So of course this affects much of what we do. I really want to add these details because although many family are big fans of Rick Steves and his advice, there is little on this site regarding traveling with kids.
We are Americans but living in Israel with my husbands job right now. So we found cheap flights to Rome from Wed-Sun. We flew into Rome Wed evening, and made it down to Sorrento by midnight. The Frecciorossa from Rome Termini to Napoli was awesome, and since I bought tickets early they were so cheap! And less than 10E to upgrade us all to Preminum. This is worth it for the little bottle of water and pack of cookies alone, besides the nicer seats. But we were too late to catch the Circumvesuviana from Napoli to Sorrento, so our hotel booked us a transfer. At 140E is was hard to swallow, but it is part of the cost if you arrive after trains are running. And it is a long distance by car. We have learned to get to your hotel the easiest way possible after your flight. Especially with kids in tow!
We stayed at the Palazzo Starace. It has a fabulous location, and the staff go beyond expectations to make your stay pleasant. Be aware, if you stay in the family suite for 4, it is across from the breakfast room so you get a 7am wakeup call! It turned out to be fine, as we had early mornings anyway and had to get going.
Our first day we visited Pompei and went to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. We signed up for the Mondo guided tour that Rick recommends, because he (and others) mention how large the site is and not that well signed. Well this was an interesting and informative tour, but we now have decided no more tours with our kids! They are not old enough to enjoy being in group and listening to a guide for 2 hours. I wish we had simply followed Rick's information and saw the site ourselves. Honestly, we would have gotten almost the exact information. And 2 hours is really plenty to see the top sights.
After that we had lunch at the Bar Sgambati restaurant in the train station. Our food was excellent. I think it was the best pizza I had on our trip. It was worth the slightly inflated cost. (but we aware that you're in Italy! Our server tried to charge us more than the bill required. My husband corrected him and he acted like it was a mistake, but then tried to give us incorrect change. Hmm, fishy.
We took a bus from Pompei to Vesuvius. The bus company told us to meet at 2:45 at the station. They had us wait in a balcony in the direct afternoon sunlight. By 3:15 we were wondering what was happening. A few of us asked questions and they said things were running behind, and led us to a coach bus. (I had bought tickets for the Busvia del Vesuvio, which is a bus/monster truck thing that I thought my kids would like. They didn't tell me when I bought the tickets that because of a recent fire those vehicles were not in use. So bummer there.) The coach bus driver promptly turned the bus off and went to chat and smoke with his friends for a while. We were now sweating on the bus instead of the balcony! After 15 min of this, and now about 30 min past the time we were supposed to leave, my husband asked the driver to start the bus for us. Finally we got under way. I understand delays, but there was no consideration of those waiting by the company. It was frustrating.
But the bus ride up was efficient and an adventure in itself. We had some steep drop off views and narrow misses with local bull dozers doing work. After our initial delays, the bus service was great.

Posted by
4654 posts

...The Frecciorossa from Rome Termini to Napoli was awesome, and since I bought tickets early they were so cheap! And less than 10E to upgrade us all to Preminum. This is worth it for the little bottle of water and pack of cookies alone...."

A standard fare on the Frecciorossa includes a snack and soft drink anyway so not sure what you really got for your €10.

Posted by
169 posts

I don't know, JC. We've ridden on 3 Frecciorossas before and never got anything. ?

Posted by
4654 posts

We recently took the Frecciorossa from Milan to Rome, standard seats, and were provided with either a sweet or savoury snack and a soft drink. Either way, it certainly wasn't worth an extra €10.

Enjoying your Trip Report! Thanks Amanda. We are going to Paris, Munich, Prague, Rome, and Amalfi Coast (Positano) June 29. I can't wait. We aren't doing with kids though. We are doing Pompeii but without the tour. I did the tour with daughter years ago and thought I could guide the hubby myself with a brochure and some notes. :)

Posted by
2165 posts

Thank you for this! We are taking our kids, ages 11 and 14 to Europe for their first time this summer. Norway, Scotland and Ireland. Glad to know it can be done and everyone enjoyed! I know many of the things we want to do are not necessarily kid things, so hoping it goes well. If it doesn't, next time we will leave them home!

Posted by
169 posts

Sally, Sounds like an amazing trip! Yes I agree, between Rick's books and museum/site audio guides, we rarely bother with a live tour guide. I know they make sense in certain situations, though. You will have a fabulous time!

Posted by
169 posts

Diveloonie, You definitely have a different experience with kids vs adults solo. But we find, at that age, the changes they bring to our schedule can be very positive. Like we do move a little slower with kids. Maybe 2 sights a day (which is plenty!) and instead of trekking to get a peek at one more thing, deciding that the local scene is perfect for dinner and getting home by 7-9pm makes for better mornings the next day. My husband and I can be tempted to do too much. And with kids the value of a cafe/gelato break in the afternoon cannot be over-stressed! But this too is good for the adults. We can pause, recharge and double check plans. Actually in winter we sometimes stop twice a day for tea/coffee at a warm cafe.
Also we try to limit our churches and art museums. One per city is plenty for them. (and we breeze through with Rick's info/audio tour if available) We try to do something fun for kids in each place we visit. Usually something active. We did Gladiator training in Rome, and rented the golf cart for the lawn at Versailles. I've never been to Norway or Scotland (yet!) but we've visited Ireland with my husband's job. Of course castles, seasides and crunchy fish and chips will be a hit. I'm sure you will have an amazing trip!