Italy had always been one of those destinations that I knew I wanted to experience with my entire family. My mom and dad lived in Naples in the late 70s and my sister and I grew up hearing stories about their adventures.
After having a very successful family vacation to Ireland in 2012, we decided to test our luck and try it again. Fast forward two years later, add one more child and let the planning begin! Getting there is always half the fun, right?
One of the first things that I picked up, per the recommendation of a friend, was a Rick Steves guidebook for Italy. For those of you planning your own trip, the book has recently been updated for 2016.
I had never used one of his books before, and he didn’t disappoint. The book is broken out into regions or cities within Italy and includes the top rated sites to see in each location as well as recommendations for food, tours and places to stay. Also, if you bring your book, many establishments will give a discount.
Another thing that I did prior to the trip was download the Ulmon Pro App to my phone. This app allows you to download city maps to use offline later on. Once I booked our accommodations, I promptly pinned them on the map along with other locations that I had booked reservations. By doing this, we were able to save some space by not bringing books or large maps (you also blend in a bit more looking at your phone rather than whipping out a huge map). I love this app and have used it for several of my subsequent trips as well.
For the Flight:
At the time of our travel, my daughter was 6 months old and my son was 2.5 years old – prime temper tantrum age – and they were already getting restless in the airport before taking off on our first flight. With kids this age, walk them around as much as possible in the airport – I’m sure the other passengers on the flight would rather hear them squeal while running around the gate area rather than yelling because they are cooped up in a seat with no where to go on the plane.
I was worried about taking a two and a half year old on a long haul flight and how he would behave so we took a few precautionary measures…
Prior to the trip, I wrapped up several small toys or games so that Liam could open one about each hour on the trip for amusement. These were things like small coloring books, search and find books or anything Captain America. He never made it through all of the “presents” because the kids all passed out…even the big kids.
We had also brought along the iPad and had several educational games loaded including the Elmo loves ABCs that we had tested out on our 22.5 hour road trip.
We had a lot of happy campers on the flight!
Transportation: After a long flight, I prefer to have transportation arranged so we don’t have to mess with shoving all of our luggage onto trains, cabs or boats while dragging cranky toddlers along.
I had set up (and pre-paid for) transportation from the airport terminal in Rome to our apartment. Per the arrangements, someone from the company would be holding a sign with our name on it in the terminal. Well….that didn’t happen. We circled the wagons, so to speak, to corral the littles ones and went off in search of the office kiosk.
After searching through the terminal, we finally found the transportation company but had to wait for over an hour for them to gather other passengers. This is the look of absolute enjoyment from Liam but we were finally off to see our apartment!
Accommodations: When thinking of the ideal place to stay as a family, we were looking for something local – not a chain hotel, something with multiple rooms that could accommodate the entire family, and a location that was near attractions or a public transportation stop.
I loved using a group called Cross-Pollinate. The site is run by a couple of Americans who picked up one day and moved to Rome to open their own small hotel. They “prefer to provide a curated list and a qualified, personal recommendation” for every accommodation listed on their site – and they know because they have inspected every location and have met every owner.
After looking through the listings of rentals that met all of our specifications, we decided on Nina’s Home by the Dome: a large, three bedroom apartment in an upscale neighborhood within walking distance to the Vatican.
The apartment was in a secured building on the 4th floor and had a cute little lift (which could fit 2-3 people). When entering the apartment, you were greeted with a small entry table and a long hallway that extends the length of the apartment. The kitchen, bathroom, living room and all three bedrooms extend from this one hallway.
When we arrived, we were met with a representative of the owner. He was especially pleasant and gave us many recommendations for places to see, things to eat, etc…
When it came time to pay the remainder of the deposit, he gave us paperwork from the owner that indicated we owed much more than originally agreed. He called to put us in contact with the owner and she said that the prices had increased since the time of booking. Well, in my typical planning fashion, I had booked the apartment over 1 year in advance however I had printed the contract that listed payment schedules and the total amount.
The owner contacted Cross Pollinate and they worked it out in our favor. Note to self: keep and print all documentation related to bookings in case of a misunderstanding.
Once we got settled in and started unpacking,
The main living space was actually quite large. It had two sets of french doors that opened up from the long hallway into the room. A family dining table was set in one side with a buffet and plates/dishes. A comfortable couch was in the center of the room which also pulled out into a queen bed. The t.v. was located in the family room.
Two of the bedrooms were actually quite large, the one twin room was smaller however it did have its own bathroom with shower. The two larger bedrooms had full beds with a twin in one and the crib (by request) in the other.
Another amazing perk of having your own apartment is having the ability to do laundry whenever you need to – and you don’t have to pay €6 per shirt! Adam got creative with drying space.
The kitchen was bright with access to a porch, had a large refrigerator and even a dish washer. We were able to utilize the kitchen for cooking several meals. There is a grocery store almost right across the street and then another little deli that sold fresh meats, fruits and vegetables and pastries down the street.
We were so tired after arriving that we took a nap (I know, I know…not the thing to do but I wasn’t going to fight cranky kids) and my father went out while we were sleeping to find dinner. What did he come back with, you ask? A good pasta or pizza? No. Chinese Food. It was still a comfortable family dinner around the table, so we couldn’t ask for more. We would be rested for our first full day in Rome!