- I am a mother of three children aged 4, 2 and 2 and this was their first holiday in Europe.
- Every restaurant we visited made sure the kids had something they would enjoy eating.
- We never queued for anything because of family priorities.
My family of five recently traveled internationally together for the first time. Many of our friends called us brave when we said we were going to Italy for two weeks with three toddlers aged 4, 2 and 2. While the comments were meant to encourage us in our travels, they did the opposite for me, and I wondered if we were dooming our children in a foreign land.
I was wrong and quickly realized that Italy is an incredibly kid-friendly destination. Our holiday was amazing for that reason and something we will remember forever.
There were no children’s menus in the restaurants we visited
We’d pumped our kids up by telling them they could eat all the pizza, pasta and ice cream they wanted once we landed in Italy. Every parent knows that these three things are guaranteed to resonate with children.
On our first meal in Pienza I found that there was no children’s menu. But that wasn’t a problem. The restaurant was willing to prepare short pasta with butter and cheese for them. This happened everywhere we went including a fancy restaurant which we happened to eat at after trying to get a table at every other restaurant and this was the only one available in Siena.
While we’ve found in our travels that kids are expected to eat from the same menu as adults – which my kids did by the end of our trip, no questions asked – restaurants were willing to whip up a simple dish to make to please the little ones.
We never queued for anything
We kept our travel low-key, avoiding big cities like Rome and Florence, fearing long lines of travelers for all the tourist attractions. However, in our experience, when traveling around Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria, locals have made sure that families are given priority.
We never queued for anything as we were quickly guided to the family priority line wherever we went. This turned out to be the key at the airport when we left. Despite arriving many hours in advance, Rome airport was in chaos. I was ready to miss our flight because of the long lines, but thanks to these priority lines we were all through in minutes. I really appreciated that because waiting is not a toddler’s virtue, especially in a crowded place.
When we landed in the US, that was a stark contrast. We had to wait in long lines with the other passengers to make it through security and board our connecting flight with three screaming children who had just spent eight hours behaving on an airplane.
People seemed to have more patience for children
As a mother of three kids, two of them twins, I’m used to apologizing wherever I go, whether it’s for the kids screaming, jumping, or running around.
I found myself doing the same thing in Italy and people looked at me a bit confused. I quickly realized that children are expected to be children and that there is more patience for them.
We had our kids on the east coast to minimize jet lag, which meant they ate dinner at 9pm every night. I was surprised to see how local children my age went to dinner with their parents, walked the streets of small medieval towns, danced in the squares, giggling loudly.
By the end of our trip, I was apologizing less and enjoying more, which in turn allowed my kids to explore and learn new things. My oldest figured out how to order ice cream in Italian, and my twins decided to give up stroller riding to hit the cobbled streets with their newfound confidence.