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Italy logistics/accomodation with a 4-year old and luggage

Italy logistics/accomodation with a 4-year old and luggage

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Old Jan 31, 19, 1:02 pm
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Italy logistics/accomodation with a 4-year old and luggage

I have a 1 month paid sabbatical and we plan to spend part of it in Italy. This is our first time visiting there, and we plan to spend around 2 weeks there (hope to hit Rome, Florence/Tuscany area, maybe Amalfi Coast).

My wife and I are seasoned travellers (before we had kids) -- mostly around Asia, and our son has been to Singapore/Mexico/around the USA, but we expect Europe will be crowded w/ more walking.

We're right now looking at 3 large checked bags, and a carry-on. Is this a crazy idea? Will taking the train be impossible? Alternatively has anyone tried it with a rental car to drive between cities or use a private tour/driver?

Also -- any accommodation recs? We have a huge stash of Marriott points so are partial to their hotels/resorts. But authentic local accommodations like agriturismi in Tuscany would be cool as well, as long as they're toddler friendly.

Thanks in advance!
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Old Feb 1, 19, 3:52 am
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Originally Posted by Ryu2 View Post
I have a 1 month paid sabbatical and we plan to spend part of it in Italy. This is our first time visiting there, and we plan to spend around 2 weeks there (hope to hit Rome, Florence/Tuscany area, maybe Amalfi Coast).

My wife and I are seasoned travellers (before we had kids) -- mostly around Asia, and our son has been to Singapore/Mexico/around the USA, but we expect Europe will be crowded w/ more walking.

We're right now looking at 3 large checked bags, and a carry-on. Is this a crazy idea? Will taking the train be impossible? Alternatively has anyone tried it with a rental car to drive between cities or use a private tour/driver?

Also -- any accommodation recs? We have a huge stash of Marriott points so are partial to their hotels/resorts. But authentic local accommodations like agriturismi in Tuscany would be cool as well, as long as they're toddler friendly.

Thanks in advance!
This is crazy. Definitely cut down on the amount of bags.

Think about it there are two adults, so four hands, which will be completely occupied by the four bags. And on top of that, your child is just at that age where they're mobile (can walk) but requires constant supervision (can't be trusted to find their way back if they wander off). Not to mention steps, boarding and alighting from trains, reaching for tickets/wallet inside your handbag, etc.

If this doesn't discourage you - go for a practice run this weekend where you currently live. Bring around the child and four empty suitcases...And then imagine doing that in a foreign land with the suitcases full.

A rental car is okay for intercity transport but cities are a pain to drive in, so you will still have a lot of hassle with loading/unloading and searching for parking in Rome and Florence.
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Old Feb 1, 19, 5:06 am
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Originally Posted by Ryu2 View Post
..This is our first time visiting there, and we plan to spend around 2 weeks there (hope to hit Rome, Florence/Tuscany area, maybe Amalfi Coast).
Far too many places in 2 weeks. More so if that includes flights to/from Italy.
While Italy is smallish getting between those destination will eat up your time. Trains will get you anywhere with taxi/uber as needed. Driving, and parking, in Italy is not for the faint hearted.

For 2 weeks you do not need to take all the clothes, shoes, electronics, etc you own. 1 x small/medium 22" or smaller each is all you need. The kid can drag his own small rollaboard. You will soon get tired dragging 3 large bags, carry-on, & a 4 year old around the old rough cobbled streets of Italy. (May not even be possible with 4 hands)
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Old Feb 1, 19, 9:21 am
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@Agneisse, @Mwenenzi: I postponed my answering for a few hours and I found your posts that absolutely cover what I intended to write. Three large checked bags, a carry-on and a four-year old kid is sheer madness when vacationing in Italy (or elsewhere). As for the rental car, I want to see what kind of a car the OP will find in Italy (I mean for a logical price) where you can fit all of those in the booth. And as for storing one bag in the back seat, hah, hah, hah!: you'll leave that car at a public parking lot while visiting, say, Naples?
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Old Feb 1, 19, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by Ryu2 View Post
I have a 1 month paid sabbatical and we plan to spend part of it in Italy. This is our first time visiting there, and we plan to spend around 2 weeks there (hope to hit Rome, Florence/Tuscany area, maybe Amalfi Coast).

My wife and I are seasoned travellers (before we had kids) -- mostly around Asia, and our son has been to Singapore/Mexico/around the USA, but we expect Europe will be crowded w/ more walking.

We're right now looking at 3 large checked bags, and a carry-on. Is this a crazy idea? Will taking the train be impossible? Alternatively has anyone tried it with a rental car to drive between cities or use a private tour/driver?

Also -- any accommodation recs? We have a huge stash of Marriott points so are partial to their hotels/resorts. But authentic local accommodations like agriturismi in Tuscany would be cool as well, as long as they're toddler friendly.

Thanks in advance!
I think you are much better off renting a house/apartment for the whole 2 weeks in ONE place and taking day trips from there using trains. What you describe in your original post is closer to torture than an enjoyable way of exploring Italy.
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Old Feb 1, 19, 2:27 pm
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I know the challenges of baggage in Italy -- usually I go over with little and return with a lot -- luggage can be an ordeal. I also think that the luggage needs to be reduced.

Taking the train will be very difficult. If one person has to navigate with the two large bags, the other will have the 3rd large bag and the toddler -- let alone the carry on. Baggage carts are not available in most train stations. There is a theoretically a porter service that can be booked in advance for luggage assistance but I have no experience with it.

Rental car -- there may be some large enough -- I once got upgraded to a Mercedes C Class which was difficult because of its size -- parking was a pain. Also when renting a car one has be aware of the restricted zones for driving (ZTL) -- the fines can add up. Cars are best rented when not in a major city.

I think it is better to focus on one area rather than packing/unpacking with a lot of luggage every few days.
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Old Feb 1, 19, 3:32 pm
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I'm going to try to minimize repeating what has been said above. I have done Europe with my family (wife, mother-in-law and young twins) a few times. mrs. iapetus seems incapable (at least to me ) of paring down the baggage ... and we've made it work. But it hasn't always been easy. The absolute worst experience that I had with this was trying to board the TGV in Avignon and trying to carry 400 pounds of luggage (that is a reasoned estimate; not a wild guess on my part ... we actually broke a luggage scale on that trip ) from the train platform to the top level of the car we boarded. Trying to move and find room for all that stuff while being yelled at by the conductors and receiving sympathetic comments from (some of) the passengers is not an experience I care to ever repeat.

And I respectfully disagree with some of my fellow FTers: I don't think that driving in Italy is all that bad; driving in large Italian cities is not anything I'd ever care to do, particularly if I'm trying to avoid stress on a vacation. But driving between smaller Italian towns is quite nice, easy and straightforward. In some cases, it's the best -- and sometimes only -- way to get around ... and you get to enjoy beautiful views, too. So, I would definitely ditch the car in Rome or Florence; you won't need it, and it's more trouble than it's worth there.

If you're going to be bringing along a stroller, take some care about where you stay in Rome. mrs. iapetus really regretted staying in our neighborhood on our first family trip to Rome. While the hotel was fantastic, it was on a hill (just east of the Spanish Steps, basically) and getting two strollers up and down that hill on the paved stone streets (What's the Italian equivalent of the French pavé? I'm having a bit of a slow brain moment. ) was no fun, particularly at night. So staying closer to where we like to spend our time has been a smarter way to go.

I would second the recommendation about focusing more on fewer places. I would recommend minimizing the luggage, spending no more than one week in Rome and one week in Florence and taking the train between the two. (Actually, given my preferences and biases, I would skew that towards more days in Roma!!! )
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Old Feb 1, 19, 9:01 pm
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Originally Posted by iapetus View Post
...{long snip}...(What's the Italian equivalent of the French pavé? I'm having a bit of a slow brain moment...{long snip}...
In Rome (where they were first used) the small stones are called Sanpietrini. This is in reference to Pope Pius (I don't remember his "number") who introduced them in the renaissance period. It was decided about 15 years ago to gradually replace them with regular asphalt.
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Old Feb 1, 19, 10:38 pm
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I like driving in Italy — but not in Naples— never again. I agree in the countryside it can be necessary. One has to be aware that going to places via car like Siena or Assisi one will have to park outside the city walls for a day trip— one can stay in certain hotels that will register guests and their cars to allow access in the center. In Siena for example I was only able to exit and enter at one entrance — make a mistake and expect a ZTL charge. And with a larger car that can hold several large suitcases it can be a challenge to park and navigate the narrow older streets.



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Old Feb 2, 19, 7:43 am
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We did a two-week Italy trip when our first son was three. Started with 5 nights Rome and then rented a van, driving south to Naples, Sorrento (including a day trip to the Amalfi Coast), and then to Sicily. We are better at taking less bags now (a necessity with two kids), but back then we would take all the food, diapers, etc with us. And that trip was over the Christmas holidays - we way overpacked for the cold. We had three large checked suitcases, a checked backpack, two carry-ons, the stroller, and a carseat. Not saying I recommend taking that much stuff, but it can be done.
  • In Rome, stayed at the St. Regis -- was a pretty good location with the stroller.
  • For the rental car, the only automatic I could find allowing a one-way return in Palermo was a transit-van (narrow and longer). I have driven in Italy many times and find the highways very easy - even with that larger van. For the towns, you just need to google ahead of time where you need to park and plan it out. Only real challenge I had was driving it through the main part of Siracusa - there may have been a corner that resulted in a later visit to an Auchan to purchase a car scratch remover kit.
  • Naples - we stayed at the Hotel Excelsior (it was a Starwood Luxury Collection back then). Did not have an issue driving in/out of that location, but definitely left the car at the hotel and walked around Naples.
  • For Sorrento, easy drive into the hotel but then left the car parked there. Took the train around to Pompeii and for the Amalfi coast we hired a driver for the day, even though we had the car -- this I highly recommend as you will want to enjoy the scenery and not be focused on the road.
  • I did buy and take a portable safe-like thing to store my computer when left in the car -- especially for southern Italy
We were in-and-out of 6 hotels in total. That is more than I would recommend -- these days we aim for 3 locations over a 2 week trip. I think your plan for 3 places is very doable -- just the doubling-back from Florence to Naples might not be optimal. My suggestion would be more of a triangle like Rome-Naples/Sorrento-Bari or do Rome-Florence-and a Tuscan town like San Gimignano or Sienna. We visited Florence and Tuscany on a different trip and Florence deserves a couple days to itself and then based in SanG we explored there plus day trips to Sienna, Volterra and Arezzo, We had also visited Lucca and Pisa on the way to Florence from the Cinque Terre - these could be a day trip from Florence.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 3:32 pm
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A flight + train is possible with 3 bags, a stroller, and a 4 year old, because we did exactly that two years ago. It's not great, but it is possible. Here's my advice based on how we planned it:

1. Only bring as much luggage as one set of hands can manage. The other pair of hands will have the stroller and the kid. 3 large bags was challenging for me, but I made it work by traveling first class on the train (more luggage space, but it was tight), and the advantage of speaking Italian and being very familiar with the cities I was transiting and the trains that I was riding. I would have been happier with two bags vs three, though.
2. Stay in one place the whole two weeks. We do this anyway, and I'm passing this on to you - rent an apartment in your primary destination, fully unpack, and if you want to go somewhere else for a couple of days do it without moving all of your crap. It costs more, but you do not want to move your stuff more frequently than the book-ends of the trip.
3. If going in and out of Rome and staying elsewhere, time your flights for the high speed trains that go directly to FCO. No transfers with luggage, period.

If you want to disregard all of the above, then the other thing you could do is hire a driver between all of these points. But for a two week trip, I would very seriously consider an apartment rental in Rome or Florence and rely on trains (without luggage) to go places. I would still opt for apartment rentals over hotels because of the 4 year old, provided that you can get by without the services of a hotel. If not you'll sacrifice some space for assistance. If going the hotel route, make sure and map out locations - many of the chains don't have presence in areas where you want to stay, as the goal should be to primarily walk to your places of interest.
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Old Feb 8, 19, 8:00 am
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The less luggage the better, and the fewer changes of accommodation during a trip, the easier it will be.

If you're bringing a lot of luggage and have young children in tow, my suggestion is to look into wheeled duffel bags or other bags that can become oversized backpacks of sort when needed. Also, if the issue is the weight limit of the bags for the flights, a collapsible duffel bag in conjunction with a large but not yet fully packed wheeled bag to reorganize on arrival at an airport can definitely help.

The idea about having a base of operations from which to do day trips (or even multi-day trips) is a very good idea. It costs more money but causes less non-financial misery, so it's not something to be too miserly about doing.

Speaking of strollers, Italian cities' main tourist attractions are often located in areas that don't tend to be all that stroller friendly, and the smaller the wheels, the more issues of some sort you may have; and the bigger the wheels, the more issues of other sorts you may have.

That said, if you're a masochist and want to torture yourself, take as much luggage as possible while using crowded public transit at peak hours, change hotels nightly with young kids, and make sure to carry the stroller with the tiniest wheels possible and the heaviest car seat ever.
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Old Feb 8, 19, 3:07 pm
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But there's one great thing about traveling in Italy with children: the Italians themselves. Generally speaking, Italians love children. I'll never forget being in the town of Deruta when my daughter had a complete meltdown and was absolutely inconsolable. And I was impressed by the number of local shopkeepers who popped their heads out of their stores and tried to do what they could to help her. (I didn't really want the attention, but I appreciated the effort. ). So you can take your kids pretty much anywhere in Italy -- in my experience -- and not worry about getting the stink eye from others.
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Old Feb 8, 19, 3:25 pm
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Something else to consider if you're planning to take Italian trains with a kid to distract you and lots of luggage is that some major train stations are notorious for pickpockets.
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Old Feb 10, 19, 6:53 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Something else to consider if you're planning to take Italian trains with a kid to distract you and lots of luggage is that some major train stations are notorious for pickpockets.
Even without a kid to distract, Rome and Florence and Venice have notorious pickpockets at the train stations but also elsewhere.

In Italy and elsewhere, thieves have made off with US Secret Service protectees' personal belongings even as the thefts were being done in the presence of the US Secret Service personal security detail assigned to the protectees.
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