We’ve been enjoying our time during our family trip to Italy. After our amazing six months in Mexico, I didn’t think any other country would be as fun. But as it turns out, Italy is just as great. And while there are many things about Italy that have been stressful for us, for the most part, we have been enjoying our time here.
The interplay of ancient history and modern culture is abundant here. And it’s one of the most interesting things to see in Italy. In some small towns in Italy, you can stroll through a historic medieval square, and then turn around and walk straight into an H&M! In Rome, the Colosseum, a building that’s over 2,000 years old, sits blocks away from modern stores and restaurants.
There’s a lot to see and do in Italy. And it’s worth taking some time to venture out beyond the usual sites. While Italy’s cities are certainly beautiful to explore, we have loved experiencing the Italian countryside even more.
This post was updated on May 28, 2020.
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Things to do on a family trip to Italy
For visitors to Italy, visiting the main cities are a must. Rick Steves offers plenty of suggestions of cities to explore in his Best of Italy guidebook. We loved exploring Rome and Milan. The abundance of museums and activities in these cities show that there are just so many things to see on your family trip to Italy.
Even smaller cities, are worth visiting. For instance, in Parma, you can learn all about the culinary history of the Emilia-Romagna region. You can take your pick from visiting dairies, culinary museums, sampling local food, or all of the above. Other regions in Italy have their own respective things that they’re known for.
But limiting things to see in Italy to just the cities would be a mistake. Many of the small towns in Italy have their own wonderful charm and allure. Condé Nast recently wrote about the 10 most romantic small towns in Italy. And recently, we spent a weekend visiting the small town of Trento in the Italian Alps. These small towns in the Italian countryside show a completely different side of Italy, and are best enjoyed when you slow down your pace of travel.
Five ideas for your family trip to Italy
Most of our time during our family trip to Italy was been spent in outside of the big cities. The pace of life in the country is much slower. We see people working on the farms early in the morning, while the afternoons are fairly quiet.
While we know there is so much more to life in Italy than what we can see as tourists, it has been fun taking in what we’ve observed so far. What I’ve loved about being out in these small Italian towns is catching a glimpse of how life in Italy might have been like centuries ago. This is one of the benefits of traveling slowly.
If you’re interested in seeing a different side of Italy, far from the bustling cities or historic monuments, here are five off the beaten path ideas for your family trip to Italy.
1. Stay at a farmhouse
One of the best ways to experience living in Italy is to stay at a farmhouse in one of the small towns in Italy. We found our farmhouse through Airbnb, but you can also look into house sitting opportunities. Our house is in a small commune about 45 minutes outside of the city of Parma. But you can find plenty of places like ours throughout Italy.
As more people move out of the countryside to come to the cities, many of the old farmhouses are sitting empty. What this means for you as a traveler is that farm stays are quite easy to find in Italy. Farm stay vacations, known as agriturismo in Italy, allow families to experience local life on their family trip to Italy.
New to using Airbnb for your family trips? Take a look at my helpful tips.
2. Road trip through small towns in Italy
If spending an extended amount of time in one small Italian town isn’t possible for your family trip to Italy, consider taking a road trip through Italy instead. There are so many hidden gems throughout Italy. It’s worth visiting a few of them while you’re in the country.
Car rental is relatively inexpensive here in Italy. We’re spending less than $600 to rent our car here in Italy. If you’re comfortable driving around Italy, and you have an International Driving Permit, plan out a few days to road trip through small towns in Italy.
If you plan on driving in Italy, you will need to get your International Driving Permit before you leave your home country. For Americans, you can get them at any AAA office around the country.
Here’s a unique road trip tour you can book driving vintage Fiats:
Vintage Fiat 500 Tour From Florence (by 500 Touring Club Concepts)
3. Take a train ride on your family trip to Italy
If you don’t want to drive, consider taking the train. Many of the small towns in Italy have train stations, including the famous coastal towns of Cinque Terre. You can purchase train tickets and essentially city hop.
We didn’t get to do the train during our family trip to Italy, but for families that do plan to take the train, there are a few options. You can book through Trenitalia, ItaliaRail, and RailEurope.
4. Plan day trips into the countryside
If your itinerary doesn’t allow for too many days of exploring, you can still experience that small town life of Italy with day trips. Each of the cities in Italy are surrounded by small towns and communes. Do a little research ahead of time to see what points of interest are outside of the cities that you’re visiting.
In Parma, for example, many of the food-related museums that showcase the culinary traditions of Parma are actually located outside of the city limits. This gives travelers an opportunity to take day trips to the Italian countryside to visit those museums and learn about Italian food culture and history.
Book this fun tour of the country-side, visiting small towns of Tuscany:
Hill Towns in Tuscany (by Urban Adventures)
5. Go with an organized tour
If you’re nervous about venturing out on your own, consider taking an organized tour. Viator and TripAdvisor are great places to look for tour companies that offer excursions into the Italian countryside. Take a look at the reviews of the companies to see what the high points and low points of each tour.
Here are some ideas for tours you can book:
Tuscany One Day Sightseeing Tour from Florence (by Walkabout)
When we were in Venice, we took a Venice walking tour with Macaco Tours. The tour took us through some of the back alleys of Venice. And our kids loved it because it was interactive and kid-focused.
Want more ideas for what to do in Italy with kids? Read my other posts here.
Make your family trip to Italy interesting by going off the beaten path
We are really enjoying our time in Italy. I hate to admit this, as I’m a big advocate of families traveling beyond countries like the United States or European countries. But Italy does have its charm.
What I’m realizing though, is that even though we’re in an oft-visited country, there are still ways to venture off the beaten path. Spending time in less touristed cities of Italy, and experiencing Italian history and culture outside of the main cities is a great way to do this. You can really get a glimpse as to what life in Italy might be like.
Have you done a family trip to Italy? What’s your favorite way to experience Italy? Share it with me in the comments!
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