Traveling in Italy with a Baby

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I am going to let you in on a little secret. Italians love babies. I mean really love babies. Even a screaming baby will melt the toughest Italian man out there into a fit of high pitched “Ciao, bellas.” We decided to travel to Italy with a baby somewhat last minute. For a couple of months we had been planning on heading to Napa and San Fran to spend a little family bonding time with Zoë, but a week and a half before we were scheduled to leave we decided we wanted to take advantage of our two full weeks of time off together and spend the extra time exploring Italy – a location Jason has been saving visiting until he could really dive in. Truth is we just scratched the surface, but we did unknowingly pick the most baby friendly location we could have imagined. While you are going to absolutely love your time there no matter what, I am going to share a few tips to help you prepare for a magical trip to Italy with your little one.

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Good to Knows and Tips

1 Like I said earlier, Italians love babies. When you think about how family is one of the most important things in Italy it really isn’t all that surprising. What is surprising is their total compassion for new parents and their willingness to go out of the way to make it as easy as possible. I am talking about pulling you out of the two-hour long customs line to skip right to the next available officer. And then, skipping the line at Ufizzi and getting an escort right in to the entrance. I am also pretty sure we could have skipped the line at the Vatican if we hadn’t already bought skip the line tickets.

Zoë made friends all over Italy. Here she is with the winemaker’s daughter at Nostra Vita, with the server at Ai Vecchi Tempi outside of San Gimignano and with the owner at Le Potazzine.

2 Babies are welcome anywhere and everywhere. People will go out of their way to accommodate your family. The idea of an adult only place doesn’t really exist. Wineries, restaurants, museums all welcome babies with open arms – literally.

3 If you are traveling with a child, you will likely be bringing more luggage than you are used to. Make sure to ask if there are stairs getting up to your room. Never assume a first floor room means no stairs. Often the first floor is really on the second or there are artfully 2 – 3 stairs leading up to your door. Fun!

What to Pack

4 Finding baby supplies in Italy is just as easy as in the United States. You may not be able to find your exact brands, but they do have a lot of names you are familiar with. We saw a bunch of Aveno Baby and Pampers products all over the country. Simply head to the pharmacy or grocery store for supplies. When it comes to diapers, bring enough for the first couple of days, and buy more when you run out. Cost is close to prices in the US. I believe a pack of size 2 diapers (size 1 in the States) was about $7.99 for 25.

5 If your baby drinks formula you may want to bring more than you think you will go through. Italy is very big on breast feeding so it can be difficult to find formula suitable for babies under 6 months. On the other hand, they hold their formulas to much higher standards in terms of the organic ingredients they use. Our daughter supplements with a hypoallergenic formula (she’s allergic to cow dairy) which was nearly impossible to find anywhere. They do sell an HA version of formulas but they need to be special ordered. We did manage to find a rice formula as well. While Zoë wasn’t on solids while we were there, the stores did sell a variety of baby foods as well.

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6 If you plan to be away for longer than a week, only bring enough clothes for a week and wash them mid way through. We found an awesome Airbnb that had a washer in the apartment which worked out perfectly. Keep in mind that most apartments don’t have driers so plan to wash with enough time to air dry. I also packed a single use packet of detergent in case I wanted to (or had to) do a hand wash load at some point. I try to use sensitive skin detergent when possible, but Zoë doesn’t seem to have any skin allergies so an occasional load with Tide doesn’t seem to hurt her. 

7 Most of the bathrooms in Italy do not have changing tables so be prepared to do changes in your stroller, on your lap or some other way. The only changing table we did see was at the Vatican in the women’s bathroom. Be prepared with a travel changing pad that you can lay out on a counter, floor, car seat, or where ever you are. I found a little zipper bag at Old Navy (a bikini bag) that fits a few diapers, wipes and the changing mat or you get one from Skip Hop. I just bring that with me when she needed to be changed.

8 Breast feeding makes travel really easy. I simply tied an Aden & Anais blanket around my neck and fed her whenever she got hungry. I also found this travel breast feeding pillow that I blew up to use on the plane, trains and in the hotel rooms. I really enjoyed the back support of the My Breast Friend pillow as opposed to the Boppy design. A travel neck pillow also works as an OK substitute as well. 

Getting Around

And we’re off! Zoë is tucked safely into her car seat and fast asleep (she stayed this way most of the flight).

9 We bought Zoë her own seat on the plane. With a 10 hour flight it was so nice to not have to hold her the whole time on one of our laps. We just strapped in the car seat and we were good to go. I’d recommend upgrading to the “more legroom” seats so you have a little more space to navigate feedings and entertaining an infant. It is also a very tight squeeze for the car seat in a regular coach seat. Other travelers have had luck with bassinet seats but not all airlines have them, so be sure to call ahead to reserve one if you can.

10 Everyone told us that our stroller would be useless in Italy and they were only partially correct. We brought our doona, which is a stroller and car seat in one. Since we were planning on spending time driving around the country, it was no question that we’d bring it along. While it really was nice having the car seat, the small wheels were NOT ideal for Italy’s cobblestone streets. I saw a LOT of Bugaboos, Joolz and jogging strollers and the babies looked a lot more comfortable. At the very least the stroller makes a great luggage cart. It is also a nice place for baby to fall asleep while mom and dad enjoy a glass of wine (or a bottle) over dinner.

Using a baby carrier makes traveling through Italy easier
Zoë enjoying her time in the carrier during our walk through Montepulciano.

11 A carrier or wrap is also essential for navigating your time in Italy. Between Rome’s uneven roads and Venice’s stair covered bridges every 5 feet you’ll be happy when you can just walk somewhere without getting a stroller wheel stuck or having to carry it up and down the stairs.

13 If you plan on taking the train, upgrade to first or business class. This gives you a little more room as well as luggage storage in your train car. It makes keeping tabs on your bags that much easier. This site was a huge help in navigating Italian train travel.

14 If your travels involve getting a rental car make sure you rent it for your full trip or at least exactly how long you will need it. We made the mistake of thinking we could rent it for a few days and then extend if we wanted to. While you technically can do this, it will cost you a lot. To extend our car rental 3 days was going to cost us about $1500. If we drove back to Florence dropped off our current car, and switched it out to a new rental it cost us $150. Quite the difference and no amount of sweet talking can avoid the massive change fees as it appears it is just the way rentals work in Italy.

That is one happy baby about to eat while out at a restaurant in Rome.

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