Traveling to Italy
September 25, 2012 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Traveling to Italy for eight days starting the evening of 12/25/2012. We'll be in Rome, Venice and Milan. Please tell me "must-sees" or "must-dos" while I am there with my husband and 8 year-old son.
posted by jen14221 to Travel & Transportation around Italy (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to see The Last Supper while in Milan, you need to make a reservation in advance (maybe by as much as a few months, even). Yep, made that mistake.
posted by sallybrown at 2:09 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are in Vatican City and hungry, venture a little bit away from the tourist attractions for pizza at Bonci Pizza
posted by justjess at 2:19 PM on September 25, 2012

The Colosseum is very cool, and your son will probably like seeing the guys dressed as gladiators that hang around outside. My kids also liked the Pasta Museum and Fingerini, a street performer who's usually around the Piazza San Marco.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:24 PM on September 25, 2012

Don't divide up your time equally between the three cities. Milan is not that exciting, its industrial and without that much to recommend it, while Rome is packed with history. If you can be flexible in your plans at all Florence would also be more on your way between Venice and Rome and a much more attractive alternative to Milan.
posted by biffa at 2:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy art, make time for a quick trip from Venice to Padua (Padova) to see Giotto's paintings in the Scrovegni Chapel.

In Venice, walk. Walk late at night. Get lost and find yourself again.
posted by PussKillian at 2:43 PM on September 25, 2012

Oh, and maybe time for a hill town in between? Orvieto, Assisi, or Perugia maybe?
posted by PussKillian at 2:49 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you arrive to Venice by car, take vaporetto (water bus) from Tronchetto Island to Piazza San Marco (you can buy the ticket from a crew member). You'll have the opportunity to find a place with a good view and watch the same views of Canal Grande as from the water taxi with more stops and for a fraction of the price.
posted by hat_eater at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2012

The two most random yet awesome things we did in Rome were to go to the Criminology Museum (which is in a series of rooms off a hallway in the Department of Prisons and thus might be closed that week) and the Museo della Civiltà Romana. The main point of going to the latter for my family was to see the giant model of Rome that features in the David Macaulay documentary (which you should definitely watch). It doesn't have any actual artefacts, only models and replicas. However, I suspect it might go over well with a kid--for example, he could see all of the relief on Trajan's Column laid out, which is probably more exciting than seeing it on Trajan's Column.

We also went to the Villa Adriana, which is outside Tivoli. It was worth the adventure on the buses running between the towns outside Rome (though my mother's super rudimentary Italian probably helped here--the guidebooks don't give great instructions on how to get there, though I suspect the bus drivers are somewhat used to guessing that's where random non-Italians are going), but we did have to sit around for quite a while waiting for a bus back into Tivoli, so that might be a bad choice in winter.
posted by hoyland at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2012

I really enjoyed the Peggy Guggenheim gallery in Venice as a modern counterpoint to all the wonderful, but at times overwhelming, antiquity.
posted by rube goldberg at 3:56 PM on September 25, 2012

I really like Rick Steves books, shows and advice. You can't go wrong with his Italy guidebook. It will have specific recommendations for hotels, restaurants, routes to take in museums along with sites to see (and not see).

Rick's articles on planning your time in both Rome and Venice seem like they would do a great job answering your questions. He's got a whole section of free articles on Italian travel. His advice feels like personal advice, as opposed to "guidebook" advice.

I loved Florence, especially between the bustle of both Venice and Rome, and have heard repeatedly that it's a better visit than Milan.
posted by cnc at 4:35 PM on September 25, 2012

Make your "Last Supper" reservation now. I made travel plans in early March for a late April trip to Italy, and by the time I knew when I would be in Milan it was already too late.

I found the inside of the Colosseum underwhelming both times I went, but if your son is super into gladiators, he might enjoy it. Look into any special tours or interesting access you could add on -- it might even be worth hiring a special guide. The standard tour you can add onto the ticket price isn't worth it, in my opinion.

On the other hand, there's nothing like just randomly walking past the Colosseum (or seeing it out the window of a taxi or a bus) to make you feel like you're really in Rome.

Far superior to touring the Colosseum would be a visit to the Forum, which after three visits to Rome is still one of my favorite places to go. They've recently restored it and turned it into more of a museum-like experience with informative signs and exhibits.

Gelato Gelato Gelato. I was thirty on my last trip to Rome, and even then I ate approximately three cones of gelato per day. If I were eight, that number would need to be much higher. Even at Christmas. Screw it. Gelato.

Agree with PussKillian about getting lost in Venice. I found that there was no reason to take the Vaporetto because everything is so compact and scenic, but with an eight year old in tow, it might come in handy.

I would only consider going to the Venice Guggenheim if you have a really long time in Venice, or maybe if you are from somewhere with limited access to modern art such that seeing it would be a big deal for you.

Tuscany might not be a great draw for an eight year old -- most of what there is to do there is wine tasting and checking out old churches.
posted by Sara C. at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2012

Seconding gelato.
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2012

The Sistine Chapel is truly astounding and worth a look. But... here's the tip I received and used on my two visits: Get to the Vatican museum before opening. As soon as you are in, beeline straight to the Sistine Chapel. The entrance is at the very back of the museum. You should have the quiet chapel to yourself for quite a while. Later in the day it will be packed with people. (Note: that's how it worked on my last visit... which was a good 15 years ago).

Venice... it's all good. Get off the main drag and back into windy street. The Lido island is worth a look. Beaches and a different feel. Use the Vaparetto to get around -- like water buses and fun in their own right.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2012

Milan wasn't worth seeing, in my opinion. Rome lasted us 3 days with all the usual sights, Venice one day. I adore Florence and have been back 4 times. I would go there!
posted by kadia_a at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2012

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