My husband and I visited Italy five times before bringing our kids. We had our reasons, the first being budget, and price, since our trips tended to be last minute and on the budget side. Secondly, the time of year. Usually, the kids were in school when we could go. So, fast forward to 2021, when all things aligned and we finally did it. Here are 5 tips for planning a trip to Italy with teens.
#1 Set intentions for Planning The Italy Family Vacation
With 3 teenagers with completely different personalities, it was important for me to know their expectations. Planning this family trip made me a bit nervous, as I really wanted to show how special Italy was to me while avoiding drama. My travel style is to travel stress-free, so setting expectations was vital.
With that in mind, I started a Google doc to help me collect ideas for our trips, but then it dawned on me to create a section for each teen. I asked them to check the doc and set their own intentions. Intentions are different than expectations. I feel it’s best not to set super-high expectations, but to be intentional with your time in Italy.
I was surprised by their answers, but this was key to mapping out our activities.
- Josh wanted to see historical things like underground stuff and caves.
- Eyshila wanted to shop, eat gelato and take a million selfies.
- Lucas wanted to explore the architecture/art and do some clothes shopping.
#2 Choose Rome activities wisely
What to Do in Rome with Teens
Now that you have each teen’s goals, you can start searching for activities and fun things to do. Here were some items that we picked:
- Sketching Rome Tour for Lucas. If your child or teen loves art, this is a must! Kelly takes them in a group around Rome to draw and watercolor. She provides gifts to each attendee with a sketchbook. Lucas was lucky to have her all to himself, and they even went inside a coffee shop to drink hot chocolate as they finished their sketch.
- Visit the Colosseum. Regardless of age, if you have never been to Rome, you must visit the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. This was on Josh’s list, so it was great to cross that off. I love the photos we took here, and they were intrigued by how the old ruins meet the modern city.
- Shop at Zara and H&M. These stores have trendy teen clothing, so they loved visiting them. First of all, they are a bit cheaper than the US and carry some unique styles. Another place to shop is to walk down Rua Cavour and find some local brands. You can find some really cool shoes and accessories in Italy.
- Visit the Trevi Fountain. My boys didn’t want to throw the coin, but Eyshila did. We love visiting this area and getting a pastry and coffee at the cafe to the right of the Trevi fountain (as you are facing it). They also have great gelato there. It was super crowded, but we made sure to take lots of photos. Next time I would love to see it at night.
- Eat gelato and pastries. Choose the gelato location wisely. If you see piles and piles of gelato, that is most likely artificial. We loved getting gelato at these two locations ( Curi Curi and Geletaria de Angeletto in Monti. We also had some Nutella and pistachio-filled pastries, which were yum.
- Explore foods to see what each teen will like. My kids did miss some rice and beans, but we made sure we found a favorite dish for them. So, have them try different things to see what is more to their liking. Some items they loved: Carbonara, Lasagna, and Gricia Pizza.
- Let them explore. Lucas visited a comic shop. My kids like anime, so we visited one of the comic shops in Rome just so they could see if there were any cool items to buy. He ventured out on his own a bit to draw. The other two also visited the supermarket and pharmacies across the street, so a little room for self-exploration is great.
Activities we didn’t do, but I recommend for teens in Rome
Cooking with Nonna
My sister went to Italy 2 weeks after we got back, and she had booked this Airbnb experience, as she had read it was the top-rated one on Airbnb. She wasn’t kidding! After watching the videos, this is now on my list. Nonna lives further away from the city, making this 4-hour culinary experience even better.
Visit the Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum was one of our favorite attractions the first time we visited Italy. Due to some Covid restrictions, we were not able to enter on this trip.
My teens are older, so I was hoping we could catch some live music at Black Market Hall, a cool bar in Monti. They could listen to music & eat some bites while hubs and I would enjoy a nice cocktail.
Hop-on and Hop-off Bus
We were not able to do this, but given that teens can be grumpy, I think this is a great option.
The Ghost Tour
We saved this tour experience as an option for them to do, but we didn’t get to do it. The host looked so fun, and I think it’s cool as it sounds (and a little scary).
If you want more travel tips for Italy. Check out my free Italy Travel Guide:
Colosseum Tour at Night
I wish we were able to do both, as I have always wanted to go at night.
Visit Under the Trevi Fountain
There is access so you can visit the aqueducts below.
What to Do in Florence with Teens
- Stroll by the Ponte Vecchio for pictures and window shopping.
- Visit the Uffizi Museum and enjoy a nice cappuccino, pizza, or gelato on their balcony. It has a view of the Palazzo Vecchio’s tower, which is so cool.
- Visit Duomo. We were not able to enter, but I do recommend that you go up the Duomo so they can see the amazing views of Florence.
- Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. You can’t visit Florence and not do this. We brought wine, yummy bacon chips and snacks, and walked up to the Piazzale. The views are stunning, and it’s just a great memory.
- Go shopping, especially at Zara, H&M, and some local shops.
- Visit the Food Market called San Lorenzo. They had amazing hamburgers and pizza there.
- Eat at Trattoria dall’Oste, and definitely order the dessert there.
#3 When Traveling With Kids – Leave Room for Flexibility
After tip #1, this is my favorite travel to Italy with teens tip. You need to leave room for flexibility in your plans, and you want to plan something to break up the hustle and bustle of the big cities. For this, we decided to rent a car and stop by a hot spring on our way to Florence. Driving in Italy isn’t for the weak. Check out our blog post the 411 on Driving in Italy. The weather was a bit chilly, and we didn’t have any towels, but I am so glad we went to Bagni San Filippo. It took us out of our route, but it was so worth it. Being in nature to hike down and find the hot springs was pretty cool. Then we felt like we were in an open-air spa.
@fusetravels Hot springs in Tuscany . #bagnisanfilippo #tuscany2022 #siennaitaly #visititaly🇮🇹 #italy2022🇮🇹 ♬ Échame La Culpa – Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato
We also got some delicious hamburgers at a nearby food truck.
Once we got to the new city, we felt a little renewed. Give your teens time to decompress, and yes, be on their devices after a long day of exploring. We also allowed them to stay for a few nights when they were just too tired to go out. We brought back food for them, and that helped them unwind as well.
#4 Stay at an Airbnb vs a Hotel in Italy
When traveling with your family to Italy, I do recommend staying at an apartment or house. After all, you would need at least 2 hotel rooms, jacking up your lodging budget. You can book your stay with Airbnb or Booking.com. I love using these two websites, as they have great filters to really help you narrow down your choices.
If you are feeling stuck or if you don’t have time to research your stay, I do offer this as a service, and you can learn more here.
Teens need their own space and time to unwind, so staying at an apartment or house is ideal. It’s also cool to show them some more architecture in Italy. For example, in Florence, we stayed at Frescos which was really cool. It had these rooms above in the form of an attic and cool cave-like walls. The other perk is to have a kitchen in case you don’t feel like eating out one of the nights. I mean, in case the kids don’t want to go out, and you go as a couple and they stay behind, lol.
#5 Shopping in Italy With Teens
Shopping in a brand new country and continent is quite exciting. Teens sure have their own tastes, so scheduling time for shopping made them quite happy. We also allocated part of our budget for this. We gave them a budget of $100 each, and if they wanted more items, they had to use their own money. Kids are sure choosy when it’s their own money, but it was a blast to see.
In Florence, we found this cool futuristic sneaker shop called SOTF (which stands for “store of the future”) where they sold name-brand sneakers for less than what you would find in the US.
#6 Don’t count calories
Teens typically don’t count calories, and Italy is a great place for that. We made sure they tried gelato, pastries, different types of pasta, and also meat. My stepdaughter was of drinking age in Italy, so she sure enjoyed those Aperol spritzes. It was nice to enjoy happy hour with her.
#7 Accept the unexpected While Traveling
You need to be prepared when things don’t go your way, especially in trying to please everyone. We were bummed we were not able to visit the Vatican Museum, but we were also exhausted, so it ended up being for the best. When things happen that are not planned, it gives you an opportunity as a parent to teach them an important lesson.
Luckily, we had zero drama during our trip, due to the fact that we implemented all these tips I just shared with you.