The first time I set foot on foreign soil, I was a 15-year-old Indiana farm boy. One day, I was baling hay, and the next I was dodging Vespas in Rome. It will always be my favorite city because it’s the one that opened my mind to the world. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can remember my first glimpse of St. Peter’s. I can taste my inaugural glass of blood-orange juice at breakfast. That trip launched me on a lifetime of travel, and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for making it happen.
Fast forward to 2016, and I’m imagining all of the parents and grandparents who will themselves embark on an Italy vacation with kids. Our newest Multisport Family Journey is going to happily rock some worlds by conquering not just Rome, but also Florence and Venice in one sweet week. It’ll be a kick to watch the kids encounter the Big Three — and discover how much fun travel can be. If you have visited these cities before, get ready for your old memories to take on new meaning.
On my teen-aged visit, I spent too many hours staring at dusty statues in dim churches and earning blisters on long walks. Not this time around. Consider Venice, our first stop. Lovers of Venice fall into two camps: the ones who never want to leave and those who appreciate how the city’s small size is quite easy to cover. We fall into the latter camp, and our time here is a just-right blend of mind-boggling sights, gondola rides and colorful history. Before palazzo fatigue can kick in, you’re on a high-speed train rocketing to Florence.
Firenze can be a frenzy. Many tourists think they need days in the city, but that’s because they do things like wait four hours to see Michelangelo’s “David.” You absolutely should see all 14 marble feet of the world’s most famous statue. But we arrange tickets that let you skip the line — a perfect example of how low-stress a family vacation ought to be. From 21 years of traveling with kids, we know that this is the exact moment when it’s time to break out of city mode and retreat to a Tuscan village with a pool, a private park and rejuvenating globes of Chianti. The country interlude is a great way to let off steam walking in vineyards, making pizzas, biking in Siena and ogling the towers of San Gimignano.
By the time you de-train in Rome, you’ll all feel like Italian pros. You know the walks to the Colosseum and the Forum will last just long enough. The Sistine Chapel? Of course we score rare tickets in advance. While the turisti shuffle off to another monument, your family goes for a cool gladiator training session. Rome unfolds for you all without overwhelming anyone.
After too many years to admit to, Italy is still in my blood. I wonder if you don’t recall your own first time the same way. Five years from now — or 15 or 50 — the next generation of travelers will remember theirs, too. Back in Rome or Venice or Florence someday, they’ll hunt for the trattoria where you all ate too much pizza together. Even if they can’t track it down, they’ll find a new spot. And I’m pretty sure they will clink their glasses of Gavi and thank you all over again.