When planning family travel, we envision the rich culture and abundant history that will make a lasting imprint on our teens and give them a broader perspective on the world and society. Ambitious yes, realistic…probably not unless you factor into your travel planning activities and an agenda that your teen has a stake in.
Here’s some advice to help plan for a fun and relaxing time with teens while on vacation in Italy. This is based on the collective wisdom of six moms (the six Byrne sisters) who lived in Rome as teens ourselves, and having taken our own teens to Italy many times, we understand the perspective of teen travel and encourage you to plan ahead so that your teens can enjoy and create special memories of their time abroad. Continue reading Teen Tourists in Italy→
For anyone who has ever been to Vatican City, no matter what time of day or season, you have to know that the lines to get inside the sacred walls are always crazy. If you’re anything like me you loathe waiting in line and the thought of getting up at ridiculous hours just to wait is definitely not an option. In fact, one of the first things I look for when traveling is how to skip the lines for the more popular attractions. Here are tips on how to tour the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel without waiting in long lines.
Of course, booking tickets in advance is always the smartest and best option for some places but with attractions like the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel book up really fast. It’s likely you’ll be left ticket-less and frustrated. That was me on my most recent trip to Rome where we planned to see the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel. Booking tickets in advance was not something we thought of and I never believed the lines would be as bad as they were. Even at eight in the morning, the line to get into the Vatican museum wrapped around the city walls so far it was a workout just to walk up to see where the front of the line was. And it was actually longer than it appeared because some groups would leave one person in line while the rest went to get a cappuccino.
As soon as you get in line you’re swarmed with ‘tour guides’ that promise you the chance to get into the museum right away. Be wary of these people, not all of them are legitimate. I lucked out and got a legitimate and excellent guide, a lovely Dutch woman who spoke perfect English and brought us through the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica on a enriching four-hour tour, yes, while skipping the line.
Things to keep in mind when looking to skip the line:
Be Safe: Never follow someone if you feel unsafe, trust your instincts. Never go alone if you are asked to follow someone to their office.
Visit During Off Hours: You don’t necessarily have to get up super early to wait in line but going earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon will help your success in getting smaller crowds in line.
Reserve a private tour with the Italy Perfect concierge.
St Peter’s basilica is a separate location from the Vatican Museums. Only when you are escorted by a licensed guide can you take a private route directly from the museums to St Peter’s basilica. Otherwise you walk about 15 minutes from outside the museums to St Peters where you will wait in another long line to enter.
In most cases you’ll be paying more for a tour guide to take you through, plus the convenience of not having to wait in line but, let me tell you, it was worth every penny for me. The extra money saved us hours and hours of waiting in line in the Roman heat!
Cover your shoulders and knees (men, women and children, too) when entering churches in Rome or you won’t be admitted.
Bologna is one of the fine cities of Italy, very much worth a visit. The trip from Florence is only 35 minutes by train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Bologna Centrale station, with a train about every 30 minutes. You can buy the ticket directly at the train station or online at this link.
Bologna has a homey, welcoming feeling. Its historic center is small enough to be covered entirely on foot; all the main attractions are concentrated there. The best way to appreciate this beautiful city is to wander around letting the porticoes (covered walkways) guide you.
Bologna is known for its porticoes, having more than 38 kilometers/23 miles in the historic center alone, as well as the longest portico in the world (4 kilometers/2.5 miles). This makes it especially attractive for a visit on especially damp or hot days.
You can easily join a tour of the city for best appreciation of all of its delights with a Food Walking Tour, Porticoes Tour, Wine Tour and more! On this link is a practical guide of Bologna sights.
Piazza Maggiore is the main square of Bologna, and it’s the home of the Basilica di San Petronio and the iconic Fontana del Nettuno (fountain and statue of Neptune). Here is the heart of the city, and is always animated by locals, tourists and university students –- Bologna is a major university location in Italy.
Another symbol of the town are the two towers, one leaning!, in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, called Garisenda and Degli Asinelli, built in the medieval era. They are the most famous of the 24 towers that survived the 100 that were constructed around the city in between the XII and the XIV centuries. You can climb them to enjoy a magnificent aerial view of the city.
Another place that is worth mentioning is Piazza Santo Stefano, home of the Basilica with the same name, also known as the “seven churches” complex. A visit inside is strongly encouraged, but don’t forget to enjoy the quiet and somehow magical atmosphere of the square, especially on a sunny day.
Visit the Anatomical Theater from the 1500s inside the medical school of the university. It is fascinating. This is where professors taught anatomy to the medical students, demonstrating in a beautiful wooden amphitheater. Imagine attending lessons there by candlelight!
Bologna is also famous for its cuisine, considered one of the best in Italy. Enjoy a lovely meal of typical Bologna dishes like Tagliatelle alla Bolognese and Polpette alla Bolognese (meatballs). This link goes to a good overview of the famous foods of Bologna. We recommend Osteria dell’Orsa (Via Mentana, 1 – 40126 Bologna) or Annamaria (Via delle Belle Arti, 17/A – 40126 Bologna).
On your way back to the station, stop at the “window on the canals” (Via Piella, 5 – 40126 Bologna), a romantic view of one of the main water canals that silently and secretly flow through Bologna. At first you see a window like many others and then a magical view!
You may decide, on your next trip to Italy, to stay longer in this wonderful city.
A wonderful day trip from Florence is the iconic coastline of the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre translates in English to “The Five Lands”, a chain of five coastal towns that have never had automobile access. Here you can explore each beautiful town, hike along the coastal trail, dine on seafood, or lounge on the beach. The five villages in order from the La Spezia train station are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Continue reading Cinque Terre Day Trip from Florence→