Italians straight-up love babies and Italy is considered very kid-friendly on an individual level. Yet, when it comes to infrastructure the country isn’t the easiest for babies and kids, but it doesn’t mean that traveling to Italy with a baby isn’t possible and can’t be fun.
Many tourists come back from Italy and say it’s very baby-friendly, but after living in Italy and traveling the country extensively I also want to warn you about the reality of some situations when traveling with a baby.
Simply because the worst thing is to come unprepared. First things first though… People will stare, squeak and smile at your baby everywhere. Some people love it, some might find it annoying, but it’s just an Italian way of interacting with babies.
Best Places to Visit in Italy with a Baby
Where to go in Italy with a baby? You can pretty much go anywhere in Italy with a baby. As an expat in Italy, I’ve traveled to many spots around the country and found it all possible if you adjust your expectations.
Big cities are easily accessible with trains and smaller towns like those in Tuscany, can be reached by car. Traveling with a baby to Italy is easier than you think.
Babies and very young children don’t require tickets to museums and they ride on public transport for free.
While some cities are more baby and stroller friendly than others, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to visit them. There are plenty of places to stay at. I’ve done the Amalfi Coast with a baby, despite everyone telling me that it’s not going to be possible. It was a lot of fun!
I’ve also done Matera with a baby and while we encountered some difficulties, we had fun. However, I would probably recommend a baby leash if your child can walk a bit unless you want to have an anxiety attack.
If you’re a skiing enthusiast or like hiking and nature, Dolomites might be a good spot to visit in Italy with children. There are plenty of stroller-friendly hikes and easy routes for walking kids to make everyone happy.
IMPORTANT When Booking Hotels with Babies in Italy:
I usually book my hotels on Booking.com. I trust them (I even used to work for them) and I can find great deals there. However, every time I try to book a room with a baby their system is asking me to book an extra room which isn’t necessary since children stay for free in a crib.
Also, sadly in case of Italy, Booking.com has a lot of mistakes. I didn’t go to Therasia Resort just because it said on Booking.com they don’t allow kids. In reality, they do and I found out about it later by accident. You might want to book each hotel to check whether they allow babies and if so, in which part of the hotel (as not all hotels allow babies in all rooms).
Left: Amalfi Coast, Right: Alberobello (Puglia). Both at 1-month-old.
Traveling to Italy with a Baby
Do Babies Need Car Seats in Italy?
If you’re traveling to Italy with a baby and want to rent a car, you’ll be required a car seat. According to the Italian law about passenger safety, children who are under 36 kg (97 lbs) or 150 cm (4’9) must use appropriate child restraints, which are of two kinds: child car seats and boosters. That’s for rental cars.
However… it’s not against the law for newborns to ride in taxis without car seats. Read more on packing for holidays with a baby.
(!) VERY IMPORTANT: If you want to bring your own car seat from the US, keep in mind that American can seats are officially illegal in the EU. Vice versa, a European car seat, certified ECE R44, can’t be used legally in US.
While in Europe no one has ever fined anyone for American style car seats, it technically could happen. Many parents have no idea about these laws, in fact, I didn’t know about them until I randomly stumbled upon an article and started researching it more.
You would more likely be fined for using European car seats in the US. In fact, you had an accident while your child was in a US seat in Europe, you can basically lose your insurance coverage.
Now, why and what’s the difference? Both types of car seats are safe – don’t worry, but European standards are much higher than US standards because cars are much smaller.
1. US car seats have an extra piece on straps – chest piece that’s illegal in Europe, as it only allows a 3-point harness system.
Why? European standards require that seats allow a parent to release the harness in a single motion
2. The way of installing the car seat without the base by using seatbelts is different. American seats can be installed with a lap belt only.
IMPORTANT: Either way, you should always have travel insurance – especially when traveling with a baby. You can add your baby (up to 3 kids actually) to your own policy when booking with Safety Wing.
Is Italy Stroller Friendly?
Short answer: not really. But it’s manageable and many Italians and tourists use strollers on a daily basis. Many tourists recommend baby carriers, but as my baby and I are very anti-slings, we always manage with a stroller. In fact, I highly recommend it as you’ll be walking a lot and you don’t want to carry your baby all day.
The problem with Italy is that most streets are cobblestones, which basically makes all cheap umbrella strollers useless. Don’t even dare to try – trust me, I’ve seen some tourists breaking them in front of me which was a pretty amusing image.
Although, if you have a big stroller like my Uppababy Vista that rides smoothly on any ground, you won’t be able to enter many places with it. We used it on our first trip, but within a month we pretty much started using Babyzen Yoyo+ exclusively (it manages cobblestones just fine!). I cannot even access certain stalls at the supermarket with my Vista, leave alone enter a restaurant or elevators in hotels.
Plus, carrying stroller through some steps or into the train or bus, is a daily occurrence. You don’t want to keep lifting a heavy stroller with bags and a child.
On top of cobblestones, many pavements are simply not stroller friendly at all. There will be gravel, broken cobblestones, no sidewalk or a sidewalk with trees growing out of it in the middle. I kid you not.
Most popular strollers in Italy used by Italians are:
- Babyzen Yoyo
- BabyJogger City Mini
- Bugaboo Fox
I wrote reviews of all these strollers in a separate post. If you don’t travel to Europe (where lightweight strollers are a must) often and don’t want to buy a new stroller, you could consider renting some baby gear upon arrival.
Renting Baby Gear in Italy
Renting a baby gear is a good solution for families who don’t want to pay for baggage fees, need a high chair in their self-catered apartment, travel stroller, or need a baby crib when the hotel doesn’t offer any. Rental companies deliver the gear to the airport, your hotel, or wherever you want them to deliver. Here are a few companies that rent baby gear in Italy:
MammaMamma – Rent baby gear everywhere in Italy, including Sardinia.
MamaRent – Baby gear rental in Venice area (incl. Padova, and Treviso).
Travelbaby – Rent baby equipment in Rome, Italy.
Also, answering the most common questions about strollers in Italy:
Can You Bring a Stroller to the Colosseum in Rome?
Surprisingly it is. You CAN bring a stroller into the Colosseum. They even have an elevator installed if you want to visit the upper floors, but not many people know about it.
Can You Bring a Stroller to the Vatican?
Strollers are allowed with children, but not for pets (yep, that’s a rule). The only exception are: the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, but that’s understandable. You can safely leave your strollers and bags at the checking point in front.
Is Venice Stroller Friendly?
The sad news is that while you can bring a stroller to Venice, it’s not recommended for those who can’t or don’t walk to life the pram. You are constantly walking up and down the steps of small bridges across the canals, so unless you’re prepared to carry it through crowds (Venice is almost always crowded). But, it doesn’t mean that Venice cannot be visited with babies.
Baby Products and Diapers in Italy
Baby formula is widely available all over Italy and in fact, it’s better than American formula. The EU does not allow European formula manufacturers to use corn syrup, glucose, fructose, rice syrup, table sugar (sucrose) or carrageenan, while American formula is indeed stuffed with sugar.
One thing you should pay attention to is that unlike American formula, European baby formula is divided into stages:
- Stage 1: from birth
- Stage 2: at 6 months
- Stage 3: at 12 months
- Stage 4: at 24 months
Make sure you buy the correct formula. My favorite brand is Aptamil (it has a white bear on the packaging). For babies who are displaying intolerance to formula, the brand Humana is best.
Do They Sell Pampers in Italy?
Yes, you’ll find US/International brands such as Pampers and Huggies, but they are more expensive in Italy. Especially if you decide to buy them at a pharmacy (don’t do that!).
The cheapest and actually great diapers I discovered in Italy are called Pee&Poo and can be bought at Prenatal (popular kids store in Italy).
Baby Clothes in Italy
Bring enough baby clothes, or be prepared to wash them during your trip. There is no such thing as inexpensive clothes for kids in Italy. While you can easily find new baby onesies for $5 in the US, forget about it in Italy.
Left: Matera at 1 month, Right: Verona at 2 weeks.
What Do Babies Eat in Italy?
When to start feeding your baby solids, and what to feed them really varies per country and parents. In Poland, everyone is preaching about not giving a baby anything but milk until they’re 6 months old. To the extent that other moms will get furious at you if you feed your baby some fruit at four months.
While Italian prefer to cook for their babies when you’re traveling it’s normal that you would rather not be cooking and mushing things. Jars come in handy.
Italian Baby Food
In Italy, most baby foods in jars come recommended from the 4th month. Baby biscotti (cookies) is one of the first foods for many Italian children. I even saw chocolate pudding being sold as 4 months+.
To my surprise, a lot of baby’s first foods are jarred horse meat, trout or bunny meat – all labeled as ‘first foods’. They actually come with the cutest little animal images on the jar.
Single vegetable and fruit jars are nowhere to be seen as they almost come mixed with something else.
Bringing Babies to Restaurants in Italy
I’ve never encountered or seen babies not being allowed at any restaurants in Italy, but this doesn’t mean that restaurants in Italy are entirely kids friendly.
Keep in mind that Italian families eat late. Few restaurants open their doors before 7:30 PM, so keep this in mind that you’ll be forced to adjust yourself and your baby to a different schedule.
No one will look at you strangely when you take your child for dinner or to a bar passed 9 PM. You’ll constantly see people drinking on the street in front of bars with kids sleeping in strollers late at night. It’s a very normal occurrence in Italy.
If you are making a reservation which is a must for small non-touristy places, it’s best to give the restaurant a heads up that you are booking the table and you have a baby. This doesn’t actually mean that your request for space with a stroller with always be granted (speaking from experience in Verona, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Matera).
In places like Matera where almost all restaurants are in basements, we always had to fold a stroller and leave it outside. If the baby sits up restaurants provide a high chair, but when ours was too small, a car seat came in handy as we just installed it on the chair at our table.
Either way, big strollers simply won’t enter the restaurant, especially with a bassinet, so get yourself a small and lightweight travel stroller.
There is no such thing as a kid’s menu in Italy unless you’re going to a VERY touristy place which is most likely going to be pretty bad. Kids and babies in Italy eat what adults eat starting at around 8-12 months. If your baby has no teeth, in the worst case you can order some steamed veggies and mush them with a fork or ask for plain pasta with cheese.
Changing Tables in Italy
Babies pee and poo a lot, but changing tables in Italy are almost always non-existing. These days if I find out it gives me a wow factor. Waiters at restaurants and people will stare and smile at a baby, but it doesn’t mean that they have baby facilities available anywhere.
Keep in mind when traveling to Italy with a baby, that many restaurants have loos downstairs or upstairs, so you can’t bring a stroller inside to change your baby. Even if you could it wouldn’t fit there, because toilets are tiny.
When traveling to Italy with a baby, always have an emergency changing mat that I’m prepared to roll out somewhere in the bathroom if the floor is clean enough. Otherwise, I find a dark street corner or park and change the diaper in a stroller.
Public Transportation with Babies in Italy
While people claim Italy is a baby-friendly place, there are very few accessibility considerations in Italy. Be prepared to unload the stroller, grab the baby and carry it all through flight stairs, because the elevator is broken or non-existent or it’s too crowded, or God knows what else. I’ve done it a million times in Verona alone.
Ironically, I also had to do it when visiting a pediatrician (!), because it was on the 2nd floor with no elevator.
Buses & Trains
Babies ride for free on trains and don’t require an extra ticket. On some fast Frecciarossa trains there are certain seats marked as ‘stroller seats’, but I always find it easier to set a stroller next to me if I buy a seat on the opposite side of the aisle than the one marked as ‘stroller friendly’.
However, on most trains, you’re required to fold the stroller and put it in the luggage rack. As babies don’t have a ticket they’re not allowed to occupy an empty seat, so you need to hold a baby in your lap.
Buses in Italy leave a lot to be desired and most have no space for strollers. While you’re technically not legally obliged to fold them before getting on if it’s too busy you might need to. Also, keep in mind that airport buses are not your typical buses, but coaches which means that all your luggage and stroller must go underneath the bus.
I keep finding people on buses extremely unfriendly to strollers. They’ll keep pushing on you instead of asking for permission to pass. Navigating all of it can give you anxiety.
Do you have any questions about traveling to Italy with a baby?