Italians simply love children and that’s one reason that Italy is an amazing destination for family travel and multi-generational trips. Our friend Rosanne Cofoid of La Dolce Via Travel is an expert at planning family trips to Italy. Host Kathy McCabe and Rosanne really get into some very specific travel tips which you will want to take note of, even if you don’t have kids.
Transcript with Show Notes Embedded:
Rosanne Cofoid: Our approach is often… have one core activity a day. That is a requirement, meaning something that is organized that is with either a professional guide or some sort of service and then work the rest of your day around that.
Kathy McCabe: This is Kathy McCabe, welcome to the Dream of Italy Podcast. You know me from the PBS travel series Dream of Italy and the award winning website and publication. Join me as we explore the sights and sounds of Bell’Italia. From the canals of Venice to the piazzas of Puglia, from the fashion houses of Milan to the vineyards of Tuscany. Hop on. It’s going to be a great ride. Andiamo.
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I’m Kathy McCabe. Welcome to the Dream of Italy Podcast. My guest today is a dear friend of mine, Rosanne Zammuto Cofoid, the owner of La Dolce Via Travel. Rosanne is not only one of my favorite people, she’s truly one of the best Italy travel planners in the world. While she can plan any kind of trip like a honeymoon or first time adventure, she specializes in incredible Italian vacations for families. Each one of Rosanne’s itineraries is completely customized. Rosanne travels to Italy several times a year to make sure she’s up on the latest places to go and things to do, and I’ve even been lucky enough to travel with her. Welcome Rosanne.
Rosanne: Hey Kathy, thanks for having me.
Kathy: This is going to be fun.
Rosanne: I think so too.
Kathy: One of our favorite topics of course is Italy. My first question is what makes Italy such a unique place for a family vacation?
Rosanne: Kathy, that is a very challenging question, but an easy one at the same time. There are so many ways I could go with it, but I think that two of the central factors that differentiate Italy that make it not only a great place for vacationing but also a unique place, is the fact that the geography of the place is very unique. Italy is not by any means a large country, but it is a long country covering a lot of different terrains and weather type areas, so that’s a big factor.
The other factor is the concept that Italy has only been a united country really for less than 160 years. It’s only been a republic since 1946 so there’s a strong sense of something that we call campanilismo that is the attachment to the local customs and the local traditions and the local areas. If you meet an Italian at the United States, this person is not going to say necessarily I’m from Italy, they’re going to say I’m from Siena, I’m from Sardinia, I’m from Rome, and be more drilled down and more specific and have a lot of pride in what makes those areas unique.
From the climate perspective, we have mountains with freshwater streams in the Dolomites. We have rivers, we have lakes, we have oceans, we have palm trees, we have pine trees. There’s a variety of activities available to people who would like to enjoy those sorts of things all on one vacation without having to go very far from their home base.
Kathy: That sounds wonderful, and certainly Italy has lots of coastline, which I love, but what makes Italy particularly welcoming for families? For Kids?
Rosanne: Well, Italy in general is a very welcoming society and they love their children. They adore their children.
Kathy: They sure do.
Rosanne: There aren’t as many of them as there are in the United States for a variety of reasons, so they are doted upon and they are adored. I can speak from my observations and from my experiences that I’ve had with my own children. They truly are welcoming, which I think makes family travel much easier-
Rosanne: …because you know that you’re welcome in these places. As far as why it’s unique, as far as it’s welcoming atmosphere, I’d say that things such as the cuisine make it very, very easy to travel there. Food preparations can be very simple and people are willing to make amendments to recipes and things like that in order to accommodate children.
Kathy: That’s a big thing I think when you’re traveling with kids, you have some picky eaters or is it an easy… or is there easy food to get like pizza, and also, I don’t know if you deal with this a lot with your clients, especially with food allergies and gluten. Yeah. Tell me about that and how to navigate that in Italy.
Rosanne: Well, I have to say that in my opinion, and from my experiences following a gluten free diet or a special diet of any sort is rather simple in Italy, which seems odd to me, to be in the land of pizza and pasta, but be able to say, I need gluten free options. I was just there a couple of weeks ago and really noting this on menu selections, I was seeing gluten free, not only sections in alimentari and food stores, but in markets as well, and not only the gluten free sections, but actual gluten free stores-
Rosanne: …which I found to be amazing. Yes. I found this in a small town in Sicily, which I thought was-
Kathy: That’s staggering.
Rosanne: Yes, and I think it gives people a lot of comfort. One thing that we do for our clients to give them a sense of comfort is, we will create little cards for them that they can either show to their waiter or have a picture of… on their phone that says exactly what they’re allergic to in Italian.
Kathy: That’s great, isn’t it!
Rosanne: Yes, so the waiter can understand exactly what this family’s needs are, and the people that have had these experiences have come back and have been really, really happy and no one has had any kind of an allergic reaction so far. So I’m very, very happy to report that.
Kathy: That’s great. I have read somewhere, I’ve been intrigued myself that Italians actually have a large percentage of celiac disease so they’re not unused to even though pizza and pasta is so popular, the many Italians themselves need gluten free foods and used to only be able to find them in the pharmacy, farmacia, to buy those kinds of products, but from what you’re saying, you can get them now more widely available.
Rosanne: Yeah. They are more widely available, and the Italian diet as you know, doesn’t consist of just pizza and pasta.
Rosanne: Fresh vegetables, fresh meat, fruits, all of those things are widely available, and of course with the seasons-
Rosanne: …which is one of the wonderful things about Italy, and so diets can be accommodated.
Kathy: I’m going to jump around a little here. What’s a good age or is there a good age to take your kids or your grandkids to Italy?
Rosanne: Well, first of all, a child has to be able to tolerate that flight.
Rosanne: Which can be in six, seven, eight hours if you’re coming from the United States at a minimum. I think that’s the first factor to consider. The second factor to consider is how do your particular children interact with the world and are they still all about going to the pool or are they-
Rosanne: … up for seeing some cultural highlights? Some children from a younger age would say, I would love to see the statue of David because they’re familiar with it. It’s an iconic sort of Italian work of art, but I would say for the most part, children need to be seven, eight, nine years old to have a relative appreciation for these things because a trip to Italy is not an inexpensive undertaking, and while there is some level of osmosis going on all of the time with our children, I feel like to really make it a valuable family experience, they need to be able to, one, tolerate that flight, and two, have somewhat of an appreciation for other aspects of culture.
Kathy: Sounds good, so of course everyone including families want to see Rome, Venice, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, but what are some other places off the beaten path, places in Italy that you’ve been sending families to?
Rosanne: Well, even those places have their unique aspects to them-
Kathy: Oh, sure.
Rosanne: …that can allow people to feel off the beaten path in them, but yes, you’re right, there are so many, so many wonderful places in Italy and a few come to mind. I would say number one, I would suggest to Puglia.
Kathy: Oh, I love Puglia.
Rosanne: Which is on the Adriatic sea, we’ve been there together-
Kathy: Yes, many moons ago.
Rosanne: Many moons ago, but they have beautiful white sandy beaches, which is contrary to places like the Amalfi coast where people almost always think of as a beach location, so white sandy beaches, flatter lands where they can bike-
Kathy: The biking is great.
Rosanne: The biking is great, you can golf as well, and there are some unique towns like Alberobello with their trulli and Ostuni which is known as the white city, Lecce, which is known as the Florence of the South, so you’ve got some unique looking places as well, and the food is tremendous.
Kathy: So good.
Rosanne: So good.
Kathy: Orecchiette the little ears that I made on the first season of the TV show, we made orecchiette.
Rosanne: So you know what it’s all about.
Kathy: I really second Puglia as a place for families, and if you want Rosanne’s help, you can reach out at La Dolce Via Travel. I’ll give you the information at the end of the show, but Puglia is very easy. There’s not a lot of people. You know-
Kathy: …you can rent a car and it’s not intimidating. It’s not driving the Amalfi coast, the beaches and these beach clubs. I’d love to talk to you about, there’s so many miles I forget, I used to know so many… because you know, the shape of Italy, there’s so many miles of coastline and I love to go to the beach in Italy. Do you send your families to the beach or is that sort of something, if you’re going to spend all that money, you can just go to the beach at home?
Rosanne: Well, sometimes people like to have a down day and they propose, certainly we propose the beach depending on where they’re located. If they’re in Puglia, oftentimes the hotel has its own beach, a private beach associated with it, but let’s say they’re in someplace like the Amalfi coast, where space is a little tighter. Yes, we do arrange those sorts of days and we do recommend making reservations at a beach club so that they get the full treatment and Italian beach experiences, not like what you would-
Kathy: It’s not…
Rosanne: …experience in the United States.
Kathy: It’s so much better.
Rosanne: So much better, you have your own space, you have your changing room, you have your showers, you have a place to eat. It’s all very well orchestrated, but at certain times of year, say in August, it’s imperative to be booked in advance so that you can take advantage of everything that it has to offer. Yes, we do suggest that particularly for families, not every day, but a couple of days-
Rosanne: …during their time, yeah.
Kathy: Yeah, and even if you go to Venice, you could go to Lido, the beach.
Rosanne: Even if you go to Venice, you can go to the Lido, exactly and it’s just a short boat ride over. It’s very, very easy to do.
Kathy: What are some trends and family travel that you’ve noticed with your clients? Are they all renting villas in the countryside, are more of them doing city trips? Are they taking cruises? What’s going on with them this year?
Rosanne: Oftentimes families come to me, and they start off by saying, “Oh, we want to rent a villa in the Tuscan countryside.”
Rosanne: Or blah, blah, blah you know, at a particular place, but we tend to ask a lot of questions and try to understand what the clients really imagining the experience to be and explaining to them what that takes. For instance, renting a house in the countryside is fantastic, but you do tend to be more isolated. They’re often on white roads, which means gravel roads that do not have restaurants right outside of the door.
You have to make your own beds, bring out the trash and after talking through some of these things with people and understanding that you have to drive just about everywhere unless you’re in an intown location. What I often find is that people who originally think that this is a great idea tend to think, okay, maybe a couple of days in the countryside is okay for me, but I would rather spend more time in a place, particularly with children and diverse ages, I’d rather spend time in a place that allows people to do different things at the same time without needing transportation.
Kathy: Right, so you could have like mom at the hotel with one of the kids and dad walking around different kid and it’s easy.
Rosanne: Exactly. It’s much easier that way. You can say, mom and the younger kids want to swim. Well, the older child and dad go and take a segway tour or do a cooking class or something along those lines that allows more freedom because the more people you have, the more choices that there are. Sometimes when parents realize, this might not be an ideal vacation for us with our children, the countryside is beautiful, the fresh breezes, the peace and quiet, all of that is wonderful, but sometimes children prefer to be more active, have more options from which to choose, and cities do tend to provide that. I do see more of a trend towards staying in cities and enjoying shorter excursions to the countryside either for a couple of days, two, three days to experience that, but then coming back to a base where there’s a lot to do, where there are options.
Kathy: Definitely obviously in the cities there’s plenty of art and ancient ruins and that can be overwhelming even just for adults, let alone kids.
Rosanne: I agree.
Kathy: What do you recommend? How do you plan a trip to make that more manageable for kids?
Rosanne: Well, first of all, we tried to scale back the amount and the number of things that you are sort of, what do I want to say required to do in a day.
Kathy: People feel so much pressure.
Rosanne: Yes, people feel so much pressure and the more people you talk to, the more people’s opinions you’ll gather, differing opinions. Oh you have to go here, you must do this. This is my favorite aspect of the trip, but you have to understand that this is your trip. It’s your family and what works for you. Our approach is often… have one core activity a day that is a requirement, meaning something that is organized that is with either a professional guide or some sort of service and then work the rest of your day around that.
Let’s say when you’re in Rome, you take your family on a tour of ancient Rome to see the Colosseum, to see the Forum, some of those things. First of all, we have some great guides, but we do recommend to make sure that you have child friendly guides that are going to be able to cater to your children and explain things in terms that they’re going to identify with, and that they’re going to understand. They don’t care about dates, they can’t get their heads around that sort of thing.
Kathy: Oh gosh, and it’s hard for me to even keep track of these dates.
Rosanne: Exactly. One was from a Republican, one was it, et cetera, but understanding that there was a gold statue of Nero that stood here or understanding that this is where the lions were, those types of things, make a place come alive. Doing a tour with a guide, great, but then the rest of the day, we tend to give our clients suggestions of how to spend their times, but following the rhythm of the Italians as we talked about, we talked about in the past.
Let’s say you do a tour in the morning, have lunch, and it doesn’t have to be a long affair for lunch, but just sitting down and relaxing, replenishing yourself. Then a little… a siesta meaning for some people it’s going back to the hotel for the kids to swim in the pool. Maybe it’s playing a card game, but it’s downtime. You’re not required to be trudging along the streets, because there’s only so much of that the kids can take. There’s only so much of that that I can take, and I live and breathe Italy, and then, getting refreshed out to take a passeggiata do the walk before dinner, have a nice dinner, and you know what, and while you’re doing these sorts of things, you’re taking your walk and you’re having your dinner, you’re still experiencing more sites and more aspects of a place, but just in a more relaxed fashion.
Kathy: Now I think people forget you’re still enjoying the culture even if you’re not going into a museum and your kids are hearing the language and seeing like stores or supermarkets-
Rosanne: Right and smelling the food…
Kathy: …or how other people live and seeing other kids and what they’re into, and that can be just as much an experience as going to a museum.
Rosanne: I agree 100%, and I’ve had that experience many times with my own children, just walking through the streets and hearing somebody singing opera.
Kathy: I know.
Rosanne: The recent experience that I had with my daughter, and just thinking this was the birthplace of this sort of music and understanding what that means. I was happy to see it brought a smile to her face, and she realized, wow, this doesn’t happen in Chicago very often.
Kathy: When did you bring your kid… I mean your kids are older now, but when did you first start bringing them?
Rosanne: The first time we brought our children, they were six and nine and I would say that our younger child was a little too young for the experience, but we spent a week at a farmhouse in Tuscany, now mind you, we were with four other families, so there were plenty of kids. It was a farm. There were things for them to do, kids for them to play with and things of that nature.
For the most part, they adored it. They loved Rome, they loved Florence, they loved the countryside. It was just that it was a little warm and some of the days got a little bit long, but because of my work, that was the main reason we were going in the first place, so they got to come along for the ride.
Kathy: What are some of your great memories with your kids? I know they’ve gone so many times.
Rosanne: I would say one of the most fun experiences that we’ve had is doing a Vespa tour, say in Rome, we were not driving the Vespa ourselves or riding on the back with guides that are pointing out things to us, and it’s not a highly intellectual tour, it’s…
Kathy: Sure, there’s only so much you can hear.
Rosanne: There’s only so much you can hear, but you are living and breathing like a Roman, when you’re doing something like that
Kathy: I love it, I want to do that.
Rosanne: You’re riding…
Kathy: I actually haven’t done that.
Rosanne: It’s really fun, you’re riding on the cobblestone streets, you’re going up to the top of the Janiculum hill, you’re taking in some of those views, so they’re taking you to their favorite gelato places. Something like that is one of our most fun experiences. We’ve also done pizza making classes that have been super fun. We’ve painted frescoes together, we’ve done mosaic classes, so in… a variety of situations have… I tend to find that with families, certainly my family, but with most families having active adventures planned is really important to mix in with things like the passive tours where you’re just taking, and they have a tendency to be more of taking things in, but when kids can ride bikes, when they can hike, when they can be on a boat, they’re still learning about Italy and they’re still experiencing a culture.
Kathy: Yeah, and I think that’s just a trend in general that even adults are looking for these hands on experiences like cooking lessons and art lessons, and you’ve mentioned a number of them, including the Vespa tour. Are there any other favorite ones or new ones? There’s always something new that I’m intrigued by.
Rosanne: Yes, there’s always something new. There does seem to be a huge push for gastronomic tours, walking tours that focus on a particular cuisine and culture of a city, and that gets back to the campanilismo that I talked about. This is particular to Venice, this is particular to Florence, this is particular to Rome or wherever you are, and families seem to love those because they’re touring a neighborhood, they’re experiencing a neighborhood and they’re eating at the same time. Who doesn’t love that?
Kathy: Yeah, no, I’m thinking of… I was a full grown adult when I would travel with my mother to Italy, but one of our favorite things to do was our friend Kenny with Eating Italy, food tours, he does a couple of those Rome food tours in Testaccio…
Kathy: …and Trastevere and my mom would just tell everybody when we got home about the food tour and the different things she tried and you have to go, on this. It was so memorable because it’s so interactive.
Rosanne: Exactly. We use those food tours as well, and that’s what we find our clients enjoy so much. Being able to interact with somebody who lives in Rome or Florence or wherever the food tour might be happening. Food is one of the most bonding experiences in ways to feel a culture I feel, and they certainly get that in spades in Italy. The food tours are just something that we find that our clients simply adore, but we’re always developing new products and trying out new things. Just this past trip, I did a wonderful hike in Amalfi, which tends to be a very populous area at this time of year, but we were on a path, we were doing some hiking, there was no one else there.
Rosanne: We hiked up to an organic farm where we then did a wonderful cooking class in somebody’s kitchen and had a marvelous dinner by candlelight out on the patio of all of the things that we made.
Rosanne: There are the opportunities to find those sorts of things, even in the busiest of areas. It’s just digging a little bit deeper sometimes.
Kathy: Okay, and again, your company is La Dolce Via Travel, if people want to contact you for their own family vacation, what’s a good time for families to visit Italy? What are your thoughts on timing, because summer’s great and beautiful. It can be crowded though too.
Rosanne: You’re right. Summer is great and it can be crowded. If only schools could end in May, that would be the best, May or September, but we know that that doesn’t always work. The most logical alternatives would be spring break or winter break, Christmas break. What I would say to that is I think that Italy is a fantastic place at anytime of year, but you just have to set the correct expectations and understanding that if you go to Italy in December, you’re not going to necessarily sit outside in the Amalfi coast enjoying a dish-
Rosanne: …of pasta with clams. It’s a terrific time for visiting cities. An absolutely terrific time Torino, Venice, Milano, Florence, Rome, any of those places, and even smaller cities like Siena or Arezzo provide a wonderful experience. Museums are still open, restaurants are still open, people are living their ordinary daily lives that you can participate in and enjoy, but you’re not going to be doing things that require warmer weather like going to the beach or taking a day of biking or something along those lines.
I think that winter time is outstanding. Spring break is great too, and oftentimes spring break can vary based on when Easter is happening during a year. The later that better of course. The later the better, but again, setting the correct expectations for what can be accomplished during a particular period I think is the key to making everybody happy.
Kathy: Well, when you talk about expectations, I think we both know that Americans may have different expectations than of daily Italian life. They might expect it to be more American, and in some ways it’s become a little more American. For instance in Rome, there are shops open on Sunday, but what do you recommend in terms of… we were talking before, the rhythm of the Italian day, how do you schedule a day for your clients based on sort of how the Italians live?
Rosanne: Well, based on that it’s exactly what we talked about. Families tend to be their freshest in the mornings, get out, do your organized activities, then come back, be able to not have to be in a certain place in the heat of the day because most families do have to travel during the summer. Try to be able to be in a place where you can be relaxed, be it at a restaurant or just sitting on the steps somewhere, eating a gelato or playing a card game or listening to your iPod, whatever it is, working under Instagram pictures for kids these days, and then joining back in with the rhythm of the Italians and taking the passeggiata before dinner, the nice stroll, having a drink, a refreshing drink of some sort of a fruit juice or whatever for your children, and then continuing on to dinner and experiencing life in the evening, which of course we know is a big time for people to socialize in Italy and the United States. It’s just sort of following that pattern that I tend to think works the best for most families.
Kathy: Yeah, I do too, and it’s a nice pattern. It’s a nice way to get used to life and to kind of… I know they’re still doing their Instagram photos, but to pull back from maybe a little less modern life.
Rosanne: Exactly. Exactly and really connect…
Kathy: A little longer. Yeah. Like eating, when I’ve gone with my TV crew, we have like these two hour lunches that they never ever would have doing a shoot in the US but-
Kathy: …it’s just what you do…
Rosanne: It’s just what you do.
Kathy: …and it can really kind of help you reset, and so it’s interesting I think for families because, everyone’s on the go, go, go, go when they’re back at home to be able to spend that time together.
Rosanne: Right, and we do try to help our clients prepare in advance as well to understand some of the cultural differences. Understanding that you’re not going to have dinner at five o’clock or 5:30.
Kathy: Right. Yeah.
Rosanne: Understanding the process for ordering a gelato or taking a cab or some of those social customs that we of course take for granted within our own culture, but you get there and you’re like, how do I do this? Understanding some of those things in advance does help pave the way to opening yourself up to other experiences and understanding the culture in a more real way rather than just reading about it in a book or seeing it happen.
Kathy: Coming up next. Rosanne shares some of her favorite family friendly hotels in Italy, but first a travel tip from the pages of Dream of Italy. The award winning travel publication I founded in 2002. Did you know your kids can travel for free on most trains in Italy? Through the Bimbi Gratis fair offered by Trenitalia the national train company.
It’s available when you are traveling as a family group of two to five people with at least one adult and one child under the age of 15. You must buy your tickets at least two days before departure. We recommend working with an experienced family travel planner like Rosanne of La Dolce Via Travel to navigate the details and book for you. Get more insider Italy travel tips like these in the 170 back issues of Dream of Italy, available online only to Dream of Italy members. Get a free issue and find out more at dreamofitaly.com/issue, and now Rosanne and I continue our conversation.
Kathy: I’m just curious, do you recommend people rent a car? Obviously it depends on what they’re doing, but do you tend toward car rental or… people ask me this all the time. I’m biased because I love to drive, and I’m not intimidated by driving in Italy, but what do you generally recommend or what’s sort of your test for that?
Rosanne: Well, you know, I think it’s really important to understand what the client is looking for and what the client is trying to experience. I don’t mind driving in Italy, but I can read the signs. I understand how the toll system works. I understand how to pump gas. I know I’m going to get lost.
Kathy: Yeah. You have to accept that. That’s-
Kathy: …number one, no matter how… even with GPS these days.
Rosanne: Even with GPS, they’re still-
Kathy: Yeah, you have to be comfortable I think with that possibility and okay with asking someone or trying to ask someone or have a little bit of patience to start with.
Rosanne: Exactly, because you never know what you might find along the way, but I do try to talk with my clients and sort of gauge their level of comfort if those things seem to make them uneasy, then I do suggest not driving.
Rosanne: Certainly it is not necessary or desirable to drive in any of the cities.
Rosanne: As you know…
Kathy: Right. Not just for… you know in Rome got, the only… I mean, and I lived in New York City and drove, I’ve driven in Ireland, I’ve driven all over the world, but Rome… I did Rome in August, that was fine. I did Rome trying to return a rental car and it shaved a few years off of my life there, and then recently in Florence, the parking zones, there’s limited foreigners or people who don’t live there can only drive the car into a certain area of the city at certain hours of the day, and your GPS doesn’t always know and you don’t always recognize the sign, and I think from last summer I have two tickets for-
Kathy: …being in the wrong zone, and that’s really stressful because it’s literally, if you just turned down the wrong street, the camera gets you.
Rosanne: Right, and there is no denying that.
Kathy: Yeah, and it was very stressful. There are pros and cons and ways to plan and another reason, it’s great to go with the travel planner or an agent who knows these things and can even have you pick up a car in Siena versus in Florence or-
Kathy: …you know what I’m talking about like that. Even just getting out of Florence.
Rosanne: Yes. One of the things that we do recommend for our clients when they are driving out of Florence, because that’s a common thing. You depart from Florence to go to the Tuscan countryside or vice versa. We religiously preach, picking up the car or dropping off the car at the airport, and I realized that that adds a 20 to 25 minute.
Kathy: I’ll second that though, man. It is so stressful getting out of Florence, not just the limited zone and not getting a ticket, but figuring out the right way out and-
Rosanne: The narrow streets, the one way streets.
Kathy: Yeah. I would second that, and certainly Rome, please for the love of God, don’t try to pick up your car inside Rome, and you know when I forget it and I go and do it every time, you know, but-
Rosanne: In Rome, we tried to say at least not an historic center and…
Rosanne: …not Termini, but maybe on the north side of Rome it’s a little bit better. There are some wider boulevards. Again, if you’re on your way out…
Kathy: But I’m sure it makes for interesting family dynamics because I will tell you, the many times I’ve traveled with my mom to Italy, most of our fights were related to getting lost while driving or my driving or-
Rosanne: Yes of course, or not listening to the direction.
Kathy: …her thinking she was going to go off a cliff. I’m sure it’s an interesting family dynamics when you rent a car in Italy. Let’s talk about one of my favorite things and I think yours and that’s where to stay. Hotels, we both love a great hotel. Hotels and villas.
Rosanne: Yes we do.
Kathy: What makes a place, I know you inspect and we’ve even gone together, you look at a lot of different hotels to see if they’ll work for families. What do you look for first of all?
Rosanne: Well, if we get beyond the cleanliness, safety, and location factor. Of the things that I look for, for families are number one, a welcoming staff. Even if your room is small, if the staff is welcoming, it makes all the difference in the world. Number two, if there’s a place to be outside of your room and be together, be it a hotel lobby, poolside garden, just sort of a public space, an outdoor space for families and certainly beyond that maintenance and things like that, that sort of in the prerequisites I guess, but having a warm and friendly staff and having a public space that allows you to be together outside of your room is of the utmost importance.
Kathy: I know a pool helps.
Rosanne: A pool is wonderful and as time has gone on over this course of my time in this career, I have seen more and more hotels adding them. They… in a rooftop situation and they’re not necessarily only five star best swankiest hotels out there. A lot of them are four star hotels, which is very, very nice. The hotel is still quite lovely. It’s just not the top of the pile, but really all you need is to be able to splash, and relax a little bit.
Kathy: Looking over Piazza Santa Maria Novella, they’ve done a lot with bigger family rooms.
Rosanne: They have bigger family rooms, they have connecting rooms, they have the rooftop pool, which isn’t enormous but-
Kathy: No, you can-
Rosanne: …doesn’t need to be.
Kathy: But it’s also you can have drinks up there, for the adults. Really beautiful view. I have to say I’ve stayed there when we were filming the Florence episode and I’ve gone other times and the staff is really, really nice.
Rosanne: The staff is fabulous for children and back to that gluten free situation, they redid all of the rooms on all of the public areas as well, and in their breakfast room they have like a gluten free table of offerings.
Kathy: Their breakfast room is and you know we all… we’ve been to many hotels because of our career. Their breakfast room I think is one of the most beautiful in all of Italy, and their breakfast is one of the best, one of the ones where you have like everything from fruit to fresh baked goods to eggs to… you know, you could just have a huge meal there. Very nice place.
Rosanne: Yes. Very nice place and I do think it is definitely one of my top hotel picks for families in all of Italy.
Kathy: What are some of your other places without giving away all your secrets, but what are some other family friendly hotels you like?
Rosanne: I also love the Grand Hotel Miramare in Santa Margherita Ligure.
Kathy: The cutest town ever.
Rosanne: The cutest town. You know they’re family owned hotel, they’ve been in the business for many, many years. They have a pool, they have a private beach, they have gardens with a touch of a very interesting modern art because one of the owners is a collector, so there’s space, there’s space for kids to run around, and the owner also has a cute little dog named Tatu.
Kathy: Love it.
Rosanne: He’s their, not necessarily jumping around or nipping at people, but he’s present. He’s very well behaved. I think this is a fantastic option for families because it does have the beach, the pool, the garden, nice sized rooms, super friendly staff, and the town of Santa Margherita is right there. It’s very easy to access restaurants and things of that nature if you’re not wanting to stay only at the hotel.
Kathy: What about Rome or Venice? Do you have a place in those?
Rosanne: I would say in Rome, I like the Melia, which is on the Vatican side of things. The Villa Agrippina, this is a trend. It’s not inherent in everything, but I know I keep saying these hotels that have pools but having a pool-
Kathy: It’s a good option to have.
Rosanne: Yes. It’s great. It’s on the Vatican side of things. You can walk to the Vatican, you can also walk to Trastevere which is a wonderful area for restaurants and small museums and shopping and things of that nature. I like it, again, it has a pool, it has a spa, it has some grounds and they’re very family friendly, and they have not necessarily activities for children, but they plan for when children are going to be coming into the rooms and can make special arrangements for them, which is a very nice thing, so I like that.
In Venice, I would say as far as space goes, choosing one of the hotels on the islands is helpful. That is on it’s own island as the JW Marriott, you have to have more of a plan to get to the main part of Venice, but I think being removed also helps a great deal as far as being able to get away from the crowds because a place like Venice, you can’t step into the street to avoid bumping into somebody with a stroller, otherwise you’re going to be wet.
Rosanne: It does feel more crowded and more tight, so you know the Cipriani, places… even Casa Burano, places like that that offer you the option of not staying in the center of Venice, I think are…
Kathy: We just-
Rosanne: …fantastic options.
Kathy: We just had an article, my friend Jill, who lives in Venice, just wrote about new places to stay, and Casa Burano was one of them.
Rosanne: I had some clients who just stayed there this past summer.
Kathy: Really, so it’s a diffuse hotel. There’s rooms in different buildings and Burano is famous for the pastel buildings and the lace and people go on a day trip, but to be able to stay over night there I think is really unique. I think even for older like if… not necessarily, you need to have older kids, but like you can live like an Italian, you can live, I think they give you breakfast in whichever room or home you’re in.
Rosanne: Yes, they bring it to the room.
Kathy: Yeah, and it seems… you can make the place that you’re staying part of the experience, like in Puglia. You can actually stay in a trullo or trulli, the cone shaped home… houses.
Rosanne: You can. Yes.
Kathy: Yeah, they may not be the most spacious or the place you want to stay for weeks but-
Kathy: …you know, that’s…
Rosanne: But it’s experiential.
Kathy: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of sort of super cool places to stay throughout Italy where the place is part of the experience.
Kathy: Yeah. It’s always-
Rosanne: I would agree-
Kathy: …good to look for those and I know that you can give people advice on places to stay like that. The question I ask to wrap up for all of our guests is, off the top of your head, what’s your dream of Italy?
Rosanne: I would say my dream of Italy is la dolce vita. It’s enjoying the simple pleasures of life, whatever they are to you in the most spectacular of settings, which is of course Italy. For me that’s love, it’s family, and it’s food and wine together. Sitting around the table together in the moonlight, in the Amalfi coast, overlooking the Pantheon or whatever your idea of that dolce vita is, that’s my dream of Italy.
Kathy: Where would you pick though? To sit-
Rosanne: Where would I pick?
Kathy: If you’re sitting in the moonlight where?
Rosanne: I would probably have to stay it perhaps at the very top of Ravello, which is one of the towns on the Amalfi coast. It’s one of the quieter ones, I would stay there. I could go on and on though.
Kathy: I know, I know.
Rosanne: It’s very hard to pin someone down to things like that.
Kathy: I know it’s like picking favorite children. I understand that, but it’s fun to ask because everyone has a different idea and that’s why Italy appeals to so many people.
Kathy: Well, thank you for-
Rosanne: Thank you Kathy, it’s a pleasure.
Kathy: …joining me for our favorite topic. You can find out more about Rosanne’s company La Dolce Via Travel at ladolceviatravel.com, so that’s La L-a, Dolce D-o-l-c-e, Via V-i-a, travel.com and that means “the sweet way.” It’s a sweet way to go to Italy, so contact Rosanne and she’ll help you and your family have an incredible vacation.
Rosanne: Mille grazie!
Kathy: Find out more about Rosanne’s company La Dolce via travel at ladolceviatravel.com. For show notes from this episode, visit dreamofitaly.com/two. Thank you to our podcast sponsors. Thanks Fruits & Passion CUCINA, these olive oil based elevated kitchen products are biodegradable, eco-friendly and never tested on animals.
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