I bet that most people who have ever been to Italy would agree it is one of the best places in the world for a family vacation. I feel very nostalgic writing about this trip – our first big family 3-week European vacation! We were a little scared, but we did it, and it turned out to be wonderful. My husband and I have been to Italy a couple of times before, and we adored it, but bringing our kids and parents there was a different level of enjoyment, satisfaction & happiness.

Ciao, Italy!

We had a direct 12-hour flight from San Francisco to Rome. We picked up our reserved rental car at the airport and drove to the hotel. We decided to stay one night in the Hotel Tiber Fiumicino near.

It’s a lovely hotel that serves its purpose being near the airport and in addition to convenience, you are right in the port with fresh seafood everywhere. The hotel has a nice restaurant, beautiful sea views, and a rooftop pool.

We had two reasons for the stay: 1. we didn’t want to drive for 4 hours after a long flight and 2. we wanted to stop in TERME DE SATURNIA on our way to Tuscany. We did the right thing because we were well-rested the next day and enjoyed our stop for 3 hours in mineral heaven!

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Settling in Tuscany

When we arrived at our amazing Tuscan villa, our family from Boston joined us. I am not even going to try to describe the excitement. 🙂 The villa turned out to be huge. It had a master house and a couple of separate flats with their own kitchens and bathrooms. There we 11 of us, but we could probably easily fit another family of 4.

We were on top of the hill, with our own olive garden, pool, and an amazing view from everywhere.

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Our Favorite Farm

We ate very well in Tuscany! 🙂 We discovered Fattoria Il Poggio farm within a short drive from our villa. It was our “happy place” during our stay in Tuscany, and we kept coming back there for amazing family dinners. It’s one of those incredibly warm welcoming places with big families, music, great hearty food, pets… just what you need to feel happy.

Aside from the farm, we also went to a truffle dinner at SAN MINIATO, and our favorite thing was getting garden veggies, olives, and cheeses at the market and stopping Sergio Falaschi Butchery for sausages, hamons, and having amazing dinners at our villa.

Lucca, Florence & Pisa

When staying in Tuscany, you have so many options for day trips. We started with our neighbors – Lucca, Florence, and Pisa.

I remember walking around Lucca with our freshly reunited and super excited gang of kids. We visited the impressive Lucca Cathedral and climbed the Guinigi Tower. I can still see us all sitting around the fountain eating ice cream, catching up on our lives.

Our day trip to Florence was fantastic. We didn’t make it to Uffizi on our previous before-kids visit, so it was my unrealized dream. This time we bought the tickets online beforehand and finally got in! We saw amazing collections my favorite Italians – Botticelli, Caravaggio, and da Vinci. It was super helpful to have grandparents with us. They were such troopers with the kids in the galleries, and then they had a long lunch with the kids in the cafeteria while we continued admiring the masterpieces.

Pisa was an easy trip. Short drive. Climbed the tower. One wonderful discovery we missed on our first visit was the gripping Renaissance frescoes at the Camposanto Cemetery.

Food recommendations:

Osteria da Rosolo, Lucca

Bottega Conviviale / Florence



Ravenna, Montepulciano, Pienza…

There is a huge perk when you are traveling with grandparents! After a couple of active days of sightseeing, they wanted to chill and enjoy their grandkids. Especially when they had a beautiful villa with a pool at their disposal. We knew and anticipated this, with the adults-only plan ready! So the four of us (myself, Peter, my sis-in-law Natalia and brother-in-law Amr) venture out for a three-day road trip.

We drove through the scenic countryside, stopped a couple of wineries for wine tasting and delicious food, and visited Ravenna, Montepulciano, and Pienza. We saw a transition from the Roman world to the early Byzantine world in Ravenna, impressive Renaissance architecture, and breathtaking views in Montepulciano, strolled along the picturesque streets of Pienza. Oh, we were also very lucky to be in Italy during the World Cup! We were catching games in different towns, different bars, and always full of loud, enthusiastic fans who made watching the games so much more fun.

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Excellent lunch, wine tasting, and tour Salcheto Winery

Castello di Brolio


Peter planned our visit to Sienna in time for the world-famous race, the Palio di Siena. It’s basically a crazy horse race that originated in the Middle Ages and has taken place twice a year for five centuries. As one of the Sienese put it: “For the Sienese, here’s one’s life story: You’re born…there’s the Palio…and then you can die.”

Siena is divided into 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, of which 10 are selected a drawing. Each contrada features its own emblem and colors. When walking around Siena’s city center, you’ll easily differentiate which contrada you’re in thanks to flags and emblems that adorn the winding streets. The contrade gives Siena’s residents a real sense of community, as its citizens work year-round for the district and its activities. Each contrada also features its own museum showcasing memorabilia and its past victories, not to mention the many churches where each horse is blessed on the day of the race! As proof of their sense of pride, you’ll only be part of a contrada if you’re born into it: most contrade have their own fountain to baptize newborn members!

We were just guests, but we totally felt the passion, the dedication, the sense of community… it’s hard to describe, you have to go and experience it yourself.

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Cinque Terre

A day in Cinque Terre is one very bright memory! It began with a very challenging drive. We had two groups in two cars, and both managed to get lost. The road is extremely windy, and road signs are very scarce. Oh, but it was so worth it in the end. Cinque Terre is a scenic and charming part of Italy, so unique UNESCO included the area in their list of World Heritage Sites. Famous for colorful houses hanging from vertical cliffs plunging into the ocean. Each house here is painted in a different shade, resulting in a proper rainbow landscape.

All five villages can be visited with kids, but some are easier than others. We went to the most family-friendly one, Monterosso. Got us a nice spot on the beach for grandparents and kids. It is the flatter of all Cinque Terre towns and the only one with easy access to sandy beaches, which makes it perfect as a base to visit the area.

There were a lot of cafes and restaurants right next to the beach where you could find plenty of gelato and pizza, plus local specialties such as focaccia. We had lunch in one of the restaurants, and then my brother-in-law rented a boat, and the kids had a lot of fun cruising along the beach and diving from the boat while we went on a memorable hike to the neighboring village Vernazza. The hike was challenging as we had to climb up a pretty vertical trail, but we were rewarded with gorgeous views of the villages, cliffs, sea, boats, etc. After exploring the village, we took a train back to Monterosso, which was very convenient for three tired hikers. Until next time, Tuscany!

Saying goode to our villa wasn’t easy. It became our beloved Tuscan home full of precious memories. However, we had Sardinia ahead of us, and were getting excited the minute!

We packed up, got in the cars and drove to the port of Livorno. I LOVED our experience with the overnight ferry to Sardinia. We just drove our cars onto the boat and parked. It was so convenient for many reasons, such as having our luggage, beach toys, floats, etc., in the trunks. It makes traveling with the big family so much easier. A big surprise awaited us when we parked the cars and started walking up the levels.

We were expecting an unavoidable uncomfortable night on the boat. We even grabbed some food when rushing to the boat so that the kids wouldn’t go to bed hungry. Little did we know! There were cafes, a restaurant, a bar, a playroom and a disco (!) for kids. Our cabins were small but surprisingly comfy, with a shower and a bathroom. It was such a fun night. We were eating dinner and watching the World Cup games on big-screen TVs in the lounge. Kids were running around between the game room and a disco. 🙂


Overnight Ferry to Sardinia

So we boarded the boat at sunset, and when we woke up in the morning and barely had time for a quick shower and breakfast, we arrived in Sardinia!

A word of caution – ferry tickets sell out, especially in the summer. Make sure you secure ticket and a spot for your car as soon as you can. Peter bought our ferry tickets from Livorno to Sardinia online while planning the trip.

Hello, Paradise!

We were staying on the other side of the island. We took advantage of driving through the island making a lot of stops on the way. We checked out some amazing-looking beaches, stopped for lunch, and did some sightseeing.


Enjoying Our House and the Beach

We stayed in Villa San Giovanni di Sinis located along the seaside village of San Giovanni di Sinis, near the small village of Funtana Meiga. We really enjoyed our location. We were a few steps away from the beach. One day the water was calm, other days we had waves. In both cases, kids had a lot of fun on the beach.

We also explored other beaches, like Spiaggia di Is Arutas beach and Sa Mesa Longa beach. They were all beautiful and unique.

Food recommendations:


“La Fattoria di Agostino Panzali” “Eccellente”

Day on a Boat in Golfo di Orosei

One day we drove to a seaside town Cala Gonone, cliff-lined coast of east Sardinia. We rented two boats and spent a day cruising on the Golfo di Orosei. It was truly a day in paradise! Sheer cliffs dip into the brilliant-blue sea, trails wriggle through emerald-green ravines to pearly-white beaches, and a million fish of all colors and sizes all around us. We stopped in several different spots for snorkeling & swimming, had lunch on one of the most beautiful beaches, and returned at sunset tired and happy.

Last days…

When our time in Sardinia ended, we took another ferry ride back to the mainland, as pleasant as the first one, and drove toward Rome. We stopped in Ostia Antica on the way, an ancient city and the port of ancient Rome located at the mouth of the Tiber River. You can spend the whole day here walking around these well-preserved neighborhoods and streets, listening to the audio guide.

Until next time!

We stayed one last night before flying back not too far from the airport in Old Olive Farmhouse B&B. Beautiful place, conveniently located close enough to Rome for a day trip there for those who are interested (still have the energy :)) and to the airport.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this trip was very special and forever took a special place in my heart. Our kids were still so young, and we had no experience traveling with such a big group. This trip was the beginning of an incredible family tradition that we already repeated a few times and hopefully will experience many more times in the future.

Julia is a travel enthusiast and a passionate writer who loves to explore new destinations with her family. With a knack for discovering hidden gems and sharing her travel experiences, Julia adventures take her to exciting places around the world. Her recent trip to Chile was a testament to her love for nature and culture, as she delved into the stunning landscapes and vibrant communities of this South American country. Through her writing, Julia aims to inspire others to embark on their own journeys of discovery and create unforgettable memories with their loved ones. visit her website

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