A zigzag tour of Italy is the convenient way to traverse the country. Starting in Milan and working our way back and forth through (Umbria and Tuscany) Venice, Orvieto, Todi, Spoletto, Sienna, San Gimignano, Florence, Rome, Bari (on this trip with our sons)….was our route this trip.


On other trips, I’ve done other cities that I recommend, like Sorrento. The fortress style of Orvieto, Todi, Spoletto , San Gimignano was picturesque but the grandness of Rome and Florence with all of the historical sites was significant.

Tour guides at the major cities and time built in to shop and sightsee was a perfect combination. As we walked around the important sightseeing spots, it fascinated me how my sons knew other details that I hadn’t taught them in our research units. For example, my youngest son knew many details from watching the movie Roman Holiday which I had recorded for us to watch but didn’t expect him to stay up and finish. The rest of the details they knew from their video game! –They knew specific details about the Medici family (when we arrived in Florence and toured there.) When we went to the Pantheon, they read an inscription and said, “Marcus Agrippa for the third time.” and they knew another inscription/emblem, SPQR,  that was an acronym for “Senate and people of Rome”.IMG_5298 They saw this emblem everywhere. My husband and I found this funny–-that video games can be educational, too, I guess. When I went to Rome as a 10 year old, I knew a lot of details from watching Masterpiece Theater’s I Claudius series with my big brother. Times have changed I guess.

spaghetti in squid ink


  • The Colosseum
  • The Roman Forum
  • the temples
  • the basilicas
  • the stadiums
  • Circus Maximus
  • The Pantheon

So much to see and research ahead of time—or to leave up to the tour guide. But I recommend preparing ahead of time–as an educator but mostly as a mother because it holds the kids’ attention better if they are engaged and looking for the right answer or something familiar in the information. If they are just listening to a tour guide ramble on about unfamiliar details, children can tune them out.

torture museums are a fun distraction for the kids
torture museums are a fun distraction for the kids
the Vatican









Roma! ROMAHHHH!!!The city of fountains- 2,000 of them, reportedly. Why do people love Rome? The history, the architecture, the glamour and location, location, location. Italy is a great jumping point to see other European countries as it borders many fabulous countries.

When I went as a child, my trip to Rome was enhanced by watching I Claudius on Masterpiece Theatre with my brother, the historian. I enjoyed all of the landmarks from reading my guidebooks and because I recalled so many details from the “I Claudius” series. Now, going with my children was fulfilling because they had also prepared well for this destination and I was anxious to see if they’d connect with Rome the way I had as a child. We railed to Rome from Florence and stayed at the Baileys Rome Hotel.

What has always impressed me about Rome is that it’s laid out well for pedestrians. You can get around by map and the city seemed clean to us for such a major metropolitan city. As a child, I marveled at the way the streets were built around the landmarks. It felt like the antiquity and modernity of the city was merged into one. The next day we met our private tour guides who drove us around in a van.

Sightseeing itinerary:

A full day of sightseeing can take place in 7 hours, approximately. Start the morning with touring the treasures of the Vatican; Sistine Chapel and Basilica of St. Peter. After crossing the park of Villa Borghese, you’ll arrive at Vatican City, the smallest independent country in the world. Proceed to the Basilica of St. Peter to enjoy the art of the largest Roman Catholic Church in the world. The Pantheon was on our route and it is one of my favorites as it’s full of history and significance.

St. Peter’s Basilica
In the afternoon, you can explore the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Stroll by the Piazza Barberini to gaze upon the Triton Fountain and on to the Piazza Venezia. The Roman Forum, Senate House, Basilicas and Temples of the major gods are located in the Imperial City centre. Walk down the Via Sacra by the Arch of Titus where you’ll visit the Colosseum, ruins of the Arch of Constantine the Great and last stop on your tour will be the 5th century Christian Basilica of St. Peter in Chains and the world famous statue of Michaelangelo’s Moses.

Not to be missed is the chic shopping of Rome’s boutiques. The salespeople are as chic as the mannequins in the window displays. You will surely find something to buy and wear back home to remember your glamorous time in Roma.

The Spanish steps should be on your sightseeing route. My 10 year old son vividly recalled a scene in Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn on the famous Spanish steps. Rome leaves its imprint on every tourist. Cuisine, culture, history, shopping, etc…but for me, it’s the image of the concierge and customer service reps in their three piece suits in the middle of summer greeting me with “Prego! Signora!” Italia definitely earned the rank of #1 visited country!

Suggested reading: Mission Rome: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure (Travel Book for Kids) by Catherine Aragon

photos by Patrick and Gina

The Vatican

Click on link above to read about the Vatican.  (link to order book)

      Suggested reading:

  • Living in a Foreign Language by Michael Tucker
  • Pompeii….Buried Alive by Davis
  • Italy ABC’s Katz and Eitzen
  • Kids’ Travel Guide–Italy by Leon & Flying Kids

Recommended tour guide:

Follow this lesson plan to build trip itineraries with your family:

Travel Lesson Plan: Integrate the Concepts

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