Christmas in Northern Italy with Toddler

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Northern Italy is a great destination to travel with kids. Starting from the airport there are not only changing pillows but also kids toilets and washbasins, which you will also find at malls and museums. In most restaurants, there are high chairs and in some even playgrounds, also lots of them in cities and at campings. And what an attitude! Our 1,5-year-old daughter was showered with hearty smiles and sweet words all the time. Bella, Bellissima, Bimba we heard a lot walking the cobblestoned streets or hiking trails, sitting in trattorias or pizzerias.

Every next day of this vacation was better than the previous. We stayed at an ordinary apartment, then a farm, then with beautiful views and then at an ancient castle with mountain views. We started with Verona and proceeded more to the north, ending at the magnificent Lago di Garda.

Verona, the city from the book

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Would Shakespeare have ever imagined that his story of Romeo and Juliet would be played not only on the stage but also in real life? There is a house of Juliet and one of Romeo, as well as Juliet’s tomb… The small yard under the “Juliet’s balcony” is crowded, there is a line of tourists hungry for a selfie on the balcony which looks very ordinary but that it is where the imaginary Juliet was standing. The walls are covered with scribbles of lovers. How does the teenage couple with such a tragic fate help one in love?
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Juliet’s balcony

One day is enough to see Verona if you are not going shopping or visiting museums.

As for the place to eat, the best pizza in our life we had at a restaurant Don Peppe Pizzeria e Trattoria in the huge mall Adigeo which is a shopping paradise and also very child-friendly: kids’ washbasins at the WC, a playground at the food court and a playroom for 3yos and up.

Vicenza

Having seen Verona in one day, we decided to visit another place nearby next day. We chose Vicenza. It took us about 2 hours to see it all and have lunch too. So guess the size. Fortunately, it was Christmas with Christmas markets everywhere, so it was quite lively and lovely.

Agroturismo

It’s a popular thing in Italy, ideal for people who love nature and the quiet of the rural life.

We picked a farm in the mountainous Pellizzano. A wooden interior, with a heated floor in the bathroom, hearty dinners and smiles, even high chairs for the little ones and rides in two-horse open sleighs as the main entertainment, rolling hills covered with white crispy snow – that place was romantic and peaceful. But it did not hold us longer than one night. There was too little space for our little explorer, it smelt of horses and cows too much to our taste and there was heavy snow in the forecast which could have made our getting out very complicated, considering the landscape and summer tires our rented car had (we hadn’t known it was default and you need to pay extra for winter tires). A challenge was to communicate with the staff – they didn’t speak English nor German. We communicated via Google translate, as our Italian was not even enough to order a meal. Also, our daughter hated the wet and cold snow. So we thought it was best to leave. We couldn’t’ enjoy our stay at the farm to the fullest but there are people who love that kind of entertainment.

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Agritur Bontempelli, Pellizzano, Province of Trento, Italy

Trento:
Trento is a nice town with 2 wonderful museums. It was raining the whole day, so going to a museum was a perfect option. We visited 2: Buonconsiglio Castle Museum and Muse Science Museum. In the castle, we enjoyed ancient frescas, carved ceilings, Egyptian collections, and other interesting things twice, while our daughter was napping in the backpack. We were also pleased to see kids toilets and changing pads in the castle WC. Muse has everything you could wish for going there with a child: interesting exhibits, every floor with its own theme, WC with changing pads and kids toilets on every floor, kids play areas for 0-5 (with a discrete feeding place with a view) and 5-10 year olds, interactive exploration activities for bigger kids and adults, lectures about all the exciting things gathered in the museum, everything well done and thought of. Even the parking lot has designated areas for pregnant women, families, eco cars etc. Very glad we visited these wonderful museums, it was a pleasant experience in every way.

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Trento

Bolzano/ Bozen
After one day the sky cleared and we headed to Bolzano, a piece of Austria in northern Italy. Architecture, Christmas markets, cuisine – everything looked Austrian, not Italian, they even speak German. When it was time for lunch, we were lucky to find a kids-friendly restaurant Aida which we recognized by a row of buggies next to the entrance.

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Pretzel & Weisswurst at Bolzano Christmas market

New year in an ancient castle at Riva del Garda:

Browsing Airbnb while preparing for the trip, we found an exceptional place for a very good price – an ancient castle transformed into a very neat and classy aparthotel. We jumped at it and indeed, it was a perfect place to meet the New Year. Picturesque views on the mountains and wine yards from all the windows and so romantic, like in a fairy tale. On the ground floor, there was a chick restaurant with high cuisine and stylish interior. It was hard to leave that beautiful castle but we ventured a couple of walks around the nearby lakes.

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Ristorante la Berlera, Riva del Garda
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Ristorante la Berlera, Riva del Garda

Walk around the lake Lago di Ledro took about 2,5 hr with Sasha sleeping in the backpack. The lake is at an elevation of 650 meters and it was several degrees colder than in Riva del Garda, with snow and ice all around. The lake wasn’t frozen but we didn’t venture any swim nor dive as the little one was napping, you know, just because of that 🙂 Next time. On our way we came across several playgrounds – on frozen beaches and in empty campings, all the houses and restaurants were empty and closed too. Obviously, this area is focused on summer holidays.

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Lago di Ledro

The last day of 2017 was also the last full day of our Italian holidays. It started with a 2+ hours trail along the lake Lago di Garda. The lake is not only huge but also very beautiful, it was a sheer pleasure to walk that loop trail along the lake shore. The mist rising from the water surface was adding some mystery to the view. The kid was napping and we were indulging in magnificent views on this semi frosty and unusual New Year’s Eve’s morning. This trail seemed to be very popular, especially in summer I suppose. Next to the parking lot there was a playground, I love this country. We let the little one play a little bit there but soon had to hurry for lunch because the restaurants are open from 12 to 2pm and then after 7pm.

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Lago di Garda

The restaurant Ristorante Acetaia Del Balsamico on our last day was the cherry on the pie – with beautiful views, delicious food and amazing waiters who were very interesting and entertaining for our little lady – our 1,5 yo was flirting with every one of them, to our amusement and even astonishment sometimes.

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@Ristorante Acetaia Del Balsamico

We met the new year at our classy and cozy apartment in the castle – watched local fireworks and TV, sipping local wine and grape juice which tasted like non-alcoholic wine. The little one woke up amidst our celebration but I managed to make her sleep again and sneak out 5 minutes before midnight. Perfect timing.

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La Berlera castle and us
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The castle attached to the rock.

Eating out with a toddler

For our toddler this has been so far the best destination regarding food, spaghetti being her absolute favourite. When eating out we were ordering it right away, thus in 10-15 minutes the hungry kid could start eating and we could make our order in peace. The waiters were exceptionally friendly and nice with the little one and almost every place had a high chair.

Usually, restaurants include tips (“Coperto”) from every person in the bill, including children. That can seem strange that even children pay the service fee but when you look at the table after the meal is finished, you may think children should pay a double fee.

Eating out requires some planning as most restaurants are open from 12 to 2pm and then after 7pm.

Eating out on January 1

Is virtually impossible. It was our departure day. We had breakfast at home and wanted to have lunch in town before heading to the airport. We couldn’t find any decent place to eat at. Only KFC, McDonalds, and such were open but, come on, we’re in Italy! An airport restaurant (before the security control) surprised us with good food and reasonable prices. At the airport, it was fun to watch so many people, who had obviously had too little sleep or too much celebration, or both that night.

This trip was one of the best we’d had so far – delicious food, magnificent views, hearty and beautiful people, kids-friendly country and so musical language. And of course, meeting the new year in an ancient castle was romantic. Even though we had got sick even before our trip started, it didn’t stop us enjoying this beautiful country with all its wonders.

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