If being pregnant in Italy raised me from a frivolous ragazza to a praised signora, having a baby added a crown to my regal head.
I felt admired and coddled as a pregnant woman. I was still seen as my own entity, just a more important one.
Being pregnant in Italy was a breeze.
Then of course, you have the baby and all of life flips on its head. You have no idea what will happen, how you’ll manage, if you’ll ever be able to do the things you did before. …. or at least that’s how I felt.
But I quickly learned that the stereotype is true:
Italians love babies.
If being pregnant gave me skip-the-line access, having a baby was a backstage pass. Adeline’s a rockstar – especially when traveling.
Because though I slowed down a bit, our traveling never stopped. Going to restaurants and cafés, small towns and big cities I realized there is one super plus to having a baby in Italy: kids are welcomed everywhere.
I’ve never had a problem going anywhere with an infant or a toddler. I breastfed Adeline wherever I happened to be whenever she needed fed. In Italy this meant in restaurants, at the park, on a bench, one time while walking the Stations of the Cross during Easter – and I didn’t field a single negative comment or glance.
Only during a visit to America did I get comments. Only in America were people uncomfortable that I didn’t have a sort of “breastfeeding burka” to cover myself up.
Let’s not get it twisted, I was always discreet and quite well-covered, just not removed. No dirty bathroom feedings for me thank you, I’ll do it at the table. And in Italy, that was normal, natural, to be expected.
Restaurants made room for our stroller, brought high chairs without being asked, made special portion sizes and – gasp – actually smiled at the sight of a kid being there. There was no extra guilt for the bread dropped on the floor or the tablecloths marked by pasta sauce.
Italians go out to eat, and Italians with kids bring their kids. Of course.
At airport check-in the flight attendant specifically searched for a free seat on the plane to allow our infant-in-lap a little extra room. All three of the Milan airports have special family security lines, family bathrooms, family changing tables and nursing rooms.
Many people ask where they should go in Italy if traveling with a baby or toddler and my answer is always the same: wherever you want to go.
There’s really no destination particularly suited for babies – it’s not a Disney World Cruise – rather, any destination can be suited for babies because they are welcomed everywhere!
So instead consider logistical things: strollers and stairs and fitness levels.
Though most restaurant restrooms are getting more and more equipped, not all will have a changing table so you do what you have to do in a lay-down stroller, the back seat of your car, your lap or on a park bench. No one will look twice.
Once in the center of Varenna, adjacent to a nice café, I changed Adeline on the ground on top of her diaper bag. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Beyond that, ensure that your hotel or lodging has a crib or other child amenities and double check if there’s an elevator. Find the nearest supermarket so you can buy baby’s favorite snacks or extra diapers, milk or necessities. And bring a sturdy stroller!
Italian cities are almost exclusively explored on foot. Most are closed to traffic so expect to put some miles in. You’ll definitely want a stroller…and a whole lot of patience for the uneven, difficult to navigate cobblestone and complete lack of seamless sidewalks.
Expect to lift that stroller up stairs with your partner – you’ll rarely find ramps or elevators but you’re sure to find someone to help you when needed. Unfortunately some sites don’t allow strollers inside. They’re banned in St. Peter’s Basilica as well as many sites that are small and tend to be crowded, such as the Palatine Chapel in Palermo. You can bring a baby carrier or unload the stroller of valuables and park it outside – you’re unlikely to be the only one.
But there are more benefits than difficulties traveling in Italy with a baby.
Not least of which getting to see an entirely different side to the country. Sitting in a piazza, playing at a playground, wrangling a messy toddler into a world class museum – you’re a parent now and baby is a universal language. A baby is the perfect conversation starter and the quickest way to get in with the locals.
Your baby is a superstar in your eyes. In Italy, she’s a superstar in everyone’s eyes!
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