Italy with kids on Adventures by Disney Part 1
In June 2018, I had the chance to experience Adventures by Disney Viva Italia tour with my husband and two kids, who were 12 and 9 at the time. The tour started in Rome with private access to the Colosseum where we had a local guide walk us through the steps of the gladiator and spectators and the workings of ancient Rome. From there, we had our first private dinner at the lovely Gran Melia Rome, a fantastic hotel for families located near the Vatican and one of the few with a pool in the city itself.
The next day we started off with an early morning admission to St. Peter's Basilica and a tour of the cathedral. We then boarded a bus to complete a walking tour of historic Rome, hitting the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and lunch at a local pizzeria.
After a free afternoon, we headed back to the Vatican after dinner to experience an after hours tour of the Vatican Museum where we literally had the entire museum for our group, including a 30 minute visit in the Sistine Chapel where we were the ONLY people there. This experience alone was worth the price of the trip. If you have ever experienced the masses being pushed through the chapel without having the time to take in, or even look at, the masterpieces that the chapel beholds, you can appreciate the wonder that it is to have time to yourself (and maybe 30 other people tops) to soak in Michelangelo's works and have a guide point out to you the different representations in the ceiling, such as the cardinal that the artist painted without his skin because he ticked Michaelangelo off!)
Our next stop was Orvieto, a lovely Umbrian town between Rome and Florence, where we stumbled upon a Fiat show. Parked outside the striped marble Duomo (cathedral) were dozens of colorful Fiats polished to a shine showing off for all to admire. They then all paraded out of town honking and revving their engines right past our lunch destination.
After lunch we headed to our hotel in Tuscany, but first we had an unscheduled stop at the American Cemetery in Florence. This solemn places houses the bodies of hundreds of American soldiers who lost their lives in WWII in the battles to free Italy from Mussolini and the Fascists. Disney magic was then bestowed as we got to participate in the flag lowering cemetery as it closed for the night. The ceremony was incredibly reverent and moving and definitely a trip highlight.
After visiting the cemetery, we arrived at our Tuscany hotel, Hotel Borgo de Cortefreda, in Tavarenelle Val di Pesa. This lovely hotel is located in the heart of Tuscan wine country and is surrounded on all sides by vineyards. It has a hillside infinity pool, a restaurant and lots of outside gathering areas from which you can take in the surroundings. That night, the adults were treated to a wine tasting dinner while the “junior adventurers” headed off for lawn games, Italian soda tasting and a movie.
The next day, we headed toward San Gimignano, the city of towers, to Fattoria Poggio Alloro, a organic farm with a gorgeous view of city. Our visit started off with a pasta making class with proprietor Sarah Fioroni. Next up was a walking tour of the winery and Tuscan chianina cows, before heading to wine tasting for the adults and olive oil flavoring for the juniors. Our agriturismo visit concluded with an outdoor lunch before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon by the pool.
For dinner that night, we headed further into the Tuscan countryside to an inn where Leonardo di Vinci is rumored to have stayed on his way from his home to Florence. Castello Vicchiomaggio remains a hotel with a restaurant in the Tuscany setting of your dreams. After our traditional Tuscan meal, we were treated to a folk music show (audience participation warning), that had everyone dancing along.
Our last day in Tuscany took us to its capital, Florence. Our day started with our local guide meeting us for a tour of the Accademia and Michelangelo's David. We then set out for a walking tour of the city which included the Duomo, Baptistry, Plaza della Signoria, Plaza della Republican, and Ponte Vecchio. Our guided visit of the city then concluded with a VIP tour of Palazzo Vecchio where we learned about the lives of the Borghese family that ruled Florence during the Renaissance.
Next up, Venice! Check out part 2 of our great Italian adventure!