So I have always fancied going to Italy and I saw a break advertised with National Holidays for a 7 day trip to visit Florence, Pisa and Rome. We got it booked and then looking at other reviews that described it the red eye tour and not for the faint hearted got me slightly worried.
We are a family of 6 – 4 children with current ages of 9, 8 6 and 1 so spending the first 2 days for up to 14 hours each day on a coach was a lot. The first day we drove from Yorkshire down to Dover and across on the Ferry, there was another stop in France and then finally we got to our hotel in Talange. It was actually a nice hotel with free wifi, comfy beds and nice bathrooms. The breakfast the next morning was croissants, orange juice, hot chocolate and a selection of other continental goodies.
We set off the next morning at 6am to start our second day, the scenery was fabulous as we headed through Switzerland and over the Gothard pass (even with my fear of heights). The children entertained themselves with ipads and reading books they had each brought in their backpacks. The 1 year old spent time sleeping and annoying his brothers and sisters and his dummy was a godsend. We stopped at the bottom of the gothard mountain and saw some Alps, the scenery was fab and we went and played in a little stream with clear beautiful water. We finally arrived in Italy around 9pm at our hotel Byron and then went straight to bed.
The breakfast on the Tuesday morning was continental again but didn’t taste as nice as the breakfast in France. The trip today was Florence and we spent an hour on the coach travelling there. Florence is a beautiful place, it is definitely worthwhile checking out the ice cream flavours from the variety of street sellers offering, I tried forest fruits and chocolate which was yummy in an authentic cone. It is definitely worth a visit up the many steps to the viewing point, here you can look out all over Florence and see the Michaelangelo statue. There are a few other places to visit such as gardens of famous people and also interesting museums. We didn’t really have time to visit everything, we walked up one side of the river and then across a bridge and down the other side and up the steps to the statue and looking tower. Many of the sights are signposted once you are in the town. We went in August and the weather was 37 each day so you need lots to drink, especially for the kids. The older kids did enjoy the sights and exploring, baby was in the pushchair but seemed to enjoy pointing things out. And he loved the ice cream – Getting it all over his face 🙂
The next day we went to Rome, set off at 6am and arrived around half past ten, the trip ended at half 4 when we had to get back on the coach. This was the busiest day and the most tiring just because of the sheer sites to see in Rome. I would advise to prebook the colleseum and Vatican and make sure you check the clothing requirements especially in the hot months. We started our tour near the Vatican but saved that until the end. There are many sight seeing buses and guided tours, just speak to the many tour guides that will offer you a guided tour. Walk straight opposite the Vatican and towards another large building, cross the bridge over the river and walked straight down the road, you will see many different statues, museums and some ruins on the right hand site. Continue until you see a huge building with waterfalls in front of you – Trinita dei Monti. This is a beautiful building and well worth some photos. Then next on to the Colleseum, there are many street sellers on the way to the colleseum, my daughter especially liked the invisible head people. The colleseum is beautiful and well worth a couple of hours, but definitely get a queue jump ticket as queues can be around 1.5 hours. Next place to visit is the Spanish Steps – Very busy but still definitely worth a nice kiss Unfortunately me and the husband didn’t have space to do the swoon and a kiss – maybe next time) and then at the bottom is a fountain. Opposite when you walk straight down that road to the end the next place to find is the Trevi Fountain – Again very busy, but lovely to see. The Vatican ticket gets you entry to lots of places and there is lots to see so probably around 3 hours depending on how much time you want to spend. Back on the bus at half 4 to Italy, a 4 hour trip back to Italy. We had a pizza in rome and chips but at 6 euros for some fries felt it was quite expensive. The kids enjoyed the Roman history and also the fountains but it was a tiring day as there is so much to look at and explore and the places are scattered, we pretty much walked about 8 miles during this day.
Thursday morning – a lie in! Woohoo – We set off at about 10 and arrived in Pisa at 11. Pisa is pretty much just the Leaning tower, this is only a short day as other than walking through the markets there isn’t much to do and see in Pisa. We spent around an hour taking holding up the tower shots, but it is hard to get the angles, the first shots we took the tower looked almost straight. We realised the best place to get shots was to walk away from the other buildings that were with the tower and then you can see the best idea of images that look the best – It is hard to get the images though as so many people are doing it. We had a Mcdonalds ice cream in Pisa, bought the girls some pretty handbags and then back on the Doco train to our coach. When we got back to our Hotel we found a lovely adventure park that was 6 euros for each child, play as long as they want, we went in the evening to a Frank Sinatri classical tribute which was beautiful and moving and the girls had a little dance. The next morning we went heading back to France. Goodbye Italy.
Friday we set off around 7 — back through Switzerland, many stops at the services and back to France. Luckily the hotel had 2 restaurants near, one was a Chinese buffet 70 euros to feed us all. The girls picked up chicken nuggets which turned out to be calamari, Summer woke up the next morning being sick – Maybe the squid didn’t agree with her. Saturday again was a long day the ferry was a nice break to the middle of the day but the kids enjoyed stretching their legs. We thought this trip would be difficult with the kids, everyone on the coach was grown up. Just a couple of teenage kids on the coach, but everyone said how much the kids were a credit to us and so well behaved and hadn’t the little one done well. (Super proud mum moment)
We finally arrived home around 9pm Saturday, the tour is definitely a red eye tour and we went physically exhausted but the places we have visited, the good behaviour of the kids, planned acitivites for them in backpacks and also lots of electrical items meant the trip went well. The visits were well worth seeing, especially Switzerland.