The second half of our trip took us to to the Amalfi Coast and Rome. What a DREAM!
Before I dig into the specifics of our travels, let me just say this — traveling with the kids to Italy was NOT the nightmare I had envisioned leading up to this trip. OMG, I had these horrible thoughts of massive DJ meltdowns everywhere, complaining of the heat, and wanting to be home, but much to my surprise there was none of that. Well, to be honest, just a few Skittles-induced meltdowns by DJ but all in all, it has been fantastic.
While Marli, Chase, and Jake have eaten quite well, the only real issue has been DJ’s very limited diet. He has survived off pizza, french fries, gelato, and the occasional chicken nuggets we find on restaurant menus. And by the way, I think the ages of the kids are just right for a trip like this (8, 10, 11). Any younger and I would likely have gone home after the first stop in Venice. Ha! But keep reading because I will give my tips on preparing for a massive undertaking like this below. Hopefully, it will help you!
Next Stop, Positano
Well, technically, the next stop was Naples. After a beautiful train ride through the Tuscan countryside, we arrived in Naples. Naples is a fucking shit hole, but a necessary evil on the way to the dreamland — the Amalfi Coast. In Naples, you are instructed to hold on tight to your kids and luggage. Not the welcome you want — but hey, there are certain risks you take when traveling outside the U.S. After no incidents at the train station (thank God!), we were quickly escorted to our vans for the scary (as shit) ride to Positano.
I don’t think I took a breath on the hour trip to the hotel. Winding roads, steep cliffs, crazy people on scooters swerving in and out of traffic. But we made it and it was worth it!
Our hotel, Pasitea Positano Art, was situated on a tight road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The friendly staff greeted us, we checked in, and then found the closest restaurant nearby. Ok, wait. When I say “nearby” in Positano, that means 10,183,028,402 steps up or down, lots of sweating and huffing and puffing. This place is not for the faint at heart or if you are out of shape. I gotta say — THANK YOU BEACHBODY for getting us through it!
After a great lunch and margaritas (finally found some!) we headed down the mountain to the beach area. This place is stunning. And not just the view — the people! Everyone is so gorgeous! The kids took a dip in the ocean and collected glass on the beach. All the while I thanked God for all our blessings. Seriously, I took a moment to look around and become immersed in gratitude for this moment. And that it was.
I will never forget the sight of my baby girl kneeling on the rock-filled beach with the ocean crashing behind her. Or DJ sneakily jumping in the water fully clothed! It was perfect.
That night we sat in the hotel lobby for happy hour and then had an unexpectedly fun night at a mountainside restaurant where Jake and I went “all in” on a pizza covered in french fries. OMGGGGGGGG. Delicious!
The next day, we decided to spend the entire afternoon at the beach.
We rented beach chairs and spent the day sipping cocktails and frolicking in the waves. Frolicking seems like the appropriate word to describe what you do in Positano. It’s so fancy! BTW, you get charged for everything everywhere so be prepared to drop plenty of Euros on the coast. That night we had a lovely dinner at Cafe Mediterraneo and called it a night.
Capri in the morning!
The next day, we prepared for our boat ride to Capri. This is the place I’ve always dreamt of going. Don’t ask me why. But, to me, it’s like a symbol of having “made it.” This incredibly romantic island situated off the coast with its yacht-filled harbors — mega-yachts, actually. A playground of the rich and famous.
We heard that Jay-Z and Beyonce might have been on one while we were there. So cool!
We arrived and were greeted by Daniella. I mention Daniella because she made this stop on our trip unforgettable. All details were precisely coordinated and she even delivered on some curveballs we threw at her. We checked in at the Weber Ambassador and had lunch poolside where our waitress, Jenny, quickly realized we were Cuban and so was she! In fact, we met a handful of people who were Cuban, or married to Cubans, during our trip on the coast! I found that so interesting. That afternoon, we went down to the beach, swam in the hotel pool, and then had dinner at an amazing restaurant called Verginiello.
That night I emailed Daniella to see if she could coordinate a boat tour for us for the next day. While I went to bed on pins and needles, in the morning, she had secured us a boat for a tour of all the island’s grottos!
This day was out of a movie! We jumped on the boat, steps away from our hotel, and spent the entire day in and out of grottos, weaving through the mega yachts, and sipping homemade limoncello. GAHHHHH! It was absolutely breathtaking.
We jumped off the boat and off cliffs and swam into grottos. While the Blue Grotto was closed due to the tides we went around the entire island by water. Definitely a bucket list day checked off if you ask me!
After the boat ride, Daniella had made our reservations at a restaurant near the marina that was awesome! Our waiter, a native Egyptian, was fantastic. Definitely a memorable day all together.
Off to Rome
After a private speedboat dropped us off in Naples we jumped on our last train to Rome. We arrived in Rome, dropped off our luggage, and then hit the pavement.
First stop: The Trevi Fountain, followed by The Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. We made our wish at the fountain which means we will return to Rome someday!
Then something truly awesome happened — we found an Asian restaurant! GAH! Ok, so you are likely asking yourself “ASIAN?!?” Yes, Asian! You see, after 10+ days of Italian food, we needed something different and definitely a bonus that DJ could eat his beloved white rice! Tora will go down in the history books as one of THE best Asian restaurants we have EVER eaten at. Now, we aren’t sure it was the food or the fact that we weren’t eating Italian. Either way, it gets a 10 from us!
Our Last Days in Italy...
The next two days were exhausting and HOT. Did we mention the heat in Italy in July is intense?!? Like, super f’ing hot you guys. And there is virtually no relief anywhere. The restaurants do not blast the AC like we are used to in the States, so you are sweating ALL DAY LONG. I guess it’s worth it when you get to visit the Colosseum and The Vatican. We’ll deal.
In both the Colosseum and Vatican we decided on kid-friendly tours. We knew that these days would be long and tiring, so might as well make it really fun for the kids! And both days were totally worth it!
We toured the inside of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the next day, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. While this was my second time in both, I will say that it never gets old and I enjoyed both days like the first time I visited Rome!
I pray that the kids will remember these days when they grow older. Because for me, they were priceless.
Our last two dinners in Rome were spectacular. One night we returned to a restaurant that we fell in love with the first time we visited Rome, Osteria Margutta, right near the Spanish Steps. While the service started off bumpy, the food was as good as the first time. Our last night, we attempted getting reservations at a Mexican restaurant but they were full so we opted to return to Tora for another memorable meal!
Back To Miami We Go
We were so ready to get home, sleep in our beds and blast the AC! We are going back more connected as a family and with memories that will last a lifetime. Next year, we’ll be staying in the U.S. but not quite sure where to go just yet, so stay tuned!
But as promised, I wanted to shed more light on our decision to travel with the family — specifically with DJ who has an Autism diagnosis.
Traveling with DJ...
First of all, I will say this — I was VERY apprehensive about this trip with him. The long flights, long days, and food choices were stressful. But we cannot change our circumstances and we won’t change our plans as a family to travel together, so we had to decide to deal with it and do the best we can. And that’s what we did!
Second, we prepared. Not like travel bootcamp but we did tell DJ, and Marli for that matter, what they could expect on the trip.
We showed them on the map how far Italy was and how long the flights were. We told them that we would be staying at various hotels and that we would have to move often with all our luggage and that we would need their help. This definitely set the tone for successful travel. There was very little complaining and lots of added hands to help!
P.S. Personally, I would NOT travel to Venice, Positano, or Capri with very small children. The steps, up and down, and limited ways to get around would drive me insane. Just a PSA if you were even thinking about it!
10 Tips on Traveling Overseas With Kids
So after some thought, here are some additional tips on traveling overseas with the kids!
- Involve them in planning your tours. Knowing that the tours would be geared towards them made them excited for the day.
- Limit structured activities when planning. It was great not to have tours every single day. This gave us breathing room to relax and even sleep in!
- Let them help pack their clothes. They were very excited that they were taking swimsuits on this trip and that gave them something to look forward to.
- Pack snacks! This was important, especially for the initial plane ride. When they woke up in Italy I was able to give them their usual breakfast since I knew they would be hungry and may not like the food on the airplane.
- Charge and pack all electronics they like. No judgment zone here — my kids chill on their iPads and Nintendo Switches, so we made sure to take them with us. We are asking them to travel for 13 hours so we planned on making it as entertaining as possible. And a break for us too!
- For DJ (and maybe younger kids), pack their PJs for overnight flights. This was KEY in getting DJ to sleep before landing in Italy. While I didn’t get much sleep, he did, and that made the next day much more enjoyable for us all!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for more kid-friendly meals. Although we didn’t know this trick early on in the trip, we learned that you can ask restaurants for more kid-friendly dishes. DJ doesn’t eat pasta so he was limited greatly, but once we found out that most places would make breaded chicken cutlets, he began eating much better!
- Take water with you everywhere. You want to keep yourself and your kids hydrated, so pack a reusable water bottle and refill it often. In Italy, you will find free public water fountains everywhere!
- Be prepared to be flexible. I got so many amazing recommendations for restaurants in all the cities we visited and went to NONE of them, but that’s OK. We didn’t have one bad meal in two weeks, but we did have happy kids and that’s all that matters.
- My biggest tip is: be positive and just do it! Our kids are resilient and totally surprised me with how they handled this trip. In fact, sometimes better than me!
I learned on this trip that sometimes parents (me included) limit their own kids experiences because of fear of the unknown. I say — to hell with it! You will either have the time of your life with your family or you won’t but you will be together and that’s what matters most!
Now that we have Italy under our belts, I think our next European vacation in 2020 will likely be Spain and Greece but until then — it’s good to be home.