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As we wrapped up our trip in Bonn, we headed to the Frankfurt airport and made our way to Italy! We had just gone the previous summer, but spent our time touring Venice, Florence and Rome. For this trip, we were staying in Northern Italy to meet with my husband’s business partners. Essentially, a very fun ‘off-site.’
I love places that have an incredible history. I love the Italian way of life. I love the food. I love the people. I love the attitudes of Italians. – Elton John
Agritourism seems to be an up-and-coming industry in the northern parts of Italy.
We stayed at the very affordable Agriturismo Tenuta Regina, which is in the lovely state of Udine. The apartment was a spacious three bedroom, three bathroom with a washing machine and kitchen. The style was pretty rustic and not typically my taste, but the owners were really nice and welcomed us with a nice bottle of the local wine.
TIP: Try to arrive early in the day. These smaller, family run, properties run lean. If you don’t get there during normal business hours, make sure you plan ahead. We arrived late in the evening and had a complicated check-in process. Thank goodness the family lived on the property, but it still took us a good 30 minutes (with a one-year old!) to find someone to help us check in.
The property also included a fun swimming pool that was pretty cold, but it was really fun to walk over and dip our toes. There was a lot of green space and the road was really quiet.
TIP: Call your vacation rental (or hotel) and confirm a crib for your stay. Although we’ve traveled quite regularly with our travel crib, sometimes it’s nice not having to bring your own. Not all vacation rentals provide this service, so really do make sure you call ahead.
TIP: Bring some items from your kiddo’s room that help remind him or her of home. I.e. Charlie sleeps with the sounds of crickets and running water, so we make sure to bring our iPad with us.
What to do
If you look a map and see where we stayed, you’d probably wonder what we did the whole time. But one of the best parts of the location was that it was so remote. It felt like we were the only ones in all of Italy at night, but during the day, we found so much to do. Northern Italy feels like a hidden gem, given all the other fabulous cities that attract all the attention. But in Northern Italy, it’s local tourism….and not as many people. There are so many lesser known villages, that are just as amazing as Pisa and Venice. Also, Italians LOVE babies, making outings super easy. Because my husband was heads down with his business partners, I did a lot of outings with Charlie solo. Yes, I drove by myself…with a one-year old…and survived!
Almost all of the places Charlie and I visited together were (mostly) kiddo friendly. Furthermore, I loved that Charlie could get up close to history and actually touch many of the ancient ruins…sans selfie-sticks! Hands-on learning; what could be better?! There is a bit of a language barrier, but that didn’t stop us. Friendly hand gestures and a cute baby can go a long way!
My Top 3
Is an ancient Roman colony founded in the 1st century BC. Driving along the highway, almost out of nowhere, the ancient pillars of the old forum present themselves in all their glory. From modern-day to ancient, it’s like a micro Rome. It’s such an easy self-guided walking tour. Start by viewing the forum, then make your way through the port and end up at the 1-4 century UNESCO World Heritage site basilica. I love going to Europe and looking at the churches, but this is like nothing I’d ever seen. The entire inside is covered in intricate mosaics and the two crypts are laden with history. You can almost see the hustle and bustle of the early Romans.
TIP: Bring your stroller or something to carry baby. It’s not a long walk, but you’ll want something to help out.
TIP: Parking is easy to find, but costs a couple of Euros. Public restrooms can be found in the main parking lot, but beware, you’ll have to squat over a hole. Changing Charlie’s diaper was a bit challenging. There aren’t a lot of child friendly rest rooms, so I levered our minivan, often.
Is just a few kilometers down the road from Aquileia. The drive between the two cities is stunning, especially as you take the bridge to the city center. Grado is popular tourist town for Europeans. I didn’t find too many Americans, but lots of Germans, Austrians, and of course local Italians. On the Adriatic Sea, this is a really fun beach town with lots of great sea-side restaurants and quaint little shops. Charlie and I loved walking along the water front looking at the boats. We also loved meandering into a local pastry shops to enjoy an espresso (well for me) and some yummy chocolate breads. Charlie really liked the park by the sea, which included some fun little fountains.
Grado water front park
Is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a star-shaped fort from the late Renaissance. It was built by the Venetians in the late 1500s. Make your way to the center piazza and enjoy the stunning scenery. It has some pretty amazing gates to get into the city as well. The piazza is free of cars, so let the kiddos out to run around. Lord knows you probably could use some time to sit back and watch them play as well as rest your feet.
We were amazed at the wineries. Not only could you get a nice bottle of sparking wine for €3…that’s right a BOTTLE; but each winery has an amazing spread of local meats and cheeses. Other tasty eats were available as well. Seriously, just drive around. Northern Italy’s wines are as good as any (better?) we had in Tuscany the year prior and a quarter the cost.
To be Continued…
I think what made Northern Italy stand out was the fact that it was less crowded than it’s bigger brothers. Next week, I’ll conclude not only our Italian leg, but also our vacation as a whole. There was just so much to cover and I know I’m only scratching the surface.