Travel Diary: Rome, Orvieto, Todi, Civita

We spent two weeks in Italy and I wanted to share our itinerary and links to the places we stayed and the tours that we took and some honest thoughts on our experiences. This post is not specific to traveling with a baby, but I will make separate notes about traveling with Cora in each of these places and how easy or difficult it was.

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rome travel diary what to wear in italy rome travel diary what to wear in italy valentino bag

| skirt | top | Valentino bag via Bag Borrow & Steal | hat | shoes by Soludos old but similar and similar |

 

ROME

We flew into Rome and arrived early in the morning. We met my sister and her fiancé who had flown in from San Francisco, all jumped in a cab and drove to our Airbnb that was located near the Vatican. We did lots of research on where to stay in each of the cities we stayed in. The Vatican area seemed to make the most sense for us because while it is touristy during the day, it is pretty quiet in the evenings.  We were a 20 minute walk to the Vatican and there were lots of great cafes and restaurants.

We stayed here: Airbnb in Rome.

We had a great experience. The hosts were very responsive, answered my texts quickly and helped us find an affordable cab service. This is a guesthouse with four separate rooms, each with a bathroom and a common area.  We rented the entire place because we had so many people.

Baby Friendly? – I give this place a 6 out of 10. The hosts were SO awesome and helpful and brought a great crib and everything. And it really was fine to have Cora there. The big issue was the massive and steep staircase in the middle of the apartment. But they don’t market themselves as being a baby-friendly Airbnb…it just worked out best for our large group to stay there.

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We went here: Toured the Colosseum and the surrounding area

We picked this tour. It was designed for families with children, and the reason why I chose this one was because I figured if Cora started getting fussy, a family with children would not mind so much. Plus this tour got GREAT reviews. This was by far our favorite tour of the trip.  I would recommend this tour to anyone…but especially if you have young kids. Our guide divided us into teams and made a game out of learning everything we were seeing. The tour lasted three hours – we saw the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill.

Baby Friendly?: YES! 100%!. Just bring sunscreen and a hat for the baby and use a carrier rather than a stroller.

We went here: Toured the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica with early access to the Sistine Chapel.

Do this. We specifically used this tour. The Sistine Chapel is so awe-inspiring.  It was one of the highlights of our trip. A papal priest came in and said a prayer and then said that he would stand to the side and hear confessions if anyone wanted to do that. I brought Cora over to see him and asked if he would give her a blessing.  It was truly one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.

Baby Friendly?: Absolutely! The only area that might be an issue is the Sistine Chapel because they ask you to be quiet and speak in hushed tones.  Cora actually fell asleep in here so we didn’t have any issue, but if your baby started crying inside the Chapel I would walk out until he or she calms down.

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We also went here:

Checked out this castle. Parks, good restaurants and gorgeous bridges surround it.

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Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon

 

ORVIETO

We drove through Orvieto on our way to Todi. Orvieto was a major city during the Etruscan era and then remained an important area as it controlled the road between Florence and Rome during the Middle Ages. We walked around the town, fell into a gorgeous little restaurant for lunch and then walked to see the Duomo there. There are tours that you can take through the famous underground tunnels that are supposed to be really cool, but they were not open while we were there.

There are also just gorgeous views all around the city since it sits so high on a hill – lots of cute lookout areas and little gardens.

Baby Friendly?: Definitely. Restaurants have high chairs and will bring out bread early for the baby. Some of the roads and walkways were a little steep, but I think you could easily use a stroller in Orvieto.  Pack a baby carrier just in case.

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TODI

One of the most charming towns I have ever been to. Legend has it that Hercules built Todi as he killed Cacus, the fire-breathing giant. It is very hilly, the roads and walkways are steep and we found that not many people here spoke English, so minimal Italian for ordering food was useful.

We stayed here – a darling, two-story apartment with a super fancy rooftop. The photos don’t do it justice.

Our hosts were actually out of town, but we communicated easily via email and they had someone local give us the keys and help us with parking.

Baby Friendly?: Our Airbnb was definitely baby friendly.  The owners just had a baby themselves so they were great about walking me through (via email) what to expect and what baby items they had in the house.  They had a pack n play with a mattress and sheets and blankets, and even though the apartment was three stories, doors separated the living areas from the stairs so Cora could run around without us worrying about her.

Todi was very baby friendly as well.  This is not a touristy city so locals know that you are traveling and they could spot Cora from a mile away. Everyone seemed very happy to have a baby around.  The roads are CRAZY steep and narrow.  I think I used a stroller once and regretted it.  I would definitely just use a carrier here unless you have a very lightweight stroller that has good breaks.

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CIVITA

Civita was just a quick stop on our way (a little out of the way actually) from Todi to where we stayed in Tuscany. It was WELL worth the stop though. It is a bit of a hike to get from where you have to park to finally reach the castle, it is like stepping back in time.  We stopped at a little cafe inside the castle for wine and snacks and it was magical. Definitely stop if you are planning on traveling in this area.

Baby Friendly?: Meh…I won’t give this a full-blown yes. But it’s not not baby friendly. Definitely no strollers. There are railings along that walkway that no baby could possibly get through or over, but it is still a little sketchy.  We held Cora and did not actually bring a carrier on this day, although we did see a handful of parents bringing babies or toddlers in backpack carriers. I’d say still check Civita out if you’re traveling with a baby – this just is not a place you will want them wandering around.

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Comment below or send me an email if you have any questions about this portion of our trip or about traveling through Italy with a baby.  emily.brunotte@gmail.com.

 

XOXO – Em

 

Flying with a Baby

Flying can be stressful enough as it is, but flying with a baby can be intimidating before you’ve experienced it yourself a few times. We have quite a few flights under our belts with Cora, so I put together a list of tips for traveling with a baby.

We took Cora on her first flight at 3 months to visit her grandparents in Florida. I was nervous but as I have discovered since then, newborns are super easy on planes. Since then we have taken her on countless flights across the country and, most recently, flights to Italy and back. It gets slightly more difficult as the baby gets older, can walk and wants to move around and sleeps less, etc.

So, here are my tips for each step of the process.  These are based on our experiences with Cora and different airlines/airports, obviously every baby will react differently to being on a plane but these have helped us survive our plane rides.  And my most important tip is at the very end.

 

Before you even plan a trip…

Get TSA Precheck.  Do it.  Trust me.  Your Precheck status will allow you to bring a child under your number, so you don’t have to worry about getting a separate Precheck number for your baby. Typically the TSA Precheck line for security is shorter, but more importantly, you won’t have to take off your shoes or your jacket or take your laptop out of the bag. It was fast process to get them and we received our numbers in about 3 weeks.

 

Buying Tickets

Most airlines will let you carry a baby 14 days old and older up to a 2-year-old on your lap without having to pay an extra fee. Be sure to clarify when you book the tickets that you will have a lap child. Until our flight to Italy, we always just had Cora sit on our laps, rather than buying her an extra ticket.

The second option is to book a bulkhead seat and request a bassinet. This is tricky however because while you can book bulkhead seats ahead of time, your plane may have limited bassinets…or potentially none at all. And, depending on the plane, your bassinet may have a tv screen just above it, which could be distracting for your baby. We have never used this option with Cora, although I have friends who swear by them, especially for long or overnight flights where you don’t want to buy an extra ticket for the baby.

The third option is to buy a ticket for the baby and bring a car seat on the plane. At first this might sound crazy…why buy a very expensive plane ticket when you don’t have to? I get it, and under most circumstances, I would not do this either. But we bought Cora her own seat for our flight to and from Italy and we are SO happy we did.  The flight to Rome was overnight, over her normal bedtime. We got on the plane, carseat and Cora sitting between my husband and I, stuck a bottle in her mouth and she was asleep before we had reached our cruising altitude.  She slept the entire plane ride.  Plus, with her in-between us, Nick and I had a little more elbow, head, whatever space to stretch out.

  • As a best practice, check the site of whatever airline you are flying before you book to tickets to read through their rules on traveling with a baby. It might help you make a decision.

 

Best Way to Carry Baby at Airport

You are going to want to be hands-free at the airport. Even if you pack light, you still have luggage and bags and need to hand things to the agents and go through security and carry your necessary cup of coffee while you head to your gate. You will either want to bring a stroller or wear the baby. We have done both with Cora and they both work well.

Wear the baby – this is my preference for getting through the airports and for traveling with Cora in general. A wrap or sling is easy to pack and is comfortable to wear on the plane.  I keep it on even if Cora is not in it on the plane because it is convenient to wrap her up in there quickly, if I need to. I like using my WildBird sling because it doesn’t take up a lot of room and is very comfy. Plus Cora loves it and it helps keep her calm during all the hustle at the airport.

Bring a stroller – typically for trips longer than a weekend we bring a stroller and then check it at the desk with our checked bags.  We also check Cora’s car seat here as well if she is sitting on our laps for the plane ride. This is very easy because both strollers and car seats can be checked either at the desk or the gate for free. I like checking them at the desk because I prefer not to have so much “stuff” to deal with in the airport and on the plane.

If you want to use your stroller in the airport or want to bring a caddy for your car seat that you’re bringing on the plane, I recommend getting one of those gate check bags. We bought this one and loved it. It is big enough for any stroller and has backpack straps to make it easier on you and the baggage handlers (aka they are more likely to be gentle with your stroller).

 

Going Through Security/Customs

See my first tip about TSA Precheck.

Give yourself some cushion time. If you typically got to the airport an hour ahead pre-baby, give yourself an extra 15 or 20 minutes with the baby. It will help you stay calm to know you don’t have to rush. I have found that the TSA agents are pretty helpful when you have a baby, so smile at them, say hello and ask how they are doing. I promise it helps and they will help you fold up your stroller or whatever you need.

TSA rules about liquids for babies are a little different than they are for adults. You can bring on whatever size bottles with liquid that you need for your trip and they don’t have to fit in a quart-size ziplock bag. We usually bring two food pouches, one full bottle of milk and a full bottle of water, and pack all of this into the large ziplock bag.  To this, I also include a smaller, rolled-up ziplock bag of formula powder, not that it needs to go through security separately, but I like to keep all of her food and milk in one bag.  As we go through security, I take this bag out of the diaper bag and send it through the belt separately.  Most US airports will then scan the liquids separately in a X-ray machine, this takes slightly longer, so you may have to wait a few more minutes.

Check this page on the TSA site about traveling with children for full details: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children

 

What to Check versus Gate Check

I referenced this in the previous section, but it is worth mentioning separately. On most major airlines, a car seat AND a stroller can be checked for free. But check the site of the airline you are flying ahead of time…some of the smaller airlines only allow one free.

We typically check both the stroller and the car seat at the desk when we check our other luggage. I dislike hauling everything through the airport. Ideally, I wear Cora and carry a diaper bag that doubles as my purse and that’s it. We have travel bags for both our stroller and our car seat. We use this bag for our Bugaboo Bee stroller, and this bag for our Chicco Key Fit Carseat.  Both of these bags have held up very well through numerous flights.

You can also check a stroller at the gate if you’d like to use the stroller in the airport. Note, if you use an umbrella stroller that is small and folds up tightly, you may be able to stow this in the overhead compartment.  Check with the gate attendants before you board and they will let you know for sure.

You are able to board the plane early when you have a baby with you, so you have extra time to put your stroller in the bag and then get situated on the plane. This is the bag we use for our stroller when we check it at the gate. We got the XL size before it is easier to put the stroller in when you have a little room. We LOVE this bag.

I really recommend checking as much as possible. Having less to deal with makes the entire experience much less stressful.

 

What to Bring on the Plane

Having said I recommend checking as much as possible, there are obviously things you need to bring on the plane with you. Here is what I typically try to bring to keep both Cora and myself occupied and sane(ish).

For Cora: 1 bottle with milk, 1 empty bottle, 1-2 food pouches (light color food…don’t get the purple ones in case of a spill), 1 bottle children’s Motrin and syringe (just in case), a few lightweight books and toys, puffs and goldfish, a lightweight gauze blanket, a pack of wipes and usually 6-8 diapers, my cell phone (she likes to watch the same episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse).

For Mama: cell phone, charger cord (most planes now have USB outlets or full fledged electrical outlets at the seats), iPad mini for reading books I downloaded ahead of time. Typically Cora does not sleep on flights, so most of my time is dedicated to keeping her occupied anyways.

 

Baby on a Plane

Here is my number one tip: Don’t worry about your baby crying on the plane. Your baby is going to cry at some point.  It’s going to happen. And it might be a little cry or it might be an all out crying-like-she’s being-pinched cry. And this might make you crazy nervous. “What will people think?” “Will they be mad at us?” “Will the flight attendants be annoyed?” Yeah, some people might be annoyed…but who cares? Most of the people on your flight will be parents…and everyone else was a baby themselves…they get it. My advice: be nice. Smile at people. Say hello and thank you. If you are nice they will be nice back.  They may help you distract your crying baby. Or they might help you stow your bags. I had a couple sitting behind us entertain Cora through the seats for a 4 hour plane ride….the entire time. If you go into the flight knowing that the baby will cry at some point…you won’t stress out so much when it happens.

 

If you have other questions, comment or send me an email at emily.brunotte@gmail.com

XOXO – Em

 

 

 

Travel Diary: Cincinnati – February 2016

21c cincinnati 21c cincinnati metropole where to eat 21c cincinnati where to stay in cincinnati where to stay in cincinnati 21c 21c yellow penguin cincinnati

A few weekends ago, Nick and I took my parents on a little getaway vacation to Cincinnati.  Nick and I spend a lot of time there because he graduated from college there and still has many close friends who live in the city, however, my parents had not experienced much of the city before. For Christmas this year we gifted them this trip, rather than giving them more “stuff.”

We knew exactly where we wanted to stay. 21c is by far our favorite hotel in Cincinnati. (It was recently rated the #1 hotel in the midwest by Condé Nast Traveler.) The first and second floors of the hotel are dedicated to rotating modern art exhibits and different art installations.  The bar is phenomenal, the restaurant, Metropole, cannot be missed, and the rooms are just so cool.  We had never used the spa at 21c before but part of our gift to my parents was a couple’s massage, so Nick and I decided that we would schedule one for ourselves as well! (Nothing like buying gifts for yourself haha). But I was especially looking forward to my first prenatal massage and seeing how that goes.

21c best hotels in cincinnati

[ Our suite ]

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[ Taking this bump to the spa ]

21c cincinnati spa

[ 21c spa lobby ]

21c cincinnati spa 21c cincinnati spa prenatal massage

[ Couple’s spa suite – notice my bed looks different than Nick’s. Services also include access to the steam shower or the plunge tub ]

21c cincinnati spa 21c cincinnati prenatal massage

[ Here, you can see the special pillow they used for the “mama-to-be massage.” It has one big belly hole, two boob holes, and the bottom is angled so that your body is slanted when you lay face down.  I was worried that I would be uncomfortable but it was amazing.  I missed being able to lay on my stomach, and it took a ton of pressure off my back. It made me realize I need like a pregnancy hammock or something hahah ]

21c cincinnati spa rooftop

[ From the spa lobby you have access to the rooftop where you can sip on tea or fruit infused water after your services ]

21c cincinnati rooftop

After the spa, we all got changed and walked from the hotel over about one block to one of my favorite restaurants of ALLL TIMME.  No exaggeration.  I’m obsessed with it.

Sotto is in the basement of another restaurant and has this unassuming little sign over the door, which is located down some steps below the sidewalk.  Once inside, you walk down more steps to reach this brick, stone, repurposed wood, low-light hideaway that gives off the vibe of a fancy, Prohibition-era bar.  A walk past the bar to your table will take you past a huge window where you can see someone making fresh pasta by hand.

This time I was not able to order all of my favorites due to pregnancy restrictions, but I would recommend getting the Goat Cheese & Hazelnut Honey Bruschetta, the Black Truffle Tagliatelle, the Black Kale Caesar, and ABSOLUTELY, the Ricotta Donuts!! If I had to eat one thing the rest of my life it would be those donuts.

Then, we capped off the evening with cocktails, (and a mocktail for me), at the 21c bar and then walked around the two floors of the hotel dedicated to art. The art exhibits stay open 24 hours with the exception of a few of the video installations which end around the wee hours of the morning.

21c cincinnati metropole breakfast in bed 21c cincinnati metropole breakfast in bed

We had eaten so much at dinner the night before, and stayed out fairly late, that my parents wanted to sleep in before we met at Metropole for breakfast. Baby Girl always wakes me up super early so I ordered some room service coffee to tide me over until we met my parents.  There is something so cozy about having fancy coffee in bed and looking out over the rooftops of the city.

21c cincinnati metropole breakfast

We have eaten breakfasts, lunch, and a few dinners at Metropole now over the past year or so.  But if you only have a chance to eat there once, I would absolutely recommend going there for breakfast/brunch. My mouth is watering as I look at this picture.  Their menu changes, but while in its current form, might I suggest ordering the: Whipped Ricotta, the Breakfast Sandwich, the Belgian Waffle and/or the Burnt Carrot Salad.

cincinnati ault park

[ Ault Park ]

cincinnati coffee shops

After breakfast we took my parents around town to a few of the parks, (like Ault Park and Eden Park), the Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams to see the Praying Steps and the incredible view, grabbed coffee and Nutella cookies from Coffee Emporium, walked around the shops in OTR (aka Over-The-Rhine), and then had lunch at Tellers of Hyde Park before heading home.

21c cincinnati do not feed the art

A HUGE thank you to 21c and their incredible staff! (I can’t wait to bring the baby back once she arrives and take her to see the art in her very cool “Do Not Feed The Art” onesie).  We had the most wonderful time.  21c also has locations in Louisville, Bentonville, Durham, Lexington, & Oklahoma City.

XOXO – Em