Traveling to Italy with a Newborn
Just as devout religious couples bring their newborns to church on the weekends, Italian Enthusiasts bring their newborns to a place no less holy: Italy. For many Italian Enthusiasts, however, traveling to Italy with a newborn can be intimidating. Questions arise as to the dynamics of international travel with a baby, including safety concerns, mobility restrictions, and overall feasibility.
For me, when my son, Leonardo, was one-week shy of his 3-month birthday, I brought him to Italy (from Florida) for a 30-day cultural sabbatical where he visited four different Italian regions, improved his Italian language comprehension, and began developing a sense of smell for Italian food and wine. Overall, the trip was a success and as a new father, I learned a lot about international travel with an infant that can help other Italian Enthusiasts develop the courage to also bring their newborns to the motherland. See below for a Q&A.
Q: When is it safe to take a newborn to Italy?
A: Safety is a broad topic. I’ve heard people express all sorts of concerns, including the threat of potential terrorism, or the presence of germs. Terrorism can happen anywhere, and from brief research online, there seem to be more terrorist attacks in the U.S. than in Italy. Regarding germs, they too exist everywhere. Doctors typically recommend that newborns refrain from travel until they obtain their first set of vaccines at 2-months. This is what we did, and fortunately my son did not get sick at all. Before traveling, it is always good to obtain approval from your pediatrician.
Q: What types of accommodations do airlines/airports provide for parents with newborns?
A: Passengers with newborns always board first, and strollers can be utilized all the way up to the gate. Children can also essentially fly free before they attain the age of 2-years-old, and in many cases the airline will provide a bassinet for the baby to sleep during the flight (but the bassinet should be confirmed when you book the flight). Some airlines, like Lufthansa, provide a bassinet up to 2-years of age, while others like Swiss Air, provide one up until only 8-months. Other airlines, like Alitalia, have height/weight restrictions. Many airports also provide private nursing stations for mothers to breastfeed their babies in comfort, but for female Italian Enthusiasts who live by the proverb “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, breastfeeding in wide open public areas should not be a problem. 😉
Q: What should I bring with me on the journey with my newborn?
A: Well, for my male readers, you should ALWAYS bring the baby’s mamma! Once that is settled, the following items are important: wipes, burp cloths, blankets, diapers, change of clothes, pacifiers, baby formula, bottles, changing pad, hat, sanitizers, etc. You will want to sanitize the baby’s surroundings on the aircraft, including the seats, walls, windows, and armrest. It’s also a good idea to have the baby sucking on something during take-off to prevent his/her ears from popping. My baby breastfed during takeoff and landing.
Q: How do you deal with road transportation and car seats during travel?
A: In Italy, as far as I understand, it is not a requirement for taxi drivers to provide car seats for newborns, and it is not against the law for newborns to ride in taxis without car seats. If you rent a car, on the other hand, you must arrange for a car seat. During my trip to Italy last month, I rented a car and specifically requested a car seat, which the rental place accommodated without issue. When taking a bus, it’s best to find a seat with your newborn rather than stand and hold onto the railings during movement. If there are no seats available, kindly ask a passenger to allow you to take his/her place, and in my experience, the requests are always granted.
Q: Upon arrival in Italy with your newborn, what is the very first thing you should do?
A: The very first thing you should do upon arrival is allow your newborn to smell authentic Italian espresso. Newborns rely heavily on their sense of smell and the potent aroma of un caffè may very well create a lasting positive impact on your newborn that will not only enhance his IQ, but also help him to understand early in life the difference between good coffee and bad coffee.
Q: Upon arrival in Italy with your newborn, what is the second thing you should do?
A: The second thing you should do is make sure the Italian customs officer places a solid stamp on your newborn’s passport. Sometimes the stamps are weak due to a shortage of ink, and other times the Italian customs officers simply get lazy and neglect to stamp the passport altogether. Whatever the case may be, there is nothing wrong with respectfully requesting the customs officer to issue your newborn a strong and clear stamp so that when your newborn brings his passport one day into kindergarten class for show-and-tell, he will have clear evidence of his extensive Italian travels.
Q: Is it true that in Italy, there is no drinking age, and that even newborns can drink wine as recommended by Italian doctors?
A: No this is not true. The drinking age in Italy is 18, and while it is common for even 16-year-old teenagers to be served alcohol at restaurants, the practice does not apply to newborns. Also, while Italian doctors find nothing wrong with pregnant and nursing women drinking a glass of wine, I have never heard of an Italian doctor condoning the consumption of wine in newborns. However, I am not aware of any laws in Italy prohibiting a newborn from smelling wine, which is why I decided it was my parental duty as a good Italian Enthusiast parent, to introduce my newborn to the smell of a pure sangiovese wine that he in fact appeared to enjoy very much.
Q: Does having a newborn interfere with your ability to dine out or participate in activities?
A: No. We dined out frequently and never had a problem. We always brought the stroller into the restaurant with us. If our baby was hungry, he would cry and my wife would immediately breastfeed him at the table. Upon completion of eating, he would usually fall asleep in his stroller, or sometimes he would remain awake and enjoy the evening with us. Other than restaurants, Leonardo came all over with us. Four different regions of Italy, museums, hotels, friends’ homes, etc. The only place he prevented me from going was skiing because frankly we were not prepared for it, but even skiing is doable with proper preparations.
Q: Is it easy to operate a stroller in Italy?
A: Yes. We brought our Inglesina stroller (Italian-made) with us from the U.S. and operated it everyday. My wife loves to walk, and in downtown Florence where we spent most of our time, the cobblestone streets are not always the easiest on your feet. However, our stroller proved to be very strong and durable, and since my son loves sleeping to movement, it seemed that the bumpier the ride, the deeper he slept. Also, we were in Italy in the thick of the winter with very low temperatures. Yet, despite the cold, we had him warm in the stroller every day and we were pleased to see hundreds of other babies in strollers throughout our stay in Italy.
Q: Is it easy to arrange for sleeping accommodations for newborns in Italy?
A: Yes. For one, we spent most of our time at my wife’s parent’s home in Florence where my son has his own crib. However, we also traveled to different parts of Italy and stayed in hotels. Arranging for a crib at hotels was easier than I thought it would be. All it took was a simple crib request, and I never had a problem with the hotel not being able to accommodate me. Most of this can be handled online if you plan to book rooms electronically.
Q: What are some of your highlights bringing your son to Italy for the first time as a newborn?
A: I have so many highlights from the time I spent with Leonardo in Italy for the Christmas and New Years holidays. For example, being in Urbania in early January, Leonardo and I experienced an Italian snow storm. It was a first for the both of us, so this was special for me. Overall though, as an Italian Enthusiast, the very act of being in Italy with my son was a natural high for me, and I am pleased that I have begun paving a strong Italian foundation for him at such an early point in his precious life.
A couple other points that are important. One, it is not difficult to obtain a U.S. passport for your newborn (assuming your newborn is a U.S. citizen). He/she will need a passport photo, and the directions on how to obtain a passport are all over the internet, and even regular processing takes less than 3-weeks to obtain. Second, while I went to Italy with my wife and newborn, I returned home to the U.S. separately and my wife and newborn followed a week or so later. My wife found the trip comfortable and has no problem traveling alone, so if you are a strong woman with an interest in travel, don’t be intimidated about traveling alone with your newborn. At the very least, you may have to ask someone to help you with the stroller at some point.
If anyone has questions about traveling in Italy with a newborn, please ask in the comment section. Also, if anyone has any experiences of their own they would like to share about traveling in Italy with a newborn, please share.
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