I am just at the beginning of my research and wanted to ask for advice re: which region of Italy to target for our first trip next year. My kids will be 9 and 12 by the time we do this trip (Sept. 2018). We have never been to Italy. I had researched it for our honeymoon more than 17 years ago but canceled our plans after 9/11. At that time, I had planned to focus on the Tuscan countryside and Cinque Terre (based on Rick Steves' recommendations).
Now I'm trying to decide between Tuscany and Umbria. Here's some background on us to help you better understand our goals before you make a recommendation.
We only have about 7-8 days (the girls have a week off school and I'm willing to have them miss 1 day of school). Thus, I am planning to have 1 home base and explore from there (as opposed to cramming in 2-3 areas). We do not plan to spend time in any of the big, popular (but very congested) cities (e.g., Rome and Venice). We are from the San Francisco Bay Area and we've traveled to NYC and LA (for work, but managed to squeeze in some great dining experiences), so we usually avoid big cities when we plan vacations.
Our goals are simply to relax and eat. We do not plan to go to any museums (yes, I know the art is amazing but we are not art people), churches, historical sites (yes, I'm sure the ruins and Colosseum are awe-inspiring but we have limited time and patience), or any natural wonders (e.g., waterfalls, rock formations, etc.). We don't like standing in line (unless it's for good food) or dealing with crowds and traffic. Vacations are a chance for us to have unscheduled time to relax and indulge in food-oriented activities. Some of our favorite vacations (Maui and Shasta Lake in CA) are focused largely on food with ample time for relaxation in-between meals (whether it's lounging at a vacation rental, taking a cooking class, browsing a local market, or playing on the beach).
The only structured activities I'm thinking of would be cooking classes, but in my quick googling I see that not all of them take kids. My kids both love to cook and eat. They did well in a private class we did in Taipei, Taiwan earlier this year. We focused on Taiwanese street foods that they had already eaten, so they knew exactly what we were making. They have made pasta from scratch with my husband, but I am sure we could all pick up some great tips/tricks from Italian chefs.
I think we will want to rent a 2 bedroom place or stay in an agriturismo instead of a hotel. We like having space to lounge. I anticipate we will rent a car so we can get out into the countryside, away from the hordes of tourists.
We love charcuterie, cheese (though DH is lactose-intolerant and only eats aged cheeses), pasta, bread (the kids love making homemade loaves with DH), truffles (though the kids have only had truffle-flavored cheese and oil), all meats including game (our kids will also eat unusual cuts like lengua, pigs' feet, oxtail, etc.), and shellfish. My youngest daughter has fish, sesame, and peanut allergies so we avoid those at most meals (unless we get sushi and then she eats udon or ramen).
Does Tuscany make the most sense? Umbria instead?
Thanks in advance!