Florence. Capital of Tuscany, cradle of the Renaissance, ‘City of Art’. It’s romantic, it’s beautiful and it’s brimming with culture. But Florence with kids? Absolutely!
Florence with Kids
Florence is an easy city to walk around and there are tons of places to eat which is great when you have children who are constantly hungry! Like elsewhere in Italy, children are made to feel very welcome.
Remember that in July the temperatures soar…it reached 39 degrees when we were there which was a little overwhelming.
Florence is a city packed with so many wonderful things that I couldn’t come close to covering them all. So here are just a few tips on getting the most out of your family trip to Florence. Be sure that when you go, you will definitely find more gems of your own.
Walking the city
Florence is the City of Art…and the art is everywhere you look. It’s not a large city, and is easily walkable. It’s also easy to get lost but, in a city as beautiful as this, getting lost is a treat.
We enjoyed walking across the famous Ponte Vecchio and along the river Arno. We spent a while looking at the sculptures outside the Palazzo Vecchio – from the imposing replica of Michaeleangelo’s David, to the kids’ favourite, Cellini’s ‘Perseus and Medusa’.
The Boboli Gardens which stretch behind the Palazzo Pitti are wonderful to explore with kids. This is a great spot for a picnic. Tickets are required; they can be combined with museum tickets, see here.
We were there in July and it was extremely hot. So we took our time, packed plenty of water and made sure we tried out lots of gelaterias. Gelateria Santa Trinita, near the Boboli Gardens, was one of our favourites.
A walking tour would be a great idea and Freya’s Florence Tours comes highly recommended – we didn’t do the tour, but some friends did and they loved it.
Dominating Florence’s skyline is the incredible Duomo, Santa Maria Del Fiore.
Every time I see this cathedral it amazes me; the design, the scale, the facade. The fact that it is a building that took almost two hundred years to complete. I am running out of superlatives, but it just blows my mind that people were able to plan, design and build an edifice like this over 500 years ago.
Just wait till I finally get to taking the kids to Rome…not to mention Greece…
Entrance to The Duomo is free, but be ready for long queues. It is definitely worth climbing the stairs to see the ‘Last Judgement’ fresco painted on the cupola.
However, this is not for the claustrophobic or those who suffer from vertigo. I made it to the first level (463 steps I think it was) but then beat a hasty retreat when I saw how narrow the passageway to the top was. My husband and the eldest went to the top and took some fantastic photographs – the views look amazing but I think I may have had a panic attack on the way up!
Be warned that, if you go up to the top you come out at a different exit. We managed to lose each other for nearly an hour. Of course my husband was positive he was waiting at the right spot…he was not.
For details on opening times click here.
Opera Duomo Museum
This newly opened sculpture museum is just next to Il Duomo. We all really enjoyed our visit – not least because it was air conditioned (I did mention earlier that it was 39 degrees, didn’t I?!).
There are some fascinating displays explaining the construction of the museum, and lots of beautiful sculptures that you can see up close which were originally part of the the cathedral. There are over 750 works of art including pieces by Donatello and Michelangelo. And much as I am trying to sound like a sophisticated person who is interested in art, having read those names I now can’t get the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’ song out of my head.
Click here for ticket information and opening times.
I was so looking forward to visiting the Uffizi! Yes it’s big, and yes, the queues are long. But we had a great day there. Definitely book your tickets online in advance. There was still a queue; just make sure you go get your tickets printed before you join it…
To make the most of our visit, and to make sure we weren’t just tramping around after everyone else, we spent some time with the kids beforehand showing them some of the paintings we were going to see. We asked them to pick out things they were interested in, and we did a bit of research. This definitely made it a more enjoyable visit for all of us, and the kids were excited when they ‘found’ the pieces they had researched. Their favourite was Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ which is pretty spectacular to see in real life.
It gets very crowded, so be prepared! Apparently lunchtimes and Thursdays tend to be less busy. I would really recommend working out in advance what you want to see and making a beeline for it. Obvious suggestion, but make sure your kids visit the loo at the beginning. Who am I kidding? I made sure I went to the loo at the beginning!
We had an (expensive) coffee on the verandah at the Uffizi which was one of my highlights – I was so happy to be there, and the views were amazing. It took a few shots to get this right as in the first one I looked like I was wearing Il Duomo like a little cap on top of my head…
This coffee pitstop was better than the one we had at the Palazzo the next day, where my husband tripped and threw an espresso over me. It’s incredible just how much coffee those teeny tiny little cups can hold. And of course that was the day I had chosen to wear a white dress, although I think the barista was more upset about the state of my outfit than I was. So stylish, the Italians!
Again, there are tours of the Uffizi which are a great way of getting the most out of your visit.
You won’t miss this one. Another iconic building of Florence, with the replica of Michelango’s ‘David’ standing guard outside.
There is so much history here. It is built on Roman ruins, which you can visit. The building itself was constructed in the 13th century, and then in the 16th century became home to the powerful Florentine banking dynasty, the Medicis.
We enjoyed touring the rooms, which are just full of art (of course) and spectacular views of the city. For even better views, climb the bell tower.
We did this museum on our own, but if you wanted a tour there are lots of options here.
A room with a view
Ok, not a room, but a rooftop bar. If you have the chance, reward all your walking and museum visiting with a drink at the Continentale. It has wonderful views over the river and just feels a bit special. We took our kids (for a very expensive lemonade) but it’s not particularly child friendly. Still, it was adult friendly and my treat of choice is wine, not ice cream….
Where to stay?
Hotels can get pretty expensive, especially for families. We stayed at an Air BnB which was a short bus ride into the city. The apartment was clean and well equipped and the owner was lovely and a font of knowledge about all things Florentine.
Another option is to stay outside the city and drive in. This way you could stay at an Agriturismo in the Tuscan hills and then go into Florence for the day. Not too far away from Florence is Villa Le Piazole, which looks beautiful, and Relais Villa L’Olmo also looks fabulous and is south of the city. The advantage to these places is that they are in the countryside and just feel so relaxing. Usually the food and wine are great too.
Ok, so if you have a car and some spare time there are some pretty impressive high end outlets just outside Florence. Think Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana etc. Great discounts and the shops are lovely…but obviously will depend on your definition of ‘bargain’. And no, I didn’t find anything to replace my coffee stained dress…
The Mall – about 35 minutes out of Florence. Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, Stella, Burberry… Here’s the website with full details and directions.