From the very first glance, Florence lay claim to the title of “my favorite European city”. It might actually be my favorite city – period. While the Renaissance city may not seem like an ideal family destination, kids will be awed by the art, architecture, gardens and food. And it’s no wonder, Florence is simply magical- the light casting a warm golden glow on the decorative buildings, the tantalizing smell of traditional Tuscan cuisine wafting through the air and the laughter of children as they romp about the square. It all sets the stage for a fabulous Florence, Italy holiday with kids.
When visiting a destination such a Florence, with kids in tow, it’s particularly important to not jet off on a whirlwind cultural tour of the city. Plan a slower paced experience mixing in cultural, kid-friendly attractions with plenty of downtime to roam unhurried. Even include unexpected stops for pizza and the ever important gelato!
Our family-friendly Florence itinerary should provide a wide range of options for kids of all ages. Chat about the vast history and have kids point out interesting things they see.
Florence, Italy Holiday
View from above
We’ve always stayed just outside of the city, choosing to relax in the Tuscan countryside, instead of residing in the bustling city. Though I’ve told Derrick that, on our next visit, we will stay within the city walls.
As we always arrive by car, we park in the lot on Viale Michelangelo. The views over the city of Florence are breathtaking! If you’re starting from down below, in the city, walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo. I promise, you won’t be sorry!
Another option for a view is from the Duomo, but we’ll talk more about that in a bit.
I have to say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed strolling along the Ponte Vecchio or “Old Bridge.” I’m not sure if it’s the medieval character or interesting history, but there is something special about this famous structure. While the bridge is now home to countless jewelry shops, it used to house the shops of butchers, fishmongers and tanners. Not a very pleasant smelling place to be!
Across the Ponte Vecchio, in the Oltrarno neighborhood, are the Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli), just behind the Pitti Palace. This is one of the largest parks in Florence and perfect for letting kids run and a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch. While the kids are at play, parents can admire the collection of sculptures dating from the 16th – 18th centuries.
Also on this side of the Arno River, you’ll find some of Florence’s famous artisan and craft workshops. If you’re looking to do some real Florentine shopping, skip the tourist shops and purchase from a local craftsman. On the other side of the Arno the goods might appear artisan, but if you don’t see a workbench in the back, you’re probably buying imported merchandise!
Back in the city center, you’ll find the Antique Carousel in Piazza della Repubblica, where young travelers can take a break from sight-seeing. The carousel dates from the beginning of the 20th century and is run by the Picci family.
You can’t miss Il Duomo, also known as Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or simply the Cathedral of Florence. The sheer size and scale of the colorful green, white and pink marble cathedral is a sight to behold. After wandering around the cathedral, older kids can climb the 463 steps inside the dome for incredible views over Florence.
The history of the Duomo is rather interesting. Find out how the largest dome in the world was actually built. You’ll be surprised to learn the answer. Let kids read about the construction of this architectural masterpiece in the book, Pippo the Fool, before setting off on your journey.
Museum & Art Musts
I know kids aren’t always fans of museums and art, but the world famous Uffizi Gallery is worth a visit. You’ll see famous works by artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaella and Botticelli. While I could spend all day roaming the halls, you’ll need to pick some favorites if you’re traveling with kids. Lucy discovered her favorite painting in Uffizi, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Although Lucy just calls it “the girl in the shell.” She stood, mesmerized, trying to take in every inch of the painting. She spent so much time there that we finally had to tell her it was time to move on.
We suggest bringing some paper and a pencil or colored pencils for kids to draw their favorite works. They could also draw their own self portrait.
Tip: Purchase tickets in advance to save time. You’ll avoid the queue by arriving with your ticket at a prearranged time.
Michelangelo’s David, at the Galleria dell’Accademia, is a must for all visitors and doesn’t have to be a long stop. While I would love to explore more of the Galleria dell’Accademia, we have been twice and really only stopped to admire David. He is like nothing like you could possibly imagine, so don’t skip this attraction.
I highly recommend reading up on the history of the statue, before your trip. He was carved from a single piece of marble! Our first visit was part of a tour, so we learned most of the history then. With that knowledge, plus what we learned from a book I purchased, we were able to inform our friends of all the interesting facts during our second visit.
Kids that are fascinated by how things work will enjoy the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. Learn about the man who is said to be a scientist before there was science. You’ll find reconstructions of various flying and engineering projects as well as interactive machines that the kids are sure to love. This small museum is conveniently located close to the Duomo.
Located in Piazza della Signoria is the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio. The museum will bring the Renaissance city to life for kids with demonstrations of how the Medici lived and ruled. I am absolutely fascinated by the Medici family, so this is perfect for a history loving mom too!
At the museum’s information desk, you can rent a Palazzo Vecchio Family Kit for your self-guided visit. The kit includes a map and other goodies to enhance the kids visit. The kit is recommended for children 6 years and older and is available in Italian, French and English.
There are also family friendly tours that can be booked in advance for only 4€ plus the cost of admission.
Save time for wandering around the Piazza della Signoria before or after your visit.
I’ve always wanted to take a cooking class in Italy with the kids, but we never seem to have enough time. It’s high on my list for our next visit. Let kids rolls up their sleeves and get their hands sticky making pizza, fresh pasta or dessert.
Pizza is the perfect quick meal if visiting with kids. When the kids just want something to eat, but don’t want to wait – pizza is my go to meal. If you’re in a hurry or want to avoid paying the coperto, the charge for sitting down, many pizzerias offer to-go pizza options.
If this is your first time exploring Italy, we have an extensive article of things to know before visiting Rome. Some of the tips are great for traveling anywhere in the country.
No visit to Florence is complete without sampling some gelato, it was invented in Florence after all. You’ll pass countless gelaterias on your exploration the city. A tip we learned, is to look for shops with lids over their gelato. You don’t want the whipped gelato that’s piled high in the containers.
Visiting the Renaissance city with kids will be a vacation the entire family will always remember. Admiring the works of famous artists, wandering down age-old streets and hunting for the best gelato will be a fantastic experience. Take your time touring the city, letting the kids needs dictate the pace. Follow a museum tour with playtime in the gardens or tempt them with the allure of cheesy pizza after admiring the cathedral. There is something for everyone to enjoy on your Florence, Italy holiday, when you take time to plan ahead.
Since I love guide books designed specifically for kids, I purchased Kids Go Europe: Treasure Hunt Florence for our next visit to Florence.
Another cool book is Mission Florence: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure. My kids have done the missions in Barcelona and Rome.