We visited Florence in summer of 2012 and had a fantastic trip. Here are some highlights:
Getting to Florence:
Florence Peretola Airport easily accessible from major ports in Europe by air but not directly from the United States or Asia. Many major carriers as well as low-cost airlines that connect Europe fly to Florence. Pisa airport is also an option, being less than an hour’s drive from Florence. If you are within Italy, you can get to Florence by train or road as well.
Getting around Florence:
The old part of Florence where you will likely be spending your time is best seen on foot. You can easily walk between the major sites such as the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio and should to really appreciate the charm of this city. Taxis are easily available at taxi stands and most taxi drivers speak english. Do not attempt to drive into this part of the city as many streets are pedestrian-only zones. Note that the cobblestoned streets are challenging to push strollers through, but it’s doable. The bus system in Florence is fairly well connected and easy to use but since the city is so compact, you hardly feel the need as long as you stay in the central parts.
Things to do with Kids in Florence
Some say there is not much to do in Italian cities. I wholeheartedly disagree. Sure it’s not swings and slides but with beautiful sculptures, abundant fountains and quaint streets everywhere you turn, it doesn’t take a wild imagination to keep one entertained. Here are some of things we did and loved in Florence.
Climbing to the top of the Duomo: My three and a half year old climbed the 400 odd steps to the top of the Duomo and rejoiced in the triumph of the climb more than the view (which is 360 degrees of Florence and spectacular – well worth the hike up). It is a narrow and difficult climb so baby carriers are necessary and strollers are a definite no-no. You can leave them at the base and collect them upon your return. A must-do for older kids.
- Piazzale Michelangelo: Another breathtaking view of the city in the square graced by the replica of the famous David. Souvenirs and snacks available.
- Carousel at Piazza Della Repubblica: An ancient carousel of the Picci family, this gilded carousel is a piece of art in itself. Adults have to pay to ride too.
- Horse carriage : For 50 euros (it’s a fixed price) enjoy a horse carriage ride over the Ponte Vecchio, a nice way to get you off your feet and a delight for the kids!
- Eat gelato: Anywhere and everywhere you can!
- Boboli Gardens: Give the little ones a chance to run around at the Boboli Gardens, part of the Pitti Palace. They can then nap while you go to the Uffizi!
Where to eat in Florence with Kids:
The general rule of thumb in Italy is to eat as far away from tourist attractions as you can. Tuscan cuisine is world-famous and one meal at the right place will explain why! We got all our recommendations from taxi drivers and were never led astray. Most restaurants have high chairs and are happy to accommodate children with a penne with tomato sauce or alfredo. Some of our favorite places were:
- All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi: Known for its florentine bistecca, Cambi is the gem of a restaurant you could easily miss if you read only tour books. The food is flavorful beyond imagination and the wine list, endless. The service is extremely warm and if you can’t get a spot on the outside deck, the quaint dining room inside is a great option.
- Trattoria La Casalinga: A peak into the kitchen will reveal why this place feels like eating in nonna’s kitchen because there she is, in all her glory! The food here is fresh and light and delicious. The menu is only in Italian, but there is always someone who speaks just enough English. Just opposite the pitti palace, this place is off the main tourist track which makes it even more attractive.
- Trattoria Za Za : Eat great pizza and enjoy live street music at night in this lively trattoria not far from the Duomo. Again, the kids were happy with their pizza and pasta and I had the best pepper steak of my entire trip.
Where to shop in Florence with Kids:
Although there are shops inside Florence, the main attractions are the designer outlet malls located outside the city. You will need a car to get to them, or bus tours can be arranged from Florence itself.
Here are some of them:
- The Mall: With names such as Pucci, Dior, Gucci and Cavalli on their store locator, this may well be your first and last shopping destination in Italy.
- Space Prada Outlet: This Prada store looks more like an Old Navy and the prices aren’t far off!
- Barberino Designer Outlet: More of a mixed line-up with upscale brands like Prada (although much smaller than Space) and Dolce and Gabbana as well as mid-range Guess and Adidas, Barberino also has a great kids’ play area which makes it a very feasible day trip from Florence. It also has a reasonable collection of kids’ stores for your designer tots and mini potties in the bathrooms!