Best Bets for Travel With Kids in Florence
With beautiful art and architecture at every turn, Florence is a Renaissance gem perfect for family exploration.
While Florence might seem like a museum-filled city catering mainly to adults, it actually has wonderful churches, piazzas, trattorias and gardens galore that will delight children of all ages. Nest at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze—a beautifully renovated palazzo set on 11 acres (4.5 hectares) in the city centre—where all of the cultural highlights are moments away from your door. Here are five suggestions for travel to Florence with children.
1. The Duomo, Campanile & Baptistery
Impossible to miss, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore—the cathedral of Florence—dominates the heart of the city with its sheer size and colourful green, white and pink marble exterior. Brunelleschi’s towering dome is an architectural wonder, and older kids will get a good workout climbing the 463 steps to the top. The payoff: incredible views. Meanwhile, younger children will be entranced by the playful Candy Land-like exterior of the Duomo itself—every square inch is covered with patterns, colours and shapes. Inside, a profusion of beautiful frescos, stained glass and smaller chapels will captivate children of all ages. The adjacent Campanile, or bell tower, is also worth the hike up (go early in the day), and don’t miss the Baptistery with its glittering 13th-century mosaics and celebrated bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano.
2. Piazzas Past and Present
Piazza della Repubblica is one of the hubs of Florentine life, and the antique carousel in the centre is the perfect way for tots to begin any day of touring. Grab a sweet pastry at Gilli before heading to the bustling Piazza della Signoria with its animated statues. (Perseus holding Medusa’s head is often a favourite of the tween set.) Piazza Santissima Annunziata features an enormous fountain and the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital), while nearby Piazzale Michelangelo offers beautiful views of the city below as well as the perfect place for little ones to stretch their legs.
3. Museums and More
Make targeted trips to museums so that kids get a flavour of the work of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other artists, but aren’t overwhelmed by crowded galleries (this holds especially true in peak summer months). The Galleria degli Uffizi is a must, so pre-book tickets to catch a glimpse of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Next stop, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, a lavish palazzo complete with gold ceilings and displays of arms and armour that will captivate budding historians. Very young visitors will love Museo dei Ragazzi (the Palazzo Vecchio Family Museum) with its wonderful mix of stories, lavish costumes and peeks at the lives of the powerful Medici family. If your gang has energy for more, visit Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia or interact with exhibits at the Museo di Leonardo da Vinci where replicas of the artist’s inventions—the printing press, mortar cannon and gears—will fascinate children ages 5 and up.
4. Explore the Oltrarno
In warmer months children will appreciate an escape to the gardens, play spaces and palace grounds on the far side of the River Arno. Stroll across the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”), and stock up on souvenirs such as wooden toys, jewellery and leather goods along the way. Once on the other side, gather a picnic and head for the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, where you’ll find grottos, fish ponds and lush lawns. For more unfettered outdoor fun, head further up to Forte di Belvedere, a 16th century star-shaped fort that offers endless grassy spaces and Porta San Giorgio—ancient city walls that are perfect for small explorers.
5. Mangia Bene! (Eat Well)
Florence is a foodie town, and children will love local specialities such as pizza al taglio (by the slice), panini and Bistecca alla Fiorentina (grilled steak with olive oil and herbs) not to mention the incredible gelato. And though there is much debate over the best gelaterias in this “birthplace of ice cream,” Vivoli and Perchè No! (“Why not”) won’t disappoint. For more local colour, don’t miss the Mercato Centrale, a marketplace with a large variety of cheeses, fruits and vegetables, and butchers and bakers. This is a great way to see Florentine families going about their daily shopping, sampling delectable treats along the way.