Florence is one of my favorite cities in Italy, if not in all of Europe. It’s a bit of a challenge with kids given the sophisticated tourist attractions, however, with meticulous planning (see Nancy’s tips for cities with kids), you can make this city approachable and fun.
Shannon Venable, the Editor of Italiakids.com, outlines how to see Florence highlights with kids in her guest post today. An Italophile through and through, Shannon also runs a wonderful summer camp in Italy called Art Al Sole. Families that want to combine a visit with structured activities tailored just for kids (Italian-style), look no further!
The magnificent city of Florence has so many marvels to explore that planning a family trip to the city can seem a bit overwhelming. Yet the beauty of this Renaissance city, perched proudly on the Arno and nestled amid iconic villa-adorned hills, is not lost on the little ones.
Nor are the wonders of the local art and architecture. With thoughtful planning that involves the children in crafting a family-friendly itinerary, Florence will inspire lifetime memories for the entire family in a lively, exciting environment in which museums and historical sites are increasingly providing more and more unique exhibits and educational programs designed just for children.
Exploring Florence with Children, Things to Do
When staying in the city during high-traffic months such as the summer, the Oltrarno district just across the river from the Ponte Vecchio is typically less crowded and offers a variety of less-touristy dining choices serving authentic Tuscan cuisine, as well as convenient supermarkets. The Oltrarno is also much easier to access by if you are traveling by car than many of the districts in the historical center with restricted traffic limitations, although parking is costly.
This neighborhood also boasts some great kid-friendly sites with kids like the Boboli Gardens at Palazzo Pitti, with lots of wide open space for the little ones to explore, climb trees, people watch, and play games. The Boboli Gardens are a great spot for a picnic (there is a supermarket directly across the street). During summer evenings, consider peering into the courtyard of Palazzo Pitti on our way home from dinner – you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the musical performances produced here, preferably while polishing off a gelato from one of our favorites: the Gelateria Santa Trinità directly across from the Ponte Santa Trinità — try the dark chocolate (fondente).
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Piazza Repubblica and Uffizi Gallery
In planning your daily schedule, present the children with fun visual maps so that they have a sense of what’s in store for the day, and be careful not too pack too much in. A leisurely stroll through the side streets and time for multiple consecutive rides on the Antique Carousel in Piazza Repubblica can be just as enjoyable as shuffling through the halls of the Uffizi.
If you do plan to visit the Uffizi Gallery, buy tickets considerably in advance, and peruse through the museum’s exhibits on the Uffizi website with the kids in advance your visit so that they will be excited when they are able to identify some of the masterpieces in person. Rather than visiting every item in every room, pause to admire certain select pieces and chat with the kids about their opinions of certain features such as animals or flowers depicted, or facial expressions.
Florence’s Childrens Museum at the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria next to the Uffizi brings the Renaissance city to life for kids with demonstrations of how the Medici lived and ruled. Exhibits at the Palazzo Strozzi Museum are designed to be family friendly and offer an educational program for children in English that guides them through its current exhibit. The Institute and Museum of Science in Piazza dei Giudicci also has appealing exhibits for kids, especially the various instruments and personal items related to Galileo Galilei.
For many parents, the fact that the city holds so many treasures of art and architecture within its churches and monasteries makes it difficult to decide strategically which buildings to spend time exploring, and which buildings to save for your next visit (per fortuna!). Seeing the Florence Duomo for the first time has had a continued influence on my own children. Rounding the corner to behold its size and scale is something they still talk about, and every return visit brings new discoveries from diverse angles.
Consider telling your children the story of the competitions for both the construction of the Cathedral dome and the Baptistery’s Golden Doors, so that when you visit in person, the stage is set for them to comprehend fully the genius of these innovative creations. Pippo the Fool by Tracey Fern and other great kids’ books help to bring the story of Brunelleschi’s Dome to life.
Another favorite for our family is the cloister and church at San Marco in Piazza San Marco, where the kids can see famous paintings and frescoes in the setting in which they were intended for, such as Fra Angelico’s Annunciation. San Marco is also an instructive example of the alignment of art and architecture that ultimately came to define the city as a hallmark of its timeless glory.
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