Florence with Kids

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 our tips for cities with kids), you can make this city approachable and fun.

Shannon Kenny, the editor of Italiakids.com, outlines in her guest post today how to see Florence highlights with kids. An Italophile through and through, Shannon also runs a wonderful summer camp in Italy called Art Al Sole. Families who want to combine a visit with structured activities tailored just for kids (Italian style), look no further!

Florence with Kids

The Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River, leading to the Oltrarno

Top Things to Do in Florence with Kids

The magnificent city of Florence has so many marvels to explore that planning a family trip there can seem a bit overwhelming. Yet the beauty of this Renaissance city, perched proudly on the Arno River 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 in a lively, exciting environment in which museums and historical sites are providing more and more unique exhibits and educational programs designed just for children.

Florence with Kids

The vast Boboli Gardens holds pretty vistas at every turn

Oltrarno

When staying in the city during high-traffic seasons such as the summer, the Oltrarno district, just across the river from the Ponte Vecchio, is typically less crowded. It also offers a variety of less touristy dining choices serving authentic Tuscan cuisine, as well as convenient supermarkets. The Oltrarno is much easier to access by car than many of the districts in the historical center with restricted traffic limitations, though parking is costly.

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This neighborhood also boasts some great kid-friendly sites, like the Boboli Gardens at Palazzo Pitti — lots of wide-open space for 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 your 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: Gelateria Santa Trinità directly across from the Ponte Santa Trinità. Try the dark chocolate (fondente)!

Florence with Kids

Statuary in the Uffizi Gallery

Piazza della 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 rides on the antique carousel in Piazza della Repubblica can be just as enjoyable as shuffling through the halls of the Uffizi Gallery.

If you do plan to visit the Uffizi, buy tickets well in advance, and peruse the museum’s exhibits on the Uffizi website with the kids in advance of your visit — 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 select pieces and chat with the kids about their opinions of certain features, such as animals, flowers or facial expressions.

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Palazzo Vecchio

Florence’s Children’s 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.

Florence with Kids

The Duomo is a magnificent sight any time of day or evening

Duomo

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 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.

Florence with Kids

The original golden doors of the Baptistery are on view at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

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.

San Marco

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.

Relevant Links:

Browse all kid-friendly Florence accommodations and activities on Ciao Bambino

52 things to know before traveling to Italy with kids

Best places to go in Italy with kids: Live tips from a CB! expert

Why we love traveling in Italy with children

Savvy kids paint their way through Italy while parents enjoy some free time

Editor’s Note: Photos by Lisa Frederick.

7 Comments

  1. The “La Specola” should be on this list – awesome for kids!

    Zoology ‘La Specola’
    The Section of Zoology ‘La Specola’, founded by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine, was opened to the public in 1775, and it’s the oldest scientific museum in Europe.
    It holds the largest collection of anatomical waxworks in the world, manufactured between 1770 and 1850 and over 3.500.000 animals, of which only 5.000 are in view to the public
    Via Romana, 17
    Tel. +39 055 2288251
    50125 Florence Italy

  2. Hi Anthony, Thank you – indeed La Specola is wonderful for kids! They also offer interesting programs in English for children, like an animal drawing class in the museum with Disney illustrator Mike Wiesmeier available to all ages, and even single lessons for tourists. For more info see http://www.italiakids.com/florence_lessons
    Best,
    Shannon

  3. We took our 4 year-old son to the Da Vinci museum, which is on Via dei Servi not far from the Duomo. And we all had a great time! It is a small museum, mostly filled with wooden reproductions of da Vinci’s inventions and machines, most of which can be handled to make them work. A little pre-reading helped. For good kids books about da Vinci and art in general, the Uffizi bookstore is amazing!

  4. Hi Shannon,

    We enjoyed reading your article about Florence with kids. It’s a great help for parents visiting Florence with kids or teenagers.
    As we have started a website about this “meravigliosa città” we would like to know if you would like like to exchange links with our website.

    Best regards and Buon Nuovo Anno 2013

    Elena&Pero

  5. Can I suggest also the Forest Aerial Adventure Park Il Gigante? It is of a friend, located right in front of the Medici-Demidoff Villa, UNESCO heritage 🙂
    It takes 30 mins of bus ride from Piazza San Marco to get there and you will see how people appreciate the structure and staff!

  6. So I’ll be traveling with my 2.5 year old this October to Florence, are carseats required for traveling?

    • Hello, Our understanding is that Italian law stipulates that a car seat is required, but you’d need to contact the Italian consulate in your area for the exact rules regarding the age and weight requirements for children. Most car rental agencies allow you to rent them, but from a quality perspective, it’s a good idea to bring your own. Safe travels! Best, -Amie

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