What to see and do as a family
Florence is known for being a sophisticated art history hub in Italy, and so it has the potential for being difficult to keep children engaged if you are only visiting the grand art museums. Florence is becoming increasingly family friendly, you just need a few excursions up your sleeve to keep the kids excited.
1. Don’t skip these museums
There are several kid friendly museums that are sure to keep them entertained, while still having a chance to learn about the art and history that Florence has to offer. If you are planning a trip to the Uffizi museum, think about planning a trip to the Galileo Museum afterwards which is located just to the east of this. Let the kids discover the displays of early telescopes and tools and watch them squirm at Galileo's finger preserved in a jar. Other kid friendly museums include the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, which has extensive displays of armour and weapons, the Museo Leonardo da Vinci, showing off his old inventions, and for very young children consider the Museo dei Ragazzi, located in Palazzo Vecchio.
2. Chill out at the Piazzale Michelangelo
Places like this give kids a chance to wander without an agenda, so come and discover this public space with Michelangelo sculpture replicas, and stand in wonder at the magnificent views of the city.
3. Take a ride on the antique carousel
In the summer months, families can take a break from all the walking and go to the Piazza della Repubblica and kids can take a ride on the antique merry-go-round.
4. Get ice cream and walk across the bridge
For a more relaxed sightseeing venture, find the Gelateria la Carraia and get ice cream before wandering across the Ponte alla Carraia. This bridge crosses the river and is a link between Oltrarno and the rest of the city centre.
5. Cross the bridge to Oltrarno
Oltrarno is a part of Florence that is just as beautiful, but typically less crowded than the city centre, so it is ideal for families trying to keep kids entertained. Once you have crossed over the river, the Palazzo Pitti and the accompanying Boboli Gardens are not to be missed. Give the kids time to wander and explore the grounds with its carved grottos, statues, fish ponds, trees, and acres of gardens. There is a supermarket across the road so this could be a great place for a picnic.
6. Climb the dome to see the city from up high
Climbing Il Duomo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence, and slightly older kids will enjoy the challenge of climbing the 463 steps to the top. If you are planning on doing this, it is important to note that booking time slots in advance is mandatory, even if you have already bought entry tickets or hold Firenze Cards. An alternative to climbing Il Duomo is going to Giotto's Bell Tower. This is less busy so there will be less lines for kids to wait in, but with 414 steps, you will still get the same effect looking out onto the city from up high.
7. Spend the morning in the San Lorenzo market
San Lorenzo market is just one of the local markets that have fresh, Tuscan products on offer, and it is a great way to experience a traditional Florentine market. Spend some time letting children sample different local flavours in the Mercato Centrale, then move into the surrounding streets and browse the huge range of locally made goods and souvenirs.
8. Learn how to make Italian cuisine
If you have ever wanted to know how to make pizza and gelato as the Italians do, here is your chance! Companies like Florence Town offer cooking classes that are advertised as family friendly and very hands on. Let the kids get their hands dirty while they learn about Italian food and culture. Make sure to look up times and dates in advance as these can vary and you need to make a reservation in advance. The Florence Town hospitality website can be found here
9. Window shop with kids across Ponte Vecchio
For a unique experience you should walk as a family across the shopping bridge Ponte Vecchio. Kids will love the stories they can tell back home about an entire bridge built up with goldsmith shops.
Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans during their retreat. The Vasari Corridor that connects The Uffizi to Palazzo Pitti, runs above the shops all along the bridge.
Where to stay as a family
Stay outside Florence Historic Centre
The city centre of Florence is busy with pedestrians and cyclists and due to the restricted traffic zone many travellers opt to stay within the city. If you are travelling with children it could be a good idea to stay a bit outside of the city centre so that you are not overwhelmed by people as soon as you step out for your day of exploring.
OR stay in central family apartments
That being said, many accommodation solutions are following the lead of the museums and trying to make visits to Florence more family friendly. There is an increasing number of family sized apartments and B&B's that aim to create a bit of space and privacy for relaxing, while still being close enough to get everywhere on foot from your home base.
Wherever you stay, remember that children are an integral part of everyday life in Italy, so you should be welcome wherever you choose to go.
Eating with kids
In Florence it is easy to get food for kids
In the same way that children are welcome in accommodation, they will be welcome when you are dining out. In general, restaurants in Italy are not marketed for children and often will not have menus especially for children, but it is not out of place to ask for smaller portions or for a plate of plain pasta for your less adventurous travellers. It is generally not considered rude to do this, so stock up on a few key dining phrases in Italian for when you are eating out as a family.
Many open spaces for picnics
Alternatives to eating out could include taking picnic lunches to one of the many public spaces in Florence. Kids and parents alike can relax in one of the parks like Boboli gardens, or public squares like Piazza della Signoria, to take a break from all the walking. You could also do the same thing with the seemingly endless supply of gelato, which will be an especially welcome treat if you are travelling during the hotter months.
The city is totally safe for children: whether your accommodation is in the city center or on the outskirts, you won’t risk anything. In fact, the crime rate is very low in Florence.
On the other hand, it’s a bit of a challenge for families with children considering that the main attractions are museums and all art or history related. I mean, it’s not like Paris where you can find family-friendly attractions such as Disneyland Paris.
By the way, in the last years, Florence accepted that challenge and tried to make the city suitable for children. For example, many of the exhibits – such as those in Palazzo Strozzi – have kid-friendly educational programs in English that guide them through the whole exhibit.