Daisy Beatriz Diaz has lived in Florence, Italy for the last decade. The mother of three (Manuel, 4, Pietro, 2, Margherita, 10 months) understands what it’s like to be a busy mum traveling with kids, so she offers her super cute gifts store, Baby Bottega, as a rest point for mothers who need somewhere to breastfeed when traveling with kids in Florence. She tells suitcases&strollers why she thinks Florence is the best family holiday destination in Italy for kids and adults.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Florence with kids? What makes it different from other cities in Italy?
Florence is the perfect family holiday destination. Think large open Renaissance piazzas for running around (and unforgettable pics!), miles of pedestrian streets for curious wanderers, free sidewalk entertainment, pizza and ice cream meals while parents sip their wine…just heaven!
The city offers countless museums and gardens to visit in addition to being small enough to manage almost entirely by foot. As opposed to Venice (a stroller nightmare with the canal bridges) and Rome (traffic madness) this is a city that is pretty compact and easy to maneuver using it’s simple bus routes and pedestrian-only city center.
[For more travel tips on Italy with kids, see the humourous suitcases&strollers story Dos and Don’ts In Italy for Kids.]
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Florence?
Visiting the carousel located in Piazza della Repubblica is a little like stepping into a scene from the Mary Poppins movie. Entirely hand-carved and painted by Florentine artisans, a visit to this lovely attraction in the very centre of town is hard to miss. Since the beginning of the 19th century it’s been a rendezvous point for children and a much-awaited treat after hours of shopping or visiting museums with parents.
Where are your kids’ favourite place in Florence to hang out?
My boys blaze a trail of freedom running wild in the Boboli Gardens. Designed for the Medici family in the 16th century, this is not just a park. Eleven acres of sculptures, fountains and grottos make for a surreal picnic setting and afternoon. (Just across the entrance you can buy fresh schiacciata, Tuscan bread with olive oil and prosciutto ham!)
What is the best free activity to do with kids in Florence?
If you are lucky enough to be in town during the patron saint day of Saint John the Baptist every June 24, you’ll catch the traditional Renaissance parade in town with flag throwers, drummers, detailed costumes and aristocrats on horseback in full original regalia. As the sun sets over the Ponte Vecchio everyone gets a spot by the Arno River to view the gorgeous fireworks that will end the day of festivities. (The only downfall is that many stores may be closed on this day as this is a holiday for Florentines).
Any other day of the year a visit to the hilltop area of San Miniato al Monte and Piazzale Michelangelo will be remembered as an adventure and rewarded with postcard views of the city and surrounding hillside.
Where is the best place to take kids in Florence when the weather is bad?
The Children’s Museum (Museo dei Ragazzi di Palazzo Vecchio) inside of the Palazzo Vecchio is a must. With a perfect replica of Michelangelo’s David to welcome you, our city hall has a lofty tower (where my boys swear to have seen a red dragon) and an ominous medieval facade that conceal stunning rooms with Renaissance frescoed ceilings, a theater and now a multimedia area. While the boys are busy looking at swords and armor the girls will be in heaven with the display of gowns made for the court of the Medici family.
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Florence?
Visiting artisans in their studios is an experience unique to Florence. While some artisans are more appropriate for certain ages my boys (aged 2 and 4) already adore visiting the painters and restorers with my husband who deals in Old Master paintings. Guided tours can be arranged to reveal the beautiful crafts and traditions of jewelers, carvers, bronze smiths and more.
Some of my other favourite museums for kids in Florence are:
[For more travel tips on visiting art galleries and museums with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Florentine experience?
A carriage ride is always magical. To hear the clatter of hoofs on the ancient cobblestones as you pass the tiny ally ways and maybe Dante Aligheri’s house or Leonardo da Vinci’s studio is a fascinating experience back in time. Carriages can be found in Piazza della Signoria and in front of the Duomo (Cathedral of Florence) Piazza Santa Maria Fiore.
[For more travel tips on Italy with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Tours of Italy: The Amalfi Coast With Kids.]
Which is the best place to stay if you are on family vacation in Florence?
Grand Hotel Minerva, located in the Piazza of Santa Maria Novella, is perhaps the most centrally located and convenient. A few feet from the train station and central bus routes, this piazza is a wonderful hub for families that want to keep things easy. The rooftop pool, spacious family rooms and the bounty of nearby restaurants and stores make this one of our favorite places for our guests to check in.
(An extra treat is visiting one of the oldest pharmacy’s in the world (Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella) which is located just next door and offers the best gifts and skincare products for both adults and children.)
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Florence with kids?
After a decade in Florence, I still seem to find out new things just about the street that we live on! There is so much to see and so much history to absorb that I always recommend families take 4 to 6 days as a great introduction. If you can include a trip to the countryside known as the Chianti region with a stay at an agriturismo before or after your trip to the city it would be a good glimpse into the famous vineyards surrounding the city.
When is the best time of year to visit Florence?
September has always been our favorite time of year in Florence. After the summer holidays, locals start to drizzle back into the city, the weather is ideal and the start of the oil and wine harvest provides amazing dishes on the menus. December is also a lovely time with all the streets dressed in lights and local holiday markets in the piazzas.
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly meals in Florence?
· Fosso Bandito Set on the skirts of the huge Cascine Park, this restaurant and pizzeria has a great playground and, in summer, an outdoor movie area.
· Cucina Torcicoda A few steps from the gorgeous church of
Santa Croce, this lively restaurant has a wonderful menu and provides a great
location for a break between the sightseeing.
· La Cucina del Garga Set in what seems to be an artist’s studio the chef, Alessandro Gargani, is excellent at providing gluten-free alternatives (hard to find throughout the city).
What are your tips for kids' shops in Florence?
My store, Baby Bottega, of course!
Loretta Caponi offers a wide selection of gorgeous heirloom pillows, blankets and clothing embroidered by Florentine ladies.
What is the best way to move around Florence with kids?
With a stroller and good walking shoes.
What are your top 3 tips for families traveling to Florence with kids?
1. With so many things to see and do, adhere to a flexible agenda. Book one must-see event and keep meals flexible. If you must, do like Italians do and take a break around 5pm for a gelato!
[How much gelato on holidays is too much? suitcases&strollers chatted to a nutritionist to find out in our story Healthy Eating for Kids on Family Holidays.]
2. Bring a good lightweight stroller (think cobblestones!) and walking shoes. Families tend to underestimate what locals mean when they say “just around the corner” and it may mean a 15 minute walk with tired children in tow.
3. Prior to the holiday, read to the children about the era of the Renaissance and historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Medici family. They’ll take a step back in time and truly enjoy a city that has so much to offer them!
Images: FOTOTECA ENIT