While most people think of Tuscany as a playground for adults due to its wine, art, gorgeous landscapes and sophisticated food, its artistic heritage also makes it a very kid friendly place. Italians understand that art plays an especially important part in the lives of children and there are plenty of opportunities to inspire and engage them on your trip. Why not harness this and allow your children to create unforgettable memories in some of Italy’s most alluring places?
5 tips for traveling in Tuscany with kids
Before you get going, it may be helpful to consider the following five tips for traveling with children in Italy:
- Some hotels offer discounts for children, such as second rooms at half off or free breakfast for children under 6. Be sure to inquire before you book.
- Plan ahead if visiting locations requiring a lot of walking or driving by being prepared with extra sunscreen and snacks. It may also be wise to do some pre-vacation preparation to get kids interested in visiting Italy. Reading stories (such as those about medieval nights or Pinocchio) that have their roots in things the children will soon experience is a great way to keep their interest piqued.
- It is also good to plan ways to engage the kids between destinations once you’ve arrived. If you make the journey as fun as the arrival, they are sure to have a better time. Why not play a unique game of “I Spy” using newly learned Italian words, listing things that are unique about Italy versus back home, favorite memories so far or even learning an Italian children’s song and singing together. For older kids, having them read the map or feel otherwise helpful to the trip is a great way to keep them engaged.
- Allow the whole family to help decide where you will go and what you will see. If each child is able to pick a place they want to visit, they will be more excited to go and try something new.
- Make reservations. In Italy, you can make reservations for most museums online. Standing in line for hours is never a good way to spend your precious time in Italy.
4 things to do with kids in Tuscany
Palazzo Vecchio – Florence
This medieval palace, outside of which the David by Michelangelo once stood, today is a museum and government office building. You can take advantage of the museum’s host of kid and family activities offered in English upon reservation (see here). These 1-2 hour tours are sure to keep even the most fickle travelers entertained. One possible option whisks visitors away into the daily life of the Medici family. Children and adults will learn about what being part of one of the most famous families in the world meant and how their days were different from ours today. Guides will dress in costume and speak in historic language, further adding to the appeal. The Palazzo Vecchio also offers an adventure with fresco painting. Children will be able to try their hand at creating art, just like the old masters used to do.
Parco di Pinocchio – Collodi (PT)
If being outside is more your family’s ideal, consider the Parco Pinocchio near Pistoia. Many people are familiar with this famous tale about a wooden boy and a nose that can’t lie, but few know that he actually has roots in Tuscany. The author Carlo Lorenzini (Collodi) was from Florence. Collodi, where the park is located, is where the author’s mother was from, and he took the town’s name as his pen-name. The park itself is a large garden space where characters from the book and movie are depicted in statues or topiary. These artistic renditions of famous parts of the book are sure to delight any Pinocchio fans. There are some rides, though we’ve heard that they are not terribly up to date, so consider this more a garden than a theme park.
Garzoni Garden and the butterfly house are two other parks within walking distance and both are wonderful to visit as well. Garzoni boasts fountains, statues, beautiful flowers and a picture perfect Tuscan landscape. The butterfly house, open from March to October, has a more exotic setting that is populated by thousands of colorful butterflies.
Leonardo Museum – Vinci
An hour west of Florence is the newly renovated and just reopened Leonardo Museum. It contains many drawings and models of Da Vinci’s various inventions. Many exhibits are interactive and encourage curious children to participate. You can take a guided tour exploring Leonardo, “The Technologist and Engineer” or “Leonardo’s Gaze” on his artistic pursuits. There is also a tour called, “Leonardo’s Machines” in which, through an interactive, hands-on lesson, children can try out working models of various inventions. While you’re there, take some time to explore Leonardo’s hometown and maybe inhale some of the same air that inspired him centuries ago.
Chianti Sculpture Park
The Chianti Sculpture park, which we’ve described for parents here, is also a really good place to help well-behaved children approach art, since the sculptures are all in a natural setting. Although the provided app does not have a channel designed for children, this kind of art is very open to interpretation and you might actually let your kid be the guide for you! Ask her what the works represent and you’ll get surprising, untainted impressions.