When planning a child friendly holiday that will suit the whole family, there really couldn’t be a better destination than Tuscany. There is so much to do and see there that suits any one of any age. Every one is sure to feel that there was some thing for them by the end of the trip.
The best and most economical way to see Tuscany is to rent a self catering apartment or villa in a country area for a week. Just because your accommodation comes with a kitchen, doesn’t mean you need to use it but often being able to have the familiar snacks and breakfast foods on hand will contribute an enormous comfort factor for your children.
With an apartment or villa, rather than hotel rooms it means that every one has a communal space to gather and relax in, kids can watch early morning children’s programs on television (they don’t seem to notice which language cartoons are in) and Mums and Dads can have that after dinner quiet time, all in peace and privacy.
Make sure, when you book your accommodation that the agency has it’s feet on the ground in Italy and can provide you with first hand answers to your questions. Many agencies are actually based in your home country and the person recommending the property may not even have seen it, let alone have any experience of your destination. At InTuscany.net we personally inspect every property frequently and in case of problems, have a close working relationship directly with our property owners.
Which ever part of Tuscany you want to see, every part of the province is so jam packed with things to do and experience that you will be stuck for choice. Each night when you return to the same place and each morning when you wake up in the same beds, your children will relish the familiarity.
Note: For people travelling with very young babies we recommend that even if your child is provided with a cot or crib by the accommodation provider, it is worth putting a used pillow slip or blankie in with your packing to provide the comforting smell and feel of home.
The whole family will find it more relaxing to be in the country with day trips to the city rather than the other way around. Most accommodation comes with a swimming pool or at least open green spaces. Morning cultural excursions can be balanced with healthy steam letting of activities closer to home (whilst parents snooze in the shade) each day.
You don’t need to be concerned about meals in restaurants. All Italians love children and will bend over back wards to welcome them, smiling benignly at even the most shocking monsters. If your children can handle the later nights, no Italian will think it at all unusual for you to take them, no matter how small, out to a restaurant in the evening.
Many country restaurants also have lovely gardens or spacious piazzas where the children can play rowdy games with in eye sight, whilst the parents finish their wine. It is also quite acceptable to send older children to the near by bar to buy cheaper commercial ice creams after dinner whilst the parents indulge in the more expensive and delicious desserts at the table.
Of course the biggest challenge for any parent is how to get a city dose of culture with a gaggle of children who couldn’t care less.
For older children who may be able to better appreciate what you are looking at we recommend Dorling Kindersley guide books (available at all major book sellers). They provide simple low downs, suggested itineraries and lots of pictures and diagrams that will help the children to better understand things in a visual way.
There are also many things especially for children in Italian cities, you just need to know what they are and how to find them.
Of course every one wants to see the Uffizi Gallery when they go to Florence. The first thing to avoid is waiting in a long line with impatient children. Call this number to make a booking ahead of time +39 055 294 883 and waltz ahead of all the others not in the know. Before you do, pop into the book shop of the Museum, (across from the entrance) where you can buy very good children’s activity books in English that will keep them moving along through the galleries and interested in them whilst you have some time to enjoy the paintings.
There are also Museums especially for children in Florence.
Actually three museums in one: Palazzo Vecchio, Museo di Storia della Scienza and the Museo Stibbert. They target young people from 8 a 88 and have a special section for the very young - from 3 to 7 - The Playroom of Bia and Garcia laboratory-atelier.
You can find out more about this here: http://www.museoragazzi.it/
If the bell tower or dome of the cathedral are open, climbing up there exhausts and occupies every one, it makes the children sleep and frees up some space for you to indulge in an extra course with your dinner. The best idea here is to head for the Cathedral first thing as the lines get longer during the day and there is no way to book.
The baptistery is also rather stunning with the interior all done in gold mosaic and doesn’t take long to take in, thus catering to short attention spans.
A walk around the Boboli gardens is another thing that most children like to do, they can run through the mazes and up and down the complex path ways, there are plenty of diverting fountains and hide and seek opportunities. You will be able to enjoy the gorgeous renaissance landscape architecture. The views back over the city are well worth the climb.
If your staying in the city and really need some down time try the Piscina Bellariva Lungarno. Aldo Moro 6 (055 678 841). Open summer 10am-6pm daily; 8.30-11pm Monday to Friday; Winter 8.30-11pm Tues,Thurs; 9.30am-12.30pm Sat, Sun. Separate pools for young and old, next to lawns for lounging under shady trees.
Ludoteca Centrale, Piazza SS Annunziata 13 (055 248 0477) Open 9am-1pm, 3-6.45pm, Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 9am-1pm Sat. Situated close to Brunelleschi's 'Ospedale degli Innocenti', this play centre is free and includes a library for children as well as toys.
In Florence, there is a playplace called Mondo Bimbo, located just northeast of the Piazza della Liberta. It is a big indoor playspace with many different jumping and climbing structures, the oversized inflatable kind. There are also small riding toys, chairs for the parents, and snack machines. Their sign says that it is for children aged 2-10, but I would say it’s best for 2-6 year olds. It’s an excellent change of pace for when the little ones have overdosed on great art. The phone number is +39 055 5532946.
In Florence you can also tour the city by horse and carriage.
Siena also has a fantastic bell tower that every one will love climbing up, it gives you a wonderful over view of this walled medieval city and burns off a lot of steam.
Younger children will be amused for hours chasing the pigeons in the Campo below whist their parents take a leisurely coffee or glass of wine at the tables that border the square.
Il Museo del Bosco, (The Museum of the Woods); is a collection of materials and stories from the people who used to live in the nearby woodland 40 years ago. An ethnographic museum which includes walks and trails to discover more, as well as the animals and vegetation of the forest.
Tel. 0577 582323-0577 582336
Opening hours: Friday and Saturday 9.30 alle 12.30
Other days and times with advance booking
adult € 2,07
Reduced: € 1,03
THE PALIO has been described as the most exciting 5 minutes of your life and is recommended for older children, parents of young children should know that the intense heat, the crowds and the long waiting periods to see the race might be too much.
A special note about Siena, not all bars have public bathrooms, we recommend the Nannini Bar on the left as you head down the corso toward the main piazza or at the bottom of the corso are actually some public toilets. At the top is MacDonalds, they have nice clean toilets and the French fries provide a sugar free bribe.
Right at the top of the main corso in Arezzo is the most beautiful park, shaded by a stately pine glade and equipped with views, plenty of benches and a very imaginative and plentiful selection of children’s climbing equipment.
Ponte a Poppi; Zoo Park of European Fauna, open all year.
Arezzo also has a number of festivals that will amuse children.
In June,the ‘Giostra del Saracino'; which is an old medieval joust played on horseback. It was brought back in 1931 in order to revive the atmosphere of the 14th C. After some breathtaking flag waving the cavaliers gallop towards a puppet trying to give it a blow with a lance.
If every one is sick of Italian food there is a reasonable good and very inexpensive Chinese restaurant in Arezzo and most kids like Chinese food. Its right off the main corso:
DRAGO DI GIADA
Tel: (0575) 23205
36, V. MADONNA DEL PRATO 52100
If you call them they will also accommodate you out side of normal restaurant hours.
NEAR AREZZO is the medieval town of LUCIGNANO. Each May on the second to last and last Sunday they have "La Maggiolata" which is a procession of flower covered wagons with folk groups and musical bands.
CHIUSI:The historical center of Chiusi is very charming and undiscovered as well as pedestrian only. They also have a spooky subterranean Etruscan Tomb tour that is sure to take the imagination of your young ones. The tour is mainly under ground with a thrilling moment when the guide turns off all the lights (you will be asked first if you want to experience this) Just approach the Pro Loco (tourist office) in the centre and they will arrange a guide for the same day. Please note that the passage ways are quite narrow, do not attempt this tour if you cannot fit into a standard economy air line seat!
SAN GIMIGNANO:There are various castles and monasteries there. San Gimignano with all it’s towers tends to excite their imagination, most Tuscan school children go there on an excursion at least once during their elementary school years. Children’s books on medieval life might be a good way to prepare them and help them get a feel for it all before you arrive.
PIENZA: Another place where children can burn off steam in the pedestrian zone whilst you relax at the table. When in Pienza do the palace tour, it is in English, not too long and also interesting for the children. The best ice cream is at ‘La Dolce Sosta’ which is half way down the corso on the left (other side and down from the palace.)
Sorano, Parco Archeologico "La città del Tufo" ; The archaeological park "City of Tufa", la Città del Tufo, contains numerous remains from the bronze age and the Etruscan period. The park is located in a beautiful, natural landscape that has only been open to the public since 1998.
It covers three areas of great natural and scenic interest: Sovana, and its profusion of Etruscan necropolis, Vitozza with its 200 rocky caves shadowed by the ruins of the medieval castle above, and, finally, Sorano, site of the impregnable Orsini fortress which today hosts a medieval museum.
Older children will also enjoy Etruscan tomb walking at Pitigliano, the Etruscans excavated pathways several meters deep that connected their villages, these passages can still be traversed today and are intriguing as well as good exercise. (every one should wear sandals or sneakers for this excursion)
Of course the main attraction for children at Grossetto is the beach. Bicycles can also be hired here and there for family rides through the pine glades that flank the beaches
POPULONIA, The Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia; this Park is the site of the some of the most important remains of the Etruscan civilisation, together with the nearby San Silvestro Archaeological and Mineral Park in Campiglia Marittima. Visitors follow a winding path through the landscape of coastal pine forests and Mediterranean scrub to discover the famous necropolis.
CECINA, Water Park; the 'Acquapark' at Cecina Mare.
MARINA DI CASTAGNETO - DONORATICO, CAVALLINO MATTO; funpark dedicated to the family and includes swimming pools, minigolf, miniature trains, water slides, aquarium etc
The Palio Marinaro is rowing race which takes place the second Sunday in July in the open sea in front of la Terrazza Mascagni, between il Porto and i Bagni Pancaldi.
The races are strictly for youth under 18 years of age rowing boats that are 10 meters long with 10 oars men (or women). It ends with a big beach party that every one can participate in.
Sagra del Pesce (fish festival) at Castiglioncello: Every year at, in the località di (suburb of) Caletta, in June the locals celebrate la sagra del pesce during which they cook literally tons of fish in a frying pan four meters wide. Castiglioncello i san enchanting placet o stop amidst pine glades and the sea and whilst there you can also visita n Etruscan-roman necropalis ony discovered in 1907.
COLLODI, PARCO DI PINOCCHIO: Al the classic characters from the story of Pinocchio by Carlo Lorenzini at the town of Collodi, which is also the pen name of the writer. You can get more information here:www.pinocchio.it
ABETONE, The nature Trail; The forest botanical Garden is situated in the high valley of Sestaione at 4000 feet above sea level and covers 3.5 acres. This woodland hosts a wide variety of tree and plant species as well as a stream and all the species of flora present in the mountains of Pistoia.
The virtual museum is great for pre trip preparation; two thousand pages and four thousand images distributed via internet and subdivided into sections related to art and tourism, all interlinked by different navigational routes: the tourist section is a journey in the company of six characters through the history of Pisa, from the 12th century to the present day. www.alfea.it
PECCIOLI, Prehistoric Park; life sized reconstructed dinosaurs and their habitat. Includes Tyrannosaurus Rex, Mammoths, as well as a volcano, bears and cavemen. More information here: http://www.parcopreistorico.it/index.htm
'Carnevale dei ragazzi' at CALCI in February for this children's carnival; Floats in procession and entertainment for children.
'Festa dei bimbi' at CASCIANA TERME, 25 August; fireworks and hot air balloon rides are the theme of this children's festival
PIETRASANTA, the holiday train or 'Trenino delle Vacanze'; a colourful train runs along the coast of Marina di Pietrasanta during the summer season until the town centre and offers a fantastic view of the beauty of the location. The route takes in Le Nocette, Motrone, Tonfano, Fiumetto, Pietrasanta and back again. www.artemare.net
'Carnevale a Viareggio', February. Perhaps the most celebrated festival during Italy's carnival period.
Castello dell'Imperatore or the 'Emperor's Castle'; ancient (XIII century), imposing castle built for Frederick II of Svevia.
Piazza delle Carceri
Hours: Summer;:9,30-12,30, 15,30-19.00 Winter: 8,30-12,30, 15-17,30
Holiday hours: 9-12,30
Closet on Tuesdays
This massive construction is any ones idea of a castle and will excite young imaginations. It has the stair cases, the towers, the boiling oil shoots, the moat and drawbridge etc.
AULLA, Natural History Museum; important exhibition highlighting this unique area called the 'Lunigianese'. Includes 2000 examples of rare plants from the Apuane Alps famous for its marble. Also a botanical park for nature trails with export guides.
The Castles of Lunigiana; impressive network of defences still visible today gives an insight into Lunigiana's past as a border territory. Includes the famous Masalpina di Fosdinovo Castle being restored to its full glory.
EQUI TERME, FIVIZZANO, LE GROTTE DI EQUI; 'La Buca di Equi' is an underground system which has yet to be completely explored created by the gushing waters which run off the Apuan Alps. Visitors can reach 4km into the system. At the entrance there is also a small museum to understand how prehistoric man developed during the bronze age.
Thermal baths, great for winter down time and also as a jet lag cure, children and parents all love a day wallowing in the curative waters.
At Bagno Vignoni or any other thermal spa you can have a day wallowing in the thermal waters (bring your bathers) an excellent cure for jet lag as well as child pleaser.
SATURNIA, Cascate del Molino; The Romans were the first to build a thermal baths here making use of the natural hot springs. The swimming pool is naturally formed by the waterfall of Molino. The water arrives in a huge pool and the constant temperature of 37.5°C
There is much, much more for children in Tuscany, we have just let you in on the tip of the ice burg. The main thing that we love about Tuscany is that children are integrated into life here and not kept apart or ignored. They are regarded as one of the great joys of life rather than a burden, the Italian culture embraces all children in the most joyous and open way.
It is not uncommon for complete strangers to offer your children sweeties in the street, whilst this might be alarming for prudent Anglo Saxon parents it is accepted as part of the culture here. Parents of young babies will receive many admiring glances and some times people stopping to gaze into your babies carriage.
The population of Italy is diminishing as economic and space concerns limit the number of children that upwardly mobile Italians will produce, thus making the culture of babies and children even more precious.
The magic of Tuscany gets into the heart of young and old alike. Once you have been here, you will want to return again and again, whether you are 9 or 90.
Here is a list of properties that we think are particularly child friendly and why.
Please don't limit your choice to these few, most of the properties on our site are wonderful for children. There are a few that are not so great and if you ask us we will tell you which ones they are.
- VILLA PAPALE: Villa Papale is a two-storey villa preserving the elements typical of the Tuscan rustic style combined with all modern comforts. Unspoilt views towards Montepulciano over the Chiana valley complete the scenario. (Type: Villa - sleeps 10+3)
- VILLA LE CRETE: Villa Le Crete is a charming, newly-renovated cottage set on a hilltop surrounded by the rounded clay hills of the so-called “Crete Senesi”. The views are those of the English Patient and you can clearly see the Abbey where it has been filmed few hundred meters away as the bird flies. (Type: Villa - sleeps 4+2)
- SAN DONATO: San Donato is a perfect and elegant haven. With the vineyards spreading out in to infinity, sitting on the terrace there is a dream come true. (Type: Villa - sleeps 4)
- COLONICA GIGLI: Colonica Gigli is a typical apartment in a Tuscan farmhouse, characterized by a lovely stone court yard and surrounded by a large private garden. The property, situated amidst the Chianti hills, is completely fenced and offers total privacy. (Type: Villa - sleeps 4+2)
- CASA OLIVETO: Casa Oliveto is a pretty perfect holiday villa. It has every thing in place for a fabulous holiday. Every thing has been carefully considered to provide you with a dream vacation that you’ll never forget. (Type: Villa - sleeps 10)
- BORGO DEI SETTE TIGLI: Borgo dei Sette Tigli is located in the verdant hills surrounding Montepulciano providing extensive views in a refined environment where everything is perfectly in place for a vacation you'll never forget. (Type: Farmhouse)
- BORGO IL SODO: Borgo Il Sodo is an elegant and comfortable Tuscan country hamlet conveniently located close to Cortona. (Type: Farmhouse)
- COLONICA VAL D'ELSA: Colonica Val d’Elsa is a total delight with the vineyards spreading out in to infinity it has every element perfectly in place for a fabulous Tuscan holiday. (Type: Farmhouse)
- RIPA D'ORCIA: Ripa d'Orcia is perfectly located near to San Quirico d'Orcia and Montalcino. Perched on a hill covered with vineyards and overlooking the valley. The apartments are comfortable and spacious, equipped with everything you will need for a perfect holiday. (Type: Farmhouse)
- PODERE DELLE CRETE: Podere delle Crete is a large 16th century farm-estate located in Crete Senesi area between Monteroni d’Arbia and Asciano. Some of the apartments have private garden space where you can relax and some others have views on the idyllic surrounding scenery. (Type: Farmhouse)