Tuscany with your family: a practical guide
30 January 2020
With its breathtaking views, unforgettable works of art and unique buildings, Tuscany promises a holiday full of change of scenery, culture and gastronomy. You will visit the mother region of Italy. Yes! This is where Italian literature, language and architecture were born. This is due to an age-old rivalry between the three main cities in the region. This competition gave rise, in the Middle Ages, to a competition that was not equalled in Europe in that era.
You wish to organise a family stay in an area that is both urban and preserved? But you also want water parks, cultural treasures, beaches and top-of-the-range hotels? Don’t hesitate any longer, Tuscany is your destination! Florence, Pisa and Siena are therefore rich in a thousand treasures that months of visits would not allow discovering in their entirety. The Tuscan hinterland is also absolutely stunning in its beauty… The proof is that many show business personalities have recently married there (George Clooney, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for example). So how to choose? What should we see there in priority? Don’t panic, you’re in good hands! We’ve put together a little practical guide for you that will allow you to get to the essentials while strolling efficiently… Let’s go!
1. The essential
- The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge, in Italian) is an inhabited bridge that symbolizes the city of Florence. This building is both a pedestrian street and a shopping mall. A mecca for luxury jewellery and goldsmithing, it overlooks the Arno River between the Oltrarno (left bank) and the Lungarno (right bank). You can’t miss it.
- Prepare a programme of the Florentine museums you wish to visit before your departure and remember to buy your tickets in advance. Between visits, lose yourself in the long streets of the city and go in search of the most beautiful of the thousand typical shops waiting for you at every corner. To avoid tiring out your little ones’ legs, you can opt for the famous hop-on/hop-off every other day. You can get on and off this red open-top bus whenever you like.
- The Uffizi Gallery houses one of the oldest art collections in the world. The building has around 50 rooms displaying paintings dating from the 13th to the 18th century. Among the most famous works, they have Botticelli‘s Birth of Venus, three works by Leonardo da Vinci, a painting by Michelangelo and several paintings by Caravaggio.
- Not far away, behind Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens is the most famous park in Florence. It was once the residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Today, this beautiful shady area offers a haven of peace in the heart of the city. It allows you to rest your legs in the sun while your baby is resting quietly.
- Change of scenery… In the centre of the city of Siena, you will find Piazza del Campo. This shell-shaped square was custom-built for the Palio, an ancestral festival in which the different districts of the city compete in a frantic race on horseback. The festival is held twice a year: on July 2nd and August 16th; and the electric atmosphere is inimitable. Do you like climbing and thrills? Climb the 88-metre high Torre del Mangia. The view of Siena is breathtaking.
- Once in Pisa, you won’t miss the famous Tower to which all the streets of the city converge. As you stroll down an alleyway, you will be seized by the gigantic graffiti by the renowned artist Keith Haring. While in Pisa in 1989, the artist gave the municipality a gift of a huge drawing called Tuttomondo (the whole world), painted on one of the facades of the convent of the Church of San Antonio. There is nothing better than to walk along the calm waters of the Arno River. Don’t miss the Natural History Museum, which houses one of the oldest scientific collections in the world. Another museum is also worth a visit: the Museum of Ancient Ships, created after the excavation of many Roman ships.
- If you chose to travel by car, you won’t regret it. You will drive through the characteristic hills of the Tuscan countryside lined with long, centuries-old cypress trees. You should be aware that some small villages require cars to park below. This is the case in San Gimignano, and the peace there is well worth depriving yourself of your car. Once there, admire the splendid Torre Grossa, which reigns over the city. Stroll along the famous Piazza del Duomo and admire the endless sweep of coachmen and local life.
- Feel like taking a refreshing bath? Don’t go to the wrong beach, as the coast is wild in places and some sites are covered with pebbles. Nevertheless, Tuscany has some of the most beautiful bathing areas in the country. The beach at Punta Ala, in the province of Grosseto, has everything to please you. It is welcoming, clean, accessible and kids-friendly. A day spent lazing around will delight young and old alike.
- Tuscany has a breathtaking archipelago of islands that it would be a shame not to visit. The largest of them is Elba. To easily book your trip, with or without a car, simply visit the Elba Island ferry booking site. Please note that all the islands of Tuscany participate in the Pelagos programme for the protection of marine mammals. Keep your eyes open during the crossing, you may well see some of the preserved dolphins!
2. Hotels for families
- The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is a five-star hotel set in a sumptuous park, just 10 minutes walk from Florence city centre. Look no further, this is the most beautiful hotel in the city. It also has the merit of being super kid-friendly. Elegance and refinement mingle, the quality of the services is unbeatable… You won’t believe it.
- On the beachside, a comfortable and intimate hotel complex awaits you: the Baglioni Cala del Porto. Renowned for its excellent service and breathtaking views on the Elba island, this chic destination won’t disappoint you, especially since you can eat divinely well here.
- On the countryside, there is the Agriturismo Cafaggio in the province of Pisa. Italian expertise is still present in this old farmhouse. The Cafaggio restaurant is incredible, the breakfast is sumptuous and in the evening you can relax with a glass of fresh wine or homemade juices just a stone’s throw from the swimming pool.
3. Kid-friendly restaurants
- In Tuscany, simple pasta al sugo (pasta with tomato sauce) is perfect for children. The irresistible pizza al taglio (pizza slices cut into squares that shops sell to take away) or the delicious homemade ice creams are just as suitable for them. Meanwhile, the grown-ups quietly enjoy a Chianti Classico or a pappardelle al cinghiale (large pasta with wild boar stew); everyone is delighted. But where is the best place to eat? Follow the guide…
- With a family with children, we are sometimes confronted with very different desires. The Central Market of San Lorenzo in Florence is the perfect place to satisfy everyone’s appetite. The dozens of stalls will make your mouth water. Local specialities, ice creams, pastries and fresh fruit juices are all within easy reach!
- In Pisa, along the Arno River, let your nose go wild. If the restaurant you’ve spotted doesn’t look too touristy, if it’s friendly, if it offers a children’s menu and the tablecloth is checked, you’re probably in one of those osterias that the city is famous for. For dessert, we would like to take you to the best ice-cream in town. The menu is impressive, there is something for every taste, for every appetite, for vegans as well as for choco-addicts… Its name? Gelateria Tuffo 13. Address? Lungarno Gambacorti, 13… Run there!
- Now let’s go to Siena. In this mysterious city nestled on the heights of a quiet mountain, away from the crowds, the Osteria Degli Svitati (via della Galluzza, 34) has many surprises waiting for you. We are received with a smile and in French. The setting is pleasant and intimate. The dishes are authentic: you can savour ultra-fresh pasta with homemade sauces, finish with delicious desserts and the children’s menu is very complete. The restaurant provides comfortable high chairs so that the youngest guests can sit at the table like little queens and kings… Who can top that?
- If you venture into the medieval villages between Pisa and Florence, halfway along the way you will find a pretty village called San Miniato. The owner of the Caffè Centrale, Anthony, specialises in hot chocolate and regional cuisine. With a breathtaking view over the valley, in a refined art-deco setting, you will taste the best of the region. The dishes are fresh, the atmosphere is elegant and friendly at the same time, children and vegans benefit from a tailor-made menu.
4. Water parks
Tuscany offers the best refreshing parks. We have selected for you the three best destinations:
- In Cecina, not far from the coast, there’s Acqua Village. This huge park is a place for adrenaline and relaxation. Hundreds of metres of slides are at your disposal. The stunning Loko is worthy to mention for guaranteed thrills. Also, there are four pools of all sizes, including a wave pool…
- At Sunlight Park there is something for everyone… It is a family water park with 6 sensational slides. You can spend the whole day there because all the comfort is at hand.
- Close to Pisa, don’t miss the Piccolo Mondo water park. Swimming pools for all ages, amazing slides and a multitude of inflatable games await you… In addition to this, there are many attractions, shows and even a go-kart track. Your children will come back enchanted by this immersive experience in the land of pirates…
5. Getting around
Tuscany can be reached from the international airports of Pisa and Florence. Taxis are still the best way to get to your hotel, but make sure you use an official taxi.
Renting a car can be expensive in Italy and yet it is the best way to discover the Tuscan hinterland. Fortunately, some operators such as Europcar regularly propose advantageous offers, with the possibility of renting a child seat.
6. Weather & climate
Florence can be pretty hot in the summer. The Elba island, the coast, Siena or Pisa are pleasant in all seasons and particularly suitable in summer. The Tuscan climate is dry and temperate, some very brief rainy episodes sometimes bring a beneficial coolness in July.
7. What to pack for your children?
As always when travelling, don’t bother with the superfluous. A foldable stroller is certainly essential to get on board a ferry quickly, but be aware that in Tuscany, many lanes are paved… You should therefore also bring a baby carrier for the city part of your trip.
A total protection sunscreen adapted to your baby’s fragile skin is highly recommended on the beach, in water parks and even on city trips. For all other details, consult our travel checklist for babies aged 0 to 3 years old. Toddlers aged 3 to 6 and children aged 6 to 12 also have a dedicated checklist.
There you have it, you know everything! Unforgettable encounters and inimitable flavours are within reach, in the land of the dolce vita…
Julien, 35 years old, journalist and translator, from Saint-Malo, France