Raise your hand if you are bone-tired of winter. If you cannot fathom another rainy Saturday inside your microscopic living room as your toddler does speed laps, pausing every now and again to paw at the front door and throw you a stern ?get me out of here’ look.
If you haven’t been able to haul the kiddies to their favorite giardino because every time it rains it turns into an infernal mud pit for the next several days. If you’ve done every activity on Babyzone.com and AmazingMoms.com-twice.
Don’t give in to despair; the remedy is right around the corner at your local ludoteca-a kind of Chuck-E-Cheese’s minus the flashing lights, skee ball and greasy pizza. Or better, a combination of the kids’ section at IKEA, grandma’s dress-up bag and summer camp activities of the macaroni necklace variety.
Florence is positively overflowing with these play centers, some private and some run by the comune, catering to kids ages zero to eight (or so).
Some, like the Bottega dei Ragazzi (Piazza Santissima Annunziata, 13; 055/2478386) are smallish and feature a modest playroom with a library, along with a separate table for arts, crafts and board games for older tots. The Bottega is particularly convenient for families in need of a pit stop while out and about in the center of town. Kids can play, have a bit of story time, socialize with others, use the facilities and recharge their batteries for the rest of the day in grown-up land.
A parent or guardian is a must, though it must be said that the range of involvement varies from hovering to playful, marginally interested and completely indifferent (i.e., shamelessly reading the newspaper in another room.)
Other ludoteche are vast multi-roomed structures that guarantee hours and hours of entertainment. Take the Tana dell’Orso ludoteca (viale E. De Amicis, 21; 055/2767452): not only is it bright and cheery thanks to drawings by TF’s own Leo Cardini, but the enthusiastic staff is ready to engage children of various ages in puppet shows, crafts, and even tasting their ?dishes’ whipped up in the play kitchen.
There is an entire room devoted to arts and crafts, where on one visit I witnessed little girls making impossibly tall princess hats complete with glitter and streaming ribbons-I’ve never seen such happily prancing bambine, let me tell you.
For the younger or less artsy set there is plenty to do in the middle room, which features a puppet stage, massive dress-up bag brimming with real costumes and a huge, soft mattress with a mirror at one end where kids can jump to their hearts’ delight.
The third room is the ?stanza soft’-no sharp corners, a ball pit (how badly do I want to jump in there?), and a slide with a gym mat at the bottom-perfect for newly mobile b?b?s. On sunnier days, the outside area becomes a small playground with a few tricycles and other toys for zooming around.
So there you have it: your local ludoteca is a bright spot in the post-winter-headed-into-rainy-season-how-can-I-entertain-the-kiddo-on-Saturday-mornings daze. Play date, anyone?
Most ludoteche offer a variety of services including activities for kids ages three and up, courses for new parents and expectant mothers, and babysitting. For a list of ludoteche in Florence, see below. Hours vary, though the majority close during lunchtime. Call or visit individual facilities for additional information.
Alexandra Lawrence, TF’s editor-at-large, is a writer, teacher and mother of a Florentine-American baby boy. She loves a good note, so feel free to drop her a line at email@example.com.
Quartiere 1 Bottega dei Ragazzi Piazza SS Annunziata, 13 055/2478386 www.istitutodeglinnocenti.it/mudi/bottega_eng.htmLudoteca Gian Burrasca Via Palazzuolo, 35055/210092Interculturale Il Fuligno Via Faenza, 44 A 055/2399691 or 055/2478386Ludoteca Musicale Via Pietrapiana, 32 055/3860572www.musicarte.it/ludoteca.htmlSpazio Infanzia Nidiaci Via della Chiesa, 48 055/291560Quartiere 2 Ludoteca La Tana dell?Orso Viale E. De Amicis, 21 055/2767452Quartiere 3Ludoteca Il Castoro Piazza Artusi, 23 055/6810517Monthly program available at www.comune.fi.it Quartiere 4 La Carozza di HansVia Canova, 170/b 055/7877734Ludoteca Internazionale La Mondolfiera Via dell?Anconella, 3 055/2207455Call for schedule of English, Spanish, Portuguese and French story hours (Monday afternoons only)L?Albero di Alice Via del Cavallaccio, 10 055/780216La Fattoria dei Ragazzi Via dei Bassi, 12 055/733136Quartiere 5 Il Castello dei Balocchi Via del Pontormo, 92 055/454395La Prua Via della Sala, 2 055/315173