I am about to give you the recipe for a perfect family
Saturday afternoon in Florence. Grab the car, saddle up the motorino or hop on the number 10 bus and get yourself to the Tree Experience
Parco Avventura di Vincigliata in Fiesole because this place rocks.
A mix between a recreational ropes course and a playground, this
adventure park is the answer to your ‘Where are all the trees in Florence?’
question. Though I am not particularly ‘sporty,’ after hearing so many great
things about the park, I decided that a visit was in order. At 21 months, my
little one is still a tad too piccino to swing from trees, so I called in reinforcements in
the form of a teenager I knew would be up for any adventure the day had to
offer: my stepson Lorenzo.
After a quick 25-minute drive, we reached the park
located just below the stunning fourteenth-century Vincigliata. From the
parking lot, we could already hear the excited squeals coming from kids
celebrating a classmate’s birthday.
Because the park caters to families, the ropes course
has three different levels-3m, 7m, 10m-that visitors choose according to height
and skill. As a staff member carefully got Lorenzo properly harnessed and
showed him how to maneuver the course safely, I took in the towering pines that
were positively glowing in the late afternoon light.
While following Lorenzo’s progress from far below, I
counted four scurrying staff members ready to proffer encouragement or come to
the rescue of a visitor overwhelmed by the task at hand. The spirit of
cooperation definitely overrides any competitive edge, and the overarching
sentiment is good old-fashioned fun, as witnessed by a group of 40-something
ladies who hooted and hollered their way through every zip wire (for more about
a ‘big kid’ experience at Vincigliata, see TF 103). That said, the course is
physically demanding and participants will need a certain amount of endurance
to cross the bridges, scale the various nets and make the jumps. Luckily, each
‘pathway’ is flanked by a wooden platform, which offers a place to rest, get
psyched for the next exercise or just take in the incredible views.
Though geared toward families with kids ages six and
up, the creators of the park were smart enough to include a baby ropes course
(low to the ground, clearly) complete with harnesses and other safety garb for
the piccolissimi. Blessedly, there is also a swing set, which saved my
little one from the meltdown that was brewing after an hour of enviously watching
his big bro on the ropes.
The soft-air range set down the hill is perfect for
older kids looking to test their precision skills at the traditional shooting
range or with a timed tactical exercise that has them shoot at targets hidden
in the foliage. Lorenzo was thrilled to get to keep the paper bull’s eyes that
showed just how good of a shot he is.
After three hours in the park we left happy, excited,
sundrenched and tired-in my book, the mark of a perfect afternoon with the
Ropes course participants must wear rubber-soled shoes,
but I would recommend them for all visitors as the ground is quite rocky and
slightly inclined. The website, http://www.treeexperience.it,
has all relevant details (in English and Italian) including height and weight
information, ticket prices and reservation information.
Two particularly worthwhile bargains are offered all
spring and summer: groups of six or more get a 10 percent discount, and
visitors arriving before 11am are guaranteed four hours at a flat rate (varies
according to age).
A small concession stand and restrooms are located next to
the ropes course. Myriad activities are available for schools and groups
looking to spend the day outside while learning valuable lessons about
teamwork, map-reading and survival skills. Birthday parties should be reserved
one week prior. Combination tickets are available.
Via di Vincigliata, Fiesole
Open Daily 10am to 8:30pm