Cast your mind back to your early days in Florence: you and your significant other are strolling hand in hand along the cobbled streets. Undaunted by crowds or soaring temperatures, you visit an amazing exhibition, grab a prosecco with friends then miraculously manage to get a table at that new restaurant you’ve all been wanting to try. Magic! Now imagine a similar scene with your young family, possibly with visiting relatives who aren’t quite as young as they used to be…Still magic? Yes! While impromptu cocktails might be tricky as your family grows, Florence remains a city rich in possibilities both for the families who live here and our many visitors. The trick to keeping everyone smiling (most of the time) is a little forward planning and the right balance between culture and adventure.
Author Daisy Diaz explores the city with her family.
If you’ve just arrived in the city, you might want some help exploring. VIK (Very Important Kids) tours are developed by two moms who are passionate about art and travelling and experts in sharing all that Florence has to offer families with children (ages 4-16).
Food is a huge part of living here, and while we all enjoy eating it, it’s great to be able to cook like a local too! Taking a cooking lesson as a family with Cooking in Florence or MaMa Florence is lots of fun and your visitors will be sure to enjoy it too. Inspired by your lesson, you could then head to the food markets at Sant’Ambrogio or the Mercato Centrale to hunt for deliciously fresh ingredients to take home.
Queuing up for quality pizza at Mercato Centrale Firenze
As much as we all appreciate living here, not many people are lucky enough to have a garden. Fortunately, Florence offers plenty of play parks, often in lovely squares, as well as green spaces to run around in. Right in the historic centre, you’ll find playgrounds in the Giardino di Borgo Allegri and in piazza D’Azeglio. The community garden in Borgo Pinti, Orto Dipinti, is a hidden gem to explore as a family to learn more about how a real garden works and the joy of seeing things grow. Not far out of the centre is Giardino dell’ Orticultura: a wonderful green space that rarely gets crowded (except for during events: Jazz on summer evenings, anyone?) and is perfect for a picnic. You’ll find a great play park for young visitors which will leave you time to take in the stunning architecture of the Liberty-style greenhouse.
Moving across the river to the Oltrarno, the park on lungarno Santa Rosa is a shady haven in the summer, complete with a welcome breeze from the river. Not far away is the small park at piazza Tasso. This square is also host to the Pietro Thouar library: a peaceful space that has a great selection of children’s titles (with a pick in English) and regularly organises events for the local community. Staying on this side of the river, the Boboli Gardens provide the perfect chance for fun and exploring! Between fish, turtle and heron spotting at the pond, all the amazing statues and the many “secret” paths, there are lots of adventures to be had! Piazza Santo Spirito is not far away, and we adore their antique/vintage market that is held on the second Sunday of every month. It’s a fascinating place to browse and my eldest boys love seeking out old coins and other tiny treasures!
Vintage treasures in piazza Santo Spirito / ph. @headoverheels_1
Right over the other side of town in Isolotto, you’ll find one of Florence’s largest parks: Villa Vogel on viale Canova. It’s easy to spend half a day here: in the playground, feeding the ducks, kicking a ball on the grass, roller skating on the rink and even riding on the carousel and other rides. There are picnic tables too, and a small bar with bathroom facilities. Staying on this side of town, we found a little-known city farm, Accademia Cinofila Fiorentina, that has open days which are ideal for toddlers and younger kids who get to groom a pony and meet a pot-bellied pig amongst other animals! (Did you know they also have a nursery and a pre-school?) For the more adventurous, head up into the hills of Fiesole to via Vincigliata where The Tree Experience Adventure Park provides zip-lining fun for all the family. In this area you’ll also find the marvellous Fattoria di Maiano to explore, meet the animals and eat at their great restaurant!
The museums in Florence are almost too numerous to mention, but the ones we like “off the map” are the Stibbert Museum with its eclectic collection, from armour and costumes to ceramics and an English-style garden. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in via dei Servi is fascinating for children of all ages, as is Florence’s history of science museum, Museo Galileo. Both are interactive and hold workshops that help bring things to life for toddlers and teens alike. Another favourite is the Science and Technology Museum and planetarium in via Giusti. There really is something special about stargazing with children and they have an extensive calendar of events too.
Rainy days can be a real challenge to keep all of my tribe entertained, but we’ve found some great places that also keep our teenage friends happy! Stone Monkey is a well-equipped climbing gym for all the family in via Baldovinetti and they even run a course for tiny tots from 3 years old! Free Soul trampoline adventure park on via Palagio delle Spine, offers many more activities than just trampolines and is a great weatherproof venue for a birthday party! If you’ve lived in Florence for a while you may well have forgotten how much fun bowling can be. The Joy Village complex in via del Cavallaccio has bowling for adults and teens and even mini bowling and mini cars for younger children. (They organise parties and serve a decent pizza too!)
Whilst out and about in the centre, it’s important to know where in town you can change your child’s diaper and breastfeed in comfort. As well as the number of Baby Pit Stops placed by the Comune all over the city (see www.comune.fi.it), the Gucci Café in piazza della Signoria is another great option and a popular spot for new mums to meet up. The fabulous English bookstore, Paperback Exchange, will gladly put a comfortable chair in a quiet spot for you to feed your baby. Baby Bottega in via Il Prato is also, as the name suggests, super family and breastfeeding friendly and you or your visitors can also hire a Babyzen stroller from us at Baby Bottega: ideal for navigating narrow doorways and bustling streets!
Baby Bottega in via il Prato
If, like many ex-pat families and visitors, you don’t manage to get as many photos with you all together as you’d like, why not capture your special occasions and time in Florence with the help of a professional? We love working with Gloria Azzurrini and Linda Gramignan, both of which have a lovely way of working with children and whose pictures have helped make our cherished memories extra-special.
Places to play
Here are three of the ten playrooms provided by the City of Florence to encourage play, socializing, creativity and independence. Ludoteche are free and open to all children (aged 0 to 14) and their families. Find out more.
Via Maffia 25
Piazza Bartali 3/b
Via Canova 170/b