Travel Guide: Florence with Kids
Florence with kids…where to even begin?
Let me start off by saying, I wasn’t really loving Florence at first. We arrived on a late Friday afternoon and the city was feeling chaotic, terribly cluttered with tourists as we tried to make our way from the train station to our Airbnb. We went out to dinner and felt scolded when asking for our check rather early by Italian standards (we can thank the overtired toddler for that one).
But then the weekend ended, and things quieted down. We adapted our schedules to fit the Italian way of dining. We walked more and more and discovered little areas that seemed to be hidden from the rest of the city’s 13 million yearly tourists. And after 5 days, just as we were finally figuring it all out, it was sadly time for us to leave.
I would return to Florence in a heartbeat, even with kids. Sure, it’s not the most kid-friendly of destinations (you know, art museums and long lines are not really a kid’s thing). But when the whole city is practically an art museum in and of itself, who needs to wait in lines?
So without further ado, here is everything you’d ever want to know when planning your trip to Florence with kids!
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Florence with Kids: Getting There
Florence is located in north central Italy. If you’re arriving from another country, you’ll likely fly directly into Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Aiport (FLR). We almost always find the best flight deals by using Skyscanner’s flexible search tool.
The airport isn’t too far from the city center, and you can take a taxi or Uber/Lyft relatively easy. You can also take the BusItalia “VolaInBus”, which travels to and from the airport to Florence Santa Maria Novella train station in 20 minutes.
We’re normally ones to always go the cheapest route when it comes to transportation, but lately we’ve grown a little cozier to the idea of prebooking a transfer service like GroundLink. You can add a carseat for an additional charge if needed, but most importantly you won’t have to deal with the hassle of muscling all of your luggage (on top of the kids) through public transportation, making arriving in a new city much less stressful.
Italy’s extensive rail system makes getting to Florence directly from many other cities a breeze. Just search Rail Europe for an arrival at Firenze Santa Maria Novella (Florence’s main train station), and you’ll find numerous different train options, routes and departure times on any given day.
From Milan | 1 hr, 40 min. Search Milano P. Garibaldi or Milano Centrale to Firenze Santa Maria Novella
From Venice | 2 hrs. Search Venezia Mestre to Firenze Santa Maria Novella
From Pisa | 1 hr. Search Pisa Centrale or Pisa San Rossore (the station closest to the Leaning Tower of Pisa) to Firenze Santa Maria Novella
From Rome | 1 hr, 30 min. Search Roma Termini to Firenze Santa Maria Novella
If you want to include a visit to the Italian countryside (hello, Tuscany!), you’ll definitely want to rent your own car. There are plenty of car rental agencies in Florence, and we honestly usually just go with whichever of the big name companies has the best rate on a search website like Priceline.com.
Be sure to check the exact location of the rental office before booking: you definitely don’t want to be driving through right through the city center to get there, but renting at an off-airport location will almost always be cheaper than picking up your car from the airport itself.[irp]
Florence with Kids: Getting Around
Florence is an extremely walkable city, so instead of trying to find public transportation, go everywhere on foot! The city has so many picturesque narrow streets and hidden squares, that getting lost in Florence is half the fun of visiting! You’ll never have to walk more than 30 minutes to get just about anywhere you want to go.
Tip: There are lots of narrow streets with even narrower sidewalks in Florence (many times we found ourselves hopping on and off the curb to get around obstacles). Consider skipping the stroller and opting for a carrier like this instead; it will make your life much easier!
Florence with Kids: Buying Essentials
In Florence, chain stores like Conad, Coop and Carrefour Express were frequent stops for us as we stocked up on groceries and snacks items almost daily. There are plenty of mini markets throughout the city that are good this kind of thing as well.
For baby items like diapers, wipes, rash cream, etc., a pharmacy will probably be your best bet (if not available at the stores mentioned above). Each pharmacy carries different items, so you may need to try a couple before finding exactly what you need. (The good news is they’re literally everywhere, and you can spot one quickly by the big green plus sign above the door).
Florence with Kids: Where to Stay
We stayed in the Oltrarno, the part of the city across the Arno River, and I couldn’t recommend it enough! Florence is a busy city, bustling with tourists. If you choose to stay across the river, you’ll find a quiet neighborhood to retreat to each night with tons of great local restaurants (not to mention, at half the price of those over the river). We stayed in this modest, but super affordable Airbnb right across the Ponte Vecchio.
If a hotel is more your style, we passed by the Ponte Vecchio Suites & Spa daily and it’s sophisticaed look always made me jealous of their guests! Another part of the Oltrarno that we loved and spent quite a bit of time around was Piazza Santo Spirito. The big open square has lots of great restaurants with outdoor seating, perfect for a long, relaxed lunch. The Hotel Palazzo Guadagni is right on the corner of the square, and would no doubt make a lovely spot to end your busy days!
More family-friendly hotels in Oltrarno, Florence:
Florence with Kids: Things to See & Do
Palazzo Vecchio | Towering into the sky, Palazzo Vecchio offers a unique vantage point over Florence, including the iconic Florence Duomo. Out front stands a replica of the statue of David (the closest we got to the real thing, which is actually housed over in the Galleria dell’Academia)
Children under 6 aren’t allowed to climb the tower, so Matt stayed behind with Evelyn and played in the square while I skipped the museum and went straight up for a look. Only a maximum 35 people can go up in the tower at a time, so try to arrive early (I went up around 9 am, just in time for the skies to clear but still no wait in line).
Tip: You can buy your ticket any time in advance for later use, so consider buying your ticket during the day and returning the next morning to use it when the tower is not so busy.[irp]
Piazza della Repubblica | Not far from Palazzo Vecchio is Piazza della Republica. A classic carousel sits in the middle of the piazza, and is definitely worth the 2 Euro ride. Evelyn couldn’t decide if she loved it or hated it in this moment. ?
Duomo di Firenze | We didn’t go up in the Duomo or tower, but you of course can’t miss standing under this beautiful piece of architecture and marveling its ornate details. If you do wish to climb the tower, be sure to buy your tickets in advance (ideally before you even leave on your trip, entry times fill up fast!) and make a reservation online to avoid having to wait in the horrendously long lines.
Ponte Vecchio | Another one of the most recognizable landmarks in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River and connects it to the Oltrarno neighborhood. The bridge itself is lined with jewelery merchants whose storefronts straddle each side of the bridge. Unless you’ve got some cash to spend, just enjoy the window shopping and imagine what the scene might have looked like 500 years ago.
Uffizi Gallery | If you’re traveling with really young children and not terribly into art history, you’ll probably want to skip the Uffizi. BUT that’s not to say you must. If you really don’t want to miss it and are up for the challenge of keeping kids entertained, consider booking this family-friendly tour.
Piazzale Michaelangelo | Although it’s a bit of a hike to get there, Piazzale Michaelangelo offers you some of the best views over Florence! Be sure to enjoy the stroll through Oltrarno as you make your way up, and reward yourself with some fresh squeezed lemonade at the top.
Giardino di Boboli | Continuing with our theme to skip the museums, we chose not to spend time exploring Palazzo Pitti this time around. Once home to the Medici family, the Pitti Palace features the family’s private art collection displayed inside the former royal residence.
However, we opted to spend our time in the Boboli Gardens behind the palace instead, and Evelyn was quite happy to be able to run free for awhile! Bring a small picnic lunch and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the gardens yourself!
Tip: If you’ll only be visiting the gardens, buy tickets and enter the gardens opposite Giardino Corsi. The line will be much, much shorter than the main entrance in front of the palace.
Mercato Centrale | An absolute must for any foodie family is a visit to Mercato Centrale! The giant food hall/market will offer a little something for everyone, and is a great place to try out several different Italian dishes all at once. I can’t wait to return some day for more![irp]
Florence with Kids: Where to Eat
It’s pretty true what they say…you really almost can’t go wrong with eating just about anywhere in Italy. There were only 2 rules we followed when searching for the best, most authentic food in Florence: 1) we didn’t eat anywhere directly next to a main tourist site (ie. overpriced!), and 2) we didn’t eat anywhere that advertised a “tourist menu”. And I think we fared pretty well! These were a few of our favorite eats in Florence:
Trattoria L’Oriuolo | Not far from the Duomo, this trattoria proudly proclaims it serves “classic Tuscan cuisine”. And let me tell you, it was one of my favorite meals in Florence!
All’Antico Vinaio | A must stop for a quick eat, All’Antico Vinaio is well-known for the super fresh sandwiches they crank out every day. Order from the 5 or so daily selections and don’t worry if you can’t understand the menu. Take a stab in th dark if you have to – you really can’t go wrong.
Ristorante Borgo Antico | We stumbled upon Piazza Santo Spirito one afternoon while trying to find a non-touristy restaurant near Palazzo Pitti. It was nearly 2 PM and the Italians were out for lunch in full force. But, we were lucky to sneak a spot at a table with some locals on the patio at Ristorante Borgo Antico, and enjoyed some meats, cheeses, and a calzone as big as our heads!
Caffe Ricchi | After our awesome experience at Borgo Antico, I told Matt we had to return to Piazza Santo Spirito before we left Florence. We landed at Caffe Ricchi the second time, and I ended up having my very favorite meal of our entire Italy trip there. It was so simple: pillowy gnocchi with a sweet pesto sauce and poached cod. But my, oh my, I’ll never forget it!
O’Munaciello | This was a recommendation by our Airbnb host, and while we really enjoyed the restaurants huge list of pizzas, be warned that this place is pretty popular and you’ll definitely want a reservation. They also don’t open for dinner until 7 PM, which made for a rough first meal in Florence with our hungry toddler. Still, our server was friendly and the food was great!
Gelateria dei Neri | This place is definitely not a secret: Gelateria dei Neri is widely touted as having the best gelato in all of Florence, and I have to say, I’ll buy into that hype! Quite possibly the smoothest and creamiest gelato we tasted in Italy, the thick caramel cream and strawberry cheesecake were some of our favorites.
If you have a chance to visit Florence with kids, please do! While it might not seem like a city with lots of kid-friendly things to do, you just can’t match to friendly Italian people, amazing food, and picturesque sights around every corner.
Have you been to Florence? What are your favorite spots?