It sounds like many families are heading to Italy this spring and summer. I love when parents reach out on Instagram and ask for recommendations for Italy with kids. There’s not much I like chatting about more than travel. I think I’ve sent this list of things to do in Florence with kids to a dozen moms the past few weeks so now it’s time to finally sit down and write the blog post.
Many years ago I studied in Florence. It’s a small enough city that you can walk everywhere and really feel like you know your way around quickly. As a student, in Europe for the first time, this was really comforting. As a parent, taking a crew of kids there, it makes Florence my favorite city to visit with kids.
The first time I took a child to Italy was about 12 years ago when Tom and I took a teeny tiny Magie there. She was only 9 months old and she happily traveled all around in the baby carrier. The biggest takeaway from a family travel perspective was: Italians love children and are so welcoming to families.
Fast forward to 2018 when we spent a month in Italy, this time with 4 kids vs 1. It was wonderful. We loved the spot we stayed in Florence and were able to see so much and take time to really get to know the city with kids. I realized that the some of the very touristy things to do in Florence weren’t the best activities for kids but there were so many less touristy things to do that were perfect.
We couldn’t wait to get back to Florence and finally were able to go back this past summer. We did some of the things we loved and remembered fondly and found some new things to do too. The big things to do in Florence: Uffizi Gallery, The David, the Duomo… I left those off this list because they are the things that will pop up with everything you see and plan for Florence. I tried to pick the less obvious choices and things that the kids will enjoy. I also try to break up going to a museum, like seeing the David, with somewhere to run around like a big open piazza. I also organized the list by indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor activities are not just key for rainy days…. if you visit in the summertime, these are good things to do when it’s really hot out.
I also added a list of things we like to do in the evenings. Evening time in Florence is really magical: food, music, cooler weather. There are also really pretty spots to watch the sunset. A good tip for Florence with kids: walk up to a good spot for sunset and tire them out a bit before sitting down to dinner.
You’ll see this is quite a wide range of activities. Some are historical/ educational and some are just for fun. For a great trip to Europe with kids… I’m a firm believer that you need to have a balance. Please let me know if you have any questions. As I said before, I love chatting Italy!
Things to do in Florence with Kids
Outdoor Fun for Kids in Florence
Piazza Santo Spirito
Letting the kids play in a piazza is one of my favorite parts about traveling to Italy. In Florence, many of the main piazzas can be very crowded and not ideal for giving them a little freedom to roam. Piazza Santo Spirito is perfect for playing. It’s located across the Arno in the Oltrarno area of Florence. It’s much less crowded, and is surrounded by small cafes. It’s a great spot to grab food or a glass of wine and sit outside and watch the kids play. You’ll also have a view of the beautiful Basilica di Santo Spirito. Stop inside the church while you’re there for another great activity.
Summer: Cascine Park Pool
Our two long stays in Florence were during the summer. It is HOT in Florence in the summer. Each time we have spent a night or two at a spot with a pool so have some time to swim. I always knew there was a pool in Cascine Park but figured a public pool in a city would be crowded and not so nice. I am SO glad this time we tried it. We loved it so much we went back a few times. It was never crowded, it’s inexpensive, it’s a ton of fun and the little outdoor cafe has great food (also inexpensive). If you are in Florence in the summer, be sure to do a pool day in Cascine Park. You can also rent bikes and rollerblades near the pool. To get there, we took a cab one way and then walked back to the center of the city.
The Boboli Gardens are a very famous, very popular spot to visit in Florence. Because they are so massive and spread out, it doesn’t feel crowded. There are also so many little nooks and paths that you can enjoy time exploring even if there are a lot of people there. I will note that I don’t think it’s the best summer activity. I have done it once in the spring and twice in the summer…. both times in the summer it was HOT and we didn’t last long where the spring it was amazing. There’s not a lot of shade, which makes it a tough summer spot (in my opinion).
The Bardini Gardens are a much less known spot with incredible views and more shade. If you are in Florence in the summer, I would recommend Bardini over Boboli. Here’s a whole post I wrote about the Bardini Gardens.
Giardino di Borgo Allegri (A Playground)
I love Florence and there are very few things the city is lacking in… except playgrounds. This summer we had come from Ireland to Florence and in Ireland, in both cities we visited, we found the most amazing playgrounds. While there are no amazing playgrounds in Florence, there is a cute one that we love right near Santa Croce. We’ve been many times between the 2 summers in Florence and I have never seen another tourist there. So it’s a fun spot to go play and feel more like you live in Florence than you are visiting. It’s called Giardino di Borgo Allegri and if you pop that into Google maps you’ll find it. It’s about a 2 min walk from Santa Croce.
Indoor Activities in Florence for Kids
Our apartment was down the street from Palazzo Vecchio so we visited a bunch of times and have tried some of their programs over the years. It’s a great spot that gives kids a chance to walk where the Medici’s walked. I personally like it more than the Pitti Palace for kids as it’s smaller and there are more “kid friendly” rooms. There are also great views of the Duomo and if you’re feeling up to it, you can climb to the top.
Palazzo Vecchio offers really cool programs for children. They have programs geared towards different ages. They are very inexpensive and well worth it. They are kind of hidden/ I can’t even find a link to share ha! BUT if you are going, email the museum and ask what programs they have when you’ll be there. An example of a program: we did one where the kids pushed on a map in the Maps Room that opened up a secret passage. Through the passage we went to where the museum stored many of the kids toys, elegant clothing, etc. They even got to dress up in the outfits! firstname.lastname@example.org to ask what’s available when you are there.
You kids will hear Michelangelo’s name a lot while in Florence. Take them to see his family home in the city: Casa Buonarroti. This is a small museum, that not many people know exists, so even on the most crowded summer day in Florence… we were the only ones there. It’s free for children and 8 euro for adults. So it’s much less expensive than other spots! In addition to seeing the Buonarroti home, you can see 2 famous reliefs in marble that were masterpieces of a young Michelangelo. There’s also a floor with many of his sketches.
Toy Store: Citta del Sol
Sometimes kids need a little time to play or a little time to browse items they want to see (after blocks of leather goods!). Citta del Sol is right near the Duomo and is a big, wide open toy store. There are also area of toys that are out for them to play with. When we travel, I like to get the kids a book from where we visit and this is also a great spot to get children’s books in Italian.
Many people don’t know that Pinocchio came from Tuscany. The original story came from a children’s magazine from the late 1800’s. This is a fun thing to share with kids before heading to Florence and to tell them to spot Pinocchio around the city (you’ll find him everywhere!). There is a neat Pinocchio exhibit at the Selfie Museum in Florence. There’s also the Museo del Giocattolo e di Pinocchio which has lots of cool toys to see.
Back when I studied in Florence years ago, the Mercato Centrale was just that… a central market where we’d buy food after school. Now you’ll find the market downstairs but upstairs…. the world’s coolest food court. Take your food up another level to sit and eat and you’ll have a great view of the market. I think this is a great activity for kids because they can see and shop a traditional food market that was built way back when Florence was the capital of Italy. Make sure to check the hours before planning your adventure here.
Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum
You’ll find a few Leonardo da Vinci museums and exhibits in Florence. Our favorite is this one: Leonardo Interactive Museum. It’s very hands on and kids can really try and use the incredible inventions he created. They do not recommend it for little kids (I believe 5 is the youngest) because they truly get to use and move some pretty big machines. My youngest (2) was definitely too young for it.
Evenings in Florence with Kids
Florence is a magical place at night. It’s small enough and safe enough to feel like you can wander around with kids at night. If you’re there in the summer, it’s also when it cools down. You’ll see the pretty lights hanging, music playing and gelato everywhere. Here are a few of our favorite spots to enjoy Florence in the evening:
Arno Boat Ride at Sunset
When you think of being on a small Italian boat while someone stands with a rowing oar.. you think of Venice right? Did you know you can enjoy the same kind of boat ride down the Arno River in Florence? I had no idea until this summer. It was magical and a night my kids still talk about. We used Lara from Tuscany Tailor Made and she was wonderful. She gave history while we traveled down the Arno and each person got the cutest little basket to enjoy aperitivo while on the boat (adults had wine & champagne and kids juice and snacks). We went right at sunset which was awesome.
Piazza della Repubblica Carousel
You can’t take kids to Florence without letting them have a few rides on the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica. You can ride any time of day but the evenings are our favorite. That’s when the piazza really comes to life and there’s music, lights, etc.
Piazza Santa Croce
If you’re looking for a calm, relaxing evening, I’d recommend Piazza Santa Croce. The facade of the church is my favorite in the city, so while you sit in the piazza you have the prettiest backdrop. It really clears out once the church closes for tours at 4pm and the carts selling items leave too. It’s a big open piazza so we’d bring a soccer ball or just run around. There are plenty of benches to sit and relax too.
Last but not least is Piazzale Michelangelo. I’ve climbed up to this spot so many times over the years and the view never gets old. I think it’s best in the early evening. If you’re there in the summer, it’s hard to do in the heat, so when it starts to cool in the evenings is best. This past time, when the kids and I were walking up we saw lots of people carrying up pizza boxes and drinks. I thought it was such a neat idea and will definitely try it sometime. A sunset picnic in the piazza! It is pretty much straight up hill at times. There’s a route with lots of stairs (so no stroller) and a route that’s mostly road (so you can take the stroller and park it at the bottom of the steps at the piazza).
Enjoy your trip planning! Always reach out for more ideas, tips and tricks for traveling to Italy with kids. I’d love to hear from you.