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There’s a time for trips to Disney World or even Disneyland Paris, but at some point it’s good to branch the family out. Florence may not scream “family vacation,” but there is plenty to do in this Italian city.
Whether your kids yearn for an art class or are ready to visit the Uffizi Gallery or Palazzo Vecchio, even adult-centric destinations can have a family twist. If the kids are more into science or soccer than art, don’t worry: Museums such as the Leonardo da Vinci Museum and the Museum of Natural History offer interactive machines and fully assembled dinosaur skeletons, respectively.
Many of these kid-friendly attractions and activities should be reserved in advance, so it’s good to map out and book your family’s “must-visits” before you are wheels up on your way to Italy. (Here’s a guide for using your miles for an Italian vacation.)
1. Palazzo Vecchio
Children are generally charmed by a palace and the 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio makes a great first stop in your sightseeing. These days the palazzo houses the mayor’s office and a museum that offers a window into the lives of the ruling class during the Italian Renaissance. Don’t worry — they have found a way to make this experience entertaining for families.
The museum’s website lists tours by age group and must be booked at least a week in advance. Some tours are even conducted by guides in costume and include kits and maps for kids to make the experience more engaging. Your tour might include a costume room, where they can dress in Renaissance-style clothing, or art projects, story times or puppet shows. All tours are conducted in multiple languages, including English.
The museum is open 9am-11pm April–September, and 9am–7pm October–March, except Tuesdays when it closes at 2pm year-round except Christmas Day. Ticket prices start at 5 euros and family tours cost an extra 5 euros. After your tour, you can also head to the top of the palace tower for a fabulous city view for an extra €6.50. (Or save money with a €10 combo tour ticket.)
2. Uffizi Gallery
Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is one of the most magnificent, and most visited, art museums in the world. Because of this, be sure to purchase timed tickets in advance so you won’t be waiting for an hour or more to enter. Inside, you’ll see some of the world’s greatest art treasures, by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio and Raphael.
Your kids, however, might be more impressed by the museum’s special “Monsters in Art” visit, a self-guided tour that encourages youngsters to find the “fantastic creatures hidden in many masterpieces of the Uffizi.” You can download and print an English guide to share with your kids. It includes a map and some literature that may be too advanced for young readers, but it’ll give you the tools to create a unique and fun activity.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 8:15am to 6:50pm (except Christmas and New Year’s Day), the Uffizi offers a few different pricing schemes for adults, including a €38 (€18 November–February) pass that also includes the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Kids under 18 and university students get in free with ID. There are also Free Admission Days, but while they may save you a buck or two, the immense crowds might make you wish you had come on a day when the Uffizi charges admission.
3. The Duomo
The Duomo is another top attraction that families should book in advance to avoid long wait times. Admission to the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is free, but you will need a timed ticket to climb to the top of the dome (463 steps), the bell tower (414 steps) and to see the baptistery, crypt and the Museo dell’Opera. Your timed ticket is good for 72 hours (though each site can only be visited once per ticket). If you are planning a visit to the cathedral, be sure to dress accordingly: no bare shoulders (i.e., tank tops), shorts or sandals are allowed, and be prepared to stow your hat and sunglasses.
One way to coax young children (and maybe art-saturated adults) along is to break the day up into digestible pieces: See the cathedral and climb the tower in the morning, and visit the other sights after lunch or on another day. For example, the Duomo is a five-minute walk from Dreoni Giocattoli, where you’ll find specialized Italian toys as well as familiar brands like Lego and Fisher-Price. Your kids might remember the day they visited the Duomo fondly, but don’t be surprised if they remember the toy store at least as vividly.
The museum is closed the first Tuesday of each month and different sites within the complex are open different hours. For example, in summer the cathedral is open 10am–4:30pm; the dome 8:30am–7pm; the baptistery 8:15am–10:15am and 11:15–7:30; the bell tower 8:15am–7:20pm; the crypt 10am–5pm and the museum 9am–7pm. Admission for adults is €18 plus a €2 reservation fee; children 6–11 €3; kids under 6 are free. A Duomo visit is not something you can wing: Visit times book out months in advance.
4. Piazza della Repubblica
A five-minute walk from the Duomo, the Piazza della Repubblica, on the site where the city’s Roman forum once stood, is another great place to rest and play. Enjoy a drink or a gelato, watch your kids run and play in the square and treat them to a ride (or five) on the beautiful antique carousel. A ride is just 2 euros, or kids ride for free with an adult.
5. Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens
The Pitti Palace was built as a private residence during the 15th century. Full of priceless art treasures, this palazzo retains elements of a royal household. Visitors can tour the apartments and galleries and the palace offers special visits to places such as the historic kitchen. With a little prep, your kids will likely get a kick out of seeing palace riches (or they might get mad), but they will certainly enjoy running and playing in the beautiful Boboli Gardens, full of sculptures, fountains and hidden grottos.
The palace tends to be less crowded than the Uffizi, so there’s less pressure to purchase your ticket in advance. However, if you have purchased a pass to all of the museums, selecting a date and time is always a good idea. Check out the various ticket options online.
6. Cook With Your Kids
Food is an essential part of living the good life in Italy. There’s no better way to connect with the kitchen culture than to get into the kitchen. At Florencetown, the whole family can learn to create homemade pizza, pasta and gelato. Adults pay €59 per person; children 6–12, €29.50; and kids 5 and under are free. The price includes dinner with wine for adults and soft drinks for children. This could be an especially good option for teens and tweens.
7. Leonardo da Vinci Museum
There are a number of Leonardo da Vinci museums and galleries in Italian cities, featuring machines and scale models built from the master artist/inventor’s drawings. However, the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence is one of the most impressive, with 40 full-sized machines, many of which visitors can actually play with. Each machine is accompanied by written information in several languages, including English. There are also workshops to teach families about the inventor’s genius and the physical science involved. A Painting Room displays Leonardo’s artistry.
The museum is open 10am–7pm April–October, and 10am–6pm November–March. Admission: adults €7; kids 7–17 and students with ID, €6.00; children under 6 get in free.
8. Museum of Natural History
Florence’s Museum of Natural History, affiliated with the University of Florence, is divided into six separate galleries in different locations within the historic center. Two of these are of special interest to families: the Geology and Paleontology section, full of fossils and dinosaur skeletons, and Museum La Specola, which houses the Zoological Collection of taxidermy animals.
The former features a long-tusked mastodon, a saber-toothed tiger and other creatures that lived millions of years ago in Tuscany when the region was actually a savannah. Young equestrians will be fascinated by an exhibit featuring the skeleton of a small horse (about the size of a dog) and exploring the evolution of the animal. The Museum La Specola is the oldest science museum in Europe and houses a collection of detailed anatomical wax models (for the curious but not the squeamish), as well as the skeletons and stuffed bodies of modern birds and mammals.
The Paleontology Museum is open Tuesday–Sunday 9am–5pm (closed Monday, Jan. 1, Easter, May 1, Aug. 15 and Christmas). Admission: €6 adults, concession (ages 6–14, over 65) €3, under 6 free, family ticket for one or two adults and up to four children €13. Museum La Specola is open Tuesday–Sunday 9am–5pm September–December, and Tuesday–Thursday 9am–5pm and Friday–Sunday 9am–1pm July-August. Note that visitors can only see the anatomical wax models in La Specola via a guided tour (add €3 per person) available Tuesday–Sunday. Ticket prices are the same as admission to the Geology and Paleontology museum.
9. Fiorentina Soccer
If you’ve got a soccer-loving kid and your visit coincides with a home game, take in a match of the ACF Fiorentina team at Stadio Artemio Franchi (a 15- to 20-minute bus ride from the center). Tickets can be purchased in advance online and range from €25 to about €70. (This could be a good task for a premium credit card concierge.) If you don’t have time, or if the team is playing in a different city, join the locals watching on big screens that are often set up outdoors near cafés and bars, especially if an important tournament is in progress. The excitement is infectious and it’s a great way for young athletes to connect with the culture.
10. Cruise the Arno
A variety of outfits offer the opportunity to float down the Arno River, a unique vantage point from which to see the city and glide under the Ponte Vecchio. T-Rafting offers 1.5-mile guided trips on inflatable rafts that are suitable for families (€25 adults, €20 children), while Star Florence provides a more sedate guided experience in a historic barchetto (€42 per person). Availability varies with demand and the season. You could book Arno River cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to keep cash in your wallet. Prices start at 3,137 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
11. Stroll the Ponte Vecchio
The current version of the Ponte Vecchio dates back to 1345. It is home to a fascinating variety of shops selling hand-crafted jewelry and more. It’s a delight to window-shop these ancient stalls and enjoy beautiful views from the bridge. It’s even more delightful to do so while savoring gelato from Caffè delle Carrozze, in the shadow of the bridge on the Uffizi side. Grab a cone or a cup to go and take a leisurely stroll on the oldest bridge in Florence.
For More Italian Inspiration
- A Secret Corridor to the Uffizi Will Open in 2021
- Planning a Family Vacation to Italy: Agriturismo
- 5 Foods You Must Try in Florence, Italy
- 6 Reasons to Visit Florence, Italy
- Instagrammable Florence, Italy
- Why You Should Visit Florence
- Summer in Tuscany With Kids
- 3 Italian Towns You Haven’t Heard Of (But Should Visit)
Day or night, if you walk Florence’s ancient cobbled lanes and squares with your family, you’re bound to encounter delightful surprises. Whether it’s a street vendor demonstrating Pinocchio puppets, a new favorite flavor of gelato or watching an artisan craft jewelry, Florence’s charms entice the whole family. With some careful planning, you can take in some art and culture, while still keeping the kids happy and entertained.
Featured Image by Dorin Vasilescu/Getty Images
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