Traveling to Tuscany this summer with the whole brood? Worried about jet lag, heat, little complaining voices? Well, we’ve been there and have some advice to share. Here are our top ten tips for traveling to Tuscany in summer.
10. Book an overnight flight– This is especially important if you live on the West Coast. To get to Florence, the best path is to take a long flight to somewhere in Europe (Frankfurt, Paris, London, etc.), followed by a short jump to Florence. Through trial and error, I have found that leaving home in the evening is best. The kids are excited, they eat their dinner on the plane, maybe watch a movie and then eventually sleep. A few hours later, you arrive in Europe. By the time you disembark from your shorter flight to Florence, it’s approaching evening, local time. No need to torture yourself and stay awake for long. Have dinner and go to bed!
9. Plan a mellow first day– Even if you follow the above travel advice, everyone will be groggy the first day of your trip. It’s a great idea to plan to do as little as possible. Explore your immediate surroundings, have a nice meal, relax. Drink lots of water.
8. Stay in a villa with a pool– Tuscany can get hot in summer. Although visiting Florence and other Tuscan towns is a must, you’ll appreciate returning to your villa in the countryside at the end of each day. Most are old buildings with thick walls, creating natural air conditioning. Many are in hilly, breezy locations. Kids and adults alike will enjoy cooling off in the pool. Right now I’m dreaming about the pool at Casa dell’Arte (pictured).
7. Choose your museums wisely– Even if your kids are a little young to be museum buffs, there are some options in Florence that will keep them engaged and happy. Right in the heart of town you’ll find the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. It’s an easy escape from the day’s heat, and a fascinating playground for the kids. Many of da Vinci’s original sketches are housed here, along with models of his inventions. About half of the impressive display items can be handled by little fingers. For scientists young and old, the Galileo Museum is fun. It’s also located right in the center of Florence. A really cool place that’s worth a bus or cab ride just north of town is the Stibbert Museum (pictured). This 57-room villa is bursting with beautiful paintings and tapestries, not to mention the main attraction for kids— a 12,000-piece armor collection from the 15th-19th centuries.
6. Find Florentine outdoor play spaces– Spending a day walking around Florence can definitely lead to some kid complaining, especially if it’s hot. Luckily, there’s plenty to do to distract them. My kids have always loved the Piazza Reppublica, right in the center of town, with plenty of space to run around and a carousel in the middle.
The largest expanse of green space to be found in Florence is Cascine park along the Arno river, several blocks west of the Ponte Vecchio. The park houses a lovely public pool, which feels much more like a resort pool because it sits next to an ancient villa, poolside bar, restaurant and pizzeria. And to experience a day at the beach without ever leaving Florence, check out the “Arno Beach,” which is run by Easy Living. Though the Arno isn’t for swimming, the kids can run around in the sand while you relax on a beach chair and sip a glass of Prosecco.
5. Climb a tower– What kid (and adult) doesn’t love climbing a Medieval tower? Tuscany has some great ones. My kids really like San Gimignano’s Torre Grossa, the top of which provides one of the most iconic views of Tuscany.
The other one not to miss is Torre Guinigi in Lucca, which is quite a spectacle with oak trees growing at the top.
4. Bike in Lucca– Touristy as it sounds, this is such a fun thing to do with kids. We’ve taken our kids to Lucca 3 times and have rented bikes on each occasion, including once when we really had no intention to do so and thought we didn’t have the time. It’s just so easy and fun. There’s a bike rental shop on nearly every corner near the city’s wall. You just point to the bikes you want, and go. You can cruise along the top of the wall for hours, dipping down into town here and there to check out a shop or cafe.
3. Take a cooking class– A cooking class experience is fun for all members of the family. A couple of years ago I took our kids to a private class at one of our villas, Casa di Lusso. We drove there from our little house outside of Florence, and it was an easy trip. Also in attendance were my parents-in-law. The chef, Susanna, was amazing and cheerfully met all of our needs, dietary restrictions and requests. My father-in-law, who previously had shown little interest in cooking, had just as much fun as the kids.
2. Go to the beach– Kids love the beach. Luckily, Tuscany has a lot to offer in this department. Last summer I wrote about some of the wonderful beaches along Tuscany’s long coastline, and there are many to choose from! (see post here). My personal favorite is Forte dei Marmi. It’s a great town for walking, people watching, dining on delicious fresh seafood and soaking up the sun and waves. You can make this a day trip from wherever you stay in Tuscany, or stay at Casa del Mare and make it a trip in itself. My kids have fond memories from our adventures there, and I have some pretty cute photos.
1. Gelato gelato gelato– Kids are tired? Try gelato. Kids are bored? Try gelato. Their feet hurt? Try gelato. Whatever the complaint or ailment, I have found gelato to be the perfect cure for adults and kids alike, which is why it occupies the number 1 spot on our list. I’ll never forget the Fall day when the kids and I visited Cortona. I convinced them to hike to the top of a seemingly endless steep hill to see the spectacular Santa Margherita church. The building and the view were reward enough for me, but the kids needed prodding with something a little sweeter. With the promise of gelato in their future, they were quite compliant. In Florence, I prefer Vivoli in the Santa Croce neighborhood (try the fresh peach in summertime), but you really can’t go wrong with Italy’s perfect dessert.