How to have an amazing adventure in Tuscany with kids
Italy makes a wonderful place for a family holiday, the food is amazing, it’s only a short flight from the UK and the Italian people are about as family friendly as they get. My favourite area of Italy is Tuscany; it has a little mix of everything for the whole family to enjoy. Here are my top 7 reasons why you should consider taking the kids to Tuscany for your next family holiday.
1. Beautiful Tuscan Hill Towns
Our main reason for visiting Tuscany was to visit the gorgeous hill towns I’d heard so much about. My parents were just back from a visit and raved about how beautiful they are. You can read their week long Tuscany Itinerary here.
There are definitely plenty to choose from and whilst my romantic notion of spending two weeks mooching around them all, this might not be the most exciting way to spend a holiday in Tuscany with kids.
Which ones to visit will probably depend on where you’re staying in Tuscany but here are a few of our favourites.
My favourite of all the hilltowns, and of many other tourists for good reason, it’s so very pretty! It has towers, amazing gelato and stunning Tuscan views, I highly recommend spending at least half a day here. Check out my full post on visiting San Gimignano with kids here.
Cortona is located right on the border with Umbria meaning it’s a bit further out than San Gimignano but perfect if you plan on exploring the two areas in one trip. Cortona is the birthplace of Luca Signorelli, a renaissance painter and was featured in Under The Tuscan Sun making it quite the draw for art and culture lovers and anyone looking for the romantic side of Tuscany.
Like many other Tuscan hilltowns, the streets are mainly pedestrianised making it very safe for exploring with kids and I wouldn’t fancy trying to get a car down those narrow alleyways anyway! Cortona has a few churches, museums and shops to explore and a lovely main piazza but you can probably cover it in half a day. If you want to stay longer, there are countless cafes, restaurants and view points to climb to, don’t worry, you won’t be bored.
Monterigionni is a fortified medieval town which was built to protect nearby Siena from attack and a trip within the walls really does feel like you’re stepping back in time. Again, you won’t need to spend that long here, an afternoon should do it but it’s well worth a visit for the views of the surrounding vineyards alone. This is stereo typical Tuscany, olive trees, medieval towers, Romanesque churches, ancient wells, narrow alleyways, perfect!
If you’re feeling brave and have the time then you can climb the city walls to get a birds eye view of the delightful town.
2. The beaches in Tuscany
Viareggio is a sweet Tuscan city in the Italian Riviera on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is where Italian city dwellers go for days out and holidays and it gets incredibly busy when it’s hot – basically for the whole of the summer. For this reason it has a great infrastructure with plenty to keep the whole family entertained and most importantly, the beach is spectacular.
We only managed to visit this one beach town during our time in Tuscany but there are plenty of other family friendly options. The area of Livorno (south of Pisa) has plenty of great ones or Grosseto which is even further south is particularly family friendly. Discover Tuscany has a great list of beaches in Tuscany for more info.
3. The Food in Tuscany
If there’s a better reason to visit Tuscany with kids, I’m not sure what it is! The food is nothing less than breathtaking. Of course you can pretty much get pizza and pasta everywhere which will keep the kids (and carb cravers) happy but Tuscany has so, so much more to delight the taste buds.
We all loved panzanella which is basically a tomato and bread salad with onion, basil and the ever present olive oil. If that doesn’t appeal then just order a huge, sharing plate of antipasti, full of cheeses, cured meats and seafood I couldn’t even decipher! If you’re seafood lovers then there will always be something fishy on the menu and usually a couple of shellfish options too.
Of course eating in Italy isn’t just about the food, dining out is popular and a real occasion. Restaurants will often feel tightly packed due to large families sharing a meal, kids playing happily late into the night. The courses keep coming, the wine keeps flowing and the atmosphere is infectious.
If there’s one recommendation I have for choosing a restaurant, it’s to go with your gut. Often the ones that look pretty average from the outside will be the ones with the best food – they invest in fantastic produce, not fancy buildings! Head to the busiest one you can find and fingers crossed they’ll squeeze you in.
Don’t expect all menus to be in English, we spent ages on Google translate trying to figure out what was available – you’ll pick up the main words pretty quickly and waiting staff, whilst often busy were mostly happy to help. If you do have picky kids, most food is freshly prepared so they’ll be happy to serve up some pasta with a simple tomato sauce, just ask if it’s not on the menu. Kids menus are a rarity in Tuscany, children eat the same as the adults which is a good thing I think.
4. The family friendly attractions in Tuscany
There are only so many hilltowns and historic cities kids will put up with before they get bored and want to do something kid centric. Luckily in Tuscany there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained.
The Parco Avventura Il Gigante, just outside of Florence is a brilliant tree top adventure park with zip lines and tree top paths suitable for all skill levels and ages.
Another kid centric attraction is Pinocchio Park, near Pistoia. It’s a small theme park based around (you guessed it), the story of Pinocchio. They have plenty of kid friendly rides, a butterfly house, hedge maze a Pinocchio museum and plenty of places to get a drink or snack.
Another family friendly theme park in Tuscany that kids will love is the Cavallino Matto (Little Crazy Horse in Italian). They have water rides, roller coasters and rides for little tots. Between the rides there’s loads of green space ad shaded areas to take a break.
Italy gets hot, especially in the European summer holidays so a trip to a family friendly water park makes for the perfect day out. The Acqua Village Cecina in Livorno has many pools, slides and the awesome Fun Island playground, perfect for little ones. There’s also the famous Aqua village acrobatic show everyday over the summer months.
5. The Historical cities
Probably the most popular city to visit in Tuscany, Florence is steeped in history, amazing architecture and plenty of family friendly activities. Florence feels like a big city but is actually compact enough that you can walk to all the main attractions making it perfect for visiting with kids. The downside is that the grandeur of the place isn’t always that appealing to little ones, the buildings are breath-taking and the art is magnificent but children won’t want to spend too long looking at old paintings. Make sure you mix in plenty of breaks and outdoors attractions like the Boboli Gardens at Palazzo Pitti so you keep the whole family happy.
The Palazzo Vecchio is probably the most child friendly museum in Tuscany, little ones will love making up stories, inspired by the roman ruins and medieval fortress. They’ll also get to discover secret routes from the chambers and take part in a treasure hunt as they go.
Less well known and smaller than Florence (making it all the better in my book), Siena is an absolute gem of a city and a must visit if you’re in Tuscany with kids. If you’ve ever searched #tuscany on Instagram, and haven’t we all, no doubt an image of the stripy Duomo surrounded by orange bricked buildings, bordered by green foliage will pop up somewhere in the most popular feed. It’s stunning!
The Piazza Del Campo is where most people congregate, once a Roman market place it’s now home to cafes, restaurants and street performers to entertain the kids. Head slightly uphill and you’ll find the 13th century gothic Duomo, or cathedral, with its black and white walls and imposing dome.
Siena is probably one of the best places we found for playgrounds and museums, if you have time and the kids are getting sick of wandering, sitting, seeing on repeat then then you’ll easily find something to entertain them. The Natural History Museum and the Childrens Arts museum are probably the most popular.
Everybody knows Pisa for its famous leaning tower and stunning Piazza Del Duomo and when we told Piper that we would be heading to Italy for our holiday, this was the first place she said she wanted to visit. Again, I don’t really think you need more than a day here, unless you use it as a base to explore the rest of the region.
This area is a perfect example of over tourism, it’s crazy busy and the queues for tickets to climb the tower or enter the Duomo were ridiculous. Even though tickets are timed to keep the numbers down, there was still a queue to go up the tower. We didn’t bother, much to Piper’s disappointment. Be warned, kids under 8 are not allowed up the tower anyway. Yes it is an historically important and beautiful place but the towers in Bologna were equally leany and impressive and practically deserted so we did make it up to the top.
I knew there was no way we could leave without getting the trick shot holding the tower up, after several tries I think we did fairly well! What you don’t normally see in this pictures are the hundreds of other people all standing on the bollards trying to get the exact same picture. It’s actually quite funny to watch!
Make sure you also have a wander to take in the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Camposanto monument, all stunning and free for kids under ten, on a hot day the cool inside is heavenly. There’s a small market just outside the tower but as you can imagine, you’ll be charged a huge tourist tax for anything you buy there. Save your shopping for when you get away from the main attractions.
I’m ashamed to say, being in Tuscany and surrounded by all the wonderful food, we actually had a takeaway Macdonalds in the car on the way back. It was the first place we spotted where we could get a cold drink. I know, I know!
If you’re exploring Europe with Interrail like we were, then Lucca is the perfect city for a base in Tuscany, it has a train station right in the centre and is only 20 mins to either Florence or Pisa. I think the best thing to do in Lucca with kids is climb up the towers, there are several to choose from but my favourite is the Torre Guinigi which has a lovely roof garden at the top, a symbol of the cities regrowth and makes it look like it’s having a crazy hair day! Another great choice would be to climb up the Torre della Ore which will give you some fantastic views of the Torre Guingi.
6. Parks in Tuscany
Tuscany is full of family friendly parks, from small inner city play areas to large expanses of green. The best we found and one you would definitely miss if you weren’t looking for it is Pratolini park in Vaglia, about a 20 minute drive from Florence. This is where you’ll find Villa Demidoff, the Estate bought by Francesco I de’ Medici in 1568. The actual Villa is no longer standing but what remains is acres of green fields, perfect for picnics and games of tag, renaissance sculptures, lakes, perfectly landscaped gardens and small play areas. There’s also a cute café, the imposing sculpture Colossus of the Apennines and you may even spot a deer or two as you wander the grounds.
If you’re visiting Lucca then a great spot just outside the city is the Parco Orecchiella, a lovely nature reserve with a cafe and small animal park for the little ones. It’s here you’ll find the wildlife museum and birds of prey museum, if you’re very lucky you may spot a golden Eagle or Peregrine falcon.
I’m a big fan of Sculpture parks, I love large scale art anywhere and I think it’s a great way to introduce kids to art in a non traditional (sometimes boring) art museum. The Chianti sculpture park near Siena is the perfect place to do this. It has acres of space to run around and burn off some energy and some modern, rather quirky sculptures. Alongside the amazing installations, you’ll also find an outdoor amphitheater where they hold concerts over the summer months.
7. Kid friendly wineries in Tuscany
It may sound like a bit of an oxymoron but there are plenty of child friendly wineries to visit whilst you’re in Tuscany. Italian wine is famous throughout the world and images of rows of grapevines ready to be picked perfectly embody the spirit of Tuscany. Kids are welcome pretty much everywhere in Italy so you don’t have to hunt down a specifically child friendly vineyard, maybe just call ahead to check first when you make your reservation. Obviously kids won’t be able to try the wine but learning how it’s made should be interesting for everyone and they’ll often be given a glass of non-alcoholic grape juice to ensure they don’t feel too left out.
Where to stay in Tuscany
We chose to stay in the Tuscan countryside meaning we could take some time to relax as well as visit all the wonderful sights Tuscany has to offer. Our base for the week was the Demidoff Country Resort in Vaglia, about 20 minutes drive from Florence. Read my review of the Demidoff Country Resort to see what you can expect from your visit.
If you prefer to be in the centre of the action then you might want to choose to stay in one of the cities or even a hilltown or both! Having explored the area, I think Lucca would make a great base, it’s close enough to pretty much everything you’ll want to see with old style Italian charm in abundance. There’s also a train station making it a perfect choice if you exploring Tuscany without a car.
How to get to Tuscany
If you’re flying you have a couple of International Airport options, Florence and Pisa. Pisa is the largest but both cover flights from most major European cities. If you’re flying from America then it’s probably more economical to break up your trip somewhere like London and then hop on one of the super cheap airlines to Italy.
You can drive to Tuscany from most of Europe, even taking the Eurostar from London and drive down through France, it will take you over a day but the route sure is scenic.
My favourite option is Interrailing, traveling across Europe by train and into Italy. European trains are really good and easy to navigate check out all my top Interrailing tips to discover if it could work for your family.
How to get around Tuscany
We hired a car for our week in Tuscany and to be honest it was by far the best option for our family. It gave us the freedom to explore, stopping whenever we liked a place and moving on whenever we chose. Although Tuscany is not huge, it does take a while to explore all corners, by having our own transport it meant we could easily explore 3 or even 4 places in one day without feeling rushed. It also made a nice break from all the trains we had been traveling on as we interrailed around the rest of Europe.
Tuscany is pretty well set up to explore by train, all major cities will have stations and most attractions will be accessible from the centre by foot. There are also buses and organised tours available to explore the more distant hilltowns which are great if you don’t feel comfortable driving.
When to visit Tuscany
Italy gets HOT is summer, there were days when we felt we were melting and didn’t want to leave the cool of our outdoor pool but I wouldn’t be put off too much, the usual precautions of plenty of water, regular breaks and sunhats should see you through. The main reason to avoid the summer months are the hoards of tourist that visit during the European summer school holidays. If you can time your trip in June or September the heat should be bearable and the cities quieter.
If you’re interested in visiting Italy with children then make sure you read this guide on Bologna with kids, another of our very favourite Italian cities.
And be sure to pin this post for later for planning your next trip to Tuscany with kids.
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