• Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Family Renaissance

A Family's Renaissance
November 9, 2011
By , Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Ponte Vecchio

Florence for the Renaissance Family

Expand your family’s horizons to the Arno River, with a family trip to Florence. A vacation with your kids to Florence will be a pivotal moment in your travels, taking you from fun in the sun to cultural enrichment. And, part of this enrichment is the Florentine food, which, after one bite, will become the standard for your budding gourmets. Welcome to Florence, where your family will have its own Renaissance.

Arno River

The Logistics

Deciding if your children are ready to soak up Florence is an individual assessment. Some children are ready at the age of five to appreciate the city’s grand museums, while others (not your kids, of course) aren’t primed until college. Either way, most kids will enjoy the simple act of exploring the city. Florence is compact, with pedestrian-only zones that make it ideal for a stroll. Note, though, that Florence can be a challenge for strollers, even if it’s a Bugaboo. The city has narrow sidewalks, few ramps, and speeding mopeds. Also, on the way back from the sights, there are limited taxis, so the kids have to be troopers. 

Mom and Dad may want to step up their game to impart the rich knowledge of Florentine art, history, and architecture. DK Guides feature a comprehensive history so that like the TV show, you can prove you’re smarter thana 5th grader. Kids can join in on the fun with a few words of Italian from Little Pims.

Vacation like the Nobles

Florence was once limited in its high-end family accommodations, but now Mom has a little helper with the Four Seasons. This is not your cookie-cutter hotel, but instead a former palace of the Medici family. The palace’s restoration was a seven-year labor of love, and exploring the hotel is like sauntering through Italian history, with its ornate frescos and beautifully restored tiles. While much of the artwork looks like it could be hanging in a museum, the hotel still maintains a warm and comfortable atmosphere.

In addition to all the amenities you expect from a Four Seasons – food available at all hours, children’s menus, and a concierge at your beck and call – the property has a five-hectare private park, a pool for family fun, and hourly shuttles to the center of town, in case little feet are too tired to do the ten-minute walk.

Sights & Sounds

And now the fun begins. Our approach at Galavante is to introduce kids to culture via historical sights. Of course, there’s a Science Museum (Museo Galileo) and a Museum of Zoology (La Specola), but you can get that in any city. The essence of Florence is its art, history, and architecture, all of which you can make fun for your kids. The little ones can put their knowledge of Gothic arches to use at the stunning Duomo, and the equally beautiful but smaller Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. Unless your kids are true mountain people, leave the climbing to the top of the Duomo for when they’re old enough to drink grown-up grape juice. There are more than enough side rooms and catacombs to entertain. Also, enjoy the surrounding neighborhoods - wandering the streets is a true part of the Florentine experience. 

The museums have excellent children’s programs. As always, buy your tickets beforehand either through the concierge or online, and head to the museums early in the morning to manage the crowds. Your first family trip to Florence will be an introduction, and will whet your children’s appetite for a return trip to see the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s David, and the Uffizi Gallery.

Let your kids be the social butterflies that they are and stroll the squares, which are the buzzing center of Florentine life. The Piazza della Repubblica has a carousel – perfect for the younger kids – and is a lively place to soak in the bustle of the city.  Stop in to Gilli, the iconic Florentine café, for lunch or an afternoon snack.  Piazza della Repubblica is a short walk to the romantic Ponte Vecchio. You may have experienced this famous bridge with your first love, but it’s tough to beat exploring it with the little loves of your life. The surrounding area has interesting shops if your kids are up for some adult shopping. Otherwise, ease into the evening at Sky Bar in the Hotel Continentale, where dusk turns the city into pure magic. 

Boboli GardensThe Boboli Gardens are a refined spot to take in the greenery, though we wouldn’t say this is a kid’s attraction. Alternatively, head to the Four Seasons, where children can run and play in their own private park, chill like little villains by the pool, and get pampered with a mani-pedi alongside Mom.

The Budding Gourmets

There’s no Olive Garden in Florence, though if you ask nicely at the trattoria, they may provide unlimited breadsticks. Be forewarned: Some of the guidebooks recommend tourist traps, assuming your kids can’t manage a meal that you would enjoy too. Our approach is to feast at the local restaurants, most of which will be happy to oblige your world travelers with a simple yet beautiful pasta and tomato sauce. For a casually elegant lunch, dine at Gilli in the Piazza della Republica, which serves robust Bolognese pasta and delicious pastries and sweets. The good news is that Gilli is open all day, whereas lunch hour at other restaurants ends between 2:30 and 3pm, when you’re out of luck except for small takeaway shops.

Create your own picnic by sampling meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies, and homemade pastries at the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, which closes at 2pm Monday through Saturday. This food emporium is as much about food as it is about local culture and the Tuscan philosophy of fresh ingredients.    

For dinner, introduce your children to the art of Tuscan cooking. Cibrèo and Enoteca Pinchiorri are probably too adventurous (think tripe) or too formal for the average kid. They’re great, though, if Mom and Dad are able to take a night away. Your best bet is to hit an inviting Florentine trattoria like Il Caminetto, which serves aromatic soups, Mama’s ravioli, and juicy steak. 

Tiny La Giostra is a well-known bistro for good reason. Their specialties are truffles and the freshest of the fresh pasta, and they offer a grand (and complimentary) antipasti platter where kids can try meats and cheeses with a Tuscan spin. You’ll be both proud yet scared if your children take to the prized and pricey white truffles. It’s a must when they’re in season, which runs from October and November through the winter. For more basic but also delicious culinary experimenting, order porcini mushrooms for the table. The little ones will also never forget their first Bistecca Fiorentina, which is made from the prized Italian Chianina cow and easy to share with Mom and Dad. 

Four Seasons' Il Palagio

The Four Seasons has exceptional food, and its main restaurant, Il Palagio, is considered the second best in Florence, behind only Enoteca Pinchiorri. After a long day of touring around the city, you’ll be more than happy to dine here or in the hotel’s more casual restaurant. After all, if it was good enough for the Medicis, it’s good enough for your crew. In fact, the same can be said about all of Florence. Simply put, there’s no better city in the world to experience a modern-day Renaissance with your family.