As Florence with guide we have put together activities in museums and in the city aimed at families, but here are some suggestions for everyone travelling with children to Florence.
Fortunately Florence offers a large variety of options for families: plan in advance and check if the activities require advanced booking.
Although the situation is improving, most children’s activities are held in Italian. You can choose a family friendly tour in the most important Florentine museums (the Uffizi gallery, the Bargello and the Pitti Palace) involving mythology and funny characters, so we jump from the labors of Hercules to the cross-eyed librarian of the Pope without efforts and maybe with the help of a sketchbook and pencils to keep track ….check the booklist at the end for suggenstions.
The children museum inside Palazzo Vecchio offers several tours of hidden passages and edutainment activities in English. They also have a family kit available for independent tours (age 6+). Palazzo Strozzi during the exhibitions offers didactic materials and workshops for children also available in English.
For the young scientist it is a must to go visit the Galileo museum: a full account of the development of science from the middle ages to modern times. Some didactic activities are held in English too.
In Florence we have several Egyptian mummies, one dinosaur, one of the largest collections of Japanese swords outside Japan, an underground Roman amphitheater, the fingers of Galileo Galilei and all within reach of a gelato or pizza…so do not hesitate to ask for a special tour.
The University museum in via la Pira has set up a room for the display of the skeleton of a whale with videos in Italian and English, though it is not grand it might be an ideal break from all the art and history for children more into science).
Young fans of knights and armor will especially love the Stibbert Museum (Museo Stibbert), on a hill about 20 minutes by taxi or bus from the historical center of Florence, but anyone will be impressed by the treasure trove of artifacts here: costumes, tapestries, furniture, musical instruments, and paintings. Most impressive here is the grand main hall, with horses and knights in procession, as well as arms and armor from eastern and western civilizations. The museum is surrounded by a pleasant park where you can relax after the visit.
A lot of visitors lament the lack of green and trees in the center of Florence, which is partly for historical reasons, but in case your children turn out to be exhausted and you wish to give them a break from activities and tours here is a list of gardens and playgrounds.
Piazza d’Azeglio, near Sant’Ambrogio, is probably the most well-known playground in the center. It has a pretty large gated play area with activities for all age groups. During the school year this park is very busy with after school children. The area is well shaded and has lots of benches to sit on. Giardino Carraia is located in the San Niccolo area. This playground is off the beaten path; it feels like you have stepped out of Florence and into the countryside. It is a pretty big park with a lot of activities for all ages including a large green space for playing soccer. The neighborhood is lovely and nice restaurants,gelato and pizza on the via San Niccolo are a plus.
Lungarno Santa Rosa is in the Oltarno district on Lungarno Santa Rosa just west of Ponte Vespucci. This, by far, is the best playground in the city-center as it was recently renovated and really great activities for all ages. The park is very shady and since it is located on the Arno it stays relatively cool on a hot summer day. Bars for refreshing drinks and some of Florence nicer restaurants are located around here which makes it ideal for a late afternoon stop.
The largest park in Florence is Parco delle Cascine, now very easy to reach from the station with Tram 1. It is crowded with joggers, volley players, picnics and there is a children area in the shade. Giardino dell’Orticoltura is just outside the city center, off Piazza San Marco. It was set up in 1859 as an experimental garden by the Società Toscana dell’Orticoltura and provided with a planting ground, vine and apple orchards and rare ornamental plants. This garden is today open to the public and is characterized by meadows, flowerbeds, areas for children (mostly 3 to 10) and an amazing view of Florence from the Orti di Parnaso at the top of the hill, following directions. At the Via Vittorio Emanuele entrance a gelateria provides drinks, gelato and pastries.
Books and references
Finally there are a few books and guides that can help you prepare your visit to Florence, enjoy it or remember it.
Kids Go Europe: Treasure Hunt Florence by Ellen and Marvin Mouchawar is an activity book full of questions, funny challenges and covers many spots in Florence.
Fun in Florence written and illustrated by N. Shroyer Howard.
It is a very good tool if you have children (6 to 11 years old) that easily get bored or distracted. This activity book with a few pencils is full of ideas and suggestions.
For the little ones a great variety of coloring books is also available in most museums’ bookshops.