My husband and I were married in a civil ceremony in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy in fall of 2000. Needless to say, Florence has a special place in our hearts. Fast forward to 2015: We have two kids and a dog and live on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs. Our kids were 11 and 8, definitely old enough (in our minds) to handle an international trip, and since we hadn’t been abroad since before we had kids, we decided to visit Florence Italy with kids in honor of our 15th wedding anniversary. We also decided to bring our 15 year old niece. Why not? In the end, we ended up spending two weeks in Italy and France. (You can read about our whole two-week trip to Italy and France here.)
We kicked off our two-week adventure with five nights in Florence.
While many people wing it when it comes to their lodging reservations, we decided not to roll the dice, knowing we needed to find lodging for five of us, three of whom are children. Our experience has been that hotel rooms in Europe are pretty small, and with five of us, one of whom was a teenager and only child, we were going to need more space. We also like the option of being able to do laundry while traveling, so we can pack lighter, and a kitchen so that not all of our meals were in restaurants. That led us to choosing a rental apartment.
Our apartment in Florence was located near the Mercado Nuovo. We ended up renting from a rental company directly, rather than through VRBO or another intermediary. It was spacious and had a great view onto Via Rossa. It’s only flaw was that it was about five floors up, so lots of stairs. (It also had a crazy neighbor across the alley who threw some lemon rinds at our patio after I ignored his pleas to pay attention to him, but I digress.)
We flew in and out of Milan on this trip. From there we took the train to Florence and our other destinations. Within Florence, we walked. The main tourist sites in Florence that we visited were very walkable.
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Five Days in Florence, Italy
We arrived in Florence tired but excited. Mission #1: find gelato. This place, right by the Mercato del Porcellino, ended up being our favorite place. And we tried a LOT of places.
Adventures on Horseback
Our first full day there, first thing in the morning, we had a horse ride out in Tuscany booked via Italy on a Budget, a tour company. We didn’t want to save the ride until later in our stay in case there was bad weather that would have postponed or canceled our tour. The driver who picked us up was friendly and informative, and a terrifying driver. He dropped us off at a horse ranch, where we were taken on a trail ride led by a cantankerous gentleman who did not speak English. Throw in one really sloth-like horse that only wanted to eat + our jet lag, and the ride was a little lacking in romance and charm. (I’m being diplomatic here.) But the views were wonderful.
After the ride we spent a little time in Monteriggioni, a small walled community. This was a fun little jaunt. And we got this keeper of our son, which we will forever treasure.
Art and Architecture
That afternoon we had tickets to the Uffizi Museum. I’m not an art person, and I tend to only enjoy collections of a single artist (like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or the Chagall Museum in Nice), but it was still fun, and our niece enjoyed it.
On the next day we climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo. Not for those with who have physical limitations or claustrophobia, but if you make it up to the top, the views of Florence are spectacular!
Other things we did in Florence:
- da Vinci Museums: There are two da Vinci museums in Florence (both are referenced in the link). Both are kind of interesting places to spend an hour or so, especially with kids our kids’ age at the time.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa: This is a super touristy thing to do, but we couldn’t send the kids back to the US without being able to say we saw it. What is actually cool to see in Pisa is the Keith Haring mural. Definitely look that up.
- Jewelry Shopping: I like buying jewelry as a keepsake on my international trips. Given Florence’s notoriety for jewelry, I couldn’t resist getting a pair of earrings. Also, our daughter and niece got silver charms for a charm bracelet at Walter, the same store from which I got mine 18 years before.
- The Accademia: I finally saw the real statue of David! This museum is much smaller than the Uffizi, and again, I’m no artist, so I can’t give a fair assessment, but I’m glad we went.
- Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace: This area was really interesting. We spent a couple hours wandering around, but admittedly we were pretty tired by then.
- I just love Florence. It’s very walkable, and there is so much to do and see.
- June was a much busier time to visit Florence than our past trips in the fall. There were a lot more tourists this time around.
- Eat the gelato every chance you get. Seriously.
- I wish I had enforced a stricter mandate for the kids to sleep on the plane on the way over, since it was an overnight flight. They were completely enamored with the movie selections on the plane, so they hardly slept. I think our jet lag may have lingered a bit longer and been a little more dramatic as a result.
- We ended up having burgers at least twice on the trip to curb withdrawal symptoms for a few of our pickier eaters. Do what you need to do on an international trip. Not every meal needs to be an adventurous meal.
- If you are taking a teenager on the trip, do everything you can to ensure they have some space to themselves. That worked pretty well for us (though I should ask her how she felt about it).
- We have officially created international travel addicts! Our kids can’t wait to travel abroad again.
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