When we planned traveling to Florence with kids, we had so many questions! Where to stay, what to do, how long to stay, how to get around, what things or places we could go to that were child friendly, where to eat and is it gay friendly?
While I did research as much as I could beforehand, most of these questions were answered once we arrived. And I’d love to be able to help you plan better for your own trip to Florence. It truly can make a difference in your experience and with kids, the better you plan the more positive it will be for them.
Let me walk you through experiencing delicious restaurants, beautiful museums, and first hand tips and advice we learned along the way. This way you have a better understanding of what you’d like to add to your itinerary for your family.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the NH Firenze as they are part of The Hotel Collection from American Express. The location was very convenient, just a 20 minute walk alongside the Arno River to the famous Duomo and San Lorenzo shopping area. More on that in a minute. Also only a tram stop away from the main train station; Santa Maria Novella Train Station.
It is also situated in front of a park however it didn’t compel us to explore it as there weren’t really any playgrounds or even walkways we could see. We did however take that walk along the river and it was beautiful! During the day we felt safe to venture out and take in the city’s architecture.
The hotel itself was fine. It was clean and the staff was kind. It felt more of a business hotel than a family one however. Since we were staying the entire month in Italy, our budget on this trip wasn’t as generous.
If you have a bigger budget I would recommend checking out the St. Regis. It was a short walk from our hotel alongside the river. They never disappoint and are always family friendly.
TIP: I will always remember that there aren’t irons in Italy hotels. I am actually really surprised this didn’t come up in my research. If you are someone that relies on ironing their clothes on vacation, know you may not be able to!
I called their housekeeping and they actually very kindly accommodated and brought not only an iron but also an ironing board to my room. I was extremely grateful. Since I didn’t always have the same luck in other Italian hotels, I had to be resourceful and utilize steam from the showers and a small, travel size wrinkle release spray I by coincidence managed to pack.
Now I wanted to ensure I incorporated Pisa into our Florence plans because it is just a short, hour train ride away. It made complete sense to take a day trip out there from Florence and I have to tell you it was the best decision we could have made.
Since we didn’t have luggage, we took advantage of the tram and after a short one stop we arrived back at the Santa Maria Novella train station. The fare was 8 euros each way and we only paid for my wife and I since our son was 3, he was free.
Once in Pisa we took another tram to the leaning tower of Pisa! Also a short ride however like most public transportation, it made a few stops and wasn’t convenient when we were tired on our way back.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the leaning tower of Pisa was that right outside the main area there were many street vendors selling statues of the tower. I was amazed by how many different sizes, shapes and colors there were.
It makes me giggle a little bit because you could tell many were cheaply made yet they were selling like hot cakes! And myself included who they were selling it to. But I could not pass up taking home the cheap souvenirs.
Now once you walk into the main area there was a very long garden chained off and many tourists, again myself included, posing for photos of the tower in the background. After about 5 minutes you were right in front of the tower and there was a very long line of people who had paid to go up the stairs.
We chose not to go in as our 3 year old would not be up for that walk and we knew we’d end up carrying him. That is definitely not something we wanted to do, especially the stairs!
Despite not going in, we had a lovely time. Like many people, we sat on the grass and enjoyed the view. Our son did head rolls and really enjoyed himself.
For this reason I highly recommend you go see it and take your kids. If they are too young to remember, know they will have a good time in the moment and you will take many pictures for memories.
On our way out, we stopped at one of the small shops and enjoyed some Italian lemonade. Aside from that, I didn’t spot an actual restaurant so I recommend you don’t plan on eating there. You’ll have to venture out in the town a bit more to do that.
We took a train ride from Venice into Florence as there weren’t any flights available. The train ride was about 2 hours long and we paid a little under 200 dollars for the three of us (2 adults and a 3 year old.). It wasn’t a fancy ride either. We unfortunately shared it with a stranger as the layout of the seats of this particular train route and cart had 4 seats facing each other. It was as awkward as it sounds.
We also received a bottle of water and a bag of chips. Again nothing fancy however significantly better than the train ride from Florence to Pisa.
The train ride from Florence to Pisa as I mentioned was very short, approximately an hour. Each train was different of course but I can tell you both trains to and from were not properly maintained.
The restrooms were very dirty and most didn’t work. I typically avoid public restrooms as much as I can, however when you are traveling with a toddler, it is often inevitable therefore keep this in mind.
I recommend you encourage them to go before and after the train ride and take tissues and hand sanitizer as you will not have either accessible to you.
Now, when we first arrived from Venice to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station, I mentioned we took a taxi cab due to having so much luggage. We were traveling across Italy for about a month and therefore the amount of luggage reflected that and we didn’t want to have to worry about lifting them onto the public tram (small bus.) Perhaps if we just had one each this would have been a feasible option.
Length of stay
You might be asking yourself is 2 or 3 days enough? How many days should you stay?
We stayed 2 nights, 3 days and can confidently tell you that wasn’t enough time. This is especially when you carve out a day to explore Pisa and or Luca. If I were to return, I would personally reserve 5 days for Florence.
If you like to take your time at each attraction then perhaps spend a week. But I believe 5 suffices. You could for example just take a day to tour museums. Another day to just walk along the river and visit the Duomo and surrounding plazas.
Traveling to Florence with kids takes a little bit more time because you have to account for stopping when kids are tired, hungry or need outfit changes. While it’s always great to have an itinerary, it is also important to go with the flow of your children’s tolerance for a much more enjoyable experience.
How much money to bring and is Florence expensive?
Many places in Italy take credit cards and Florence is no exception. Many places however only took cash or required a minimum purchase amount before they could accept credit cards.
I love taking our American Express Platinum when we travel due to having no foreign transaction fees to name one of the many travel perks. I did however encounter a bit of rejection with it. Most taxis for example did not take Amex.
The amount you take will depend on the length of your stay and spending habits of course but I found it ideal to have $200 euros for every 3 days you stay. Airports so you know, will convert your euros back to dollars at the available currency at the time so you won’t really lose any money.
Things to do in Florence with kids
When we arrived in Florence, the first thing I did after checking in the hotel was to message an old acquaintance from where I live. She used to live in my hometown as well however, many years ago moved away, met her husband in Italy and has been living in the outskirts of Florence ever since.
When I asked her what she suggested as a local to do in Florence, her first recommendation was the Duomo. While it was walking distance from the hotel, we decided to go for dinner and I just didn’t want to walk back at night in a foreign city. This is especially not with a 3 year old.
The taxi cab ride there was easy and short. The taxi cab ride back unfortunately was more complicated. You see there is a designated spot for cabs yet it’s not as frequently used. At least not at night in our experience.
We waited a long time and even called the hotel for assistance. Eventually we flagged one down but just keep this in mind if you decide to take one.
If we had to do it again, I would go during the day and just take a nice walk. You’ll save money, experience more culture and save yourself the headache of flagging down a cab for the ride back.
Once we were there it was really nice. A little bit crowded of course but just beautiful. The Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral is there of course and it’s more than worth taking the time to go inside and admire it. Plus it is free to enter!
Our 3 year old didn’t understand too much of course but he loved exploring around. His favorite part he’ll tell you is chasing the pigeons at the square, ha!
You can also climb the Duomo! It is 463 steps to be exact. And you guessed it, we chose not to walk these steps either for the same reason we skipped Pisa’s steps. The corridors are pretty narrow and steep so keep this in mind when assessing if you and the kids want to give the climb a try.
Did you know that The Duomo is the largest masonry dome in the world? Pretty cool right! An architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, created it under the design of Arnolfo di Cambio by 1436! When I learn facts like these, it astonishes me just how old the architecture in Italy is!
Another place to explore while at The Duomo is Giotto’s Bell Tower. It also sits at the plaza square next to the cathedral and like the Duomo you may climb it as well. You must first enter the cathedral keeping in mind.
Remember the Arno River by the hotel we stayed at? Well there is a famous bridge called The Ponte Vecchio over this river! It is famous for having shops built along it. I do recommend you take the walk to explore it.
Carousel at Piazza Della Repubblica
My son has managed to find all the carousels in Europe. I like to joke and Carousel at The Piazza Della Repubblica is no exception. This one is definitely a popular kid attraction and a must see when traveling to Florence with kids.
The Piazza Della Repubblica is actually just walking distance from the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio so it is a definite must to add to your explore list. In this square you are going to find places to eat in addition to street performers if you are lucky.
Now there are a few museums in Florence, but the ones that are pretty well known are the Museo Galileo and The Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. Both are considered kid friendly and easy to access.
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is conveniently just down the street from the Duomo so I would perhaps add that to the extension of that day trip once you are there.
The Galileo Museum is behind the Uffizi Gallery right along the Arno river we talked about. What is neat about this one is that if you are there on a weekend, the museum actually organizes activities for children and families.
More to consider that we wish we would have done
Take a cooking class! I heard a lot of great things about cooking classes as a family that we just didn’t have time to do. You could learn to make pasta or pizza!
I don’t know about you but our son loves helping out in the kitchen all the time. This would have been a great opportunity to not only learn how to cook an Italian dish, but also learn more about the culture.
Is it Gay Friendly?
I didn’t really notice any gay presence in Florence. Now granted I didn’t necessarily go out looking for it either however I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around with my wife holding hands.
I didn’t see a single rainbow flag or a gay couple holding hands or anything like that. Florence, like the rest of Italy we saw , gave us a feeling of old fashioned and classic architecture.
Where to eat
On our walk from the hotel along the river, we of course ventured in the building walkways to get a sense for the shops, restaurants and architecture. That’s when we decided to stop at Tre Merli Ristorante as we were hungry for pizza.
Funny story, our son, like the American boy that he is, always asks for pepperoni pizza. I did not realize at the time that this is an American pizza. If you ask for pepperoni pizza in Italy, they will give you either a spicy italian sausage pizza or a green pepper pizza. Well this particular time, he received a spicy sausage pizza, ha!
The restaurant was trying very much to accommodate him. They just didn’t know what kind of thinly sliced sausage we were requesting and honestly we didn’t push it. We are believers in adapting and trying new foods and not always getting American food.
So my son ate cheese pizza and I ordered whatever came with mushrooms. The restaurant is situated by a small road. The tables are primarily outdoors under umbrellas and it’s very quaint with planters.
Later in the evening we dined at the Duomo at the IL Bottegone S.R.L. not only was the food delicious but the views were wonderful. Just pictured yourself in a busy square yet the architecture, cool summer breeze and incredible drinks made for a delightful dining experience.
While I will be honest and tell you I didn’t necessarily appreciate Florence as much as first. We actually almost skipped it all together when we set up our Italian itinerary. Now I am so glad we didn’t skip it. I wish to go back and experience a lot of things more slowly and all the new things with excitement.
I will always encourage you to travel with your kids. And while some things when traveling to Florence with kids take modification, for example strollers. The sidewalks are not child friendly. Many, like a good portion of Italian cities, are made of cobblestone and are very old. Therefore you’ll need a sturdy stroller to be able to keep up. We did not see much ramps at all so be prepared to lift strollers and take your children out of them at times.
Despite that, my son had incredible memories and did amazing or just napped at times at museums and historic sites. I truly believe that you’ll be glad your kiddos came along.
Florence has so much to offer for you and family. Make sure you give yourself the 5-6 days and take the city in. If you want to see some videos of our trip, head over to my Instagram where I have stories saved in my story highlights on top of my profile!
If you are also traveling to other cities in Italy, take a look at our experience as a family in Venice. Also coming soon our experience in Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast. So make sure you subscribe to my mailing list and check back.
Feel free to also let me know if you went. What were you able to do and if your experience was similar or different from mine. I would love to hear. Traveling is a passion of mine and hearing about the destinations brings so much joy and excitement.
There is still much of Italy I would love to explore. On the short list is Milan, Lake Como, Capri, Siena, Sicily and Ravenna. I am hoping to have the pleasure of adding those to the list in the near future as well.
Thank you for re-living Florence with me y’all. I hope your family has a fabulous time and that you get to do all the things I recommended above. Until the next trip!