Bushbaby Travel: Inspiring travel for life
Florence with Kids C Shutterstock

Gelato with a Side of Culture - Venice & Tuscany with Kids, Europe Blog

Florence with Kids C Shutterstock

With an active 11 and 9 year old in tow, is a trip from Venice to Florence and Tuscany, the heartland of Italian culture, sufficiently fun to keep boredom at bay? Well, judging by their post-holiday assessment ‘it was amazing’ then apparently yes it is!

Whether you arrive by boat or train, Venice literally takes your breath away! For the children, our vaporetto pass was a thrill in itself and they quickly became experts at boat-hopping their way around the waterways.

    Venice    View from Rialto    IMG 8861

Travelling in peak season, it was predictably very busy, especially around the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square, but it's surprisingly easy to meander through the twisting alleyways until you find peace and solitude. The best time to visit St Mark’s Basilica is undoubtedly early morning or late afternoon if you want to avoid the queues. For stunning views over the lagoon, the outlying islands and over to the mainland, it’s almost unforgiveable not to summit the top of Campanile Di San Marco (and yes, there is a lift – phew!). If you have longer to linger, it’s fun to take a boat over to Murano, famous for the exquisite Murano glass (there are plenty of open studios which provide a fascinating insight into glass-making for kids). Burano is similarly peaceful and charming, with groups of local women, gathered together creating the beautiful hand-made lace for which the island is renowned. With kids in tow, time in the water and on the beach is virtually a pre-requisite. The family-friendly St Regis Venice San Clemente Palace offers a great pool and tennis too if you're feeling active! Otherwise, I definitely recommend an afternoon or two at Venice Lido to catch up on sand-castle building and beach fun.  Alberoni is a good option, set in a nature reserve and only about 40 minutes from Venice by ferry.

Food is always quite high on the agenda for our family holidays. We made several visits to Farini for freshly baked pizza (and a glass of Aperol Spritz for the grown-ups!). We also got rather hooked on delicious iced coffees which kept us cool and refreshed and Venci’s proved impossible to resist for designer ice-cream! We also had a ‘tasting day’ aka a food crawl – Venice is perfect for this as there are literally hundreds of little cafes, delis and bars lining the streets. The kids got to choose where and when we stopped to try out various new food sensations and promptly devoured mouth-watering arancini, bacala mantecato (creamed cod). risi e bisi (Venetian style rice and peas) and various delicious biscuits and unlikely sounding ice-cream flavours!

Venice tasting

For our next stop, we took one of the impressively fast and stylish trains to Florence. The on-board complimentary snack of prosecco and amaretto biscuits got us off to an excellent start! It’s definitely about the little details when travelling with children. Our last visit to Florence was for a milestone birthday sans enfants and we had lovely memories of strolling around the festively decorated streets, visiting art galleries and dining at the likes of Cibreo. Florence in summer is no less beguiling but it’s certainly busy so you do have to be more organised – those museum and gallery tickets are best booked in advance and we had already worked out where we were going to eat each evening too, thanks to our trusty tripadvisor app. so were able to make reservations. For culture, the family vote was for the Uffizi and the Galileo Museum. At the former, our two enjoyed seeing the exquisite and familiar Botticellis but after that interest waned and we had to go in search of gelato to revive them! For our science obsessed 11 year old the Galileo Museum was a definite hit, not least because once you’ve had fun looking at the beautifully painted globes, old telescopes, and various other astronomical and mathematical treasures they will delight in the macabre exhibit of two of Galileo’s fingers and his tooth! There’s also a great ‘hands on’ room – perfect for getting to grips with some of Galileo’s machines and visionary science. Of course, the whole of Florence is a museum in itself; we loved exploring the old streets, stopping to see performers on the Ponte Vecchio, gazing up at the sculptures in Loggia dei Lanzi, soaking up the magnificent Renaissance architecture and, in between, cooling down at the fountains, nipping into Verrazzano for freshly baked focaccia and spending a lot of time enjoying gelatos at Vivoli’s – a Florentine institution. 

Pisa is only a short train journey away, so it’s definitely worth spending an afternoon there to explore the incredible Piazza dei Miracoli which features the iconic leaning tower which was apparently already starting to tilt when it was completed in 1372!

Emilia in Florence

For a relaxing finish to a Tuscan adventure, it would be hard to beat a stay at the sublime L’Andana Tenuta la Badiola a picture-book Medici summer villa, now a luxurious, but family-friendly 5* hideaway. The setting, in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma countryside, is a sight to behold. The tranquil outdoor heated pool is set amidst beautiful gardens and enjoys stunning views. With its own spa, tennis, golf, cookery classes and even a wonderful kid’s club it’s the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries. It’s the simple things, but one of the highlights for us was the long leisurely breakfasts on the terrace overlooking the golf course.  A lazy breakfast is usually a thing of the past with children in tow but at Casa Badiola the children can practice their putting with mini clubs whilst the grown-ups enjoy their second (or third) coffee in peace! We loved the fact you can explore by bicycle or on horseback and it’s easy enough to do as we did and hire a car so you can visit Volterra, San Gimignano and Montepulciano - ancient, cobbled and beautiful Tuscan towns an easy drive away. Perfect for stocking up on those bottles of Chianti to take back home! We also loved heading into the traditional seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia (15 mins drive away) for an early evening stroll and obligatory stop at a gelateria. The children explored the steep cobbled streets and climbed up to the fortress for panoramic views. Finally, for family beach time, the hotel will pack you a beach bag and reserve you a spot at one of the many beach clubs complete with sun loungers, umbrellas and even a hammock! No wonder the Italians call it la dolce vita!


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