Relaxing in a farmhouse, climbing bell towers, horseback riding in pastoral landscapes, family cooking workshops and lots of ice cream – Tuscany can be a great destination for a family vacation. Tuscany is not a classic destination for families like the Lake District to its north, mainly because there are no huge amusement parks and attractions designed especially for children. But with proper planning, balanced dosages of museums, some attractions and nature walks, Tuscany is proving to be a great destination for a relaxed holiday that will satisfy the needs of all family members. In this post, we introduce our Tuscany itinerary for 7 days which definitely proves that there are many things to do in Tuscany as a family.
In order to ensure a successful trip, you should abandon the ambitious plans to visit all the important museums. You should focus on just a few must-see museums and enjoy all the other great pleasures Tuscany has to offer.
One area that Italy has a clear advantage over its competitors when discussing family trips is food. Very few children will refuse pizza and pasta, and even in the traditional restaurants of Tuscany, you will always find dishes that children will eat with no problems.
One of the great pleasures of Tuscany is the ice cream, and in the big cities like Florence or Siena, you can find ice cream shops on every street corner. Therefore, licking ice-cream becomes an integral part of the daily schedule.
This itinerary takes into consideration a car rental. As the distances in Tuscany are not short and some of the most beautiful landscapes are on the side roads, we think that the best transportation means is by car. Off course you can manage also with public transportation.
Our recommendation is to do a “star trip” which means sleeping in the same place and exploring every day a new and interesting destination from there. Therefore the first step when planning a vacation in Tuscany is searching for accommodation (preferably a lovely Tuscan villa) to stay in.
It is important to pay attention to the issue of the roads as Italy’s side roads are very convoluted, and there is a big difference between driving on the side roads and driving on the highway in terms of travel times. Try to see with google maps if the road leading to your hotel/villa is reasonable.
Important information when driving in Italy:
It is very important to be aware that most of the historic centers of the cities are all closed to traffic of casual vehicles (non-residents). This closed area is called ZTL-Zona Traffico Limitato. The local authorities have invested in a dense camera and sensor system that covers all the closed areas and automatically identifies the ones that enter these areas without permission and off course sending them a “nice” fine.
In the last ten years, most of the cities and sites have invested in the establishment of parking lots outside the ZTL areas that are convenient for access to the touristic sites.
So, after all this intro it is time to see the plan of our 7 days itinerary to Tuscany with kids. Here is a map that shows all the cities to visit according to this itinerary. This will help you choose an accommodation with a good location for the trip.
DAY 1 - Vinci
The town of Vinci and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum
Vinci, the village where Leonardo was born, is a Tuscan village similar to all the other villages. Those little red houses with green shutters, a landscape of terraces and olive trees. Here was born the most brilliant personality of the history of art and human inventions, the hero of the Renaissance turned myth.
The museum is impressing and it presents all the projects and machines invented by the great Leonardo. The museum is small but showing how genius Leonardo was. Leonardo Da Vinci is not just the Mona Lisa only and this place gives a great lesson to the kids but not only.
You can buy a combination card that also includes the birthplace of Leonardo.
Address of the museum: Piazza dei Guidi, 50059 Vinci
Address of Leonardo Da Vinci birth place: Casa Natale di Leonardo, via di Anchiano.
As this is the first day, we used the afternoon to shop for groceries for dinner and breakfast.
DAY 2 - Pisa and Lucca
Pisa and The Leaning Tower
The leaning tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s great wonders attracting more than a million tourists from around the world every year. The beautiful cathedral, the Baptistry, and the Campo dei miracoli, faithfully represent the city’s golden age in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. During this period, Pisa ran one of the largest and most important ports in Europe, the richness and rich culture of the city is visible from its buildings, but also from the works of art that inhabit the many museums in Campo.
When you arrive at Pisa, you should pay attention not to enter the ZTL area inside the wall. Near the wall, close to the tower there is a public parking lot (there are signs showing the way).
Parking: Parcheggio di Piazza dei Miracoli, Via Vecchia di Barbaricina, 8,Pisa.
Next to the tower is the magnificent cathedral of Pisa-Duomo. The Duomo façade is made entirely of elegant black and white marble slabs with delicate arches framing it. The Duomo Museum contains wonderful works, carved woodwork, and many other objects.
Another gem in the ensemble of the campo is the Baptistry.
Cycling in Lucca
This town is less known but it’s a gem. Located halfway between Pisa and Florence this small ancient city is surrounded by a wall that is 20 meters wide and 4 km long, and you can walk or ride a bike and enjoy the gardens, benches, and landscape.
The fun thing to do in Lucca is to rent a bike and ride on the wide walls of Lucca historic center. Riding on the walls is really pleasant and comfortable, it is flat along the entire wall, so even if you are not fit you will have no problem riding there.
It is also worthwhile to tour the city itself and to be impressed by the abundance of churches with beautiful façades. Climb onto one of the towers and enjoy a spectacular panoramic view. Walk around the alleyways and enjoy an excellent meal.
Go visit the Guinigi Tower This tower is easily recognizable: it has a leaning tree growing out of its top with great views from the top.
Parking: You can park near Piazza santa maria
Bike rental: recommended Bicycle rental is Cici Bizzari – piazza santa maria 32
DAY 3 - Florence
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, which was the most important city in Europe in terms of economy and culture in the 14th to the beginning of the 16th century. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, it is considered a cultural, architectural and artistic pearl.
The Arno River crosses the city from east to west. North of the river is surrounded by the walls of the Old City, the historic center of which dates back to the Middle Ages and contains most of the city’s major tourist attractions. South of the city’s river is less touristy and is more characterized by its gardens.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
Since we were a large group with small children and adults with walking difficulties, we decided to start the trip to Florence by taking the hop on hop off bus. You can park your cars in the Parterre parking lot at Piazza Della Liberta (address: Via del Ponte Rosso).
From the parking lot it’s only a short walk to the hop on hop off bus stop (address: Viale Giacomo Matteotti, 25-11). This is not a cheap ride, but it allowed us to see many areas in Florence where you do not go to with a private vehicle (mainly because some are inside the ZTL). Another advantage is that on the bus you get headphones so you can listen to the explanations about the important monuments throughout the ride (you have the option to choose a language). And like all the hop on hop off buses around the world, you can get off in any station and go back on again whenever you want (during that day). You can read more about it here.
It is highly recommended to go up to the second floor for the best observation.
The ride also takes you to Piazzale Michelangelo that has a spectacular view of Florence. We took line A and got off at the last station which is Florence Central Station.
A short walk from the central station and you arrive at the Mercato Centrale – just in time for lunch. This is a two-story indoor market that contains a variety of restaurants on the second floor. After having lunch, you can go to the lower floor where you can buy a variety of fresh pasta, dried mushrooms, cheese, cold cuts and more.
The lively Duomo square is located 10 min walk from the market. This is one of Florence’s main squares and the beautiful cathedral in the square is called Santa Maria del Fiore. This cathedral is considered one of the largest churches in the world.
The entrance to the Duomo is free and for this reason, you may encounter long queues. You can also visit the dome itself, the Battistero and the Campanile bell tower.
Piazza Della Signoria
This piazza is surrounded by some of the city’s most magnificent buildings. The square is a kind of open sculptures gallery with the amazing statue of Cellini and Giambologna. One of the most famous sculptures here and around the world is the replica of Michelangelo’s “David,” with the original standing here until the end of the 19th century (the original is now in the Academy Gallery). Just behind him stands one of the other symbols of the city of Palazzo Vecchio.
The Uffizi Gallery
This gallery is one of the most famous galleries in Florence and displays rare artworks and antiques collected by the Medici family over the years. Uffizi is located on the banks of the River Arno in Florence. The line at the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery can be very long and even slow. It is recommended to book tickets in advance on the website or in one of the tourist offices throughout Florence.
Ponte Vecchio which ancient bridge is down the street in direction to the city’s river. The unique shape of the bridge has made it one of the hallmarks of the city and has been standing there since 1345. Over the years the bridge has passed through metamorphosis and today it is full of jewelry stores and jewelers.
Back to the car
From ponte vecchio you can return to your car by either walking (25 minutes, 2 km) or taking a taxi. If you rode the hop on hop off bus then you can ride it back to Piazza Della Liberta.
DAY 4 - A Winery Tour And Arezzo
A winery tour: Castello di Verrazzano
This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Tuscany. The Castello di Verrazzano Is an ancient winery in the heart of Chianti, situated on a hilltop above the magnificent valleys of Tuscany. The landscape and the wine are both amazing.
The winery is in an old building that has undergone a slight renovation and the production methods are a combination of new and old. The site also produces fine olive oil. The Verrazzano family owned the place from the 12th century and one of its descendants was among the explorers of North America in 1485.
For this activity you must book a reservation in advance, so plan ahead the day an time you’ll want to do this. Check out their site for more information.
Although it may be surprising, this tour is suitable also for kids. You can choose from several tour options. Typically, it starts with a tour of the beautiful gardens and the historic winery. Then (depends on the package you pick) you are served a meal with a sizable selection of antipasto, cheese and cold cuts as well as four different kinds of wine. Afterwards, a delicious pasta and even desert. The food and wine were excellent.There is a vegetarian option and children’s meal but you must notify them when making the reservation.
The beautiful city, located southeast of Tuscany, is one of the oldest cities in Tuscany.
Parking: note that there are ZTL areas so it is recommended to park at Parcheggio Pietri, Via Giuseppe Pietri, 52100.
Once a month there is a magnificent and authentic antiquities fair. This is a colorful and popular attraction that has been taking place in the city for more than 30 years, on the first weekend of every month, on Saturdays and Sundays.
You can start by heading to piazza grande which is famous because of the film”La Vita e Bella” (Life Is Beautiful) by Roberto Benigni. It is easy to identify the shops and streets featured in the film.
Not very far from there, in a walking distance, you can visit Duomo San Donato. This cathedral is set in an impressive setting with an open park in front of it. Inside is a Piero della Francesca fresco, as well as beautiful stained glass windows.
DAY 5 - Siena and San Gimignano
Among Siena’s ancient walls are numerous art and cultural treasures. It should not be forgotten that in the Middle Ages it was one of the richest, most successful and largest cities in all of Europe. Today it is one of the most visited cities in Italy. The ancient city of Siena was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The center of the city, the heart of the city, is Piazza del Campo. There you can find the famous bell tower – Torre del Mangia, which has become one of the city’s symbols. To reach its top and see the stunning views you will have to climb about 400 steps.
On your way to Piazza del Campo, you will see the cathedral of Siena. This elegant and monumental cathedral has been the city’s pride.
Parking: Pay attention to ZTL zones. We recommend parking in Parking Santa Caterina, Via Esterna di Frontebranda, 53100 Siena.
Not far from the parking there are escalators to the old city.
About an hour drive from Siena (50 km) you’ll find the Italian hill town of San Gimignano.
Parking: we recommend parking your car park at san gimi, Via dei Fossi, 1, 53037 San Gimignano (be aware of the ZTL).
The town of San Gimignano, nicknamed “medieval Manhattan,” because of its stone towers, is a charming walled town in Tuscany. This is a popular tourist site, but you can definitely visit it and enjoy its charms with children as well.
In the past, there were about 80 towers in the town of San Gimignano, but over the years, following wars and epidemics, their number had shrunk to 14. The Torre Grosso is the only remaining tower open to the public and also the highest, with a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside.
If you like frescoes, you’ve come to the right place. The modest facade of the Church of Sant’Agostino does not attest to the magnificent frescoes of the 15th century, within it (free admission).
Walk along the alleys leading out of the city’s main square and under the arches and discover cute shops and boutiques built right inside the old city walls. Delicacies, wines, pottery, fabrics, and artifacts will surround you. On Thursdays, you can enjoy the weekly market in Piazza del Duomo.
Recommended ice cream:
Right in the center of Piazza della Cisterna are two of the best ice creams in Tuscany: Gelateria di Piazza and Gelateria Dondolo. We tried them both and couldn’t choose who is better. avoi
DAY 6 - Pistoia And An Outlet Village
Pistoia (preferably Wednesday or Saturday)
The town of Pistoia is about an hour’s drive from Pisa. This small town which is usually not crowded with tourists is located at the base of the Apennines. The churches of Pistoia are an example of Romanesque architecture and medieval sculptures. The church of San Giovanni Fourcivitas is one of the most beautiful, with its prominent green-white facade. The Duomo Square, Piazza del Duomo Pistoia, is a classic Tuscan town square. The Medicis conquered the town, and the architecture shows their influence. This piazza is large and impressive – not Florence but impressive nonetheless.
Piazza Della sala is the heart of the city, with many bars and restaurants around it. It is also the location of the open-air market with fruits and vegetable stalls and twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) it hosts a huge market.
A different attraction is a tour of the underground canals Pistoia Sotterranea. The tour itself runs just under an hour and explores the several centuries of history that make up the Ospedale del Ceppo and the world beneath it. It is a cool way to walk through parts of history often unexplored, see the old city foundations and to hear about an early hospital and its treatment of the plague, to see an old re-routed creek, and more.
Recommended parking lots:
Parchrggio Misericordia – Via della Vignaccia, 51100 Pistoia
Parcheggio Pertini – Viale Antonio Pacinotti, 51100 Pistoia
Afternoon of shopping In An Outlet Village
Around 40 minutes drive from Pistoia there is an outlet village called Barberino Designer Outlet. There you can find lots of great Italian shops but not only. There is a huge parking lot, places to eat, drink and have coffee. The atmosphere is very nice and relaxed, excellent for a lazy afternoon.
Address: Via Antonio Meucci, 50031 Barberino di Mugello FI, Italy
DAY 7 - Fun At Doganaccia 2000
Fun day at Doganaccia 2000
Doganaccia 2000 is located at Pistoia’s mountain on the borderline between Tuscany and Emilia. This beautiful location offers to the tourist different activities, In the summer you can enjoy things such as trekking, paraglider, mountain bike, equitation, orienteering and fishing and also 700m Bobsledding.
From the month of December, the place changes its landscape, offering winter sports such as 15 km of slopes where you can practice skiing and snowboarding, an area dedicated to sledding, as well as numerous trails.
We were there at the end of March, for our children it was the first time they saw snow! Huge excitement for them! All the kids took a skiing lesson which was great and afterward had some fun in the snow. The ones that didn’t want to ski sat for a nice snack and a drink at their little cozy restaurant.
How to get there: From Florence / Pistoia follow the SR66 from Pistoia and then the SS12 to Cutigliano; from Lucca / Modena follow the SS12 to Cutigliano. Here you can take the cable car following the relevant signs for 8 minutes, or continue by car for 16km following the signs for Doganaccia. We took the cable car which was an attraction for the kids by itself.
We really hope you find this itinerary helpful for planning you family vacation in Tuscany.
If you have any questions or suggestions please write them in the comments or contact us.