Florence: Fine Art, Frescoes, and Plenty of Gelato
Related Good Family Sites -
Where to Stay
The St. Regis received more than a face-lift last year—it has a new family-friendly approach: Kids under 12 eat free, and second rooms for the younger generation are 50 percent off (39-055-27161; doubles from $872).
With its sleek interiors and boutique chic feel, J.K. Place might seem best suited to well-heeled adults, but the property is actually one of the most child-friendly in town. Strollers and bathtubs can be borrowed upon request, and kids under six eat brunch for free. The concierge is a pro at finding activities for any age (39-055-264-5181; doubles from $586).
What to Do
Kids and their parents have been riding on the colorful horses of la giostra, the antique wood carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica, for more than a century. The photos are guaranteed to be a cherished souvenir (May–Nov.).
The five and under set will enjoy picking out the wildlife in Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi, a three-wall fresco in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. The museum is on the small side—book an English-language tour ahead of time to ensure a front-row seat for the painted menagerie (39-055-276-0340; adults, $9; kids 6–12, $5).
Italy’s reputation as the world’s most bambino-friendly country is well deserved: Cheeks will be pinched and toddlers whisked off to the kitchen by matronly chefs. Children can command their own kitchen for a day by enrolling in various cooking schools, such as the Florentine branch of the Cordon Bleu school.
The Palazzo Vecchio has a number of kids-only activities, including a guided tour that brings to life the daily court of the Medici family and supervised experiments in fresco painting. Most activities last between one and two hours—just enough time for parents to take an English-language tour of their own. Reservations required (39-055-276-8224; free). The Museo Stibbert’s porcelain warriors, armor, and antique daggers will keep boys engaged for hours (39-055-475-520; adults, $13; kids 4–17, $3).
Summer picnics in the Pitti Palace’s verdant, statue-dotted Boboli Gardens are a must (39-055-294-883). Pick up sandwich fixings at ’Ino, Florence’s best new panino shop, which has a great selection of wines for grown-ups and delicious chocolate chip biscotti for the kids (Via dei Georgofili 3).
Where to Eat
Most trattorias don’t have kids’ menus, but penne with butter and Parmesan or spaghetti with tomato sauce can be whipped up in an instant.
Join Florentine families at Teatro del Sale for Saturday lunch. The excellent eatery and cultural salon, with its stage for performances ranging from concerts to stand-up, is part of the famous Cibrèo restaurant empire. Choose from a selection of Tuscan staples like sausage and beans, polenta, and simple pastas; a space large enough to run around in makes it a great spot for stir-crazy kids (Via de’ Macci 111; 39-055-200-1492; lunch buffet, $26, plus a onetime membership fee of $7).
Wherever you eat, save room for gelato. There is a shop on almost every corner, but among the best are the artisanal Gelateria Santa Trinità, with its decadent dark chocolate (Piazza Frescobaldi 11-12R), and Vivoli, deservedly famous for its creamy classics (Via dell’ Isola delle Stinche 7R). For a healthier choice, try La Sorbetteria, which emphasizes a seasonal approach and fresh-fruit sorbets (Piazza Tasso 11R).
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St. Regis Florence
Courtesy St. Regis
What Kids Won't Forget
Tour operator Select Italy organizes children’s river cruises on barchetti, antique wooden boats that are the city’s answer to Venice’s gondolas. Engaging guides share the city’s history as the boats slowly ply the Arno. The company also offers hands-on classes like wood-oven pizza-making and even fresco painting for future Michelangelos, in which kids experience the various stages of creating a fresco, from laying the plaster and preparing the paints to coloring designs (312-664-4200; barchetti cruises, $45; pizza-making classes from $62; fresco classes from $20).
What Parents Won't Forget
With stunning views of the Arno and hundreds of paintings by the likes of Bernini and Delacroix, the Vasari Corridor,
an elevated passageway built by the Medicis, is open only by special
arrangement (book through Concierge in Umbria, 212-769-4767; Vasari
tours, $990 for two, including guide and museum entry). Follow your tour
with dinner at Io Personale,
where the four- to six-course tasting menu has seafood, meat, or
vegetarian options (no pasta) in casual surroundings that are great for
people watching. Included are inventive choices like raw squid ribbons
served with sage-infused garbanzo cream (39-055-933-1341; four-course
prix fixe, $52).