There is far more to Tuscany than churches and museums. The region is a quietly child-friendly destination and, with savvy planning, families can revel in a wonderful choice of creative, educational, culinary and old-fashioned fun things to see, do and experience.
Best Regions for Kids
Fascinating museums – some interactive, others with creative workshops and tours for children – make Florence a favourite for families with children who are school age and older. For the under fives, gentle riverside ambles, vintage carousels, fantastic gelaterie (ice-cream shops) and a vast choice of dining options add appeal.
- Southern Tuscany
Marammese cowboys, archaeological ruins, sandy beaches and snowy mountains: this region might be rural, but it's a cracker when it comes to farm-stay accommodation, outdoor action and quirky sights to pique kids' natural curiosity.
- Central Coast & Elba
There's beaches and boats, Livorno's aquarium and 'Venetian' waterways to explore, and the paradise island of Elba to sail to.
- Northwestern Tuscany
Head to the Apuane Alps and Garfagnana to stay on Tuscan farms, see marble being mined, and explore subterranean lakes and caverns. Then there's Pisa's Leaning Tower to climb and Lucca's fairy-tale city walls to cycle.
Tuscany for Kids
Tuscany for children is wonderfully varied. Buckets, spades and swimming are a natural element of coastal travel (hit the Etruscan Coast or the island of Elba for the best sandy beaches), but there are mountains of things to see and do inland too. Urban centres such as Florence and Siena are finer (and more fun) than any school textbook when it comes to learning about Renaissance art, architecture and history – an increasing number of museums cater to younger-generation minds with superb multimedia displays, touchscreen gadgets, audio guides and creative tours.
The pace slows in the countryside. Rural farmsteads and agriturismi (accommodation on working farms or vineyards), wineries and agricultural estates inspire and excite young minds with traditional pastimes such as olive picking, feeding the black pigs, bread making in ancient stone ovens and saffron cultivation. There's bags of space to run around in, nature trails to explore, alfresco art sculptures and installations to gawp at and sufficient outdoor activities to keep a kid entertained for weeks.
Food & Drink
Appeasing most children's natural love of gelato, pizza and pasta is simple in Tuscany, a region that couldn't be easier when it comes to family dining. Children are warmly welcomed in restaurants, especially in casual trattoria and osteria – often family owned, and with overwhelmingly friendly and indulgent waiting staff and a menu featuring simple pasta dishes as well as more elaborate items. If you really cannot find anything on the menu that your child will eat – many restaurants have a menù bambini (children's menu) – ask for a plate of pasta with butter or olive oil and Parmesan.
Distances are not particularly long and there are plenty of 'count the churches' opportunities to entertain kids while driving. Children under 150cm or 36kg must be buckled into an appropriate child seat for their weight and are not allowed in the front.
On public transport, a seat on a bus costs the same for everyone (toddlers and babies on laps are free). Children under 12 pay half the fare on trains.
- Cave di Marmo Tours, Carrara Take a Bond-style 4WD tour of the open-cast quarry or follow miners inside 'marble mountain'.
- City walls, Lucca Hire a bike and ride along the top of the walls.
- Grotta del Vento, Garfagnana Go underground to explore subterranean abysses, lakes and caverns.
- Cabinovia Monte Capanne, Elba Ride a 'bird cage' up Elba's highest peak.
- Pistoia Sotteranea, Pistoia Discover subterranean rivers underneath a 13th-century hospital.
- Bagni San Filippo, Val d’Orcia Free backwoods bathing in thermal springs.
- Terme di Saturnia, Southern Tuscany Not the plush luxe spa; rather the hidden cluster of natural pools by the actual springs, at the end of a dirt path.
Medieval to Modern Art
- Parco Sculture del Chianti, Central Tuscany A 1km walking trail and lots of peculiar artworks to gawk at.
- Giardino dei Tarocchi, Southern Tuscany Giant sculptures tumbling down a hillside.
- Palazzo Comunale & Torre Grossa, San Gimignano Learn about medieval frescoes while wearing augmented-reality glasses.
- Museo Novecento & Palazzo Strozzi, Florence Hands-on art workshops for children and families.
- Museo Marino Marini, Pistoia Monthly family tours and hands-on activities in English.
- Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri, Castel del Piano Fun contemporary-art installations in a 16-hectare garden in southern Tuscany.
- Le Biancane, Monterotondo Marittimo Geothermal park with trails through steam-belching woods.
- Vie Cave, Southern Tuscany Excite young historians with a trail along sunken Etruscan roads.
- Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia, Golfi di Baratti Incredible trails around quarries and ruined tombs.
- Elba Tuscany's largest island is walk perfect, with plenty of capes and beaches.
- Fortezza del Girifalco, Cortona Kids love the stiff scamper uphill to this ruined Medici fortress atop the town's highest point.
Towers to Climb
- Torre del Mangia, Siena Steep steps and awesome views at the top.
- Duomo & Campanile, Florence Climb up Giotto's bell tower or into Brunelleschi's dome.
- Torre d'Arnolfo, Florence Clamber up 418 steps to reach Palazzo Vecchio's battlements.
- Leaning Tower, Pisa Accessible to children aged eight years and up; otherwise have fun taking photos of your kids propping up the tower.
- Torre del'Ore, Lucca Beware the resident ghost in this 13th-century clock tower.
- Torre Guinigi, Lucca Count 230 steps to the top of this 45m-high tower crowned with seven oak trees.
- Monteriggioni It's not a tower, but there are atmospheric 13th-century ramparts (reconstructed in the 19th century) to clamber around for aspiring knights, plus a small armour museum with chain mail and helmets to dress up in.
- Museo di Storia Naturale del Mediterraneo, Livorno Meet Annie, the whale skeleton.
- Riserva Naturale Provinciale Diaccia Botrona, Southern Tuscany Spot flamingos and herons on a boat tour through the marshes.
- Parco Regionale della Maremma, Southern Tuscany Hike, cycle or canoe through this huge coastal park.
- Acquario di Livorno, Livorno A thoroughly modern aquarium by the seaside.
- Museo Galileo, Florence Astronomical and mathematical treasures, with ample hands-on opportunities to explore how they work.
- Palazzo Vecchio, Florence Guided tours for children and families through secret staircases and hidden rooms; led by historical personages.
- Museo Piaggio, Pontedera Learn about Italy's iconic Vespa scooter at this fun museum near Pisa.
- Museo Stibbert, Florence Life-size horses, and knights in suits of armour from Europe and the Middle East.
- Museale Santa Maria della Scala, Siena Fantastic art space especially for kids in a fascinating museum in a 13th-century pilgrims' hospice.
Food & Craft
- Curious Appetite, Florence Learn how to make gelato (and eat it).
- Martelli, Lari Watch spaghetti being made at this artisanal pasta workshop.
- Antonio Mattei, Prato Watch bakers working the ovens at Tuscany's most famous biscottificio (biscuit shop).
- La Citadella di Carnevale, Viareggio Meet artists and watch them crafting giant clowns, kings et al for carnival floats; papier-mâché workshops for families too.
- Barbialla Nuova, Montaione Kids can get their hands dirty with a bread- or pizza-making workshop on an idyllic Tuscan cattle farm and truffle estate.
- Al Benefizio, Garfagnana Learn how honey is made with a skilled beekeeper.
Travelling with children to Florence and Tuscany involves little extra planning. Your most important decisions will be about the time of year you go – perhaps timing your visit with one of Tuscany's many vibrant festivals with particular appeal for kids, such as Siena's Palio, Viareggio's carnevale or Florence's Scoppio del Carro – and the accommodation you choose. Agriturismi (accommodation on working farms or wine estates) and country resorts, such as Borgo Corsignano and Fattorie de Celli near Poppi in eastern Tuscany, are invariably the best option for families; they often have self-catering facilities and plenty of kid-friendly activities like swimming, tennis, horse riding and mountain biking.
Museums & Activities
Many museums and monuments are free for children, generally until they're six (but there is no blanket rule about this). In Florence state museums are free to EU passport holders aged under 18. Otherwise, museums offer a reduced admission fee (usually half the adult price) for children – usually those aged six and up. Some exceptions make no concession: the Leaning Tower of Pisa has a flat rate of €18 for everyone aged eight and over (under eights are not allowed up the tower).
Most sights offer multilingual audio guides (usually for a fee of €5) – an instant way to catch the interest of children from eight years (it really does not matter if they don't understand or listen to every last word). Only museums in Florence and other larger towns tend to organise guided tours and workshops for children in English.