Art. Gastronomy. Kid’s fashion. The wonders of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo. Florence is steeped in it all. The Tuscan city sits among the hills on the Arno River. The birthplace of the Renaissance and once wealthy center of Medieval Europe’s commerce, today this city is one of the world’s jewels—a must-see on anyone’s Bucket List who’s traveling through Europe with the family.
My family and I had the good fortune to visit Firenze last July. We stayed at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, a destination in itself. Florence is simply a magical, lovely city, with its formidable galleries, children-friendly museums and great casual restaurants perfect for families. A few days there will make you feel as if you are in a dream, not real life! You can join a tour experiencing the taste of the true Italian market—sampling cheese, Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, antipasti, gelato and of course, the wine for us grown ups. It is a fun and delicious destination for you and the kids. In Florence, everything is an art, even eating.
From the first day, we quickly discovered that the hotel was close to nearly all the museums and main attractions. We really enjoyed strolling the narrow streets of “San Lorenzo Market” and the Oltrarno area (Oltrarno translates as “the other side of the Arno”).
1. Palazzo Vecchio:
Literally Old Palace, this is Firenze’s town hall and former residence of the Medici family. An impressive 13th century Roman stone fortress surrounded by statues, overlooking Piazza Signoria, its’ one of Italy’s most significant public spaces. We were amazed by the place. The painted rooms are stunning, the art is gorgeous and the level of conservation is impressive. Probably the best value museum in Florence.
There are magnificent frescoes on the walls and incredible stories behind each door! “The Medieval Palace Revealed” tour explores the oldest parts of the building: a 14th century staircase hidden in a wall; the apartment of the priors; and the guard’s walk on the battlement. “The Life at the Medici’s Court” tour visits the ducal apartments, including the secret study room of Duchess Bianca Cappello, usually closed to the public. The tour ends in the Gallery of Renaissance Costumes, including replicas of ornate gowns from the ducal family.
2. Galileo Museum:
Science buffs, this is your place. Near Ponte Vecchio, Museo Galileo is an interactive museum showcasing the Father of Modern Science’s inventions and his passion for astronomy and geometry. You’ll find the only surviving instruments made by the 1500s physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei himself here, including the telescopes and lenses he used to see Jupiter’s moons. Also, scientific collections from the house of Medici and Lorraine (1,000 instruments and devices in total on display).
3. Museo di Leonardo da Vinci:
Dedicated to the “Universal Genius,” this interesting museum reveals that the Leonardo da Vinici’s inventions were not so off-target as they may have seemed in the past. On view: his creations, contraptions and fascinating machines (categorized under water, fire, air and water); plus Leonardo’s architecture, literature, artwork (sculpture, paintings), physics and philosophy, to name a few. The kids will be riveted.
4. Stibbert Museum:
If you like knights in armor and dramatic stories about rival families, this is your place. Museo Stibbert spotlights the Italian aristocracy, its armor, helmets, swords and swashbuckling tales. The museum’s collection of some 50,000 objects dates back 400 years. There’s both European and Japanese armor, plus china, paintings and period dress of the day.
5. Chocolate Italian-style:
Learn about the secrets of making a top-quality chocolate in one of Florence’s most traditional chocolate shops in the city center. The best part is you get to sample the different varieties, and see all the dozens of shapes and colors a chocolate can be. (Ask the concierge for details.)
6. A morning at the market:
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale is Florence’s traditional central market. You’ll find anything from tripe and wild boar to wine, cheese, dried porcinis, salami and biscotti. The hotel offers a “Morning In The Market” family guided tour, plus short cooking session and tasty lunch made by you. (Ask the concierge.)
7. Pizza making class:
Why not make pizza in the country that invented it? The hotel puts on “Make Your Own Pizza” classes for children. There’s also a “Make Your Own Pasta” (600 varieties in Italy) class. Ask the hotel concierge for details.
8. Take home some Italian apparel:
Kid’s fashion is as important in Firenze as it is for grown-ups. And luxury brands, such as Gucci and Prada, have created their own lines especially for children. The best places, though, are the boutiques with stylish handmade selections. Among the best are: Loretta Caponi (Piazza Antinori 4), Baroni (Via Tornabuoni 9r) and Britta in Bicicletta (Lungarno Torrigiani 5r).
9. Toy shopping:
There are some wonderful stores with handmade toys and educational toys. Don’t miss Bartolucci (Via Condotta 12r) and Citt del Sole (in via dello Studio 23). Fun for adults, too.
10. Guided tours with kids:
Take advantage of specialized tours for kids—the best way to take in all the incredible art, history, architecture and history in an entertaining, interesting way. May hit the top sights such as the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, the Piazza Reppublica and Piazza della Signoria.
***The hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Florence is set within the walled tranquility of Florence’s largest private garden. After a busy day in the city, it’s the perfect haven where the kids can enjoy relaxed time by the pool, running in the garden and playing in the activity area. The hotel features two separate buildings: There’s the 15th century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the Conventino, a 16th century palazzo, once a convent. Between the two are 11 acres (4.5 hectares) of botanical gardens—the Giardino della Gherardesca—a beautiful, undiscovered green space on the right bank of the River Arno.
Read more about Florence in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our Concierge Recommendations for Florence in Four Seasons Magazine.
Nadine Abubakr is Public Relations Coordinator at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh Egypt. An Egyptian, Nadine was educated at Cairo’s Lycée Francais du Caire, then earned a Bachelor’s degree in mass communication, PR and advertising. The mother of Nayla, 11, and Kareem, eight, she is a self-described workaholic who “adores kids and loves life.” Nadine enjoys travel, adventure, and exploring new places and cultures. She has visited the U.S., Canada, France, England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Prague, Vienna, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Morocco.
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