We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

One month in Florence- advice for our family

Which Florence hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Australia
posts: 379
reviews: 30
One month in Florence- advice for our family

Hi

we are an Australian family taking a year out and travelling through parts of Europe.

Our children will be 4 and 6 when we arrive in Italy and we are looking to stay in Florence for a month. ( I have been before and loved it, but was only here for a week and it was 11 years ago)

I can speak Italian (3 years uni major; although I am rusty) and we are looking to stay in the Duomo area near via Tornabuoni in an apartment.

I have been reading the boards and I am now worried that one month will be too long here for the children...

Any advice? We would have no set itinerary, just explore and sightsee at our leisure. And eat.

We would be looking at Sept-Oct for our stay.

I would love any advice, opinions, awesome ideas please.

Thanks

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
posts: 52,785
reviews: 11
1. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Have you sorted out your visas? Australian citizens may not stay in the Schengen Treaty area more than 90 days in any period of 100 days unless they have obtained a visa.

The Schengen area is basically the EU plus Switzerland but without UK and Ireland. Map here: www.axa-schengen.com/en/schengen-countries

If the children are not interested in art and architecture, there will be little for them to do in Florence. And Florence is not a good base for exploring the Tuscan countryside, as visitors are not allowed to drive anywhere in central Florence.

Australia
posts: 379
reviews: 30
2. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Hi

thanks for replying. We plan on staying in the Schengen areas for our max 3 month time and then heading to the UK (3 months) then back to Europe again.

We may also fly back to Asia for the European winter. Or head to Bulgaria for the snow...

I say that we are taking 12 months out but we are going to travel for an undetermined time, 12 months is the minimum and easier to explain.

Would you skip Florence altogether or stay a shorter length of time? We are also considering staying in Lucca and catching the train to Florence.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
posts: 52,785
reviews: 11
3. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Glad you know about the restrictions: they come as a shock to many people. Note that it is 90 days rather than 3 months. (And 180 days rather than the typo of 100 days in my earlier post.)

I am unusual in that I dislike Florence as a town, and would never choose to stay there. In my opinion, you would do better to stay somewhere smaller such as Lucca, Montepulciano, or Montalcino. Visit Florence by public transport if you want to spend some time in its magnificent art galleries. With a rental car, you can quite easily get around to other towns in this part of Tuscany, and show the children somewhere new each day.

You might get some ideas of places you would like to visit in Italy from the photos from our visits in 2006 and 2009: http://www.nickbooth.id.au/Pages/Italy.html and http://www.nickbooth.id.au/Europe09/index.htm

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 1,886
reviews: 40
4. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Sydneynick, do you mind if I ask why you dislike Florence as a town?

I have read many of your and Lynn's posts both here and on the Paris forum so am interested in your opinion. I have never been to Florence (or Italy for that matter), but we are planning a month there in 2014 for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. We were planning at least six nights in Florence allowing us to explore the surrounding part of Tuscany.

We do know about the driving restrictions, but would be exploring with a mix of train and/or private driver - allowing for lots of wine at lunch!

A few people have commented on not liking Florence, but I am just wondering why.

Thanks in advance.

Deb

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
posts: 52,785
reviews: 11
5. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Lynn and I have made 3 day trips to Florence, from San Gimignano and Lucca. We greatly enjoyed the magnificent art galleries and the art in churches, but I did not feel much empathy with the town.

I have to admit that I find it difficult to identify why I don't much like Florence whereas I enjoy just about every other town in the area. I find it rather claustrophobic, although other towns have narrow streets. I feel its main square lacks the harmony of the Campo in Siena, or the friendly feel of the two linked squares in San Gimignano.

Perhaps it did not help that our first visit was when the Calcio Storico was being held, so almost all the shops were closed and the place was packed.

Having said all that, I know that many people love Florence and could happily spend weeks there. It is a question of personal preference.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 1,886
reviews: 40
6. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Thanks for the reply Nick. As I mentioned, we have nearly two years until our anniversary so heaps of time for research. Our main aim is to see Tuscany, it just seemed logical to stay in Florence and do day trips. Funnily enough, I have read quite a few posts similar to yours regarding Florence which is why I am a bit concerned.

I will obviously be spending all my spare time on the Italy forum learning about all the places we plan to visit, along with regular forays to the Paris and Phuket forums which have always been my favourites!

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
posts: 52,785
reviews: 11
7. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Apart from main routes such as Florence-Siena or Florence-Lucca, public transport in this area is sparse and timed to meet the needs of residents rather than tourists. If you want to visit the interesting towns in the area south of Florence, you really need a rental car. Because of the ZTL, Florence is not really a suitable base for trips by car.

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
Destination Expert
for Tuscany
posts: 6,385
reviews: 49
8. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

Carls888,

Wow sounds like you and your family are in for a real adventure. If I were in your shoes, I'd go for it and I would base in Florence for the month. Lucca is a great place and I often recommend that people with small children base there instead of Florence, but they are usually only goiing for a few days or a week maximum. Your situation is quite different. The main reason I wouldn't recommend Lucca for you is that I assume you will not be having a rental car and so will be planning to make your day trips using public transport. Lucca does have good transport links, but to that part of Tuscany only and I'm not sure that there are enough day trips from there to last a month. It is not well connected to central, southern or eastern Tuscany. Florence on the other hand has the best public transport links in the region and if you use the trains and buses and perhaps join the odd organised tour, I think you will not run out of options over the month.

Secondly, it isn't true that there is nothing for kids in Florence. The Palazzo Vecchio houses the Museo dei Ragazzi. They organise activities and various tours for specific age groups. The Palazzo Strozzi puts on a series of temporary exhibitions and they also have a programme of activities to get children involved with the art, again aimed as specific age groups. The Bottega dei Ragazzi at the Ospedale degli Innocenti offers workshops where kids can have a go at making a fresco, make a model building etc. All of these programmes offer English speaking activities, you just need to get in touch beforehand and book the appropriate tour/workshop.

Then there are the other places popular with children: climbing the dome, playing with Leonardo's replica wooden machines at the Da Vinci museum near the Duomo, la Specola with its collection of stuffed and preserved animals, the Palazzo Davanzati with its maze of colourful rooms, restored to look like a Medieval merchant's house. They might like the Costume Gallery or the collection of armour and weaponry at the Stibbert. All children love shopping for tat at San Lorenzo Market. There are various parks and gardens too. Great day trips with things for kids are to San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, but also there is the archeological park at Fiesole, a zoo at Pistoia, an adventure park with zipwires etc. near Fiesole.

I assume you will be using the experience to help teach the children something too. What an opportunity. I would get the family ticket of the Amici degli Uffizi which gives you unlimited access to the Uffizi, Accademia, all the galleries and museums at the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, the Bargello, San Marco and more. You could do a little research the night before and then take the children to see just one painting/sculpture and get them to answer questions/find some things in the piece. Use it as an opportunity to teach them about history, art, the classics, bible stories (whether one is religious or not - they are part of our culture and history - essential general knowledge). Then just leave, go and do something fun or take a short day trip. Then do the same the next day with another piece. You can also use the month to take them on a culinary adventure trying and scoring different ice creams, pastas, pizzas etc.

Really, I think this is a fabulous opportunity for your family and with a little bit of research and forward planning you will all get a lot out of your trip. I have never had the opportunity to spend a whole month in Florence, but this is the kind of stuff I have done with my children when we have been there and hand on heart I can tell you that my kids love Florence and are always happy to be back there.

The only thing I would question is the area you are looking to stay in. Obviously in March the city will not be quite as overrun with people as it will be later in the year, but that does place you right in the heart of the city, so you will experience the noise (the worst being the street cleaning machines at night), the density of visitors and the higher prices of restaurants etc. I would look at staying the other side of the river, where it is quieter, you feel you have more space and the shops and restaurants are generally a little less pricey. You also tend to feel more like you are living with the locals than the tourists over there.

Norwich, Norfolk, Uk
Destination Expert
for Tuscany
posts: 6,385
reviews: 49
9. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

djh1,

While I respect Nick's opinion on Florence, he is correct that it is a very personal thing and many of us do absolutely love the city, so don't make any hasty decisions!

He is absolutely correct that you cannot have a rental car in central Florence, so your mode of transport should take a prominent role in your thoughts. If you decide that you definitely do not want a rental car, there is no where in Tuscany that will give you the transport options that Florence does. While it is true that not having a car will severely restrict your options for day tripping, I can't agree that public transport is sparse. You will have lots of options. If you are interested I can list some of them, but perhaps you already have a clear idea of where you want to visit. If so, please list them and I can quickly tell you if this is possible by public transport or not.

Le Marche, Italy
Destination Expert
for Rome, Marche
posts: 30,996
reviews: 21
10. Re: One month in Florence- advice for our family

One's opinion of Florence often depends on the timing of the visit. In the summer, the city is hot, airless, and very crowded with tourists; I can see that people visiting then might have an unfavorable impression. Also, seeing the city only on day trips means that you experience the absolute maximum of tourist crowds. I much prefer to go to Florence in the winter.

There are more opportunities for day trips from Florence than those mentioned by Nick. By train, you can easily visit Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo, Assisi, and Chiusi, as well as Siena. By bus, you can visit Siena and many of the towns in the Chianti region east of Florence. Greve in Chianti, Castellina, Radda, and many other Chianti towns are on a direct bus route, and I believe it's an inexpensive city bus. It's true that towns south of Siena, such as Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano would best be visited with a car, or from a base in Siena.

Although I discourage people from visiting Florence with a car, in your situation, staying there for a month, you may be able to familiarize yourselves with the safe routes in and out of the city. If you can find an apartment outside of the ZTL, and if you can find affordable parking for a car, there's no reason why you shouldn't rent one, at least for a week or so, to allow you to make longer or more complicated trips. Just make sure to inform yourselves about the location of ZTLs and bus lanes.

In my experience, children aged four or six don't require a lot of special entertainment. A park with a few games or places to climb will keep them happy for hours, and they may even find Italian playmates.