When you travel with young kids, it is always the big question;
Is it wise to visit a city with young kids? I think the right question is more likely to be;
WHAT is the best way to visit a city with young kids?
I have put a list together which can be applied to any major city trip.
Tips on how to plan a visit to any major city with kids
- Avoid standing forever at the station or the car park and discussing in which direction you should be heading, be prepared and have a plan.
- Google where to park. Most of the big cities have directions on where to park for free or where’s the best place to enter the city perimeter. Many ancient cities do not allow you to enter within the city limits by car and if they do, there is just absolutely no parking available. Do yourself and your family a favour and simply forget about driving in. If we cannot find any advice on where to park, I simply open google maps and check if it is best to enter the city by tram, bus or train. Search for a station on the outskirts with parking facilities and head for it. It’s the best way for sure, plus the kids will love a tram, bus or train ride. Public transport links are usually designed to allow you to visit all the major attractions.
- Inform yourself of all the monuments, points of interest and other interesting things you would like to see and photograph with your family.
- Get a map and markdown where these points are.
- Now plot an easy walking route connecting all your points of interest together as best as you can. You will maybe have to skip one or two, as they may just be too far out of your route.
- Change the map to Satellite; and you may see a nearby park which you could divert to so the kids could have a quick runaround, spot an ice cream shop or a water fountain. These are all great interactions for the kids and can help keep their interest.
Visit Florence is no different. We decided to park at the tram station Aldo-Moro in SANDICCHI which was a 45 min drive from our accommodation and a 10min tram ride into the city. The end-station is located right next to the main train station of Florence, Stazione Santa Maria Novella.
So really the ideal place. The tram runs every 10min and around the station are many free parking areas.
Remember point one of my list, have a plan and avoid standing forever at the station. Florence tram station was definitely a place where you wanted to head out as soon as possible.
We made our way to the food and textile market, "Mercato di San Lorenzo" and walked down to the amazing Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Another wow factor once you're standing in front of it. Very impressive architecture and the attention to details is simply incredible. Just beautiful.
It was then time to stop for an Ice-cream. Avoid stopping next to the most expensive ice-cream shop which has sparkling pink ice cream in the windows, and telling the kids they can have one, only to disappoint them once you have seen the price. Pretty much guaranteed to cause a meltdown of 2 very unhappy kids and some stressed parents trying to ease the situation with a “normal” ice cream.
We continued with our planned walking route which was leading us to the Piazza della Signoria,the fountain with many more sculptures and history everywhere. Quite fun to interact the kids with all the sculptures and explain very briefly what they are. My son spotted that the copy of “David" by Michelangelo did not have any underpants and found it hilarious. The beauty when travelling with kids!
Our Florence tour carried on up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, from where you have an amazing view over the city. If you are with a push-chair you can walk up the normal route and avoid the many steps up to the Piazzale. By now the kids where getting a bit tired and needed food.
We walked back down in the direction to our very last point of interest which we didn’t want to miss, the Ponte Vecchio, which was our highlight of the whole city tour. As the sun was already very low the colours on the bridge combined with everybody just relaxing and admiring the golden sun, was very calming and a great place to finish our Florence expedition.
The kids did well, and so did we. We certainly got a good feel of what Florence is all about. Yes, we did not admire the lights at night, or listen to the street musicians while sipping an amazing Chianti wine and savouring some fresh antipasti. And this was perfectly ok.
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