With good planning and careful choices, your kids can enjoy Florence and the best of Italy's fine art galleries. P.S. Don't forget the gelato.
The small but busy city of Florence is so striking in its architecture and fine arts collections that most adults dream of visiting one day. Go slowly with kids though – the crowds and long entrance lines, and hot-in-summer, cold-in-winter galleries won’t come as a treat to them. Instead, plan one cultural activity per day and allow time to wander around, shop on the Ponte Vecchio and sample pizzas and pastries at every cafÃ©. Let them pet cats, peek into cathedrals and drift into shops until they’re overcome by the city’s magic.
Tip: purchase a cumulative museum pass and you’ll be able to leave and return to each site when the kids are ready.
Piazza della Signoria
Since its creation in 1299, the Palazzo Vecchio and the surrounding Piazza della Signoria have been a centerpiece of the cultural, social and political life of Florence. It is here in this grand piazza that a copy of Michelangelo’s David is on display. The unusually shaped trapezoidal palace is still City Hall, maintaining the structure’s importance to the Florentines. The apartments of the Medici government are open to visitors.
The Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower
(Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Campanile di Giotto)
Piazza del Duomo
This cathedral took architect Filippo Brunelleschi 14 years to complete, and when it was finished in 1434 it stood as the largest unsupported dome in the world, as it was his intention to dwarf the ancient structures of Rome and Greece. It is one of Florence’s most recognizable sites and it continues to dominate her skyline today. Reminiscent of the Italian flag’s colors, red, white and green patterns of the marble exterior were only recently added in the late 19th century to commemorate Florence’s status as the capital of the newly united Italy. Walk up 463 steps to the top for an unforgettable view. The adjacent Bell Tower’s is 20 feet shorter than the dome and its red, white and green coloration matches that of the Duomo. Its top is reached by a mere 414 steps, and offers a less crowded viewing area. Although seeing the tops of all of le case di Firenze (the houses of Florence) is magnificent with the rustic hues of reds and whites, make sure to note that climbing to the top of both the Duomo and Campanile can be tight and claustrophobic. Kids who do not like the dark or small spaces, may be more inclined to not partake in the adventure.
Battistero di San Giovanni
Piazza del Duomo
Situated in front of the Duomo is this octagonal Baptistery which is dedicated to Florence’s patron saint, John the Baptist, or as the Florentines know him, San Giovanni. The most prominent feature of the building, considered one of the area’s oldest, is Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze doors which depict scenes from the Old Testament, called the “Gates of Paradise.” Ghiberti worked on this masterpiece for 27 years and died only 3 years after their completion.
This large palace was built originally in 1458 by banker Luca Pitti, and was later purchased by the wealthy Italian Medici family. The building houses eight separate museums, the most notable of which is the Palatine Gallery, which contains works by Raphael, Titian, Rubens and Caravaggio. There is also a Costume Museum and a Carriage Museum. In addition, the adjacent Boboli Gardens (055/238-8786) is one of the most lush and beautiful gardens in Florence and a splendid outdoor attraction for parents and children alike.
Galleria degli Uffizi
Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6
055/2388-651 or 652
Without question one of the finest museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery contains the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance painting including Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo and countless others. The gallery is connected to the Pitti Palace by Il Corridoio Vasariano, which runs across the top of the Ponte Vecchio and is filled with priceless works of its own. To bypass the extremely long line at the front entrance, try calling ahead to make a reservation at 055/294-883.
Via Ricasoli 58-60
055/2388-609 or 612
Get here early, or be prepared to wait in line to see the original Michelangelo’s David, this museum’s most famous work. Other work on display is from the 3rd/4th centuries and the 15th/16th centuries, including other pieces by Michelangelo as well as Fra Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto.
The Bargello Museum
Via del Proconsolo 4
Perhaps the most kid-friendly of all of Florence’s major museums, The Bargello contains the greatest collection of Renaissance sculpture in Italy including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Giambologna and Cellini. The building and lovely open courtyard itself is quite a historical landmark, dating all the way back to 1255 and originally housing the Florentine legal establishment and prison, which had a reputation for its horrendous conditions and torturing of inmates. Unfortunately for the kids, there are no torture implements on display.
Opificio delle Petre Dure Museum
Via degli Alfani 78
This fascinating museum is dedicated to the local art of stone mosaics. Visitors learn how artists select stones to create complex images that look like paintings. The museum also displays paintings on stone, work tools and oil paintings.
The Stibbert Museum
Via Frederick Stibbert 26
This museum is a great visit for younger kids, and also a nice change of pace from Renaissance art, as the collection includes weapons, armor, costumes and tapestries. The Stibbert Museum is surrounded by a park, and provides children with what they love – a large collection of armor with lots of knights in full battle dress and mounted on horseback.
For more information on these and other museums, visit The Museums of Florence.
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