About ten years ago I used to live on the Adriatic Coast in Italy in a region called Le Marche, and I was lucky enough to visit Florence a few times. It was one of my favourite places, mainly because of the delicious gelato and aperitivo (Aperitivo is different to 'happy hour' although essentially that's exactly what it is, locals enjoy a drink before dinner, but they also enjoy some pre dinner snacks too - if you are smart, these snacks can definitely suffice as a meal!). After our recent trip there as a family it's safe to say it will always remain a favourite.
We were travelling through Europe during one of the hottest summers they have ever had on record!
Usually not an issue, but when you are travelling with kids the heat does impact your days.
It's not fair to expect young kids (mine are 2.5yr and 8 months) to be out in the heat walking and exploring. And of course they couldn't care less about some famous bridge or museum!
So, we went out early, came home for the hottest part of the day and then headed out again early evening. It was actually ideal because the sun is still up until about 9pm so you don't feel as though you are missing out, and to be honest Italian cities come alive at night anyway.
We caught the train from Rome to Florence, the journey took about 2 hours thanks to the Frecciarossa (high speed trains).
We paid for business class seats, because I know how uncomfortable it can be on trains in Italy if you don't book well in advance. I'm glad we paid a little extra because it also meant the section we were in was nice and quiet.
This city is simply beautiful.
Busy yes, but not as busy as Rome. I love just wandering through the cobbled streets, stumbling upon little cafes and restaurants.
There are also some wonderful towns that are close enough for day visits such as Sienna and also Pisa, easy to get to by train.
Where we stayed:
- La Terrazza Sul Duomo Firenze
Because we were only in Florence for two nights, we opted for a central location because we didn't want to hire car, everything needed to be within walking distance - and it was.
Where we ate:
- Our accommodation included breakfast, but it was slightly limited to bread and coffee - which was fine, but it meant mid morning I was ready for more bread and more coffee! So we often just stopped off at little cafes along the way for another breakfast.
- Caffe Gilli
Gilli is the oldest café in the city of Florence. Established over 270 years ago by a Swiss family in Medici-era Florence, it started as a pastry shop steps away from the Duomo. In the mid-1800s, it moved to Via degli Speziali, and from there to its current location in Piazza della Repubblica.
Go there for Aperitivo!
We ate here twice because it was so lovely and the location was ideal - Ayla could go out into the square and dance as there was always someone busking. There was also a gorgeous carousel in the square that was one euro. It was great for people watching and relaxing.
(2 min walk from our accommodation)
- Shake Cafe
As many of you know I eat a plant based/vegan diet which can sometimes be a struggle in places like Italy as I tend to indulge in bread and pasta and forget about green juices. So I was delighted when we stumbled across this cue cafe.
Lots of delicious juices and smoothies as well as salads and wraps/sandwiches and of course some yummy vegan treats.
- Perche No! (Translate to - Why not)
GELATO - Trust me, JUST GO HERE! It's delicious. Plenty of dairy free and vegan options too!
Things to do:
Visit the Paperback Exchange bookstore of course! http://www.papex.it/ - They now stock Little Miss Jessica Goes to School and have a wonderful selection of books for kids and adults
Walk the streets and find cafes and restaurants and eat gelato
Piazza del Duomo - (we could see this from our hotel room)
Piazza della Signoria
The Uffizi Gallery
Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Santa Maria Novella
My highlight from Florence;
Listening to a young girl busking outside our window, singing 'Time to Say Goodbye' (Con te Partiro) - doesn't get anymore cliche than that, it was perfection.
Walk! It's the best way to see the city. I put my 8 month old in the carrier and my 2 year old in the Babyzen Yoyo pram - and we often switched this up when one or the other was getting bored.
If you decide to stay somewhere else in Tuscany and do Florence as a day trip, I suggest getting the train or hiring a car.
Florence was also the city that my beautiful Ayla (who was still 2 at the time) decided to have some incredible tantrums. Obviously she was tired, hot and probably hangry - so who could blame her! But, there were certainly some very challenging moments for my husband and I - travelling with kids is not easy. They are still kids no matter where in the world you are. So be patient, and remember that although there will be challenging moments when you travel with kids, the good moments will always be what you cherish.