Family Travel in Tuscany
With its unique mix of wild, hilly landscapes, beautiful sandy beaches, amusement and water parks, and cultured cities where medieval guilds and Renaissance masters once made their mark, Tuscany offers round-the-clock amusement for families.
While you can go all-out and plan your itinerary in the most minute detail, often the simplest things are likely to appeal to children: from city playgrounds to piazza carousels, sandcastle-building on the coast to street entertainers with puppets. Everywhere you go, you’ll get a warm benvenuto (welcome). Italians adore children and they are very much at the heart of daily life.
Sights and attractions in Tuscany are generally free for under-six-year-olds, and under-18s get free admission to state-run museums in Florence. Half-price child fares are available on trains. If you’re renting a car, make sure you reserve a car seat for tots (and see more about Getting Around Italy). Diapers and baby food can be purchased in most supermarkets or at a farmacia (pharmacy).
For itinerary ideas and more travel tips, check out our library of Tuscany travel articles here.
When to Go
By far the hottest, busiest and most expensive months to visit are July and August when the Italians are also on vacation, so try to avoid this time if you can for better deals, fewer crowds and milder temperatures. Spring and fall are beautiful for outdoor escapades in the wildflower-dotted countryside and oak and chestnut woods.
That said, if you fancy catching one of Tuscany’s fun festivals you might want to book for summer. Top billing goes to the likes of the Siena Palio in early July and mid-August, with its colorful pageants and thrilling bareback horse race around Piazza del Campo, and the fabulous week-long medieval festival in the tower-topped hill town of Monteriggioni in July.
See more about traveling to Tuscany throughout the year in our Monthly Series.
Highlights of Tuscan Cities
Tuscany’s cities and towns are like giant pop-up history books, with their attention-grabbing Roman, medieval and Renaissance sights.
Kicking off in Florence, say, you can delve into the world of astronomer Galileo Galilei with hands-on experiments at Museo Galileo, and tap into Da Vinci’s ingenious mind among the weird and wonderful flying contraptions at the interactive Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. Head across to the Boboli Gardens for a wander among the fountains and fantastical grottoes. Pinocchio hails from Tuscany, and you’ll find the long-nosed marionette at the Bartolucci store. Puppeteers regularly draw captive crowds in the city’s streets, too.
Siena has the Museo d’Arte per Bambini, housed in the medieval hospice of Museale Santa Maria della Scala, with trails, tours, and workshops for kids. There are tunnels burrowed out of the sandstone to roam, which link up to the archaeological museum.
Lovely, laid-back Lucca, is another brilliant choice for families. Here you can hire bicycles to whizz along the intact 13th-century city walls, which are kept cool by plenty of tree shade, hang out on the oval-shaped Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, or clamber up one of several medieval towers for a bird’s-eye view over the rooftops to the mountains beyond.
A half-hour’s drive from Lucca brings you to Pisa, famous for the wonkiest tower in the world, leaning at 5.5 degrees off vertical. And just south of here lies the coastal city of Livorno, with a huge aquarium for up-close encounters with eagle rays, zebra sharks, sea turtles, and moon jellyfish.
If fossils are more your thing, you won’t want to miss the Paleontological Museum in Montevarchi, midway between Florence and Siena. Lodged in a Franciscan cloister, it’s a fascinating romp through prehistory—keep an eye out for the mammoth and saber-toothed tiger.
This 10-day family-focused itinerary combines Florence with two other celebrated Italian cities, Rome and Venice.
Beaches & Coastal Activities
There’s only so much traipsing around museums, galleries and Renaissance churches kids can take. Factor in a day or more for beach time on the pretty Etruscan Coast to slow the pace a notch or two.
For bucket-and-spade fun, sandy beaches galore and shallow, azure water (not to mention activities like snorkeling, cycling, and sea kayaking), Elba in southern Tuscany is ideal. Frequent ferries link the island to Piombino.
Facing the island on the mainland is Castiglione della Pescaia, with mile after mile of beaches ranging from wild bays backed by dunes and pine groves to family-geared ones with water sports, playgrounds, gelaterias and pedal boats for rental.
Further north, and more accessible for the likes of Pisa, Lucca, and Florence, are lively seaside towns like Viareggio, with sandy, pine-backed beaches and trips out to see the playful pods of bottlenose dolphins that splash around in a protected marine area. Forte dei Marmi is another great pick, with its family-friendly beaches, promenade and fairground rides.
Fun in the Great Outdoors
From the Apuane Alps in the Garfagnana in the north to the wild, hilly, lushly wooded Maremma in the south, Tuscany has plenty of scope for outdoor adventures. With no specific destination in mind, you can head off in pretty much any direction and you’ll find a crystal-clear stream where you can paddle, a vineyard for gentle cycle rides or a glorious meadow where you can enjoy a picnic.
If you want to ramp up the action, most cities and towns have specialists that will take you on guided hikes and bike rides, or kayaking, white-water rafting, horse-riding, and river trekking. Just stop by the local tourist office for details.
The Grotta del Vento in the Garfagnana, north of Lucca, wows with its subterranean forest of stalactites and stalagmites and underground lakes. Or plunge into stinky, sulfur-laced, brilliant turquoise-colored water at Saturnia’s thermal baths.
Amusement & Water Parks
If all else fails, planning a day at one of Tuscany’s amusement or water parks is bound to alleviate boredom. Younger kids might like the Pinocchio Park, bringing the fairytale puppet to life in the little village of Collodi near Pistoia. For slides and rides, try Piccolo Mondo near Pisa, or the more thrilling Cavallino Matto, further south, with rollercoasters, shows, pirate ships, and a Jurassic river.
Soaring temperatures in summer might lure you to a water park for a cool-off. The two big ones are Acqua Village Cecina (south of Livorno) and, further south still, Acqua Village Follonica, where kids can let off steam in wave pools and tropical-themed lagoons and on kamikaze slides.
Where to Stay & Eat
Private apartment and villa rentals tend to offer some of the best value for families on vacation in Tuscany, and there are some wonderful options, especially if you’re prepared to go the extra mile and rent a car. Many places will squeeze in a crib at no extra cost, and beds for children come at a small additional fee.
More immersive still are stays at an agriturismo, a rural working farm or vineyard. These are terrific for kids, with plenty of space for them to run around, farmyard animals for them to pet, nature trails among the vineyards and olive groves, relaxed farm-to-table dining, and occasionally outdoor pools. Some offer activities, too, from mountain biking to horse riding.
There are also plenty of campsites to choose from, many with great facilities (playgrounds, barbecue areas, pools and the like) and pretty natural settings.
Children are often welcome in even the fanciest restaurants. And as for the food, who doesn’t like pizza, pasta, and gelato? This is kid food heaven.