Family Vacation in Tuscany
When you arrive in Tuscany the landscapes and walled cities scattered throughout the rolling hills make you feel like you have stepped back into the Renaissance. Each of these towns has a sense of mystery and stories to share as you pass beautiful historic buildings, inspiring art, and of course you cannot forget the wonderful vineyards producing great wine. All together it makes for a great family vacation in Tuscany.
Greve in Chianti
Greve in Chianti is a great central location because it allows you to visit multiple Tuscan towns while enjoying the beautiful green rolling hills covered with olive groves and vineyards. The AirBnB we found was an old pasta factory that has been converted into a boutique hotel. The unit we rented is perfect for families with three bedrooms each with a private full bath. A small but functional kitchen allowed for easy breakfasts and casual dinners. The hotel is perfect for families, it has a large grassy yard with a pool that led into a garden and mini soccer field. There was a game room with a foosball table, a pool table, and a ping pong table. No family vacation is complete without some good game competition while spending time together. The hotel is very close to the piazza (center square) which allowed us to get to the know the locals by visiting the macellario (butcher), ristorantes (restaurants), and frutteria (fruit and vegetable market). Everyone was so kind, the local people provided great small town hospitality that Italians are known for, making it hard to leave!
Florence is about a 40 minute drive from Greve, and we were excited to explore the city as a family. As soon as we walked into the city it came alive with people hustling by you speaking different languages, eating gelato, and carrying shopping bags in their hands. You could smell all the wonderful food from the trattorias, cafes, and pizzerias which made us even more hungry. Based on a good recommendation, we were searching for a little place that is famous for its sandwiches and prosciutto. La Prosciutto Ria has a fun and quirky vibe with fantastic sandwiches the whole family enjoyed. The people that work there are very friendly and made great recommendations to try some typical Tuscan style sandwiches. We really enjoyed the roasted pork that they carve fresh from a full roast that sits right on the counter. It is a wonderful lunch stop or place to pick up some fresh prosciutto, other meats, or cheese.
With our bellies full we were excited to start exploring this wonderful Tuscan city. The first stop for us was the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also referred to as “The Duomo.” It is the largest structure in the skyline which graces many Florence postcards and photographs. The church was built over a long period of time, but the famous dome portion of the basilica was designed by Brunelleschi which was completed in 1436. To reach the top of the Duomo you must climb 463 steps with the majority of them being very steep and narrow. So, we decided to race up to the top because once you get there you will see the most amazing views of Florence, Tuscan hills, and an up close view of the amazing fresco inside the duomo. We were in awe when we walked the inner circle at the top of the Duomo to view the magnificent artwork. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to climb the stairs everyday and use a wooden scaffold to hold you while painting this masterpiece.
Before visiting a few more sites we stopped to have a gelato. Everyone must have gelato at least once a day while visiting Italy. Vivoli was closed for renovations and is suppose to have the best gelato in town, but there were plenty of gelato stores to choose from and they all look delicious. We strolled and shopped while eating our gelato, ending at the fabulous San Lorenzo market. It is centered on the Medici’s old church of San Lorenzo, enjoy shopping for leather goods or looking around the large indoor food market.
If you are looking for gold or silver jewelry make your way to Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is a beautiful sight to see as it spans the Arno River. The Nazi’s spared this bridge in WW2 because they found it too beautiful to destroy. Just off the Arno River and next to the Uffizi Gallery (which holds the most important collection of Renaissance art) you will find Piazza della Signoria.
This piazza is the historic and political center of the city. There are many sculptures in the piazza with most having some sort of political connotation. You will see statues like the replica of the David (it is a symbol of the a Republic defiance of the tyranny of Medici) and Brandinenelli’s Hercules statue which sits to the right of the David representing the physical power of Medici after their return from exile. You will also find the Loggia dei Lanzi a beautiful open air sculpture gallery built in the 14th century. Make sure you see the statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head representing the death of republican institutions. If you look closely, you can see a human face on the back of Perseus’ head which is thought to be a self portrait of Cellini. Next to the Perseus statue you will see Giambologna’s masterpiece the Rape of the Sabines. It is the largest sculpture in the gallery and one my kids thought would be fun to reenact. Make sure not to miss the Academia, where you can see the original of Michelangelo’s David, easily the most famous sculpture in the world. Our son pointed how famous he was on every apron and postcard we passed and wanted to know why they did not show all of him.
As the sun began to set we made our way back to the Piazzale Michelangelo. You will find an amazing view of the city, vendors, and a giant bronze replica of David. It is said that his statue is safe guarding the city. This is a great place to take photos of the entire city at anytime of day. Also, if you drive to the city by car it is a great place to park.
The next day we woke up early and drove an hour to Siena. Not knowing what to expect, it turned out it to be our family’s favorite town to explore. We even thought about extending our stay and spending another day in Siena. It is a beautiful walled medieval hill town in the heart of Tuscany, there is so much to enjoy with kids. First things first when in Tuscany, we found a restaurant for a hearty Italian lunch. The great thing about Siena is there are so many wonderful mom and pop restaurants you really can’t go wrong. We ended up having lunch near the Piazza del Campo which was fun because it is the central square making it a great place to people watch. There are people everywhere sitting, walking, chasing pigeons, and having picnics in the square. If you plan your visit in July or August you can watch the Palio horse race in the square. This race dates back to the mid-century making for a fun festival that lasts for a full week.
A site that should not be missed when visiting Siena is the Duomo. Almost every Italian town has a beautiful church, but if you are looking for an ornate master piece inside a gothic structure then you need to see this one. Beyond the duomo are the many walking streets of Siena making it one of those towns you can get lost, in a good way, just wandering for hours. We actually put our camera away which I know is bad for blogging, however sometimes a place is so wonderful you have put it down to just enjoy the beauty while taking in the unique atmosphere.
A quick tip, if you are driving from Cinque Terre or the west coast to the Chianti region make a lunch stop in the charming town of Lucca. It is a walled medieval Tuscan town that is so much fun, you can explore the narrow streets or actually take a walk along the top of the wall the surrounds the old city center. The incredible Piazza dell’anfiteatro (the amphitheater square) is filled with cafes, restaurants, accommodations, and shops. This square was originally built as a Roman amphitheater and over time became the center of municipal life. The square is closed to car traffic and can only be entered on foot or by bike. While you are walking through the city you will notice impressive towers with the most famous one sporting a garden with trees! The Guinigi Family originally planted a garden on the top of their tower to serve as a source of fresh vegetables for the kitchen, such a unique sight!
If you want to learn more about where to stay, places to eats, and guided tours that are great for families let us help with your next trip! Also, share your email with us to subscribe to our newsletter. We always give special tips, ideas, and places you will want to travel in the future.