So you’ve booked the perfect hotel for your family vacation…now all you dread is that the kids might be bored out of their gourd for lack of fun things to do. Fear not: in Tuscany kids are a religion. They are welcomed everywhere, looked after everywhere, spoken to like people and not cartoon characters. Tuscany is in fact a giant (and real) version of Disneyland. We don’t have one measly castle, we have hundreds; we don’t have a few silly rides, we have numberless back-roads with curves, twists and dips that even if you just drive the speed limit will guarantee white knuckles and blanched faces. There are steeples to climb, towers to scale, deserted beaches, dungeons, and Etruscan tombs to discover, medieval armor to amaze, torture museums to awe, and real ancient towns that were used as sets for filming Twilight.
A suggestion: When traveling here, have your kids leave their electronic gizmos at home. Consider it detox. You might just be able to rekindle in them the innate thrill and creativity they were born with, before Huckster-World convinced them that life is not the vast nature and beauty around them, but a tiny flashing screen with buttons.
Museo Stibbert, Florence
Similar to the Frick collection in New York City, Museo Stibbert is the acclaimed personal collection of Frederick Stibbert, which was donated to the municipality of Florence after his death at turn of the century. The collection includes paintings, costumes, and a diverse array of armor from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (including some pieces you can even try on). Other kid-centric museums that can’t be missed in the city include Palazzo Vecchio and Museo di Storia della Scienza.
The Boboli Gardens, Florence
These beautiful gardens set behind Pitti Palace comprise one the largest parks in Florence, spanning 11 acres (about the size of eight football fields). They’re a giant maze, and perfect place to take the little ones for a wander among flowerbeds, tree-shrouded paths, and 16th- to 18th-century statues. (There are also benches in case they get tired.)
Santa Maria della Scala, Siena
Siena’s Santa Maria della Scala was one of Europe’s first hospitals. It remained in operation for almost 1,000 years, until the entire complex began conversion into a museum in 1995. Today, visitors can view the chapels, archeological exhibits, and a children’s museum—roughly half the complex, with more being restored every year.
One of Tuscany’s most popular zoos, this attraction in the city of Pistoia is located outside of Florence and great for kids of all ages. All manner of exotic animals—including bears, lions, tigers, hippos, elephants, giraffes, and even penguins—thrive here. The zoo also includes a café and a children’s playground.
Giardino Scotto, Pisa
Set in the San Martino quarter of Pisa, this garden inside the walls of a medieval fortress provides a wonderful break from more touristy activities in Pisa. This intimate park, with a kids’ playground, is transformed into an open-air theater for films and shows during the summer. It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic.