My first trips to Italy 20+ years ago left me underwhelmed. Heat & Crowds turned me off. Our trip to Naples just before Florence didn’t help. This trip, however, changed my opinion of what I now see as one of my favorite countries on Earth: ITALY!
OK, so we did it right this time. We’ve had reports from friends staying in Florence this summer that it was overcrowded and kind of miserable. Not our case. We stayed about 35-40 minutes outside of the city center at a pretty impressive villa in Fiesole. Just close enough to get to the city but far enough to have a quiet, peaceful living space. It was PARADISE!
That being said, it cost a pretty penny. Even though this was one of the most expensive spots we stayed at, it was worth every penny. 2 weeks at an old renovated villa with incredible views, plenty of land, an epic pool, a big kitchen, and enough room for 2 families of 4 to enjoy comfort and plenty of space was worth gold. We will never forget these 2 weeks! And, the town of Fiesole is charming, small, quiet, and beautiful. We had impressive meals just 10 minutes from our villa.
So what is there to do in Tuscany and Florence with kids?
I’ve outlined what we felt were pure wins below.
Things to do in Florence Italy with Kids
Watch the video above to see specifically each fun activity we found ourselves doing in Tuscany and Florence.
Us Bergs love our art. And it came as a welcome surprise when my brilliant Cousin Jeff discovered through his deep dives into our Norberg ancestry that we are related to Hugo Van Der Goes, one of the most famous Flemish artists of the most important artistic times within Flanders. We already had tickets to the Uffizi Gallery (and a private tour booked) when we found out from Jeff! And then I find out Hugo’s most important piece resides at Uffizi: The Portinari Triptych.
We took a tour with an art historian that walked us through 1-2 pieces in each room. Of course, the highlights were works by Michelangelo and a particularly early piece by Da Vinci, but Hugo’s piece really struck me. I’ve always been obsessed with Flemish art, and I could never really explain why. I still can’t, but at least I now have a real connection to it! THANK YOU JEFF!
I hate shopping. But if there’s a cold beer and/or a delicious double espresso around each corner, I’ll shop till one of us drops. The kids got some souvenirs, my wife got some strappy Italian sandals (something she’s been excited about for months), and I found my beers and coffee.
Villa le Corti Cooking Class
This experience really needs its own blog post. Our cooking class and tour of the property and Principe Corsini winery at Villa Le Corti by Gaetano Arnone was worth the trip to Italy by itself. Seriously. We arrived late, which we were assured is “early” in Italy, and met Gaetano, his wife, and his dog. Gaetano grew up on Maui, and was recommended by good friends on Maui that also grew up with him. He has family roots in Italy and has trained at some of the best restaurants in New York for decades. It’s like he’s made of the best of all our worlds.
We began the experience with a tour of the property where we learned the history of the vines, property, and the family. Did you know it housed a Pope? The original family still lives on the property. Such a special spot. Keep in mind that they only do private tours, so if you book this, you’re getting a purely exclusive experience. SO EPIC!
After touring the amazing gardens, bottling facility, storage barrels, and villa, we went underground to the ancient kitchen. It was beautiful! Gaetano walked us through making ravioli, a few sauces, and dessert. He explained everything in detail and we had a hand at doing it all ourselves. Each course was paired perfectly with their wines, and we had the meal of a lifetime.
Gaetano walked us through each step of making pasta from scratch, forming it into ravioli, and finally cooking it in a brown butter. It was a gorgeous feast! Every person had a hand in making the meal, and we relished each story and anecdote Gae shared. This was the best meal we had in Italy, without a doubt, and that takes into account many of the best meals we’ve ever had! Each course was paired with wines from the property. We left feeling as though we’d conquered the most important part of our visit. If you decide to book this, tell them you learned about them from the Treehouse Dad and contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
As impressive a centerpiece as the Duomo is for Florence, we decided against heading to the top of the towers and exploring this famous cathedral. As we ate and shopped around it, we saw the massive lines and exhausted faces standing in the sun. Are we missing out? Well, we found a way to still enjoy the views. See Date Nights:
Having 2 cars, 2 families, and a shared villa gave us the luxury of watching each other’s kids while enjoying Florence as couples. Our friends scored a table at the famed Osteria Francescana, but it’s almost 3 hours away. We had planned on going as adults and getting a babysitter, but it proved way too challenging. We gave up our seats, and they went off and stayed the night enjoying what we heard was an unrivaled dining journey. For our date night, we stayed local and ate at La Ménagère in Florence. It was fantastic! But, before heading to dinner, we decided to grab some cocktails on a rooftop bar. View on Art Rooftop Bar. Though the cocktails weren’t high-end, the views were epic. We got the same views of the city AND of the Duomo without having to wait in long lines.
We tend to look at Michelin Star restaurants and spots that have been highly recommended by friends, but most places we ate at were great even without recommendations. We drove from our Villa near Fiesole to Ristoro di Lamole for an amazing view and incredible food (Mahalo Marsha for the recommendation!) We also ate in the main square in Fiesole and found some great cafes. The one we ate at twice had delicious food, attentive service, and pornographic photos in both the ladies’ and gents’ restrooms.
My father was famous for his spaghetti bolognese, so I felt compelled to make it in our beautiful, old Italian kitchen. It’s always best the next day, so I made it a day early before serving it to visiting friends and our friends staying with us. On the day of the feast, we went into Florence and bought fresh-made fettuccini (literally made moments before purchase.)
It took me the better part of an evening to make the sauce. It was a ton of fun, and I especially loved working with all the fresh local ingredients. The only thing I didn’t take into account was how sweet the local tomatoes are here. I had to rework the sauce the next day to cut down on the sweetness, but it worked. Lemon, apple cider vinegar, and some reduced chicken stock helped get it to where I needed it. We had a feast outside for sunset that everyone enjoyed!
Florence Toy Museum
As you’ll see in the video above, the ladies went to a fancy lunch at Gucci while the dads took the kids to Florence. We decided to check out the Florence Toy Museum, which was very different from what we expected. I’m not sure why, but I expected old and relatively newer toys on display. Like ancient dolls and pristine He-Man action figures. It was more historical where they shared old board games, many creepy dolls, and pre-WWI toys. A whole lot of Pinnochio too. The nice man that ran the museum walked us through some history and then let us roam. If he hadn’t given us a scavenger hunt for the kids to play with, it would have lasted 30 minutes. Instead, the kids ran around for hours! We had a blast and finished with some yummy gelato, the way we tend to finish every excursion here in Italy.
Our intention was to visit the Boboli Gardens purely to picnic. As it turns out, you’re not allowed to picnic there. So, we checked out the Pitti Palace. The artwork was impressive and the building was beautiful. Some of the pieces we’ll never forget, including a painting of flowers that was just recently returned from Nazi generational “ownership.”
We did manage to pull off a covert picnic in the gardens. It wasn’t much of a problem, as there was plenty of space, and we’re clean people. The views were great from our little picnic. We definitely did not drink wine in Boboli Gardens. It was grape juice.
The best wine we had was at Principe Corsini winery during our visit to Villa le Corti, which you can read more about above. But we did manage to hit up a few other spots. Notably, Antinori had a wild building to wine taste from. It’s the headquarters for many wineries around the region that they own, so we learned quite a bit. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted in a traditional wine tasting. We prefer to be within the vines, overlooking them, or at least outside. The best views from this building are from office spaces. The actual wine tasting is done within the building. Strange. But everyone was nice and knowledgeable. We also went to another winery that had a small farm and outside tastings. The experience was great, but the wine was forgettable. I’m sure if we had more time and less impatient kids, we could have found 100+ amazing vineyards to wine taste at. We’ll be back.
Of course, having a pool has been crucial to everyone’s enjoyment. Our friends came and hung with us for an evening, and they said they didn’t score quite as nice a spot. Having the pool always gave us something to do, especially when it got hot. We missed a pretty massive heat wave in Florence by about a month, and having the pool would have saved our lives.
Next, we head to Athens, Greece!