Florence in a Day

Florence in a Day

Oh, Florence…one of those European cities you could spend weeks in and still not discover all of its art and architectural treasures. Beautiful and romantic, steeped deep in Renaissance history, winding streets full of artifacts to marvel at over and over. Which is why the thought of going there with kids, let alone for just 1 day (we had a tight itinerary), can seem overwhelming. Especially in the month of July, in the height of tourist season. How do you see a city as sophisticated as Florence with your family in 1 day?

How did we see Florence in Day? With the Help of a Tour Guide

For us, the answer came in the form of a tour guide. It was accidental planning, actually – my in-laws had hired a tour guide for themselves, but when they couldn’t go at the last minute, we decided to make use of the money already spent, and switched the regular tour guide to a family-geared guide. And she was great.

I am not a tour guide person – I’ve always traveled to the beat of my own drum – but with kids, a guide can change everything in a foreign country if you have limited time to site see. They know all the ins and outs of what in their city will spark a child’s interest, and they have it down to a science, as ours did for us.

This trip to Florence was much different than in years past sans-kids – we did not see Michelangelo’s David, we did not go to the Uffizi Gallery, and we did not climb the Duomo. But we saw some interesting things we might otherwise not have, and delighted in all of the Italian past times as we should have: food, gelato, piazzas and rambling streets. Below is a list of where we went with our guide. We packed a lot in, thanks to her, and there was no time lost trying to figure out how to get from place A to B.

Looking up at the dome of the duomo in Florence.

Where we went and what we did with our Tour Guide

We started off at Florence’s beloved Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the Duomo. Our guide had us look at the magnificent gothic cathedral, with its glorious dome, from different vantage points outside, but we never went inside. Even with a guide, the lines were crazy, being the middle of July. Just as well, we were contented to stare at this wonder of a building, with its beautiful green, pink and white marble. Its sheer size is impressive to anyone, including the kids. She also, interestingly, took us to the Duomo’s workshop around the corner, where parts of the building, including statues and sculptures, are made. It was fascinating – right before us, as we peered through a set of doors, men were working on parts of the Duomo. Had we not been with our guide, we would have walked right by.

A peek at the workshop of the duomo in Florence

Next we went to nearby Piazza della Signoria, Florence’s most famous square. With mythological statues and fountains, it is a good place for the kids to roam about and see all the outdoor art, as well as watch all the people bustling by. It’s a lively square, and good for some time, but crowded. We soon continued on to the courtyard by the House of Dante, Italy’s famed poet, a site that didn’t cross our minds. Again, we did not go in, but looked around outside, and our guide gave us a quick synopsis of Dante and the house he once lived in. She then showed us right before our feet, set in the ground, a tiny portrait of Dante engraved into the stone, whose artist is a mystery.

Statues all around in the piazza della Signoria in Florence Italy.

Taking a rest in front of the statue in piazza della signori a in Florence.

Sitting up the steps for a break in the pizza della signoria in Florence.

Our next stop was the Ponte Vecchio, because who goes to Florence without seeing this famous bridge. A road, marketplace and piazza all in one, it’s a bustling site, plus bridges are always fun for kids no matter where you are! We then headed to lunch and had a delicious meal at a restaurant called Osteria Santo Spirito, nearby the church and piazza of Santo Spirito. Recommended by our guide, it had a charming outdoor patio and fabulous food, and was not touristy at all. My girls declared it the best pasta of the trip.

Chowing down on spaghetti in Florence.

Different colors of gelato in Florence.

We walked around after lunch, strolling about leisurely to work off our food, but of course that changed when we stopped at the upscale Gelateria Santa Trinita, across the street from the Ponte Santa Trinita. It came highly recommended, and I must say, it was indeed excellent gelato! Can’t go to Florence without feasting on some gelato. We walked around some more and made our way to Piazza della Repubblica, where there is an antique carousel in the center of the square. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much of a line, and the girls hopped on for a few rides; it was a good way to give them a break from all the walking. Nearby the piazza is the famous Bartolucci wooden toy shop, where you can find Pinocchio toys and souveniers, designed by the Bartolucci family. A perfect stop for kids.

Taking a spin on the carousel in Florence.

Visiting the pinoccio store in Florence.

Finally, we made our way to one last site – the Santa Croce in the Oltrarno neighborhood. This grand church, gothic in design like the Duomo, seemed at first like the last place we’d want to go to after a very long day, but it was actually just the way to end the day. We were able to go inside, where it was cool, and even cooler were all the tombs of famous men, including Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. The art inside is beautiful, and it is considered by many to be a must-visit along with the Duomo. And the tombs certainly made it interesting for the kids, and the adults too.

Inside the Santa Croce in Florence.

I want to note that also in the Oltrano neighborhood are the Boboli Gardens. Located behind Pitti Palace, this park is filled with gardens, sculptures, grottos, fountains, open spaces, and wonderful views of Florence. It is a beautiful spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy the outdoors. It is also the perfect place to let the kids run around freely, outside of the confines of the narrow city streets. We did not have time for the Boboli Gardens on this trip, but I highly recommend them for any family visiting Florence.

As I said before, I’m not typically a guide person, but when you have 1 day in a city such as Florence, having a family guide completely took the stress away, and we accomplished way more than we would have had we been on our own. If you’re going to be in Florence for a longer period of time, and prefer to see everything on your own, well then, I would still suggest seeing all of the above!

You can read more about our visit to Italian cities in our posts on Rome, Vatican City and Siena.

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Discovering Florence in 1 Day with a Tour Guide.

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32 Comments

  1. / 2:07 am

    It always amazes me how much you seem to get into a day. So happy you all had fun

  2. / 2:19 am

    You know us..we passed out early that night. Great day though.

  3. / 7:31 am

    It’s a lifelong ambition to visit, Florence, and every time I read a guide I can’t believe that I haven’t already been there. Unlike yourself, I’m a firm advocate for spending at least a couple of hours with a guide in a new city, especially if I have only limited time. I’ve done it in Paris, Barcelona and Porto with great results each time. And then gone back to do my own thing. 🙂 I have a spectacularly bad sense of direction and would waste so much time with my head in the guide book otherwise, but I also value the input of a local. The Duomo workshop is a marvelous example. Many thanks for sharing! I hope to romp in the Boboli gardens one day 🙂

    • / 6:11 pm

      Thanks Jo! I can see why you are an advocate of guides..this trip really changed my perspective. It’s true – they can save you so much time in addition to be completely informative. I am re-evaluating!

  4. / 9:43 pm

    I’m also usually not into guided tours, but I think it’s different, when you’re a small group. Then it’s just like a friend showing you all of his/hers favorite places:) Looks like a great way to do sight-seeing with kids:)

    • / 8:28 pm

      Yes – totally agree, when it’s a big group that’s one thing (hard to hear, see, etc.) but when a smaller group more intimate and engaging. May be our new thing!

  5. / 5:19 am

    Most people don’t realize how much you can accomplish in one day of traveling. I’m glad you’re inspiring others to get out there and do it!

    • / 2:50 am

      Thanks so much Elisa! It can be exhausting, but all worth it in the end. Who knows when one can return? Too many places on the list..

  6. / 3:02 pm

    It looks like you packed a lot into 1 day – very impressive! I’ve only been to Florence once years ago as a student backpacker – couldn’t afford to go round any of the museums! Hope to go back one day – thanks for sharing your lovely photos 🙂

    • / 3:21 am

      Thanks Rosemary! My first time to Florence was as a student backpacker too..so many years ago but remember like it was yesterday. We may have not had $ but those were the days!

  7. / 3:45 pm

    I’m not a typical guide person either, but you are right on the money when you say a good guide can liven up history and bricks and mortar. Old buildings are old buildings after all, it’s their stories that make it special. I think I’ll follow your lead next time – and when Monkey is older. I love the photo of the kids eating sphaghetti!

    • / 5:46 pm

      Isn’t that hilarious?! My younger daughter means business in that shot. So true about the stories behind the buildings – if a guide can make something come to life – ESP for the kids – in a way that you might not totally worth it. I need to catch up on Monday Escapes – was swamped last week.

  8. / 7:23 am

    I visited Florence 8 years ago for just a day trip, and was sad to leave because I was not able to fully experience this charming town. Hope to return to Florence again some day and perhaps to stay for a night. Love your photos 🙂

    • / 9:31 pm

      Thanks Kat! It really is so charming..I hope you make it back some day..impossible to see everything:).

  9. / 9:20 pm

    That’s actually such a good idea to get a guide when you have limited time AND kids – I know from experience that trying to rush my daughter around to pack lots in will only backfire. This sounds like a really fun way to see Florence, which can be overwhelming (although always wonderful) at the best of times. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • / 2:49 am

      Thanks so much – yes, rushing can def backfire. It’s certainly changed my perspective and we’ll probably use a guide again in cases like these where we’re limited on time. Love #citytripping – great idea!

  10. Wander Mum
    / 7:26 am

    I adore Florence – but so much to see – you did the right thing hiring a guide – and one that specialises in families – how perfect!! Looks like you all got the best out of your trip and got to see a different side of the city too. Tour guides are great for pointing out things you otherwise would have walked past! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • / 1:59 pm

      Thanks so much – yes the guide totally led to us seeing another part of the city and in a way in which we prob would not have otherwise. So glad we tried it. Love #citytripping !

  11. / 2:16 pm

    Your guide sounds an excellent idea and I loved that you mixed up the sights with toy shops, pasta and ice-cream stops – so important with children. I love your photos, particularly of the children eating spaghetti! Great post. Florence is one of my favourite cities and I can’t wait to take my two there.

    • / 7:16 pm

      Thanks Clare – yes very true – have to keep things real and make those important kid-friendly stops. Thanks for reading, you’ll have a great time taking your kids there!

  12. This is so handy. I’m hoping to visit Florence with my girls this summer and wasn’t sure where to start. We too have a tight schedule. I’ll see if we can work some of these family friendly places into our visit! #citytripping

    • / 9:30 pm

      Thanks Claire – hope you make it there and while there is so much to do in Florence it’s nice to break up some of the more grown-up type things with the kid-friendly ones..keeps everyone at bay!

  13. / 6:06 pm

    This is a brilliant post-thank you! We went for a day last year & know how tricky it is to cram it all in! My friend is going this August so I have promptly sent it to her-I hope she makes the most of it like you guys.
    Got to say though, the David made me almost cry it was so beautiful. But your kids will hopefully go back one day when they’re old enough to appreciate it properly. Nice work!
    Alex.

    • / 1:46 am

      Thanks so much Alex for your nice words! I totally hear you on David, however I don’t think my girls are old enough to really appreciate it. I could be wrong, but hopefully they’ll get another chance to see it when they’re older. Thanks for reading!

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