Florence, Italy (Sabrina Eliasoph)
Firenze, una delle più belle e visitate citta’ del mondo.
- More about your oliver guide: Sabrina Eliasoph
- Trip type: Family, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: 1 WEEK
to & from
We spent the first week in Forte dei Marmi, about ½ hour outside of Pisa. (There are summer nonstop on Delta to Pisa from JFK.) We arranged a car to drive us the 1½ hours from Forte dei Marmi to Florence.
Where to Stay
Ponte Vecchio Suites: A great place and price for families. Only ½ block from the Ponte Vecchio but on the “other” side of the Arno (the side of Santo Spirito and the Pitti Palace) and across the street from the Ferragamo-family owned hotel, The Lungarno. Hotel is located on a touristy street, yet only a few blocks away from where things start to calm down and you find real Florentines. Rooms are small but designed to accommodate families with kitchenettes and a pullout couches. Very modern amenities and breakfast served to your room. The best part of this place is the price– so affordable for being a stone’s throw from the center of the city.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Trattoria del Pennello: A trattoria near Casa di Dante; casual but family friendly and owned by the best people.
- Trattoria Gargani: Famous, famous place and fantastic food.
- Mangia Pizza Firenze: One of the most awesome little secrets right outside of Piazza Signoria. Very hip, very cool but small so get there early for lunch or for dinner… pizzas are insanely delicious.
- Osteria Santo Spirito--- YUM!!!
- Food court within the Florence Central Market: Have everyone try a different vendor.
- The department store Rinascente on Via Del has a top-level patio open in the summer. A WONDERFUL rooftop for a cocktail and a close view of the Bell Tower and Duomo. Beautiful spot for a picture.
- Lungarno Hotel: Sit right on the Arno and enjoy a Negroni or any other cocktail. A gorgeous spot to sit on a summer night and take in the view.
- On the other side of the Arno, away from all of the tourists, there is a church called Santo Spirito. In this neighborhood, many true Florentines love to eat and hang out. Some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes are here so don’t be shy about crossing the Arno to get there.
What to Do
- Climb the Duomo with kids 5 years and up - too steep for anyone younger. It’s a fun family excursion, not only teaching kids about the significance of Italy’s Catholic roots and why cathedrals like this were built during the Renaissance, but also a fantastic peek into architecture with Bruneschelli’s famous dome.
- Check out Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy and Perfumaria.
- Museums, of course: Accademia, Uffizi, Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace.
- Take road trip up to Fiesole, an adorable town high on a hilltop above Florence. There is an amphitheater where they perform summer operas, dance performances, and other shows. Beautiful on a summer night, lovely breeze, and you see the valley of “fiori,” or flowers, the namesake of this city.
- Great Synagogue of Florence is an architectural gem and serves as a keynote of the history of Jews in Tuscany and Italy. It survived the war which alone is a miracle. It’s Moorish architecture is exquisite and it is very much worth the time and effort to go inside. Closed on Saturdays for Sabbath. Women must wear long sleeves. It is just a few minutes walk past Santa Croce.
- Reserve advance tickets to go into Uffizi, Accademia (where David is) and any other major museum in Florence to shave hours off long lines.
- Climb the Duomo in the late afternoon. Check official closing times but if you go around 4:30 pm, just shy of closing, lines are not nearly as long and you get a beautiful early evening breeze and view once you’re up top.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa on a brutally hot summer day, in the middle of the day, with kids. Heat was oppressive, traffic in and out of the piazza where Tower is took a long time, masses of crowds, all made for cranky kids and not a great experience. If you do go, go early in the morning.
- Don’t eat meals in any of the major piazzas (Signoria, Repubblica, Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella). They are tourist traps and you will be slammed with high prices. Restaurants outside of the squares can be fine.
- The Central Market of Florence was disappointing - a lot of leather that all starts looking the same and touristy tchotchkes. Don't waste too much time there.
What to Pack