#AD: 5 ACTIVITIES FOR A FAMILY HOLIDAY IN TUSCANY
Emma Martin of Littlewood Life has 5 tips for taking your children on holiday in Tuscany
As part of #TripsXYZ, our travel project with Airbnb, Emma from Life at the Little Wood took her family to Tuscany to find out the best activities for children the area had to offer. This is what she had to report back...
My husband and I travelled quite widely in Italy pre-kids, but it’s really only in these past few years that we’ve taken the bull by the horns and started to venture further afield (or further away from the guaranteed people-pleaser that is a swimming pool!) with our three children too. At 11, 10 and 7, they are becoming easier to manage on road trips and city breaks, but are also much more ready to take on board some of the wider elements of travel too.
We’re definitely not a family who enjoy spending full days in art galleries and museums, but in drip-feeding a little culture (in amongst the gelato and pizza!) we’ve managed to strike a bit of a balance and ensure that the kids remember a little of the history behind the beautiful places that they visit.
This time it was Tuscany, and a new experience for us in terms of negotiating the twisty, hairpin bends of the Tuscan hills, the little villages lost in time, and the Italian language too (we’re total experts at asking for ‘stracciatella’ in the gelateria for example).
Here are our top five things to do while exploring this region as a family:
1. Hit Florence early and book a kids’ tour…
There are any number of family-orientated walking tours in Florence, but I’d recommend going early in the day if you choose one, particularly in the summer season when temperatures can push 45c. We arrived in Florence early in the morning and decided to explore the Boboli Gardens first of all, before spending the afternoon on a kids’ tour of Palazzo Vecchio. It was definitely a wise idea to do things this way round as the heat was pretty stifling by midday. The tour guide was excellent, and kept our three (and lots of much younger children too!) entranced by the story of Cosimo I de’Medici. Even as adults the mini history lesson was brilliant – some might say perfectly geared to our level of understanding, also! The secret passageways of the Palazzo, and the chance to try on some costumes at the end were a highlight too.
2. Hire family bicycles in Lucca…
We’d heard that cycling the city walls in Lucca was a thing, and so we made a beeline for one of their five-person family bikes when we arrived. The kids loved it, and it offered a welcome breeze from the heat of the day (also a good workout for the legs after two days on a solid diet of ice cream and pasta!) It took around half an hour for us to complete the loop. It’s relatively inexpensive to hire these by the hour, and there are rental places all over Lucca. Just maybe give your 11-year-old a few lessons in steering before you let them loose on a really busy cycle route. We had a few near misses!
3. Stay somewhere remote…
Although we spent a lot of our days travelling to the towns and cities (more on this in a bit!) we really loved returning to our Airbnb holiday rental in the Tuscany hills each evening. We chose a converted watch tower as our Tuscany holiday villa and, between the expanse of countryside surrounding it, the cypress trees, and the shuttered windows flung wide to the most peaceful, film-set views, we were in rural Italy heaven. Particularly with a family in tow, it’s good to escape the intense heat and bustle of the city at the end of the day, and our beautiful property even came complete with wifi, Netflix and all manner of gadgetry to allow the kids some down-time. (Sometimes you just have to choose your iPad battles, am I right?) Our Airbnb hosts were amazing at giving us tips on things to do locally and (perhaps more importantly!) directing us to the best restaurants in the area. We ate twice at a local place they recommended and were the only English-speaking customers. Proper Italian food in a proper, rustic Italian setting. As the saying goes in Italy, ‘What’s on the table is more important than the table it is on.’ It was delicious, and we’d definitely not have found such a little gem if it wasn’t for their guidance.
Italy is really not the place to visit if you are watching what you eat, and the multitude of sweet flavours were a highlight for all of us. From creamy sorbets to crazy concoctions (pesto ice cream anyone?) we made it our mission to try as many as possible throughout our trip. One thing to note is that the gelaterias surrounding the Duomo in Florence are crazily expensive (an eye watering six euros for one small tub.) Go off piste in the cities and towns and find the smaller sellers in the back streets. Many are traditional, family-run businesses and will offer more homemade flavours using quality ingredients.
5. Explore the countryside…
While the significance of wine country might be lost on children, the countryside of Tuscany is a brilliant place for them to let off steam. Stop by the roadside and play hide and seek in the vines (our Airbnb host informed us that nowhere is off limits in Tuscany, as long as you leave things as you found them.) Look for lizards in the undergrowth and explore little villages and hamlets nearby.
The hamlet of Bacchereto that we stayed in was sleepy, and mostly dominated by the over 65s. When we nipped in to the local Tabacchi for ‘due cappuccini’ (never let it be said that we don’t learn quickly!) the cries of ‘Ooh, Piccollo!’ were resounding. I’m gauging that it had been some years since they’d last seen a child. It’s an experience alone to be welcomed in to a little community like that, and our kids thoroughly enjoyed the attention.
Also notable was the little town of Vinci, birthplace of Leonardo himself. We spent a couple of hours in the da Vinci museum there and our son, in particular, loved the displays and sketches of his early inventions (I loved the air con, I’ll not lie!)
Tuscany is a wonderful destination for a short break with a family of any age. We couldn’t have faulted our Airbnb experience. We narrowed down our search to this property based on its beautiful features, location and the fact that it accommodated both our family of five and our hire car too. (It’s worth bearing that in mind if you are looking for properties in this region. Lots of city based apartments don’t necessarily have provision for parking.) Our experience here was so much more than just a functional one though. Both our hosts and the village as a whole welcomed us with open arms. The major cities are accessible within an hour drive in any direction and the beautiful scenery and balmy temperatures of the hills will long last in all our memories. I’d thoroughly recommend a trip. (And gelato. Don’t forget the gelato!)
:: For more travel guides + inspiration from other families and Airbnb, follow the #TripsXYZ hashtag on Instagram