Visiting Tuscany with kids? Why not consider a family friendly tour of Florence with LivItaly Tours.
I have a confession to make: I have never been on a guided walking tour before – ever. It has just never appealed to me. I like the idea of brushing up a bit with a guide-book (or a cheeky google search) and then exploring places at my own pace.
But with only one day in Florence, the gorgeous sprawling historical Tuscan capital city, exploring with a guide seemed like a very sensible idea, and it turns out that it was just that.
I was in Tuscany as part of a trip organised by Bookings For You (the Italian holiday villa specialists), staying at the wonderful Villa Le Capanne near Volterra, which is about a 90 minute drive away. And so on a wet and chilly day, with 12 other family travel bloggers (who I was lucky enough to be sharing this amazing trip with) we headed to Florence to spend the day with LivItaly Tours.
LivItaly offer a wide range of tours in Florence (and many other Italian towns and cities), there really is something for everyone. We were not in Tuscany with our children on this occasion, but with family travel never far from our minds, we opted to experience some family friendly tours of the city. In the morning we all headed on the Florence Food Tour and Gelato Making Class, and in the afternoon we split up and I headed on the Uffizi Treasure Hunt Family Tour with Ting from My Travel Monkey and Cathy from Mummy Travels.
Florence Food Tour and Gelato Making Class
Livitaly Tours wouldn’t usually take such a large group, normally catering for a maximum of six per tour to keep it more intimate and personal (a world away from the images I have of organised tours, which is probably what has put me off taking one before now), but they made an exception for us on this occasion. Our lovely guide, Rafaela, met us in the Piazza della Signoria, where she hooked us all up to a little set of headphones so that she didn’t have to shout, and allowed us to go a bit more at our own pace rather than having to huddle around to be able to hear.
We were due to be heading to the Mercato Central, Florence’s historical and bustling food market, but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last-minute that week. We were informed ahead of arriving and instead headed to a small farmers market on the southern side of the Arno River, taking in the amazing Ponte Vecchio along the way, which looked beautiful even in the rain! I had a wonderful time spotting the amazing street are that seemed to be dotted everywhere.
The farmers market that we visited was a real local little market, with produce ranging from local honey to baskets full of new season radicchiella leaves. Despite the rain it was pretty, and it was a treat to feel like a local for a little while!
This time last week I was just rounding up a brilliant day exploring #Florence with @livitalytours. The main market we were due to visit was unexpectedly closed at short notice so we were taken instead to a lovely little farmers market to the south of the Arno river. Despite the rain, the stall holders set out their wares ranging from local honey to baskets full of radicchiella leaves. It was such a treat to get off the tourist track and feel like a local for an hour or so. I asked this guy if I could take a picture and he posed perfectly for me – looking super cool here! Florence is an easy day trip from our wonderful base in #Tuscany, @countryrelaislecapanne, which is can also be found on the @bookings_for_you website.
We stopped for coffee in a little cafe on the square, it was great to escape the rain for a little while, and to chat to Rafaela (who seemed to know everyone there, offering them a warm embrace and introducing them to us all as if we were old friends!)
Gelato Making at Perché No!
We then took once again to the pretty streets of Florence, this time heading for Perché No! one of the oldest (and reportedly best) Gelateria in Florence. Here we met Ciro Cammilli, the owner and gelato maker extraordinaire, who was set to teach us how he creates his famous gelato.
After a quick look inside the Gelateria, we took a short hop down to his Gelato Academy, which is perfectly set up with a seating area and a kitchen area/gelato making stage! Ciro told us all about the history of gelato making, showing us images of old brick ice stores, before moving on to the making itself. Using fresh ingredients, and with the help of some of my lovely blogging friends, he produced some of the most delicious banana ice cream I have ever tasted! We then of course had to taste a few more flavours just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke!
I know for a fact that my kids would have absolutely loved this part of the tour. I can see it as being the perfect multi generational day out, I mean who doesn’t love gelato!
To top off this amazing class, Ciro asked “do you have courage?” before busying himself looking for ingredients to construct a mystery dish for us. Speculation was rife, and I was convinced it might be a chocolate and chilli flavour gelato. But no, we were treated to the most delicious gelato bruschetta…yes, ice cream bruschetta! It was a tomato and basil sorbet, on a piece of crostini, topped with a basil leaf and olive oil and let me tell you, it. was. amazing!! Washed down with a glass of bubbly and we all left feeling happy.
Uffizi Treasure Hunt Family Tour
After a quick stop to have a slice of pizza, we went our separate ways to take on a different tour of Florence. Some just took a nice stroll of the city themselves, some took another Livitaly walking tour including visiting the Duomo and Michelangelo’s statue of David, and Ting, Cathy and I met up with Rafaela again to check out what would be a tour aimed at kids; the Uffizi Treasure Hunt Family Tour.
This tour is aimed at families with kids, to help them get the best out of a visit to the Uffizi gallery, making it fun for kids along the way. On arriving outside I could see just how popular (busy!) the gallery was, and inside I could see how it could be overwhelming for kids (and for parents to know exactly where to start, and what to show their kids!), so having a specialised tour seems like a brilliant idea.
As we were booked onto the tour, we didn’t need to queue to purchase tickets, however there was still a queue to wait in for ticket holders, which seemed to be created by the security gates that you need to pass through (in the current climate this is not something that bothers me at all, safety needs to be of utmost importance especially when travelling with kids.)
Rafaela explained to us that guides who are fun and great with kids are selected for this tour, and that they cater for all, including children who may have disabilities or learning difficulties.
Children are presented with a treasure map with a set of questions to answer along the way. The treasure hunt puts an emphasis on the gallery’s most important pieces, which also helps kids to learn more, in a fun way, about the Medici family – the most important family in Florence’s history. I have to admit that history isn’t my strong point at all, so this tour is probably perfectly pitched for me too!
There are some stand out pieces in the gallery which I could see instantly would appeal to kids.
Stunning pieces like this are laden with gold leaf, and are sure to catch the eye of younger visitors.
At this amazing picture, Rafaela told us that at the time of it being commissioned it cost more money than it would have cost to buy the entire country of France! We were also invited to find all the different animals within the picture. I knew this was something that would really capture the imagination of my 7 year old, who loves art, and I wished he was there to be enjoying the tour with me (I actually sent a picture of it to Mr Dais Like These and asked him to show it to him.)
And so we continued, listening to Rafaela’s infinite knowledge about the different pieces of art work, as well as the history behind the gallery and Florence in general. Every now and again she would slip into child tour guide mode and ask us questions that she might ask the kids (and we would childishly put our hands in the air and say “I know I know I know!!”).
I was super pleased when we turned a corner and came face to face with not only Primivera bit also The Birth of Venus both by Botticelli. I may not be a history buff but I can appreciate a beautiful piece of art work!
After a stroll to take in the wonderful view across Florence at one side of the gallery, our tour soon came to an end. At this point kids would normally receive a prize, or treasure, for completing their hunt. Rafaela tells us that it isn’t just a bulk gift that they have for all kids, she generally chooses her gifts from the Uffizi gift shop based on the children’s age, which I think is such a nice touch.
I can genuinely see this being a brilliant tour for families visiting Florence. A fun but super interesting tour that appeals across the age ranges; parents get to visit a world-famous gallery, which they may not have otherwise done with kids in tow, and kids get a fun introduction to art and the history of the town they are visiting.
So, am I walking tour convert? Yes! Well, only if they all offer the brilliant service of Livitialy Tours anyway.
Have you done a walking tour in Florence before? What did you think?
Disclaimer: our group of 13 bloggers were offered complimentary tours in Florence from LivItaly Tours in return for honest reviews. As always, all opinions are my own.