A day in Florence with children
Before returning from Easter break from Italy, I took my 7 years old for a day in Florence. What a treat for both of us. It is a place one can spend there a week exploring but even a brief visit can be fascinating if you plan it properly. So, in case you are planning a visit any time soon with your kids, here are some tips to make you journey both fun and educational.
I love the city and I really wanted to explain to my daughter what Renaissance is about and how it started and also introduce her to an incredible range of people who worked and lived in Florence and changed our lives forever.
I suggest to start with Palazzo Vecchio (old palace) and Piazza della Signoria (square on the nobility) as it is an open-air museum on its own and give the feel how beautiful the city is. The piazza has a copy of one of the most beautiful statues, carved by Michelangelo – David (the original is displayed in the museum).
To make kids enjoy Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria more, here are some games:
1) The tower on top of Palazzo Vecchio (Torre di Arnolfo) is the tallest tower in city and there is a real prison cell inside it. Near the main entrance to the palazzo, there is a face carved in the wall on the right. Can you spot it? The legend goes that Michelangelo carved this face without watching.
2) Walk around the statue of David and look carefully at the back of his head. What can you see? Some say there is a hidden face that is an image of the artist who carved it.
3) Florence sounds a bit like a flower. That is why Lily was chosen as a symbol of the city. Can you spot a lion with the shield that has the symbol of the city?
Next stop is Palazzo degli Uffizi which is next to the Piazza della Signoria and is my favourite art museum in the world. The key is to buy tickets online to avoid the queue. A little thing to check out before you enter is to find a statue with a lizard at the bottom as it is of Amerigo Vespucci, an explorer from Florence who gave name to a new continent America.
As the gallery is enormous, I focused only on the key artists and painting not to overwhelm children. Here are my favourites that I had a little story to tell to my daughter to make it more fun:
1) We started with Medieval art (Sala or Room 1 ) to explain to my girl what the typical art of that period was. Flat images, focus on symbolism rather then realism (background of gold rather than true landscape, no perspective) and themes are all religious. We could play a game and tell is the painting is Medieval or Renaissance.
2) When you move on, you start notice the new trends, such as paintings are a bit more 3D, gradually backround and proportion are getting closer to realistic and perspective is used more and more. Giotto’s Madonna in Sala 2 is a good example.
3) Botticelli’s Birth of Venue and The Springs are two of our favourites. The Spring has a nice story to tell as the god of wind (Zephyrus) is kidnaping Spring (who spits flowers from her mouth and trying to hold on to Flora in a beautiful dress), Mercury is using his sword to stop the clouds as the spring is coming, Graces and dancing and Venus stands further away (while the face is the same as Venue from The Birth of Venus).
4) We had a look at Michelangelo and Rafael (you can pick your favourites), and Caravaggio. You can play a little game with kids looking Bacchus and find an artists self-portrait in the wine surface of the carafe).
5) Da Vinci room is the one worth a special stop. There is also a movie display about the restaration of Adoration of Maggi to reveal the amount of work put to preserve the art;
Don’t miss the bookstore before leaving the museum. A lot of children books are in English and our picks were: Florence for Kids, a city guide with Pimpa (we used a lot of tips to explore the city), a version of Dante's Divine Comedy suitable for children, Who was Leonardo da Vinci (simple but comprehensive story of Leonardo life which gives interesting details of the life during the Renesance).
After a long walk in the museum, we needed a nice break for the ice-creams. Locals recommended Perche No which is a short walk from the museum and we just loved it. lavanda, mint, crème brule as well as all usual gelato’s flavours were o incredible quality.
The next stop (which is a walking distance) is Duomo or the cathedral of Santa Maria el Fiore made out of white, pink and green marble is one of my favourite in Italy.
The gigantic Cupola Rossa (red dome) on top of it was the first dome to be build of this shape and it was in inspiration to various famous landmark. Many years ago the golden ball on top of the dome was struck by a lightening and it fell off. Can you find a white circle on the ground behind cathedral that marks the spot where the huge ball fell.
If you check the Battistero (the baptistery) just opposite the Dome’s entrance, it has Porta del Paradiso which some argue has started Renaissance with its panels with 3D statues and perspective.
For a meal, we went to Food Market (Mercato Central) as it is a great choice of food and easy with the kids. My favourite is truffle counter (for parents) and Chianina burgers (for kids). Chianina is a beef from the local region.
As we have been at the city only one day, we missed some fun places like Ponte Vechhio (with a bronze boar that everybody touches his snout for good luck) or countless beautiful gardens. But we can not wait to go back next year again and explore more.
We have not stayed overnight, but local friends say that Gallary Hotel Art and Portrait Firenze hotels have terraces with amazing view on the whole city.
Let us know if you go to Florence with kids and have more fun activities to share.