Kids and Culture: Florence for the Family
By Donna Corwin and Ellen Greenberg

Tuscany2014-1.jpgCulture and Kids may sound like an oxymoron to some, but you CAN encourage a love of art in your children with a trip to Florence, Italy. The tours are fun and, yes, educational (but don’t tell the kids) for the entire family.  Firenze (might as well speak like a local!) is the home of the world’s most revered artists. From daVinci to Botticelli to lesser known artists, you are surrounded by talent not only in the various museums but at every piazza and historic building---perhaps even your hotel! 

One such hotel is the Villa Tolomei. This spectacular, newly-opened property as of last April is surrounded by 40 acres of vineyards and olive groves and has all the 21st century amenities----all set in a magical and spectacularly restored 14th century Renaissance villa adorned with painterly frescoes and baroque detailing. The restoration masters have seamlessly blended the old with the new.  It is a ten-minute drive from the center of town with views of both the city and breathtaking vistas of the countryside. The morning breakfast on the patio was perfect, and our spot served as a great vantage point to watch the kids if they wanted to take a swim in the pool before enjoying a day of amazing activities. 

How about starting your day at Painting Tuscany for some family bonding? Gene Baldini, an experienced artist and teacher, is an American expat (so no language barrier) who teaches a painting lesson at your hotel, or other venue of your choice. It’s a fun way to have a creative family experience. Gene brings all the supplies--- along with his patience--- for all budding artists regardless of age. 

Tuscany2014-2.jpgA not-to-be-missed tour company that caters to both families and adults is Artviva! The extensively trained guides bring the past to life. The tours are designed for families with special consideration given to a kid’s perspective. The prices are approximately 250 Euros for up to 8 persons or 32 Euros per person. Below are some of their most popular tours. Tour times are at: 9:00, 10:00 and 2:00. 

Florence for Kids Fun Tour -This tour is a perfect introduction to Florence. You'll visit the legendary, gold wild boar and rub his nose for luck, discover who was buried alive near the Duomo church, hear about jousts and bloody soccer matches ( boys love this one) and see where the Medici (the rulers of Florence) children used to play and learn what rules they had to adhere to or risk being locked away for punishment.  (Your children will be so grateful for their modern day lives after this tour.) You'll visit Piazza Della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, the Straw Market, and of course walk the bridges over the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. 

Artisan of Florence Tour - Your family will have the opportunity to meet local artisans and craftspeople and watch them make shoes, picture frames, books, jewelry, toys and paper just as they did over five hundred years ago. 

Ufizzi Gallery Tour - No trip to Florence is complete without a tour of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous in the world. Artviva helps bring the famous art to life for children by choosing art that is visually stimulating. Your tour guide will tell ghostly and exciting stories about the art and artists as well as hear about some of the strange ingredients used to make paint. 

Tuscany2014-3.jpgSo, what about the food? Want the best pizza in Florence? Go to La Bussola, a stone’s throw from the Uffizi. Lively, casual and authentic, the kids (and you) will love it! Remember to save space for dessert. If you can't decide which one you should get, choose the sharing plate and enjoy a taste of everything!

To really experience the culinary delights of Florence, go on the Florence Food Tour. They will share, while walking on their expertly planned walking tour, unique and special places to sample the gourmet offerings of this great city. From the best gelato to truffle sandwiches to cheeses, the family will be satisfied by the sweet and savory tastings and the history behind these specialties.

For the ultimate in cultural and culinary immersion, spend a fun day at Fattoria Montagliari Cooking School that’s on a small, family-owned farm in Tuscany. This is a hands-on cooking class where kids and adults can interact and have a great time preparing and cooking a meal with an Italian family. 

The class begins with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting (that is produced and aged at the farm), followed by a scrumptious 3-course lunch that you all have made together. At the end of the class, each member of the family receives an official apron and a participation certificate. They also have a vineyard at the farm, so those of age can accompany the meal with their wonderful red and white wines. We did…and just had to order some bottles that they swiftly shipped back to the States.   

Tuscany2014-4.jpgThere is nothing to compare with traversing the narrow, winding streets, stone corridors, and castles-all hallmarks of beauty in Florence. Its history, art, culture and cuisine available on every corner make Florence, Italy a family vacation that will be one to remember and cherish for many years to come. 

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DETAILS:
http://www.villatolomeihotel.it/index.php?url=home-eng
www.italy.artviva.com/tours/35/private_florence_for_kids
http://www.labussolafirenze.it/index_eng.html
http://www.florencefoodtour.com/
http://www.paintingtuscany.com/
http://www.fattoriamontagliari.com/en/tuscany-cooking-school.html

Donna Corwin is a travel writer who lives in Southern California. She is one of our favorite BAFT contributors. 

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