Because Bologna is only a short train ride from Florence, we decided to stay at our place in Bologna the night between our two-day visit to the city to save money. The evening following the second day, we rented an apartment with an amazing view (and less amazing amenities) which was really nice to have after a long day of site seeing. I followed a piece of Jordan Ferney's advice on traveling with young kids and choose a place with location in mind first and foremost. We were steps away from the Duomo and got to fall asleep staring at it all lit up.
|Strolling through Boboli Gardens. We're the ones with the stroller.|
Bring a stroller
Florence is a pretty stroller-friendly city. There are sidewalks on most streets and many places have elevators or alternate ramp entrances. I'm not sure about everyone's kid, but mine sleeps really well in her stroller (especially when riding on the bumpy cobblestones. We're convinced they lull her right to sleep). When you're out all day, it pays to have a place where they can get some shut-eye, even if it's a bit abbreviated because of travel schedules.
Plan itineraries around nap times
This worked less well in Florence than in some other cities because we were coming off of a very irregular weekend (Easter, church, a day trip, adjusting to having these awesome grandparents around all the time . . . too many new things to bother with napping). But we were able to see some sights completely toddler free because they coincided with her nap. If you're dying to see the Uffizi, do it during a nap. This was our longest museum visit and possibly the hardest one to bring a toddler to.
If you want to see sites, get the Florence card
We came out ahead cost-wise, but money saving aside, the flexibility and time-saving the card provides is really nice. We were promised no need for reservations and no lines. This proved to be extra convenient. Not having to entertain Ada while waiting in a line was great, and had we planned a bit better, we could have waited until she was asleep to pop into some of the bigger (and more time-intensive) museums.
Try to intersperse toddler-friendly and non-toddler friendly places
Below are some places that worked well for us as "toddler-friendly" venues in Florence. We tried to intersperse these (or plan them during non-nap times) so Ada could have some time out of the stroller, walking around, and feeling a bit like it was a vacation for her too.
It has open, green space and was a perfect place to spend some time eating lunch, resting our feet, and enjoying great views of the city.
The Academia Gallery
If I had to choose between one of the major museums (i.e. The Academia v. the Uffizi) and I was bringing along a toddler, I'd choose the Academia for a few reasons. 1. The David simply doesn't disappoint (but make sure you look at him from the side, square in the face so you can see his look directed at Goliath: The I'm-gonna-get-this-S.O.B. look—as Mike so eloquently put it). 2. There are a few interactive things to do in the musical instrument gallery (which I thought was super cool regardless) and provided a bit of a pick-me-up for Ada. 3. It is a bit less crowded—at least once you move 20 feet away from the David . . . but the biggest reason is 3., There is a CHANGING TABLE. A rarity in Italy in general and basically an impossibility to find in bustling-with-tourists cities.
Piazza della Repubblica
I think piazzas in general make traveling in Italy marginally easier than other places (though the only other place I've really done it is Germany). You can usually find one this is quiet, out of the way, and sporting a few open benches. But Florence's piazzas seem to either be filled with cars or vendors. Piazza della Republica, however, has a beautiful carousel and it only costs €1 for a ride. Ada instantly knew the ride was a treat just for her.
Basilica of Santa Croce
This church is where many of the Italian Greats (think: Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Marconi . . .) are entombed in elaborate, beautiful sepulchers. It also has beautiful alter pieces by Giotto. But why I like it for kids is that it has a beautiful, quiet, enclosed green cloister. Mike and I took turns popping into the adjacent museums while the other stayed with Ada and blew bubbles. They also have bathrooms here.