Florence & Tuscany with kids – travel guide
Tuscany is a popular destination for families visiting Italy. But trips to Florence, Siena or Pisa can be challenging when traveling with children, since most of its appeal is to find in churches and art. I bought Ariela Bankier’s travel guide book Florence & Tuscany with kids and used it for our trip to Italy this summer. Does this 400-page guide help you travel through Tuscany with your family or should you stick to the standard guide books? To find out, read my review of the Florence & Tuscany with kids travel guide.
Ariela Bankier’s guide book appears to be written for the American family travel market. Traveling to Tuscany by car is not even mentioned in the guide book, but fortunately most chapters mention parking facilities. In the first chapters, Bankier introduces Tuscany to her readers. I like the chapter on ‘Travelling with kids’, which features some great tips on involving children in your trip. Unlike most travel guides for families, this book offers a lot of tips for families with teenagers. From watching Italian films together, such as Cinema Paradiso or La Vita e’Bella, to encouraging them to use apps for navigation, translation and currency convertors. The chapter on how to build a trip is a great start to planning your Tuscan holiday, with options for families with younger children and teenagers.
As you can see in the Table of Contents (above), Bankier has touched upon the most important cities and sights in Tuscany. The chapter on Florence is the most extensive with details on the Uffizi museum and other main sights. The other chapters are much shorter and provide only basic information on the most important attractions for families. Each chapter comes with a section on where to stay and where to eat, plus events that may take place during your visit. The Kids’ Corners are the best part of the guide book. It is clear that the author put real effort into these sections, finding angles to involve children in Italy’s history and culture. Older children, aged 10 and up will enjoy the Missions throughout the book, detective-like assignments to find demons on church facades etc.
- The absolute best part of the travel guide are the Kids’s sections. If you are looking for a guide for teenagers to involve them in your trip to Florence and Tuscany, look no further. For example, the parts about the Twilight series and Volterra and How to write secret messages in Etruscan are just what you would expect from a family travel guide. The detective Missions are a great find too. Our kids were a bit too young, I guess, but I tried to engage them in our visits to churches and cathedrals with one or two missions. Such as the mission for the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence: How many people are in Masaccio’s Trinity painting? How many are there if you count the skeleton, too?
- The descriptions of the towns and sights are definitely written for families. Bankier found the right information that appeals to children, which you will not read in regular guides. One of the books best chapters is the one dedicated to San Gimigniano.
“Of the 72 towers which once loomed over San Gimigniano, 14 remain and two of the most impressive ones are in this piazza. Stand facing the Duomo and look to the tower on your right. It was built by the Salvucci family, mainly as a way of showing off their power and wealth to their sworn enemies, the Ardinghelli family (who lived in the adjacent piazza and were building “a look how mighty I am” tower of their own). In 1255, a city law finally put an end to the crazy building competition between families, stating that no tower could be taller than the tower of the Podesta (the governing body).”
- I love the off-the-beaten-track itineraries such as the day trip to Chiusi and Montepulciano. This trip truly was one of the highlights of our family holiday, something I would have not guessed beforehand. The enoteca annex wine cellar in Montepulciano we would never have found without this travel guide. The 1300 museum in San Gimigniano we did not get to visit, but this was a true find as well.
- I like lists and top 5’s and this book has these in great numbers. Each chapter starts off with a top things to do list. The guide book’s last part is dedicated to lists per category. There is a ‘three great museums for kids’, a ‘three fun places to get wet and splash around’ and – my favorite – ‘three places to learn more about the Etruscans’.
- Unfortunately, all pages in the book are printed in black and white. In this day and age when we are used to full-color guides, this was a bit of a disappointment. Of course, the price would have been higher but I cannot help but feel that the guide would benefit greatly from more photos and colorful drawings.
- The travel guide book does not include maps of the area or basic information on sights in the cities discussed. My mistake, but I forgot to bring a ‘regular’ travel guide for Tuscany. The Florence & Tuscany for kids guide is not enough to travel with. I really missed some city maps and a map of the area. We bought several road maps of the area while in Tuscany and got by with the maps of the town you can get for free in the tourist office.
- Some parts of the book seem to be written from information on websites and books, rather than having visited the places themselves. This in itself would not be a problem, if the writer would not make it appear as if she visited each location herself. For example, the guided tour through the Porsenna’s Labyrinth in Chiusi (p. 348) is rather adventurous. I would not recommend it to families with babies or toddlers, but nothing is mentioned in the book. At the end of the tour, you can choose to climb the bell tower in the town square. This is not touched upon in the guide book, although it is a key feature of the guided tour. Another example is to be found in the chapter on Volterra. Parking facilities all are at the bottom of the hill, while the centro storico is located at the top of the hill. You can either reach the top by climbing an impressive number of stairs or by taking a ‘tourist train’ to the top. It would have been helpful if the author had included this information in the guide book.
- Each chapter lists a number of restaurants in the area, but these seem to be more fit for families with teenagers. Ours are too young to enjoy a dinner at a quaint, authentic osteria with local cuisine. We tend to look for a pizzeria annex restaurant just outside of the tourist area.
All pro’s and cons considered, I feel that this travel guide was worth its money. It helped me find some great places, I would not have found on my own. And helped me involve our children in visiting cathedrals and museums filled with tombstones. That is worth something, right?
I will definitely use this travel guide again on a next trip to Tuscany in a few years. As for you, if you have smaller children, I would stick with a regular travel guide and find the parks and family-friendly museums by yourself. If you have teenagers accompanying you on your trip to Tuscany, then take this guide book with you and even have your children prepare some parts before you leave.
The Florence & Tuscany with kids travel guide by Ariela Bankier I bought and reviewed is the 2013 edition.
Expedition Family Travel does not write sponsored posts. All posts and reviews are solely based on my own experiences and opinion, without any financial contributions.