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When you only have 2 1/2 Days in Florence and Your Son's Name is Dante. . .

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Florence . . . art, epic poetry, cibo tuscana, the Medici . . . do I need to say anything more?

Night view of the city center of Florence with the three main churches standing out against the other buildings
Bella, Bella Firenze

This post is about our 2 ½ days in Florence (and a stop in Fiesole) and while it was a bit rushed, it’s what we had and was totally doable without burning our kids out on too many museums, churches, and historical sites.

Our time here was part of a 5-day adventure that included Venice as well (deserving of its own post coming soon). It is the 3rd post in a multi-part series on our travels through Italy during the summer of 2019, when we set up a home base in a small town outside Rome for a language and cultural immersion experience, interspersed with travels throughout la bella Italia:

- Part 1: a breakdown of the whole summer, where we stayed, how we got about, etc.

- Part 2: a 3-day Roman Holiday – the must-see Roman to-do list (with plenty of hidden gems only locals know about)

- Part 3: When you only have 2 1/2 days in Florence and Your Son’s Name is Dante (what you're reading now!)

- Part 4: Two kids, a stroller, and 2 1/2 days in Venice

- Part 5: A quick escape up the central Italian Coast – Grosetto & Pisa (and why not Cinque Terre with two small children)

- Part 6: Napoli, Capri, and Pompei in 3 Days (2.5 if you have to)

- Part 7: All the hidden gems you never thought to see and are so much more authentic than the usual tourist attractions (Tarano, Tropea, Gargano/Peschici, Forme, Ortolano)

- Part 8: Logistics when traveling through Italy (internet/phone, transportation in and between cities, places to stay, etc.)

What follows is our Florence itinerary, taking into account our interests, historic sites, the children’s interests, plenty of gelato, and locally recommended food (a few close friends are from here and even do tours, so they know the city well!). Obviously, this itinerary can be stretched out over more days AND for the art aficionados, it doesn’t include some of the major art centers only because that’s too much for the kids. Adjust accordingly and enjoy!

While this itinerary is kid-friendly, it is by no means a with-kids-only one. The few sites we chose to explore in detail are incredible experiences no matter your age!

We also mention a few additional eateries to the ones we went to – there’s only so many times in a day you can eat and we got too many local recommendations to try them all. So, you’ll find all the recommendations – from locals ONLY – below!

IMPORTANT NOTE: as of the date of publication, all of the museums and historic sites with admission are closed due to COVID restrictions. Also, some of the restaurants are open, offering take-out or delivery. I will adjust this note as the situation changes. Hopefully, you can still use this post as a guide to planning your visit for when restrictions lift!

The Basic Itinerary

Here’s a quick look at the plans we had over the 2 ½ days in Firenze:

Day 1

  • Arrive at 10am (from Rome by Trenitalia) at the train station di la Piazza di Santa Maria Novella

  • Scenic slow-walk through the historic center: Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Catedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (and Il Duomo), Ponte Vecchio, and to drop our belongings off at our AirBnB just on the other side of the bridge

  • Lunch to-go from All’antico Vinaio to eat at the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio

  • Piazzale delle Uffizi

  • Museo di Galileo

  • Dinner at Trattoria La Casalinga

  • Gelato at the Piazza Dei Pitti

Dante, Leila, Marino and I having ice cream on the steps of the Palazzo Pitti at night
A rare shot of the 4 of us!
  • Piazzale Michelangelo for night views of the city and. . . Ecuadorian Pan Flute music!?!

Day 2

  • Basilica di Santa Croce – with entry and audio tour

  • Lunch at Demetra Hostaria (Yes, Air Conditioning!)

  • Afternoon in Fiesole – beautiful views of Florence, Etruscan ruins, an Aperitivo with a friend

  • Dinner at Ristorante La Spada

Day 3

  • La Casa di Dante Alighieri

  • Basilica di San Lorenzo (Cappelle Medicee)

  • Mercato Centrale

  • Train to Venice (Trenitalia)

General Thoughts/Planning

To be perfectly honest, 2 ½ days is NOT enough to really see Florence. To see the city, yes. To see the city and a few museums, yes. To see even 1% of the art and architecture from the inside? NOT AT ALL.

As you can see from the itinerary above, we didn’t even plan on seeing the inside of the Duomo or Palazzo Pitti or the Galeria of the Uffizi, which are such iconic sites. We just knew that it would be too much for the kids – they’d be too “museumed” out.

AND, our naïve hopes to at least see some art at the Basilica di San Lorenzo (Cappelle Medicee), as well as just grab some scrumptious foods at the Mercato Centrale on the way to the train station, fell to the wayside as we realized we tried to squeeze too much into the short time we were there, given the heat, the kids' bandwidth, and Marino’s jet lag (he arrived the night before we caught the train to Florence).

Marino arriving at the airport in Rome, with Leila and Dante in his arms
Rome 14 hrs earlier! Talk about exhaustion and jet lag!

If we could have gotten one more afternoon, I would have really wanted to go to the Mercato Centrale, with so much amazing Florentine street food to choose from. Still, we got to try some of the best anyway, as you can read more about below!

Ultimately, how much time you need to get your fill of Florence depends on your situation. If you’re not with kids, then you can probably do with the 2 ½ days. If you are with kids, try to give yourself even one extra night (even if you catch a super early train or flight to your next destination on the following day, just have the afternoon and evening of the third day really helps).

Alternatively, don’t explore the Tuscan countryside, as we did when we went to Fiesole. That wasn’t an option for us because there was no way our kids were NOT going to hang out with Marco in his home town AND we also got to see Etruscan ruins and a beautiful view of Florence from the Convento di San Domenico. There’s a delicious ice cream shop there too, right off the main piazza (see below for more details).

A Quick Note on Accommodations

We loved our AirBnB – loved! It was just one block from Ponte Vecchio and the city center AND there was a Coop store just around the corner, where we stocked up on breakfast foods, snacks, and drinking water. So the location was VERY convenient.

It had previously been an Abbey with a beautiful, grand iron door entrance that riders on horseback would enter through. The walls were so thick, you didn’t even need A/C, just some ventilation. It was magical.

Even if you’re not interested in this exact spot, the general location was very convenient and reasonably priced (see the map above for the general location). If you’re in Florence for such a short period like us, you don’t want to be using your limited time and the kids’ limited bandwidth on trekking to and from all the sites. It is true that the city is small and so, anywhere in the areas below is close enough, if budget is really a challenge. If not, just stay as close to the city and the Arno as possible – makes for wonderful strolls to and from your accommodations!

Tourist Sites – Why We Chose What We Chose

We were very intentional with the museums/sites we chose to see. The whole 5-day trip was going to be very intense with 2 ½ days in Florence and 2 ½ days in Venice, followed by the first intense day of our 3-day Rome itinerary. So, we knew we’d need to pick sites that would really engage our kids.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our son’s name is Dante – like Dante Alighieri. . . and Florence is Dante Alighieri’s home town. So, needless to say, Dante was very stoked to do anything related to Dante. Also, both of our children are very interested in everything related to science so we couldn’t go wrong there either.

Dante posing in front of Dante Alighieri's tomb
Dante meeting Dante

That meant that we HAD to do to Dante’s house and the Galileo museum seemed another exciting spot for the children – little did we know how many wonders it would have for us adults as well. The Basilica di Santa Croce also became a must-see (as I explain in more detail below). Given our short time in the city, we decided that three sites would be more than enough for us in Florence. Everything else, we would have to see from the outside or save for another time.

Here are my thoughts on these three sites and why I think they are fantastic places to visit and explore whether or not you are with kids:

Museo Casa di Dante (Alighieri)

Via Santa Margherita, 1

No ticket pre-purchase required

Not only do you learn everything about Dante Alighieri and his exile, but you also get SO MUCH information on the city, the politics, its internal conflicts, the architecture (did you know that the houses were built like towers – 1-2 rooms wide and 3-4 stories high because of the constantly-warring factions and families?).

It's the perfect size for children, even allowing them the opportunity to take in some of the details and descriptions. Without children, you can dive deep into the realities of old Florentian life. You learn so much about what life was like during Dante’s time and actually get to walk through it as you explore the different rooms. I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you don’t have a family member named Dante!

Dante posing in front of Dante Alighieri's ring with his family's coat of arms on it
Learning about Dante's coat of arms and family ring were especially exciting to this little man

And if you had any doubt how impactful this could be on someone as young as a 6-year-old (excused some of the dizziness, a 6-year-old took this):

The gift shop also has some amazing finds – we got Dante’s Divine Comedy written for children (you have to purchase Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise separately. I know, strange content to give a child but, after touring the house and learning about the warring families, it really opened the question of the subjectivity of what we imagine the afterlife to be (or not be) – questions that have already come up before in our family and this just enriched that conversation.

By the way, right around the corner, you can find the church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, the very same church that Dante and his secret love Beatrice would meet at (and yes, our Florentine friends suggested we name Leila Beatrice. . .), that Dante supposedly married into the Donati family in, and that houses Beatrice’s family tomb. If you want, you can pass by the front of it too but be mindful that it is an active church and does not welcome unnecessary tourist interruption. Also, this is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Florence and worth wandering a bit to take in its heritage.

Dante resting in Leila's stroller in front of the large wooden doors of the Chieza di Santa Margherita, Dante's Church