Our Top Ten Places for Families in Tuscany

If you are regular readers of Mudpie Fridays then you will know that over the Summer we visited rural Tuscany with James Villa Holidays. You will also know that it holds a very special place in our hearts since we spent some of our honeymoon exploring the vineyards, restaurants and hilltop villages. We had an absolutely amazing time. Returning this Summer we wondered if we perhaps may have been a bit ambitious. Would it be possible to enjoy the same destination with a young family in tow? Well you will be pleased to know the answer is yes! We went to some lovely places over the two weeks we were away. Some of which deserve a post in their own right. But for now a summary will have to do – Heres what we got up to on our Tuscan Adventure:

 

SAN SILVESTRO MINES

This is an exciting under ground experience and since Monkey is obsessed with caves now we thought we would give it ago. San Silvestro offer three different tours, one is a walking tour where you need to wear a helmet and takes about 40 minutes. They do not allow little ones on the walking tour so we opted for the train ride instead which is about thirty minutes out and fifteen minutes back. There is also  another walking tour is onto the ruins at the end of the train ride, but since its a forty minute hike to them and over thirty degrees on the day we visited we also decided to give those a miss. However I can see if you have older children who are interested in mining then the benefit of linking all three together

There is plenty of parking and a restaurant on site selling pannis and a mixture of pasta, pizza an burgers , with ample seating both in and outside in the shade. There is also a couple of play areas more aimed at Monkey’s age than Kippers. Both kids truly enjoyed the experience. The tour is in Italian so make sure you read the paper handout before boarding as its pretty dark inside! Adult tickets were 11€ each both children were free.

 

GROTTA DEL VENTO
There are a number of Grottos in Italy where you can explore the underground caves and see Stalactites and Stalagmites.  There are several different ones to choose from, be we opted for Grotta Del Vento, because the leaflet we picked up was the most comprehensive. Also because of its location it would mean that we would be able to combine it with a trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Grotta Del Vento offers three different types of tours, 1 hour, 2 hour and 3 hours. Because Monkey had never done anything like this before we decided on the one hour tour that leaves on the hour (apart from a break for lunch).
The tour itself was conducted in English, and the lady doing the tour was brilliant with Monkey. Offering for him to stand at the front so he could hear an see what was going on. They also had audio tours for French and German. The tour was very interesting an perfect for a first taste. At the end we stoped high up to see the pathway weaving below underneath us. Monkey really wanted to carry on exploring so this could be something we come back to do another time as I think he would cope well with the two hour tour. He didn’t even flinch when she turned all the lights out and all you could hear was the river at the bottom of the cave. Tickets cost 9€ for adults and 7€ for kids ticket its deinfatley worth it and was a  great new experience for both us.

BANJI SAN FILIPPO

Hubby and I use to visit Turkey a fair amount in our youth and one of the places we went was Pammukalai – the hot springs where the calcium in the water had over time created little bathing pools. We had no idea that such things existed in Italy, yet alone Tuscany. On doing a bit of research we decided to head to Banji San Filippo. The hot springs are not privately owned and free to enter. It also means that they are not maintained in anyway and they lack basic amenities such as toilets. The path is steep and uneven although some attempt has been made to put in a wooden  fence. I managed to walk the length of the springs with Kipper in his carrier. But there is no way he could manage it and I am glad I had a good pair of shoes on. That aside its definitely worth a visit if you are local. When asked it was one of Monkey’s favourite days out.

 

BEACHES – SAN VINCENZO & VADA
For some reason I do not associate Tuscany with beaches, which is a bit ridiculous since it has a long stretch of coastline. We visited two beaches while on holiday. The first was San Vincenzo after reading it was suitable for children and it was sandy. Parking was straightforward enough, although we opted to park in a carpark there was on road parking along the main shopping street. It reminded me somewhat of when we visited the Costa Dorada last year with all the coloured umbrellas that ran up and down the beach. There were areas to hire sun loungers and umbrellas, some of them appearing to belong to hotels. It was fairly busy, but the beach was shallow so prefect for the boys. Although sand, once in the sea there are a lot of pebbles, some of which are really big which made it difficult to walk. You will need beach shoes.
Monkey Enjoyed swimming in the shallow waters and it was surprisingly warm. The sand was not golden yellow, instead more of a muddy brown. But the boys didn’t care and happily played for a couple of hours.
The second and more beautiful beach we visited was called Vada we returned to it a couple of times. It really is stunning and I had to keep reminding myself that we were in fact in Europe and not somewhere much more exotic! Its know as the white sands and from the photos you can see why. Both days when we visited it was pretty blowy and the sea was a little rough. Monkey went in with Hubby but we did not chance Kipper. Parking is interesting as its almost on a peninsula. There is no parking along the side of the road instead a carpark at the beginning and then beach front cafes and bars which have parking on the condition you rent loungers and umbrellas from them. As we were not there every day this wasn’t too much of an issue but if you did it every day it would soon add up. I managed to get some of my favourite photos from the holiday on the beach and would highly recommend a visit even if just for a stroll up and down.

PISTORIA ZOO
Monkey had requested that we visit a zoo, which is something we do both in the UK such as Marwell and Howletts, but also when we are on holiday visiting both Barcelona Zoo and Toronto Zoo in our travels. There is plenty of parking on site and the entrance is pretty reasonable, 15€ for adults and children (classed as 3-10 year olds) are 11€ each. Kipper was free. Its quite a hilly zoo so pushing the buggy around can be hardwork and as many of the surfaces are uneven we felt we couldn’t get Kipper out much because we were worried about him falling over. Despite the fact that he’s quite a confident walker now.
The map handily gives you a suggested route which will mean you get a chance to see all the animals. They have a number of what I would call the ‘big ones’ – Lions, Tigers, Elephants, Giraffe, Hippos, Bears, Penguins and Zebras. There are over 100 species in total. In the centre of the zoo there was a large play area had both an area for the little ones and for the older ones. Kipper  enjoyed the swing and there was a little elephant slide. Monkey had a go on a round about with a climbing frame on the top of it, which was quite cool. The play area itself though was covered in gravel so not the safest for a toddler. Theres a restaurant and a cafe on site. Its reasonably small so a morning or afternoon would be sufficient and the majority of the zoo is in the shade. But if you need some extra cooling down then theres also a rather cool water fountain which both boys got drenched in when it unexpectedly shot jets of water out sideways.

VOLTERRA 

This was the closest town to where we were staying. There is a central carpark which is perfect for young children as it avoids the hard work of walking up the hill but it gets busy quickly. I would suggest trying to time your arrival before mid morning it cost us 12€ from 10.30-5pm. Walking out of the carpark you can look over the Tuscan countryside, it really is beautifully picturesque. Head to the main Piazza to get a map from the tourist office.

Our first stop was the Roman Ruins. Its not possible to walk in amongst them anymore but we paid the 5€ per adult to walk along the viewing area. Its also possible to view them from the street above which a number of people were doing. Entrance to the ruins can be included in a family pass ticket which costs for 22€ includes entrance to six attractions within the town and is valid for two days. There are plenty of places to stop for a drink, food or some ice cream many of the streets are pedestrianised which is good and we saw very little traffic in the centre. The area is also very well known for Albasta. Being local we ate out a couple of times in the town exploring the streets, shops and finding viewing platforms to see the rolling hills.

 

SAN GIMIGNANO 

We visited on a Thursday which is when the food market is on, there were stall selling pork baps, fruit & Veg, truffles and various other Italian delicacies. You enter the town through an archway and are instantly transported back to a time, either side of the pedestrianised road are little shops and eateries built into the archways of the buildings. Monkey was quite put off by the stuffed wild boar we found sitting in one of the shop fronts. There are predominately leather goods, ceramics and shops selling artisan pasta, mushrooms and oils. At the the top of the town its possible to wander around the castle ruin, with beautiful views of the countryside.

There are plenty of places to eat and drink in the village, a place to fill up before attempting to climb the only tower which accepts visitors – the bell tower. It cost 9€ for me and under 6’s were free. Monkey was very excited by climbing the tower that he did the in tally but in under two and a half minutes. At five Monkey was fine but I am not sure it would work for anyone young. The opening on the last ladder to get onto the roof is quite small so a back carrier wouldn’t work.

There is a long screen which runs down the centre of the tower and it plays an animated video of the development of the tower. Monkey thought this was great so we stood and watched it from start to finish. Its not really the thing I though he would be interested in. But he loved it asking questions throughout about what happened to the towers. As there was once 72 in the village. There are now 14. At the base of the tower there are several rooms which have a lot of religious artwork in them, but the tower was by far the highlight.

 

MONTERIGGIONI

This is a great place to twin with Siena because it is so close. Monteriggioni is a medieval walled castle and a wonderful place to visit. Its small so you would only need a couple of hours there. Theres plenty of parking at the base of the hill and a short walk to the castle walls. Perfect for pictures once inside as everything centres round a large courtyard. Although it is open to cars. Theres a couple of cafes and a bar, plus a handful of shops including a rather nice wine shop that offers free tastings. For kids there are a couple of small museums where you can dress up as a knight. The highlight has to the walk around the castle walls.

 

PISA

The Grotto is around forty mixtures from Pisa so we decided to stop there on the way back. Having already researched it and realised that Monkey would be too young to climb the tower we had already warned him that it would be pictures only. Having been up the tower ourselves we were quite surprised by the fact that you have to be aged 8 to go up. We still managed to get some photos. Many people were standing on the grass despite the signs that sad ‘don’t’ or the bollards that are around the grassy area. Of course trying to direct a five year old for a ‘push’ photo was interesting. Yet I don’t think you can visit Tuscany without a marvelling at one of the man made wonders of the world. We have promised a return trip so we can climb the tower.

 

LUCCA

The day we visited Monkey was out of sorts so it didn’t go entirely to plan but this doesn’t detract from the fact that its a great town to explore. Its best to park outside the walled city in one of the many free carparks. Inside I would head first to the tourist office to pick up a mapThere are two towers to climb opted to try out the Torre Guinigi – Monkey enjoyed trying to get to the top as quickly as possible.  The reason we picked this one is because the roof is covered in trees which provides much needed shade plus the last part of the climb is much more straight forward and more like a staircase than a ladder so good for Monkey’s age rage. Monkey was free, it was 4€ for me. Its possible to buys a combined ticket which includes other attractions.

Unlike the other towns that we have visited many of the buildings are covered in a yellow render and the roads are much wider between them. This does mean there is more traffic, but its also flatter. So much more toddler friendly. You can hire bikes from the Tourist Centre (which is different to the tourist office and located out of town), which seems like quite a popular thing to do as there was quite a few of them. Much of the city is in the shade so its a great place to explore when its hot. There are lots of different places to pick up an Ice cream around the main square which has a beautiful white marble church in its centre.

I will be writing about some of these places individually in the coming weeks. Below is a little video of our wonderful Tuscan Adventure.

 

 

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33 Comments

  1. September 27, 2017 / 5:43 am

    Tuscany sounds beautiful and is definitely on my bucket list x

  2. September 27, 2017 / 10:30 am

    Sounds like an amazing trip! Must remember Vada beach for when we next hit the Tuscan coast. #bloggerclubuk

  3. September 27, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    These are some great tips! I’ll keep them in mind if we ever take the kids to Tuscany. #bloggerclubuk

  4. September 28, 2017 / 3:53 am

    We got married and honeymooned in Tuscany so it holds special memories for us too. Some great places for kids that I wasn’t aware of. Love Luca and San Gimigano. #bloggerclubuk

  5. September 28, 2017 / 7:43 am

    So jealous reading this post and seeing all your beautiful pictures. This is making me want to go on holiday. I never realised that Tuscany would be suitable for children, and it seems like there is so much to do. Claire x #BloggerClubUK

  6. Margaret Gallagher
    September 28, 2017 / 10:53 am

    Fun adventures and amazing family memories to last a lifetime

  7. Ashleigh Allan
    September 28, 2017 / 4:09 pm

    Sounds amazing. Lots of great places

  8. Tracy Nixon
    September 29, 2017 / 3:51 am

    Looks a great place to take the kids – thanks for the review!

  9. September 29, 2017 / 10:11 am

    This post makes me so jealous! Italy is high on our list to visit and I think after this it’s going to have to be Tuscany. I think my little guy would really like the zoo

  10. September 29, 2017 / 10:29 am

    What an absolute adventure you have had! You have done so much and given me so much inspiration for our next trip to Italy. I had no idea that you had to be over 8 to climb the leaning tower. I’ve climbed it a couple of times but hubby has not, but I guess it’s now off the cards for us for a fair few years.

    Totally loved seeing you achieve so much with two little ones in tow! Am so inspired now, thank you 🙂

  11. September 29, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    Love Tuscany… It’s so gorgeous! We were spoilt living in Bavaria in that we could get in a car and be in Bolzano in a couple of hours, or in Venice a few hours later, I miss doing that so much. Have made a note of a lot of these places for a future Tuscany visit! 🙂

  12. Annabel Greaves
    September 29, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    Looks like a really amazing place to visit xx

  13. September 29, 2017 / 1:28 pm

    Those beaches look uh-mazing! We were in Tuscany B.C. Loved Lucca and San Giminnano. We spent a couple of days on Elba too which was so fab! We’ll have to go back with kiddos.

  14. September 29, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    I’ve never been but Tuscany looks beautiful. #bloggerclubuk

  15. September 30, 2017 / 4:40 pm

    I had no idea there was so much to do in Tuscany. I love the idea of the hot springs and the cave tour. The zoo looked nice too
    Debbie

  16. Sophie Dolan
    October 1, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    I love the sound of the zoo 😊
    Took my son to a zoo for his 1st birthday but he didn’t really understand what was happening back then but now that he will be 6 in June we might take him to the local zoo. He will understand alot better now that he is older and he loves animals 😊

  17. October 1, 2017 / 6:24 pm

    Wow there is so much for families! I always assumed Tuscany was more suited to adults but this is great to know, I really want to go!!

  18. October 1, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    Ah, you know I love Tuscany! Some of these we’ve done and definitely love but you did loads that we’ve not been to yet. I’ve always wondered about the Banji San Filippo, so it’s good to have a better idea of how well it would work for young children. And we’ve never ventured to the beaches at all – clearly we’re missing out!

  19. October 2, 2017 / 9:43 am

    I adore Italy and Tuscany is on our list visit and seeing this makes me want to go even more! It’s great to see there is a lot to offer a young family x

  20. October 2, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    We planned a trip of Italy with the idea of visiting Tuscany, but ended up shortening our trip and just stay in Rome in the end. This has definitely put Tuscany on our list of places to visit with the little ones though!

  21. Susan B
    October 3, 2017 / 3:14 am

    What a fabulous post. I love the leaning tower of Pisa photo!

  22. Menzyb
    October 5, 2017 / 8:36 am

    My Son is obsessed with train so would love the train ride 😊

  23. Susan B
    October 10, 2017 / 9:52 am

    I missed the fact that it was a James Villa holiday. Love your post so much that I will have to have a look.

  24. A.E. ADKINS
    October 10, 2017 / 10:12 am

    SAN SILVESTRO MINES – trains, caves and play area, what’s not to like?

  25. Sian Buckingham
    October 17, 2017 / 10:52 am

    Looks like an absolutely beautiful place!

  26. Christian
    October 20, 2017 / 8:47 am

    I have never been to Tuscany, but might have to change that, as it looks like there is a lot to do. The San Silvestro Mine and Banji San Filippo look especially interesting. A useful and informative post.

  27. Nick Q
    October 20, 2017 / 4:45 pm

    the cave tour sounded great but it would be a non started with my daughter

  28. Andrea F
    October 20, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    Seven really wants to go to Italy…maybe next year

  29. ZARA
    October 22, 2017 / 7:33 pm

    Those places look like so much fun so I’d have to go visit them if I’m in the area! 🙂

  30. Keith Hunt
    October 23, 2017 / 11:26 am

    Looks good as im getting to old for Florida.

  31. Jeanette Leighton
    October 24, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    Look like beautiful places to visit, I have actually never been abroad before but would love to one day

  32. paula cheadle
    October 24, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    looks like a nice place to visit

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