When you think of Tuscany, you imagine quiet strolls as the sun sets, lingering over lunch and dinner for hours, and discovering lost ruins in small towns. Tuscany day trips with kids means something a little different though and typically revolves around the epic search for the best gelato in Italy. Trust me, my kids and I have done the research and their daily answer to what to do was always "eat gelato." There’s more to Tuscany with kids though of course than just eating gelato, and here are some fun day trips to take as you lead your family in search of those cool treats.
This small hill town known for its tall towers is home to one of the top gelato makers in the world. Walk over to the Piazza della Cisterna to find this tiny shop that will have a line out the door no matter the time of day. It moves quickly, so stay in that line. Oh sure they make your standard flavors, but if you want to get fancy order the grapefruit champagne or blackberry rosemary. The flavor combinations don’t always sound like they will mix well, but once you try it you may never go back to strawberry again. Once you grab your cone, walk up to the 12th century Duomo di San Gimignano to see the frescos by Ghirlandaio in the Santa Fina Chapel. The cloisters are also worth popping into if you need a little quiet break from the day.
Lucca is a dream town for those who like to bike and walk. Rent a bike to cruise around the city on the walkways atop the ancient ramparts. Stop to climb to the top of the Torre Guinigi for views of the city. This 130-foot tower also has an oak tree on the top. Wander into the local market for a bit of fresh produce or stop for lunch at any number of osterias specializing in pasta, pizza and more bites your kids will love. The Duomo di San Martino is also worth popping into. It is best known for the holy relic it holds—the Volto Santo, a wooded figure of Jesus that many believe was carved by Nicodemus who was at the crucifixion.
For many people Pisa is a destination, when in actuality it can be a short day trip. Naturally you need to see the leaning tower, but the cathedral is worth a look as well. Let your kids have some fun running around and have them try to "hold the tower up" with a little photo magic. You can easily spend the morning just wandering around the cathedral and tower in Piazza dei Miracoli, before heading a block or two away from the piazza to grab lunch. There are plenty of restaurants surrounding the piazza, but hitting a side street means better food, faster service and lower prices, all away from the crush of tourists.
Under the Tuscan Sun fans can rejoice- Cortona is a real place and Francis Mayes does have a presence there on posters and bookshelves. More importantly there are three gelato shops to keep your kids happy and loads of little artist shops, many offering up jewelry and prints created by local artists working on site. Stroll through the streets of town as you look for shots from the movie (not hard to find), or simply sit in the Piazza della Republica to watch the world go by. You will find the older generation taking a stroll or simply sitting on benches as they catch up with each others, kids running around without fear of cars hitting them since cars are not allowed, and tourists meeting up with their tour groups as the sun begins to set and they head back to their hotels.
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