The light is incandescent in Tuscany caressing the hills peppered with grapevines and cypress trees, hale bales glow golden on green pastures, white clouds cast long shadows and farmhouse ruins look simply romantic.
The Tuscany scenery has inspired renaissance artists, celebrities, intrepid travellers and family holiday makers to come and stay awhile. Exactly what our guest author, Kareen Stangherlin decided to do with her beautiful kids Siena 3 and son Kairo 1. It’s a big call to cancel a trip to Sardinia, Italy’s Island of dreamy white sandy beaches and rugged limestone coasts. It’s easy to do, if it means staying longer in Tuscany. Winning the hearts of this little family, here is how to discover Tuscany with kids.
Italy loves children – L’Italia ama i bambini
We’ve been meaning to go to Tuscany since Siena was born, to take her to the place she was named after. We finally made it with our three-year old daughter and our one-year old son. My husband is second generation Italian-Canadian and has amazing childhood memories of staying with Grandparents and relatives in Italy.
We want to offer our children similar experiences outside of Canada and Tuscany didn’t disappoint, so wonderful was our trip we were already discussing the plans to go back on our return flight home.
Italy loves children, from the moment we landed in Rome, we felt as though we became a new, higher, class of citizen, “family class”. Part of a society where people naturally accelerate you through lines when they see you have a “bambino / bimbo”, call friends if they can’t find something you need like a birthday cake for Siena or a laundromat in a small town. People stop to smile and play with the kids, pay compliments, give token toys and freebies in stores.
Italy says love with playgrounds, they are everywhere. Each town centre had a park and playground. Even on days with long drives, were were always able to pull over and let the kids run in a playground without any issues finding one.
The best areas to stay in Tuscany with kids
The region of Toscana (Tuscany) is big covering 23,000 square kilometres and incorporates the major cities of Florence and Pisa. Most people envisage Tuscany with the quintessential Italian farm house or restored medieval castle atop a gently sloping hill. Tuscany is more than this scenery, offering different landscapes across various regions. There are smaller country towns, large medieval cities, areas aboudn with natural springs and lakeside and river cities.
To be amongst the endless hills Tuscany is so famous for, the best areas to stay in Tuscany is the infamous Southern Tuscany regions of Siena and Val d’Orcia. The most popular areas being San Gimignano, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Cortona, Volterra and Barga.
Mugello, Borgo San Lorenzo, Tuscany
Lesser known is the Mugello region in Northern Tuscany with equally beautiful landscapes of undulating hills, vineyards and green pastures are further complimented by vallyes that criss cross the Sieve River and backdrop of the Apennines Mountains.
Mugello is easily accessible from the main city of Florence and it’s international airport. A short 30 kilometers (50 minute drive) and you arrive in charming countryside, yet close enough to take day trips to the Southern Tuscany regions as well as Pissa, Lucca and Viareggio.
Mugello wouldn’t have come to mind as a vacation destination, save for the fact that my husband is a huge Moto GP fan, and the Italian Moto GP was held at the Mugello Circuit (L’Autodromo del Mugello). Mugello became our first anchor destination, and we loved it so much, we stayed two weeks and cancelled our Sardinia leg to stay longer. Ultimately, the reason we stayed 14 days instead of an initially planned 7 day trip, was our amazing Tuscany villa.
Tuscany villa tips for travel with kids:
We have a few sanity-keeper rules of thumb for our choices in travel accommodation:
- At least one bedroom for each child, our children are exceptionally light sleepers and don’t sleep well generally.
- A kitchen, after one terrible hotel stay where I spent the weekend trying to clean baby food containers at a bathroom pedestal sink, this one has become mandatory.
- Laundry facilities, self explanatory to all parents.
- Ship essentials from Amazon direct to your Tuscany villa. Lighten your load and have all your baby and children necessities like nappies shipped direct.
- Pick up other essentials in Florence. Though there are local shops and Farmacia’s, the main city of Florence provides everything you may need or forgot at reasonable prices.
The list leads us to prefer rental homes and apartments over hotels. In Tuscany, we stayed at a wonderful rental home near Borgo San Lorenzo, La Prunetina.
Our Tuscany Villa, La Prunetina
The tranquility and beauty that is La Prunetina is like a breath of fresh air in the Mugello hills, better described as a retreat than a rental home. When we booked La Prunetina, it fit all of the boxes, it was close to the Mugello Circuit, plus, it was on a farm, which I knew my wild toddler would love.
La Prunetina has a very romantic sunset patio where I envisaged sipping wine with my husband after children fell asleep. With this in mind, I made the booking and began corresponding with Shannon, the owner and it kept getting. La Prunetina is Shannon and Simone’s permanent home, which they rent out because they travel frequently. As a result, every detail has been considered.
The home has been completely renovated with all modern conveniences and technology; also, because they have a young family, its set up for young children. Shannon left us toys and books and a crib, highchair and other supplies – there were even two child-sized hooded towels hanging in the bathroom ready for the first bath. Outside, where we spent 95% of our time, Shannon left out toys for the sandbox, and there was a trampoline and a wonderful tree house stocked with toys.
La Prunetina has two gardens and too many fruit trees to name, plus a strawberry patch! In the mornings, we would head outside to the side covered patio where there is a flower garden, a grill and super comfortable couch, perfect for morning coffee and a perfect place to work on my laptop (with full wifi). The front yard has shade trees and hammocks within easy viewing distance of the sandbox. In the afternoons we picnicked, lounged and relaxed as a family under the trees.
Our host Shannon was fantastic, she helped me rent time on the Mugello circuit for a birthday present to my husband, picked up amazon packages I sent in advance and found a bakery where we arranged a cake for our son’s first birthday. She also gave us plenty of tips for touring the area.
Things to do with kids in Mugello, Tuscany
- Enjoy your Tuscany villa and learn the art of slow
Families know to go slow when travelling with kids and Tuscany is the perfect match. Tuscany is all about engaging with the beautiful surroundings, stopping, relaxing and sharing moments with the family. Tuscany lends itself to stress free travel starting with the food, it’s signature dishes in the region are famously slow-cooked with recipes and traditions demanding love and time.
Time test a Ferrari at Mugello Circuit
Not everything is slow as well as watching extreme speeds of the MotoGP, can also time test a Ferrari on the Mugello Circuit. Check out the MotoGP schedule here.
- Hire a private chef and sommelier at your villa
One of the highlights of our stay was her recommendation to have Simone’s cousin, a sommelier and chef, Lello, come to the home for a private dinner and wine tasting. This is some of the best food I’ve had in my life. Lello is brilliantly gifted at food and drink. He provided a dozen of his favourite wineries to visit as well. What better tip than from a local that knows. Lello owns a wine bar in nearby Vicchio called the Gnam Wine Bar. His contact is: [email protected].
- Splash at Borgo San Lorenzo pool
Our Tuscany Villa host introduced us to the Borgo San Lorenzo pool, which is a phenomenal facility tucked away amongst cornfields.
- Visit the wineries
- In the afternoons, when the children needed to nap, we would drive through the countryside and find wineries suggested by Lello
- Take day trips through beautiful Italian countryside
From Muguello it’s:
- 30-50 minutes drive one-way to Florence
- 2 hours drive one-way to Siena & San Gimignano
- 1.5 hours drive one-way to Pisa & Lucca
- 1.5 hour one-way to Viareggio.
- Shop at the Barberino Designer Outlets
A 20 minute drive to to Barberino di Mugello is home to the Barberino Designer Outlet. Home to Italian fashion labels Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Hugo Boss and more. There’s a children’s playground and all your amenities for convenient bargain hunting.
Meet KareenContributing Author
Whilst living the the Cayman Island’s didn’t work out for me it certainly did for Kareen who found the love of her life.
Now back in Calgary, a working mum to aSiena 3 and son Kairo 1. This little family go on inspirational travels, frequently hiking and skiing across the Canadian Rockies and jetting off across North America. It seems there is no mountain they can’t conquer with baby in tow.
Thank you to Kareen for taking us through Tuscany with kids, your warm heart and serving me my first Thanksgiving pecan pie.