Florence is right up there among the top 5 cities I can see myself living in someday. After almost 25 years as a New Yorker, I spend a lot of time fantasizing about that list and I aspire to spending my retirement years in a European city. Other places on that list include Barcelona and Paris. In the meantime, I have to settle for as many trips across the pond as we can work into our busy schedules. Italy seems to always call out strongly for our return, and Florence is a city that we have visited several times over the last 10 years. On our first visit to Florence, it was my honeymoon. We later spent 2 weeks in the city with kids – a period of time where we preferred slow travel to really take in the atmosphere and just be. That year my girls were 8 & 10 – their tween years. We went three more times while the girls were teens combining it with visits to other places as well. Our latest visit was the summer of 2018 when my girls were 15 & 16. Needless to say we have figured out the art of teens in Florence!
Do: You will definitely want to hit the obvious stops including the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia. With teens especially, I recommend targeted strikes with a local guide, as lines can be pretty long and overwhelming. You can do all 3 in one long day or break them up depending on your teens tolerance of museums. For mid-priced tours, we like Walks of Italy For luxury tours including door to door service, contact Torly Travels and we will connect you with a high end service we love in Florence.
My absolute must see stop for teens of all ages in Florence is the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. While away the hours in this 600 year old pharmacy smelling the hundreds of elixirs, herbs and spices. The elaborate chandeliers and rich drapes make you feel like you just stepped back in time. Choose a hand pressed soap for take home gifts or try the popular 16th century fragrance made for a queen (Acqua della Regina).
Don’t miss a stroll up the hill on the south bank of the Arno to watch a show stopping sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. The serenity of the crowds as the sun sparkles off the Arno and creates a warm glow on the bridges is one your teen won’t soon forget. Plan to take an Uber back – or the 12 or 13 bus. Walking both directions will likely elicit complaints.
Check out a more whimsical kind of museum and take your teen to either the Ferragamo shoe museum or the newly opened Gucci garden which focuses more on handbags and clothes. Personally, we prefer the shoe museum for the laughs at all of the ridiculous shoes.
You can’t swing a cat in Florence without hearing about the family that ruled the city for more than 300 years – the Medici’s. Take the kids to a two man performance for a look at those 300 years of sex, drugs and the Renaissance. The Medici Dynasty show starts at 7pm and is one hour long.
For our family, a trip to Florence with teens is not complete without a stop in the Galileo Museum. Two beautiful floors of science artifacts and inventions along with interactive displays that are sure to get the attention of every family member. Definitely not a first stop attraction, there is never a line and the entry fee is reasonable. We stumbled in here one hot day in August, and have returned twice since!
For teens who are allowed a little freedom on their own, Piazza della Repubblica has an antique carousel that is fun and lively at night. Also, students – both Italian and exchange students – hang out at Piazza Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno where there are several cafes and restaurants.
Shop: The Fifth Avenue of Florence is on Via de Tornabuoni. Fun to look at but not really for spending money. There is a better variety of shops on Via Calzaiuoli – the street that connects the Duomo with Piazza della Signoria. Here you will find some international names as well as Italian designers plus an ever dwindling number of independent boutique shops. Bargain hunters should run to San Lorenzo Market. Shoppers looking for the authentic experience of small Italian shops can take the trek (or an Uber) to Le Nove Botteghe on Via Gioberti for a taste of where real Florentines do their shopping.
Eat: Teens want to eat often and eat well. It’s hard to go wrong in Florence, but here are some of our favorites. For the foodie families try Borgo San Jacopo (part of Hotel Lungarno) or Osteria Santo Spirito – both in Oltrarno. Regina Bistecca and La Casa del Vino nearer to Santa Croce are both excellent.
For midday treats, don’t miss the famous sandwich shop next to the Galileo Museum called ‘Ino. The profiteroles at the Rivoire Cafe in Piazza della Signoria are a must! Stop for a cappuccino at Caffe Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica. Please all palates at Il Mercato Centrale where you can try bites of lots of different flavors. What started as a street cart and exploded with popularity, La Cucina di Pescepane is a casual seafood restaurant near the Mercato Centrale.
And our favorite novelty, fill up your water bottle at the spigot in Piazza della Signoria where you will find taps for either still or sparkling water!
It seems too obvious to mention, but gelato should be a staple during your teens visit to Florence. Let them find their favorite and try all the flavors. Here’s a few of the most popular to start: Gelateria La Carraia (in Oltrarno just next to Ponte alla Carraia), Gelateria dei Neri (near Ponte alla Grazie), and Perché No (2 blocks from Piazza della Repubblica).
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