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Category Archives for "Italy"

Dolomites with kids: Complete guide to hiking Geisler Alm (Adolf Munkel trail)

The Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm is hike-able for kids as young as 4.

By Grace Koelma

Geisler Alm/Adolf Munkel Trail in the Dolomites

Hiking the Dolomites with kids

So, you're planning (or dreaming!) of a trip to the Dolomites with kids, and wondering whether it's even possible to hike in those insane mountains with little (or bigger) ones? 

The good news is YES, it is possible, and will be one of the best things you'll do in Europe (it's that breathaking!).

This guide is specifically for parents with kids, who want to find the best kid-friendly hikes in the South Tyrol region.

We've been traveling the world for 2 and a half years with our (now) 4-year-old, and since we stopped carrying him in the hiking backpack, it's been tough to find hikes that match his little legs. 

Eric has also been nursing an ankle injury, which has meant that he can't really carry Leo at all on steep terrain. Before visiting Europe in mid-2019, we spent 14 months in North America, and hikes longer than 4km were pretty much off limits for us, which was a big disappointment.

There is nothing like Geisler Alm. Just magical!

That's why we were so excited to find that Geisler Alm was not only a perfect beginner hike with stunning Dolomites scenery, but achievable for our 4-year-old to do on his own. 

Note: Because I know that hiking with kids is unpredictable, I've put a ton of detail in this guide so you know where you're at every step of the way. The hike is really quite simple, but these steps will help you with route options and signage, so you're not confused when you're out there.

Take it on the trail - download the offline version (PDF) here. 

Our experience hiking to Geisler Alm made our Dolomites adventure absolutely unforgettable, so we hope this guide inspires you to get out there with your kids. If you do the Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm and share pics on Insta, tag us @darelist.family. We'd love to see! 😍

Halfway through the hike and still going strong!

Adolf Munkel: trail overview

  • 8-10km (depending on route)
  • 4-5 hours walking time, easy trail for most part
  • Loop from Zanser Alm to Geisler Alm and back
  • With 2 extended refugio stops, we were out on the trail/mountain for 10 hours

The trail we chose on the Adolf Munkel trail was around 10km, a loop out from Zanser Alm to Geisler Alm and back to the Zanser Alm carpark. The loop is usually 9km but we took a few detours, including an additional pitstop at Glatsch Alm to break up the trip and give Leo's legs a rest.

This route involved about 5 hours of walking on alpine trails, which our 4yo managed without being carried once. (Yes, he did ask. But because he wasn't whining and was easily distracted by stories, we just kept saying no to see what his endurance really was.) 

We were astounded at how far he could go, and with two leisurely pit stops at alpine refugios (with playgrounds) along the trail, it ended up being an incredible 10 hour day spent in some of the most amazing scenery we've ever witnessed. We would do it again in a heartbeat!

P.s: We were all exhausted at the end, and drove straight to town (missing the iconic Dolomites sunset at Val di Funes!) where we subsequently ate a whole pizza each - mmmm. So worth it. 🤤

Know before you go

The Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm is perhaps one of the most beautiful and accessible trails in the Dolomites.

Keep scrolling to see our photos of this place, and you'll see why we're in love!

The trail passes beneath the towering and very iconic Odle/Geisler mountain group, known as the 'Pale Mountains'. It's found in the Nature Park Puez-Odle and the Odle Massif, which are UNESCO world heritage sites.

  • The South Tyrol region of Italy borders Austria and Switzerland, and is the only part of Italy where German is the mother tongue. Therefore, in the Dolomites you'll find that all roadsigns, restaurant menus, hiking trail posts and place names are named twice - in German and Italian.
  • There is no park pass required for visiting Nature Park Puez-Odle, but in the Dolomites you generally have to pay for parking.
  • The hike begins at Zanser Alm carpark, in the Val di Funes (Villnöß / Vilnöss) valley.
  • It's open year round, but the park's peak visitor season is July and August, when the alpine wildflowers bloom in the meadows.
  • Be aware that small children may find it harder to hike in extremely hot or cold temperatures, so we'd recommend visiting in late May, early June or September, when the temperatures are more bearable.
  • Depending on when you are visiting, you may see wildlife on the trail, and cows and horses in the pastures, so use common sense and don't get too close or offer food, or attempt to touch.

Getting to the Geisler Alm trail

  • Drive to Zanser Alm (exact Google maps location here) which is where the trailhead and carpark for the Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm begins. Zanser Alm is a 2 hour drive from Bolzano, 3 hours from Venice, almost 4 hours drive from Milan and 3.5 hours from Munich.
  • There is a fee to park at Zanser Alm, between €5-6, depending on which season you go. We paid €6 for the day. (Note: Zanser Alm is Malga Zannes in Italian).
  • The area is also accessible by bus and train. Catch a train to Bressanone or Chuisa station and catch bus no. 340 to Val di Funes (Villnöß / Vilnöss). 
  • We would strongly suggest hiring a car, as it gives you more flexibility with where you go, and what time you arrive. The closest airports are Bolzano/Bolzen (45km), Innsbruck (85km) and Verona (190km).
  • Bonus! Many guesthouses and hotels include a tourist guest pass which gives you free travel on all public transport services in the South Tyrol Transport Network, including regional trains, local buses. The pass also gives a huge discount on cable cars (we used ours to save €39 on our return trip to Seceda 2500!). Before booking your hotel, we'd recommend you ask your host whether you have access to this pass, because it can save you a ton!

The regional guest pass (each region gets assigned depending on their location).

What to expect on the trail (with kids)

  • This trail is listed as appropriate for beginners, and varies in length, depending on what you prefer and your children's energy levels. If you are out on the trail, you have the option to lake de-tours or more direct routes to Geisler Alm, which will affect how long you're out.
  • What we love about the Adolf Munkel trail is that there are refugios along the way, to stop and rest your legs and have a picnic. Refugios are small, family-run guesthouses and restaurants (often with cows in pasture) that almost always include a large sunny terrace to enjoy a beer on, and a playground for your children. Our son played happily here for hours, while we got to rest.
  • The trail to Geisler Alm is excellent, and signposted the whole way. Some parts are steeper, and the trail narrows, but nothing we felt unsafe doing with our 4-year-old. There are also sections that may be challenging for small legs, climbing over roots, and hopping across small streams but again - nothing too difficult.

An important note on trail signage

The signs can get confusing if you're not familiar with bi-lingual hiking naming procedures (or if you didn't research enough before hand, like us! Whoops!). Because we got a bit disoriented, we decided to document everything to make this guide simple to follow, so be sure to 'save to reading list' so you can view it offline.

Basically, every trail signpost shows the route numbers in red/white, and names of the final destination in both German and Italian. The time to walk is also shown in minutes shorthand (eg. 5', 40'), which is helpful when deciding on routes with kids, though add on 10-15 minutes from what is estimated.

Some sign posts have one destination - bi-lingual names - and others (like the very bottom one in the photo above) show that a trail leads to two destinations. With bi-lingual naming it ends up looking like 4 destinations, which is why we got confused - but it's actually two destinations. So if you know this simple fact in advance, you'll be streets ahead of us!

If in doubt, just keep looking for signs to Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, and pair that with the trail numbers we mention (as several trails can lead to Geisler Alm, some more direct and others more scenic but longer).

Tip: We'd recommend downloading an offline version of this guide and Google maps too, which can be seriously helpful if you need to get your bearings on the trail.

Map of the route with markers

This is a rough guide from Google maps (link here), but your route may vary slightly depending on which option you take at the junctions. The numbers correspond with instructions below.

Hiking instructions: Geisler Alm loop, via Glatsch Alm

A: Trail to the ridge line junction: approx. 90* mins

1. Begin at the Zanser Alm parking lot, and take trail no. 6 toward Geisler Alm/Rif Delle Odle from parking lot main building (near the entry/toll hut). 

*Possibly longer, if factoring in time for perfect hiking stick selection and toadstool gazing 🍄😉

Waterfalls at the start of the trail.

2. For the first 20 minutes or so, you'll pass through beautiful farmland and wooded areas, past a small stream with waterfalls. In this section there's not much shade, so if you're hiking in summer, start early. (We started at 8.45am and the autumn temperature was perfect). Keep in mind that you cannot touch or pick flowers or toadstools. Read the park signs carefully at the trailhead.

3. You'll get to a fork in the path after a wide bridge, where you'll need to take trail no. 35 towards Geisler Alm. This is the path that turns left up the hill and goes through a turnstile.

The first 30 minutes of the trail is flat and wide, and passes through a lush forest.

4. The path winds up through gorgeous forest with views of the incredible white mountain peaks glimmering through the trees. You will reach a sign with no. 36B signposted - this is a more direct route to Geisler Alm. We chose to keep trekking along no. 35, as it goes closer to the base of the mountains, and is much more scenic.

5. After 10-15 minutes of ascending steadily uphill, you'll reach an alpine meadow right at the base of the mountains, with a few huge boulders and a great view of the base of the Pale Mountains.

The giant boulder in the meadow.

6. After that, it's a short walk along the ridge line under the base of the mountains to the junction on the ridge line, where trail no. 36 splits off the one you're currently on - trail no. 35. We stopped to have a snack here on the little benches.

Once out of the forest, the views from the ridge line are magnificent.

B: Detour to Glatsch Alm (optional): 30 mins walking return

7. Here is where you can take a little detour downhill to Glatsch Alm via trail no. 36 - which is just 15 minutes off the path, and 15 back again. We'd highly recommend this pit-stop to give their little legs a rest and get something to eat.

* If you don't want to take the detour, continue along trail 35, and skip to section D.

Sign post at the ridge crossroads. The trail you need to take is the last sign (that's hard to read due to the angle).

The trail signage is a little confusing here, as trail no. 36 goes in two directions (hence why we got lost 🙄).

If you want to go to Glatsch Alm, take the no. 36 route in the direction of Glatsch Alm / Malga Glatsch / Zans Zannes, which is the trail that goes uphill rather than staying on the ridge.

After you go up for a few minutes, you descend down the other side of the hill with stunning views into the meadow, and be able hear the cowbells clanging in the pasture. #swoon

C: Glatsch Alm refugio

Glatsch Alm is a mini version of Geisler Alm - a typical family-run refugio (guesthouse) and restaurant set among gorgeous alpine meadows. It features:

  • a licensed restaurant
  • sunny and partially shaded terrace (with live music if you're lucky!)
  • small playground with swings, slide, sandpit, toys and trampoline
  • cow pastures and stunning views 
  • restroom

Enjoy stunning views of the famous Pale Mountains, while you sip a beer in the sun, and your kids play happily. In the middle of a hike, a stop like this is basically paradise.

Glatsch Alm has a gorgeous view from the sunny terrace - grab a drink and enjoy while your kids play!

Sneaking a cheeky kiss while the kid is occupied 😉

Make sure you stop for a beer and apfel struedel

The Glastch Alm playground kept our 4yo happy for hours, until we dragged ourselves away.

Because we were disoriented, we actually thought Glatsch Alm was Geisler Alm for around an hour 😂, but we are so glad we accidentally ended up there. Best detour we could have made, and once we'd enjoyed some food and Bavarian folk tunes in the sun, we set off again for Geisler Alm, our energy renewed.

Quick exit strategy: if you need to finish the hike sooner than you'd thought and want to forfeit the Geisler Alm route (which adds a further 2 hours walking to your hike), you can take the trail no. 36 from the entry gate just below the refugio, down to the carpark at Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). I'm not sure what this path is like, but it is the most direct way back to the carpark at this stage (40-60mins).

Before we left, we explored around the Glatsch Alm meadows, and it is seriously beautiful, and gives you a stunning view over the refugio and cow pastures.

That's Glatsch Alm in the distance.

The mountain views are so stunning here.

8. We returned up the same trail, over the hill to the 35/36 intersection (on the ridge line, near the benches).

9. When back at the crossroads, look for the sign marked trail no. 35 Gschnagenhart / Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, which is continuing along the ridge line in the direction you were heading before you took the detour to Glatsch Alm.

10. Continue along the ridge line for a little while, where you'll come to another trail split.

Option 1: Take trail no. 36A downhill towards Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, which is the most direct way to Geisler Alm, approaching from slightly below the large meadow, and another approx. 30 mins of walking. We took this option because our 4yo was tiring.

Option 2: Take the more scenic but longer route along no. 36 (signposted towards Gschnagenhart Alm / Malga Gschnagenhart), which approaches from the ridge line above. 

Lush green on trail no. 36A

E: Geisler Alm refugio

Geisler Alm is simply stunning - a meadow with two refugios/restaurants with a breathtaking view of the Pale Mountains and back of the Seceda Ridgeline.

Geisler Alm in the foreground, and Gschnagenhart Alm peeking over the hill at the back.

It features:

  • two licensed restaurants (one in the main Geisler Alm house, and another at Gschnagenhart Alm, which is up the farm road towards the mountains.)
  • sunny and partially shaded terraces
  • large playground with a flying fox, animal farm swinging bridge and more.
  • cow pastures and stunning views 
  • ergonomic deck chairs on the mountainside to relax on
  • restroom

The playground at Geisler Alm.

The flying fox was a hit!

A pasture of hundreds of cows... and their cowbells. <3

Once you've checked out Geisler Alm and lounged on the deck chairs on the hillside above it, head up the wide farm road and through the gate to Gschnagenhart Alm, which is a much quieter refugio with incomparable views. 

A trail extends past the turnstile into the field, which leads to no. 36, the other way you can enter Geisler Alm (at the 36A intersection). We walked out into the meadow and were stunned by the views. This was probably our favourite moment of the day, the peace and quiet was lovely, and the sheer cliffs were so astounding almost made me want to cry.

Photos can't do it justice! This place is special.

F: Trail to the Zanser Alm carpark (via Dulser Alm): approx 60 mins

As the light was fading, we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from Geisler Alm, and returned to the main refugio, where there are two directions trail no. 36 takes towards Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). 

13. We chose to return the way we'd entered - down the path past the playground, along the boardwalks to the turnstile.

We took trail no. 36 downhill from there (signed in the direction of Zans / Zannes / Dusler Alm). 

This trail is fairly steep in sections, and probably the hardest part of the hike, partly due to getting tired after a big day hiking, and partly because there are many roots and steep sections to navigate. Our 4-year-old still managed it all cheerily though (with lots of stories/songs/games of 'I spy' for distractions).

14. At the bottom of this narrow forest path downhill, the path widens, and you'll reach an unsealed road in both directions. At this point you have the option (look at the signpost) to reach Zans / Zannes from two directions. Left is no. 36B, and is on the unsealed road taking 50 mins. To the right is no. 36, and it begins on the wide road for 100m, but after passing the Dusler Alm refugio, it becomes a narrow path through the forest, taking about 40 mins to complete with kids.

We took this option, as we didn't want to walk on the road, and preferred a quicker route.

After Dusler Alm, the path flattens out and is very pretty!

15. When you've been following the forest path after Dusler Alm for 35 mins, you'll come to a final signpost, indicating that trail no. 33 will take you to Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). You are so close - only 5 minutes away!

16. The path joins the road again right before the Zanser Alm carpark. It enters at the other end, which was disorientating, but just keep walking until you reach the original building and find your car from there.

You're done, and if you're anything like us, tired but very, very happy with our achievement, especially for our little guy!

This guide was a huge one, because we wanted to make our instructions as clear as possible. Let us know if it was helpful and tag us @darelist.family if you share pics on Instagram!

Happy hiking,

Grace, Eric and Leo

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Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

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Perugia over Rome | Why Perugia is our favourite Italian city

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We stayed in Italy for 3 weeks, basing ourselves in Perugia (right in the centre of Italia when you look on the map) and visiting Florence and Rome for a weekend each.

Perugia was by far and away our favourite though, it's the perfect 'la dolce vita' Italiano experience without the crowds. The food is cheaper, the air is cleaner, the surrounding landscape is un-bel-iev-able and the people are lovely. Plus the mini-metro (the cute transport system that gets commuters up the hill) is a big kid magnet! Total novelty every time you ride it.

If you're ever in Italy, don't miss Perugia, plus the big sites like Florence and Rome. Perugia is a hidden gem.

Have you been to Perugia? Did you love it as much as us? Let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this video, we'd love it if you could click 'like' and share with your friends! And hit subscribe to our YouTube channel below - we'd love to see you there too!

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Travel Hack: How I saw Rome’s major tourist attractions with ZERO crowds

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

Have you ever wished to get a major tourist attraction all to yourself? Yeah, me too... So I worked it out and documented the journey. I managed to see all of Rome without crowds and this article covers how I did it (and the photos to prove it). Enjoy!

If you’ve travelled in the past 5 years, you’ll know that the biggest cities are over-crowded with tourists. It’s a well known and well-documented phenomenon.

It’s the reason for the rise in more alternative locations popping up - and people are swapping the majors (Paris, Rome, New York) for intimate retreats, off-the-beaten-path getaways and following Walter Mitty to Iceland instead.

Let's be honest, this is way cooler than paying €2 to stand in line for a public toilet in Rome...

I mean for some people, the crowds are exciting and give a ‘buzz’ (extroverts rejoice!), so I see the appeal if that’s you…

But if you want to take a decent photo, tick off a bucket list item without losing a family member or just sit and silently enjoy the moment without a tour guide and thirty five grey nomads struggling with selfie sticks getting in your way, these over-crowded areas, packed tourist buses and over-priced cafes are simply ZERO fun.

It kind of makes me wonder; on an average day, how many poor quality photos are taken of the coliseum for example, just so people can tick off the ‘I was here’ moment? And how many people actually appreciate the grandeur of what was essentially a stadium set up for the purpose of barbaric, blood-thirsty torture as a form of entertainment? It should have an eery, off-putting feeling to it. But sharing that moment with 47,000 other people will probably distract you from truly feeling the magnitude.

Seeing the Coliseum instead with absolutely NO ONE else there really gave me the opportunity to consider and contemplate this site in it's hey day. I had a moment to feel for all the people who considered this place hell on earth.

It also helped me reflect on the modern day versions of the same barbaric fascination with death - the popularity of horror movies, shows like Black Mirror and the evening news (which is essentially “this person died, that person died, something about politics, someone else died, here’s some sport, weather tomorrow and here’s a cute puppy to make you forget that this all started morbidly”).

And just look at news sites… The biggest stories are the ones where people died. It’s unfortunate, but in this day and age of being able to track clicks and time on page, the news sites know that these stories get the most eyeballs. And Grace also knows that from the inside, having worked in digital newsrooms as a journalist.

But I digress and this is about my travel hack, so back to the Coliseum.

How did I see Rome with absolutely NO ONE around?


RUN

It’s pretty simple. You get up 30 minutes before sunrise and just run around the city. There are no tourist buses in operation, there are no crowds, no selfie sticks and no hawkers trying to sell you useless trinkets to take home for your mother.

The Coliseum at 10:30 AM on a normal weekday

The Coliseum that same day at 6:45 AM

This works for almost every ‘monument-type’ attraction. It doesn’t work if you want a photo on the inside of the coliseum for example, or an art gallery. But if you don’t need to go ‘into’ something or buy tickets, this works a treat!

Of course, it also wouldn’t work if it’s something like watching sunrise over the Taj Mahal (which everyone does). So, okay, it’s a hack for any 'non-entry dependent, non-sunrise-based' attractions!

In Rome, I saw 5 popular spots - The Coliseum, The Forum, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and The Vatican - (with no more than 10 people at any of them) across a 10km run before breakfast. 

A comparison on the Spanish Steps. It's like a Roman version of Where's Wally in the afternoon.

I've been doing this for years

In Paris back in 2011, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Eiffel Tower with no one around too.

I sat in the park and soaked up the scenery and history, grabbed a croissant on the way back to my hotel and enjoyed the day. I really appreciated the space to think. I don't get that in the middle of the day or in the evenings with fifty thousand other people there.

You can tell it was taken in 2011 because I still thought vignettes were a cool editing effect.

A shot usually swimming with people.

The Notre Dame - enjoyed by me, 2 cleaners and 17 pigeons.

I hope you enjoyed this and get to use this hack for yourself. Remember to share this post with your friends. Actually no, don’t. I want the tourist attractions to remain quiet! haha

But seriously... share this hack.

Also, check out where we are on Instagram at the moment. If we’re travelling in the same city as you, reach out to me. We could run together!

What hacks do you have for avoiding the crowds? Fancy sharing with us?

Eric Koelma

Eric is husband to Grace and Dad to Leo, exploring the world and doing everything he can to align the travel itinerary with world sporting events (hello Tour de France!). He's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am, and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)

What to do in Florence with a toddler

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

Florence + toddlers...

Two words that don't commonly go together. During our one month stay in Italy we spent most of our time in the beautiful walled city of Perugia, but we took a brief one night/two day trip out to Florence/Firenze (just 2 hours by train).

Florence is a 2000 year old medieval city ​steeped in a rich and bloody history. Centuries of being the home of wealthy Italian families has given Florence scores of exquisitely crafted Cathedrals and cavernous art galleries hosting some of the world's most famous sculptures and artworks. But like fine wine, Florence grows on you. And let's be completely honest here... most of the city's history, beauty and charm is lost on a 2-year-old (sorry, Florence).

We didn't have time to research Firenze before we went. Full-time travel has a way of making you much more relaxed about visiting new places. In the past, I would have researched for hours before we arrived. Now we just figure it out when we get there*. So when we arrived in Florence, we were a bit taken aback at the lack of parks and playgrounds visible in the city centre (a day-tripping staple when you have a 2-year-old). Most European cities we've visited have parks in the centre of town - something we gravitate to and use as a base.

*It's different when we're booking a location/Airbnb for 2+ weeks. That is when I do my research!

But the good news is there ARE things you can do in Florence with a toddler. Our guide will give you everything you need to know for a 'weekend trip'. (I'd reconsider if you're planning on visiting for longer. Firenze is beautiful, but really not designed for kids).

What to do in Florence with a toddler (no museums or Cathedrals!)

First things first... Gelato. 

Florence is famous for its world-class gelato, which is said to have originated in Firenze in the 16th Century. As is the case with most European cities, the gelato is most expensive near the big touristy piazzas and Cathedrals. We found a reasonably priced and delicious gelateria in the square around the BACK of the Duomo Cathedral (while all the crowds were milling around the front).

$$ Tip: The gelato on the Ponte Vecchio (the most iconic canal bridge in Florence) is exorbitantly priced, and there are few places to stop and enjoy it with all the crowds. 

Catch the Florence sightseeing bus (24 or 48-hour pass)

After 6 months travelling full time, this was our very first organised tour! And it was GREAT. Leo's tantrums and toddler antics left us fairly exhausted after our first afternoon/evening in Florence. We were pretty exhausted from walking around everywhere. Parks were few at that point, and he was tiring of all the sightseeing. We don't have a stroller, and Leo doesn't like being carried for long, but also can't be trusted running along beside the road. He's full of energy.

So many attempts at a good photo, but Leo was getting sleepy at this point!

But Leo also LOVES buses. So we figured in order to keep him entertained the next day (particularly through nap time) we'd try the double decker hop-on-hop-off bus. It had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but buying tickets was the best decision we made. At €23 each for 24 hours it was great value for us and here's why: 

  • It was entertaining sitting on the top level for Leo and had lots of good views for us
  • We got a tour around a very spread out city, including up the hill to the ancient city of Fiesole, which is BEAUTIFUL.
  • It meant not as much walking for us (and carrying Leo on our back).
  • We could hop off every time we saw something of interest (a park or playground etc). We saw places we probably wouldn't have stumbled across if not for the bus route.
  • It has an App you can download that fairly accurately shows the location of each bus (so you can see whether they're running on time).
  • The rumbling of the bus eventually sent Leo to sleep which is a high five in any parent's book!
  • Earbuds and audio commentary included with a history of sights as we passed. As parents, this was a perfect way to learn a little history while Leo was entertained. We can't really do museums and really miss learning the history of a location in that sense when we visit.

Catch the bus up the mountain to Fiesole

Fiesole was a complete surprise, and we're so glad we made the spur-of-the-moment decision to stay on the bus because otherwise we would have missed it. I'd highly recommend staying on the bus (Line B) for that part of the journey, and planning on spending an hour or so exploring the town.

Tip: The buses come every 30 minutes, so you can hop off in the main square of Fiesole and return an hour later for your return journey. The view as you descend the mountain is incredible!

Find the Piazza S. Spirito for lunch

Our lovely Instagram friends recommended we visit Piazza S. Spirito (a square on the south side of the river Arno). This Piazza is lovely because it's out of the way, less crowded and safe for kids to run around in. Plus, it has public toilets on the far side. They cost €1 each for entry, but it's worth it for the sparkling clean facilities.

$$ Tip: To save money paying for each family member, pay €1 to use the parent's room and change your toddler's nappy, and use the toilet inside while you're in there.

While you're in Piazza S. Spirito, look for Gusto Pizzeria (there will be a handful of groups of uni students/young people sitting on the stairs devouring boxes of the delicious pizza. Just ask them!). The pizza is cheap, takes just 2 minutes to make, and will be the best thing you eat in Florence, hands down.

Walk down to the Piazza T. Tasso - it's playground time!

The Piazza T. Tasso is a 10 minute walk along quiet backstreets from the Piazza S. Spirito (just plug both piazzas into Google maps to find the best route between them). P. Tasso has a children's playground - twice as big as what is pictured below. It's also just across the road from the hop-on-hop-off bus stop (No. 24 on the red Line B).

Tip: When looking at the map, it might be tempting to visit the nearby Boboli gardens, which are huge botanical gardens spreading over ​4 hectares. Unfortunately, we didn't realise the gardens are ticketed (around €7 for adults and €3 for kids over 2. Pretty pricey for a garden!)

Head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for an AMAZING sunset view

Piazzale Michelangelo is set on a hill on the south side of the Arno river, overlooking the city. The lookout has the best view of Florence from afar. On a clear afternoon locals and tourists alike gather on the steps of the upper viewing area to watch the golden colours on the buildings as the sun sets.

Bring a bottle of wine or a little antipasto spread, and enjoy the sun warming your face and the chit chat of people with accents from all over the world. 

How to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo: You can walk from the base of the hill up a long flight of shallow stairs (just head to Via Monte Alle Croci and follow the crowds.) Or you can catch the hop-on-hop-off bus to the top. It's one of the most famous sites in Florence, you can't miss the stop!

The stairs to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo

Don't miss the SECRET best view of Florence!

We stumbled across one of Florence's best-kept secret views totally by accident. The below photo shows the view taken in a little nook in the Giardino delle Rose, directly below the lower viewing platform at the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a beautiful quiet oasis in the chaos of the touristy area above, perfect for toddlers who want to run run run! The gardens close at 6pm. Oh and this time it's a free garden. 😉

Hint... Ponte Vecchio is best at sunset

When the crowds have faded away, gaze over at the famous Ponte Vecchio market bridge from it's little sister down the river, the Ponte alle Grazie. The views are magnificent!

View the iconic Cathedrals by night

There's something about the silent, eerily lit-up domes and ornamental facades that quietened Leo down straight away (in contrast to the high-energy fireball we were grappling with in the same spot earlier in the day!). We highly recommend a quiet stroll through the famous piazzas in the city by night as the perfect way to end your stay in Florence.

Playgrounds we saw from the bus, but didn't stop at

Have you been to Florence with kids? What did you enjoy? Comment below.

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

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