Kid-Friendly Eating in Florence and advice of traveling with families in Florence
Italians love kids. They are forever leaning into strollers to pinch cheeks and talk in their best baby voices, whether they know you or not. But eating out in Florence with a couple of little ones in tow can still be a stressful experience.
You don’t have to worry about not being made to feel welcome. No restaurant in the Tuscan capital would ever turn a family away. Hell, most Florentines don’t bat an eyelid when someone walks into their restaurant with a giant Labrador. Sometimes the dog belongs to the owners themselves!
More often than not, the problems are cultural and unintentional. The sorts of things most Italians never even stopped to consider. For starters, a lot of restaurants in Florence are extremely old, set up in palazzos that predate most urban planning laws. Almost every place you visit will have at least one, if not a handful, of steps leading to the entrance. It’s a fantastic idea if the city floods, not so great if you’re trying to get in and out with a stroller.
Our best advice is to leave the stroller at the hotel. Even Florence’s most popular pedestrian streets are cobblestoned, which can make the going rough for anything on wheels, and you won’t get far without coming across a pothole or other bumps and cracks in the asphalt. If the stroller is a must, go slow and ask if “qualcuno mi potresti dare un mano” (someone could give you a hand) on the way in and out of buildings.
While we’re on the topic of urban planning, Italians aren’t big on air-conditioning. If they have them- whether in home or their restaurant- they keep it modestly low as they hold a superstition that cold air will hit your neck and cause "cervicale." There isn't an English translation for "cervicale" but this BBC article sums it up.
In the summer months, Florence can get very hot and dining indoors a literal sauna. Since waiting until 9pm when the sun has set and the city cooled is not an option with little ones, our best tip is to head for restaurants with al-fresco dining or try to sit as far away from the kitchen and as close to the door as possible.
Building regulations aside, the biggest problem for parents in Florence is actually the complete lack of kids’ menus. Even in areas where tourists outnumber locals five to one, kids’ menus are rarer than a wooly mammoth.
We’d like to pretend this is because all Italian kids will happily tuck into local specialties such as Florentine-style tripe with relish, but that’s totally not the case. Little locals are just as picky as your own little ones, but their parents have no trouble ordering “pasta in bianco” (pasta with olive oil and parmesan) or “pasta al pomodoro” (pasta in tomato sauce), even if they’re not on the menu.
For us foreigners, it can be a little more daunting. The solution? Put your holiday Italian to the test and order one of the above dishes. A polite request for pasta without sauce, even if it’s in English, is never going to offend the chef. Asking for chicken nuggets or French fries on the other hand…
But if you’re still worried about dining out with the fam in Florence, don’t stress, we’ve put together a list of our favourite spots for kid-friendly eating.
These aren’t the Italian versions of horrible child-centered fast food eateries, but legitimately good Italian restaurants where both you and your kids will find something delicious and authentic to eat.
The ultimate seafood restaurant, Vivo is the brainchild of a Southern Tuscan fishing family that decided to offer up their day’s catch direct to hungry diners. The restaurant is spacious for large groups and families, a place who won't mind a little noise or not the fancy type where if food falls you've committed a faux pas. The menu changes each day, but whatever is on it is always fresh, local and reasonably priced. And while the kids mightn’t be interested in anything but a simple spaghetti, but for adults Vivo is famous for its raw seafood, in particular oysters, scampi, sea urchins and clams.
Details: 9A/B, Largo Pietro Annigoni Ph: 333 182 4183 Monday: dinner only Tuesday - Sunday: lunch and dinner
Osteria de' Pazzi
This restaurant definitely has the feel of an old Italian eatery, like something you’d see in a black and white film. The staff is friendly and you and your kids will feel like family as you tuck into classics like ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup, risotto with artichokes when in season and potato gnocchi. For the kids, a simple pasta bolognese will set you back €8 and the staff will always make accommodations for picky eaters.
Details: Via dei Lavatoi 3r ph: 055 2344880 Tuesday to Sunday lunch and dinner
An affordable and down to earth restaurant, Trattoria Sabatino has been in the family since 1956. The dining room is simple and homelike, but there is plenty of space for family groups and simple pasta options. Tuck into roast beef, a great Bistecca Fiorentina and plenty of sides, while the kids can settle for ravioli in tomato sauce, tortellini or roast chicken.
Details: Via Pisana, 2/R ph: 055 225955 Monday to Friday: lunch and dinner
A gorgeous restaurant with exposed stone walls and plenty of wood, L’Ortone proves that dining out with kids and dining out in style aren’t necessarily antonyms. The menu is a modern and interesting take on Tuscan cooking with dishes like rabbit terrine served with rucola, salted almond sauce and grilled apricots and steamed salted cod, beef heart aspic and fresh baby spinach, but there’s also a far less adventurous kids menu with breaded pork chops and ice cream sundaes.
Details: Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 87/red www.lortone.it ph: 055 234 0804 Every day: lunch and dinner
A pizza and grill restaurant with something that is a true rarity in Florence – a dedicated kids play area with toys, a blackboard wall and, wait for it, free Wi-Fi for the older ones who just want to stream YouTube clips, leaving you with some blessed peace to enjoy Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven and steaks grilled to perfection over an open flame.
Details: Via Ventisette Aprile, 16 www.fuocomatto.it ph: 055 495140 Saturday: dinner only Every other day: lunch and dinner
Trattoria Enzo e Piero
A Florentine institution, Trattoria Enzo e Piero has been open since the 1930s. It’s all about reasonably priced Bistecca Fiorentinas, pastas, hand-made spinach and ricotta crepes and “pappa” al pomodoro (a local type of tomato and bread stew). The staff is young and friendly and you’ll definitely feel welcome no matter how energetic the group gets.
Details: Via Faenza, 105/Rosso www.trattoriaenzoepiero.it/en/ ph: 055 214901 Monday to Saturday: lunch and dinner
La Vecchia Bettola
It’s a tight squeeze between marble tables with a stroller at this local favourite, but there’s a bottle of Chianti on every one and it’s only €4 for as many glasses as you can handle. The food is honest, not mind-blowingly fantastic, but authentic, affordable and at times unusual, like the tripe or roasted rabbit. A simple neighborhood gem for meat and potatoes.
Details: Via Vasco Pratolini 3 ph: 055 224 158 Monday-Friday: lunch and dinner
Trattoria 13 Gobbi
Kitschy Italian at its best. The food isn’t critically acclaimed, but a great place for families and groups. Everybody seems to really love the rigatoni with buffalo mozzarella and fresh tomatoes served in big glass bowls.
Details: Via del Porcellana, 9R www.casatrattoria.com/en/trattoria-13-gobbi-2 Every day: lunch and dinner ph: 055 284015
Top Floor of the Mercato Centrale
Just like your typical shopping mall food court, but Italian and infinitely more delicious. The best part about Mercato Centrale is that’s always open, so you can eat whenever the kids are hungry. But be quick at traditional mealtimes. The tables are limited and they disappear fast.
Details: Via dell’Ariento Every day: 8am to midnight www.mercatocentrale.it/ ph: 055 239 9798
Our only vegetarian selection, La Raccolta has a dedicated dining area in the back of it's organic grocery store for when you just need a break from meat-heavy cuisine. Check their facebook page or call in advance for details on their weekly buffet dinners of all vegan fare.
Details: Via G.Leopardi, 2r, www.laraccolta.it Monday to Saturday: 7:30am to 7:30pm ph: 055 247 9068
Family-friendly gelato shops in Florence (friendly as they have indoor seating)
Gelateria de' Neri
One of Florence’s most famous gelaterias, Gelateria de’ Neri is on trend with vegan options and fresh waffles slathered in Nutella.
Details: Via dei Neri, 9/11r Tuesday to Sunday: 10am-midnight
The oldest gelateria in Florence is now in its fourth generation. Flavours range from traditional chocolate and pistachio to cheesecake, red current sorbet and pear and caramel.
Details: Via dell’Isola delle Stinche Tuesday to Sunday: 7:30am- midnight
A favourite for its fruit flavours, Carabè keeps up with the seasons, so there’s always something new whenever you drop by.
Details: Via Ricasoli, 60/R Every day: 10am-1am
A Florentine’s secret, this gelateria doubles as a bakery and pastry shop with gorgeous cakes, macarons and petit fours. Located out by the stadium district- in case you're staying near Campo de' Marte
Details: Viale dei Mille, 20/r Every day: 7am- midnight
Also: Gelato de' Bondi, Procopio and Perche' No
Bakeries with seating/family friendly
Great sweet and savory pastries from a bakery that’s been open since the 1930s. The coffee is quite good and the sfoglie alla cioccolata, chocolate breakfast pastries, legendary. Close to the Accademia museum- score!
Details: Via dei Servi, 112-red Every day: 8am-8pm
A daily feast for the eyes with freshly made breakfast pastries, cannoli and little treats that are perfect for little hands. Plenty to choose from and plenty of places to sit. In the off-beaten district of Piazza Beccaria
Details: Via Gioberti, 168/red Every day: 7am-9pm
With a small, but dedicated family area, Nencioni is the perfect place for a decadent pastry breakfast or coffee break. Try the rice pudding tartlets or puff pastry foldovers. It’s their specialty.
Details: Via Pietrapiana, 24/r Monday- Saturday: 7:30am-8pm Sunday: 7:30am-1:30pm