DESTINATIONS / EUROPE / ITALY / TUSCANY

We take a family holiday to Tuscany in high summer. Can Italy be child-friendly in the August heat?

We take a family holiday to Tuscany in high summer. Can Italy be child-friendly in the August heat?

We take our children to Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano and Volterra in August and try out Airbnb for the first time, read our review of our Italian adventure here.

Famous landmarks around the world are a remarkably hot topic of conversation between our children.

This is thanks as much to the Cbeebies programme Go Jetters as educational efforts on our part.

So when the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes into view, even the sweltering August Italian heat doesn’t cool their excitement.

Children under eight aren’t allowed up the tower and the streets are heaving so we stop just long enough to take it all in.

A toddler girl in sunglasses smiles in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

Posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Alongside thousands doing the same, we get the all-important pictures next to the extraordinarily slanting building, before we grab some pizza and hot-foot it back to our hire car.

We’ve already managed a day in Florence, taking our two on a whistle-stop tour of the city before their legs got tired.

The Duomo cathedral, Ponte Vecchio bridge and glorious Boboli Gardens were ticked off in a morning, before another rewarding pizza and gelato.

Two children stand in front of the Duomo cathedral in Florence

The Duomo cathedral in Florence

We’d bagged a cheap deal in an airport hotel for our first two nights to tackle the cities but now it was time to leave these bustling hotspots in search of the tranquillity of the countryside and the Dolce Vita.

Off to the country and the Dolce Vita

Our home for the next five nights is atop a hill, very much off the beaten track. Literally. A 10-minute dusty, bumpy, beaten track.

We wondered where our first foray into the world of Airbnb had taken us.

This global phenomenon lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests, from small rooms, to shared houses, villas and even entire castles, across more than 65,000 cities. Don’t miss out full guide to Airbnb here.

There were hundreds of appealing options at decent prices, even at peak season and we narrowed down our search using the list of criteria, map view, photos and reviews.

La Farneta with Airbnb

We finally chose an intriguing property on a large private estate in the hidden hamlet of La Farneta in central Tuscany.

Here there are a dozen or so apartments in a classic Tuscan setting, surrounded by olive trees, scorched fields and forests as far as the eye could see.

A family explore the grounds of their Airbnb accommodation in La Farneta, Tuscany, Italy.

Exploring the grounds of our accommodation in La Farneta.

The only sound – apart from our children in the shared swimming pool – was that of crickets in the towering trees of this 230 hectare estate.

The pool was the big draw here. The weather can get so hot in summer I would say you have to have one if you have children in tow.

The outdoor swimming pool at the apartments on the private estate in La Farneta

The outdoor swimming pool at the apartments on the private estate in La Farneta

The owner Gianfausto gave us the authentic experience Airbnb has built its success on – welcoming us to his home, giving us a guided tour and even playing his piano to provide some pleasant poolside accompaniment.

The accommodation wasn’t luxurious but it was authentic and I can’t remember staying anywhere as peaceful.

It may have been 15 minutes from the nearest shop or restaurant but two Tuscan treasures aren’t far away.

Surrounding area

The walled towns of San Gimignano and Volterra provided entertaining excursions. Our children loved the narrow alleys and the nooks and crannies of these picturesque places while the adults could enjoy the sights and sounds of Tuscany.

An aerial view of San Gimignano, an Italian hill town in Tuscany, south-west of Florence

We visited San Gimignano, an Italian hill town in Tuscany, south-west of Florence

Pizza and pasta time!

With every second shop seemingly selling pasta, olive oil or wild boar, food is a big part of any Tuscan trip.

We found several places for a plate of pasta including Osteria Del Borgo in the pretty village of Mensano.

Staying in a remote location meant it was easier to have lunch out and dinner on our terrace with views over the rolling hills as the sun dipped below the trees.

The perfect evening temperature was ideal for a family walk around the estate, roaming the land and spotting the occasional wall lizard or deer.

In conclusion

We knew Tuscany in August was a gamble.

But we discovered it is possible to beat the heat and the crowds and enjoy complete tranquility.

And we ticked a landmark off that rather demanding wishlist.

For more details of how Airbnb works, read our guide here.

Accommodation: Via Airbnb. We received a discount from Airbnb for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

Travel: Flew with British Airways to Florence Airport.

How to do Tuscany with children – five top tips

How to do Tuscany with children – five top tips

Five hacks to help make a perfect family break to Florence, Pisa and Tuscany

 

Coping with the heat

It can be intensely hot in summer. The temperature is at its best before 11 and after 6. We found early morning excursions and late evening walks worked best for us.

The middle of the day is the time to make sure you’re either in air conditioned accommodation or by a shaded pool.

 

Beware the siesta

No fewer than four times in a week we were caught out waiting for the local supermarket to open (it was closed between 1.30 and 4) and as we were staying 10 minutes drive along a gravel track that wasn’t ideal.

If you need supplies for little ones plan ahead and get all the essentials in one go. Often in small towns the choice isn’t what you might be used to and shops close in the early afternoon.

 

Research your parking

At busy towns like San Gimignano and Volterra it can be tricky to get close by car. 

San Gimignano has a decent park and ride system but in August the car parks were almost full by 10.30am.

Volterra has even less parking near the historic centre, which means a long hot walk. The best idea to minimise a long walk is to visit early morning or late afternoon.

 

A view of Florence from the Duomo of the city in the sunshine

Keep walking to a minimum in Florence during the summer

 

Be picky

Florence has so much to see, but not all of it is interesting to little ones and the heat soon saps their energy.

Pick one or two main sights, rather than packing it all in, and choose two close together to cut down on walking under the blazing sun.

One good option is the Boboli Gardens and Ponte Vecchio, which work well and are quite close together. Similarly the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio are quite close.

 

leaning tower of Pisa in the sun

You can’t climb the leaning tower of Pisa until you are eight years old

 

The Leaning Tower

Yes, it’s a must with children but stick together, get the pictures done and retreat to a little market outside the walls of the site where there are toilets, snacks and stalls to browse.

You have to be eight to climb the tower so once you’ve snapped that shot there’s not much reason to hang around.