If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that we are very lucky to have family in Tuscany, Italy and so visit the beautiful part of the world at least once or twice a year. Now we’ve got two kids, our holidays are slightly different to when we first travelled to Tuscany 7 years ago and so I thought it might be useful to share some posts about family holidays in Tuscany, for anyone else thinking of travelling to Italy with their little ones.
There’s a 5 minute video to start you off, so grab a Prosecco and settle-in…
Family Holidays in Tuscany – Part 1
I’ll let this video set the scene…
Getting to Tuscany & Driving once we’re there
If you’ve not watched or read it yet, I wrote a post recently about Flying to Italy with Jet2 which you may find useful if you’re looking for some tips for flying with kids. We fly from Manchester to Pisa, which is a manageable 2hr15 flight and we’re usually through the airport and in the car within 30 minutes of landing. It’s super easy.
We’re lucky to be able to use the family car when we’re in Tuscany, so usually get picked-up from the airport or the car is left for us. But, when that’s not been possible, we’ve always hired a car for our Tuscan holidays as it’s totally essential unless you are staying near the train. Our family live in the Tuscan hills and there just aren’t cabs or reliable buses and we like to go off exploring and find it easier with a toddler and baby to have the car. There are plenty of car-hire companies based at Pisa airport so it’s very easy.
Our family home is approximately 30 minutes drive from Pisa airport and in a really nice central location to visit lots of amazing places…approx 40 minutes from Pisa, 35 minutes from Volterra and San Gimignano, 1 hour to Lucca and an hour from the coast. Perfetto!
Well, what can I say…we’re lucky as the house is the ideal place to spend as much time as possible! It’s beautiful, has great outdoor space including a pool for the kids to enjoy in summer and the latest addition is a hot-tub…which is great to maximise the warm evenings and when the pool isn’t quite warm enough. We used it a lot this Easter as the weather wasn’t the best.
Local town – Lari, home of Martelli pasta
Since discovering Martelli pasta years ago, I eat nothing else! Well I do, but this is definitely my pasta of choice and we bring the gorgeous yellow paper bags home with us every trip (especially when we drive!). It’s the “Ferrari of pasta” and lucky for us, is made in a small family-run factory in the next village from our home. Lari, is a small hilltop village and it’s such a beauty. A windy (and somewhat treacherous looking road) offers the most stunning views on your drive up to Lari and the road wraps around the central village piazza.
You can park up near the top, just a stones-throw from the Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, where the Martelli factory is located, alongside a couple of local restaurants, a gelato place, a couple of bars and a small shop.
Our favourite place to eat is Antica Osteria Al Castello, which is within the castle walls and overlooks the piazza. We love it because it’s clearly local, they cook with Martelli pasta and they do the best selection of Tuscan bruschetta and crostini. Buonissimo! It’s a little small in with the pram, but the owners are friendly and accommodating and helped us fit 2 travel systems in, so there’s no problems at all.
Our favourite Tuscan city – Volterra
Volterra is about 40-45 minutes drive from where we live in Tuscany and it’s a picturesque one that takes us high up onto the hilltops. You drive right up and into the medieval walled city and there is a multi-story carpark at the top (it’s quite tight in there!).
I love Volterra because although it attracts plenty of tourists and visitors, it’s still very much a functioning and lived-in city. There’s still plenty of locals living, working and hanging out there and I love that. The medieval streets and alleyways are gorgeous and the hilltops views are to die for. There’s great shopping to be had too, my favourite being the leather shop right at the top of town by the car park. I buy something there every time!
We’ve eaten in many different restaurants in Volterra and have never been disappointed. For some reason, we’ve always steered-clear of the main square, as we just assumed they were tourist traps and perhaps not as authentic. But this time round, on a drizzly day and with 3 kids in tow, we thought we’d play it simple. We ate at Ristorante Etruria and it was fantastic. In the sunny weather, there’s seats and parasols outside, but the interior of the restaurant is the wow factor! Truly stunning, with its painted archways and modern furniture mixed with the old. They were friendly and accommodating to my friend’s gluten intolerance, baking her gluten free bread, fresh from the oven and were clear on which pastas our vegan friend could eat too. We enjoyed a very tasty lunch there and will be sure to visit again next trip.
Vegan friendly dining in Palaia
It was really interesting travelling with a vegan and someone with food intolerances, as we got the opportunity to understand the food we were eating more and what could be made/tweaked. We were all so pleasantly surprised to discover that there was plenty of vegan options around, gluten-free and even dishes without onions and garlic could be made. We understood that Pici is the pasta not made with eggs and the truffle pastas were suitable for vegans. Happy campers!
One of the most special and accommodating meals we had, was dinner at a truly stunning restaurant in the Tuscan village of Palaia. Ristorante Enoteca Bacciomeo is an absolute gem, reached through a walled garden and archway on Via della Pieve, Palaia. When you walk in, the setting is so grand, but the food incredibly grounded and authentic and very reasonably priced. The friendly waitress quickly made us feel at ease and explained the various options to us and our fellow diners. Before we knew it we had mixed platters of anti-pasti including a special vegan plate full of the most delicious truffle-topped crispy polenta (which we all requested seconds of!). Moral of the story here…? It pays to engage with the staff and ask them about your food preferences/allergies/intolerances as every single place we did this, were more than happy to speak to the chef to make something especially.
And that, my friends, is where Part 1 of my 3-part series: Family Holidays in Tuscany is done. If you have any questions, do ask away!
If you like my Italian posts, then you may also like A Vespa in Tuscany and Where to eat in Lari and Where to eat in Castelfalfi (somewhere we didn’t visit this time). And try flying with Jet2.com to see how we travel with 2 kids. Ciao!
UPDATE: You can also find Part 2 here now!