In this less than summery weather that we’re having in the UK, I can’t help but reminisce back to our sunny Easter family holiday in Tuscany where we visited San Gimignano and Pisa amongst other amazing places. We took our 3.5 year old and 10 month old to Tuscany and enjoyed lots of exploring, eating and drinking (the latter was just us adults though!).
Part 1 included how we got to Tuscany and the local villages of Lari, Palaia and Volterra. In this part, we take you to the city of Pisa (which many write-off as they think it’s only about the tourist trap of the leaning tower) and Volterra’s hilltop enemy of San Gimignano…
Family Holidays in Tuscany – Part 2
I’ll let this video set the scene…
Exploring Pisa as a Family
Nearly everyone that’s spoken to me about Pisa had written-off paying the city a visit because they assumed it was only about the Leaning Tower. Or worse, they’d been before, headed straight for the tourist-trap, snapped a pic with the tower, ate at one of the tourist-y restaurants less than 50m away and then went home…totally not exploring or discovering the rest of the beautiful city.
Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go to Pisa without visiting the Leaning Tower, it’d be a travesty! But there’s so much more to do…
My recommendation would be to start over by the train station, Pisa Centrale, or if you’re driving, park at the multi-story carpark on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. We’ve never had an issue with finding a space, it’s accessible with a lift and brings you right up at the bottom of the main shopping strip Corso Italia. Stroll along the corso, popping into the shops and veering off to explore the side streets and squares such as Piazza Chiara Gambacorti where you can enjoy lovely a Aperitivo buffet early evening.
Keep walking towards the River Arno until you reach the bridge Ponte di Mezzo – cross over and then there’s so much to explore across the river, with plenty of bars, restaurants and side-streets to get lost amongst. If you keep walking North-East, you’ll eventually make it to the Tower. I’d say its a nice 30-40 minute gentle stroll. But make sure you just explore the piazzas and discover all the little shops, bars and eateries. Don’t be afraid to venture away from the tourist eating spots as you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the prices and quality of the restaurants favoured by the locals and in the student areas. We’ve enjoyed dining on the main strip of Via Santa Maria, the road that leads up to the leaning tower and it’s been great! The Osteria in Domo was particularly good and they accommodated our vegan friend and friend with intolerances extremely well and happily. Just don’t be afraid to wander a little further away to find something less busy and generic.
Pisa is an easy place to get around with kids and a pram. The pavements are good and there are plenty of pedestrianised roads to stroll along. If you go in the warmer months, there’s plenty of al fresco dining, easy to pull-up a pram and sleeping baby to.
The Towers of San Gimignano
Our 3.5 year old was excited at the prospect of visiting a city with so many “Rapunzel towers”, so it wasn’t tricky getting her on board with our day trip to San Gimignano, which is approximately 40 minutes from where we live in Tuscany.
For us, San Gimignano feels more touristy that Volterra, which we adore and a bit more “generic” perhaps, but it doesn’t take away from its charm and it should be a must-visit if you’re in the area. There are a few car parks at the top, right by the walls to the city, but they do get busy on weekends and in peak season, so I recommend to get there nice and early so you can enjoy a morning stroll around the city before lunch.
The arched and walled entrance to the city is spectacular. I must admit, we haven’t been entirely adventurous with our foodie discoveries in this city, as we tend to go for the first place we see that looks good and suitable for kids. This trip, we ate on one of the main squares, in one of the hotels, Hotel La Cisterna and although it didn’t blow us away, it was perfectly scrummy and suitable for kids and prams etc. I think next time we go, we’ll do a bit more research and eat off the beaten-track.
One of my favourite things about San Gimignano? Their wine! The delicious white, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is truly delicious and available everywhere in the city, naturally, at ridiculously reasonable prices. If you like a dry, crisp white wine, you can’t give this a miss! Perfect with spaghetti vongole in my books!
And that, my friends, is where Part 2 of my 3-part series: Family Holidays in Tuscany is done. Be sure to check out Part 1 and if you have any questions, do ask away!