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Pisa & Florence With Kids.

Giotto's Tower, Florence, Italy (Scarborough photo)The Leaning Tower of Pisa is recognized by children and parents everywhere, mostly because it’s pictured on almost every take-out pizza box in the world. If you’re looking for a good stop in Italy with your family, consider a visit to Pisa either on its own or as a side trip from Florence.

We flew Ryanair into Pisa (we were living in Europe at the time) and were pleased that the Galileo Galilei airport was not far away from city center, as Ryanair airports often are (for example, Frankfurt Hahn is hours away from Frankfurt, although they do run an efficient motorcoach link service.)

We stayed at the Hotel Royal Victoria. Our room was comfortable, breakfast was good and our view of the Arno River was lovely, but we did run into a mosquito problem overnight.

It was too hot to close the windows but there were no screens on them (pretty standard in Europe I’m afraid.) Being eaten alive made us a bit cranky.

The town itself was very walkable and full of lively students from the Università degli Studi di Pisa….somehow everything sounds more elegant in Italian, including plain old “University of Pisa.” The Leaning Tower is only one of many gorgeous, ornate buildings on the Campo dei Miracoli, a large grassy area that invites a picnic or even a quick Frisbee toss in front of history.

What’s funny is that once you finally get there, you inanely say what everyone else says; “Wow, it really DOES lean!”

Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy (Scarborough photo)

You can buy tickets online ahead of time, but children under 8 are not allowed into the Leaning Tower.

The streets around the Campo are full of overpriced restaurants and shops selling T-shirts and leaning towers in resin.

I must confess that my young son adores his Leaning Tower T-shirts with Pikachu and Snoopy on them, and I turned one of those resin towers into a nightlight.

It was too marvelously kitschy to pass up — Pokemon in Pisa!

Obligatory Dorky Hold-Up-The-Tower Photo, Pisa, Italy (Scarborough photo) Pop Culture T-Shirts in Pisa (Scarborough photo)

We took the train to Florence from Pisa, and despite its deserved reputation for tons of art & atmosphere per square mile (not always what kids are interested in seeing) we had a lovely time.

I’ve talked about the Hotel Casci in a previous post, and want to commend it to you again as a very family-friendly and well-located place to stay.

This UK mother’s assessment is quite accurate; how can you miss with kids when there’s pizza and ice cream/gelato everywhere? It’s so blessedly difficult to get bad food or a bad cup of coffee in Italy.

We did go to the Uffizi Gallery with our children, and it was a pretty successful visit.

Everyone OD’d on Madonnas and cherubs after awhile, but my son had a great time giggling at all of the nudes (hey, as a parent you take whatever art appreciation you can get.)

We climbed Giotto’s Tower near the Duomo and were rewarded with some expansive views, but mostly we enjoyed wandering the city’s piazzas, listening to the occasional street musician and enjoying the famous Tuscan sun.