Tuscany with a toddler - ideas and thoughts please

Sean in Toronto

New member
Hello, what a great forum this is and thank you for all the help from the site's experts!

My wife and I are planning to come to Tuscany for ~12 days with a 16 month old (walking) and like many, looking to find a home base for ourselves. We read the website's suggestion to try half in northern Tuscany and half in southern.

Our main questions are:

-are any towns better than others, or are they all good (Panzano, San Casciano, San Donato, Castellina) and with real differences... especially with a toddler?
-is staying in San Gimignano a good idea or way too busy? We saw some Airbnbs that appear actually in the walled city.
-any views on whether the coastal towns (Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio, Follonica, etc.) are worth squeezing in, or better just to split between northern and southern Tuscany? I've read divergent things on the coast - supposedly beautiful but not really "Italian" like the rest of Tuscany and look like any seaside resort town.

We were thinking of some combo like 9 days between two Tuscan inland destinations + 3 days on the coast, but that may just be too busy. On the other hand, 6 days + 6 all inland feels like much of the same?

And are there any other considerations we should keep in mind with a toddler?

Thank you so much in advance!
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The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Sean, welcome to our forum! Glad to know that you're finding the info useful :)

We have a 15 month old at the moment so can definitely understand all your concerns about towns, whether they are too busy and whether to divide the time into more parts to provide variety.

So I have some questions that will help me better answer yours:

- when are you coming? that will help tell you whether the towns are too busy, whether the coast is an option or not

- will you have your own means of moving around (i.e. a car) or depend on public transport?

Also, does your toddler handle being carted around in a stroller for a little bit to allow you to sight-see as well? or will you have to plan the vacation around him/her needs? That could make deciding to stay very central to walk less more important than as a place further out but with parking.

Tuscany can be busy but it varies throughout the year. We were in Lucca in April and in Pisa just a week ago so can tell you it is important to have space where the little one can explore, we decided for places that were 5-15min walking from the main sights but that had to have parking while we were there.

Also, is Florence part of your intended destinations while here? as a base or not at all?

Sean in Toronto

New member
Hi Lourdes, thanks so much for getting back to me. Great to hear about your 15 month old and that you are able to travel well :)

We are coming to Italy the last two weeks of August, which we understand will still be very busy. We are flying to/from Florence from August 20 to September 1 (12 nights), and our plan was to rent a car. And yes, our son is fine in a stroller for us to do some sightseeing.

We were definitely planning to go to Florence, but were debating actually staying in the city vs. just making a day trip (or two) there. Our initial bias was not to stay in the city (as per: https://www.discovertuscany.com/tuscany-accommodation/where-to-stay-in-tuscany.html), and split our stays between northern and southern Tuscany. But staying in the city might be fun too.

The other consideration, as mentioned, was possibly staying near the coast (Lucca, Viaregio, Forte dei Marmi), but we would pass if you think some other combination of bases is better with a toddler. We found some really neat places within the Lucca and San Gimignano walls (renovated apartments, though with stairs), but again not sure if that is appealing with a toddler.

Overall, I would say that for 12 nights, we would be comfortable moving twice, so three "bases" of 4 nights each sounds doable for us, but as you say we would want easy access to parking wherever we stayed.

Any tips based on the above would be appreciated! Thanks again Lourdes!


The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
See, since you're coming in August my replies is a definite YES to the beach with a toddler :)

And since you'll have a car, I also agree with you about not staying in Florence but doing day trips to town.

As far as the coast -
I am not sure what "not Italian" is not since the beaches are crowded with Italians, and the coast is not resort after resort, at least not in Tuscany. There are some places along the Adriatic coast, especially along Rimini, that are most definitely packed with resorts but in Tuscany you still have many areas that have retained their natural setting and are not followed with hotel upon hotel. Depends on where you go, of course.... for this reason we personally stay away from Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio, it tends to be lots of hotels and resorts, one after the other.

We go further down the coast, to an area called "Costa degli Etruschi". You won't get away from the beach town feel because that's where lots of people head to but there are many more parts of "free" beaches in between the hotels. We love the Baratti gulf area with our kids. You can take your own umbrellas towels and find lots of space, instead of paying for chaise lounges and sun umbrellas..... but we do that occasionally too! :D

As far as Lucca and San Gimignano, if you stay inside the walls make sure that you're willing to climb up stairs and figuring out what to do with the stroller - will you have to cart it upstairs if there is no elevator?
For now, with a stroller we have opted with places with elevator - such as Le Dimore nel Borgo in Lucca which has lots of crawling/walking space, elevator and free parking and was just a block outside the walls - or no elevator but on first floor. We had problems with stroller since we have a BOB - spaces are narrow here and we had to leave the stroller in the car every time we went back to the B&B so we will try to avoid that in the future. The car wasn't parked far away but still...

So as far as where to stay and what type: consider an agriturismo which has an apartment, lots of outdoor spaces and kitchen so you can stay in for some meals. The suite apartments above were also useful for that. We alternated between eating out and eating in, so that we gave baby more time to rest. When we've tried to eat out lunch and dinner, invariably at one meal baby has melt down because of being tired and being surrounded by too many people. Or just simply not wanting to sit down anymore. At the apartment, we had him eat and out of the high chair as soon as he was done while we continued to eat, at a restaurant the situation has been one has to eat and the other chases the kid around or takes kids out. No one will be bothered with small kids, you can order half portions of pasta dishes and most have high chairs, although we've also found many to not be right for his size or not have anything practical. Eating with a toddler in your lap is not easy!

Aside from these considerations, you should consider 2 bases (7 and 5 days) - one central and another along the coast. I would suggest looking into places with apartments in the area around Siena which gives you lots of choices and the chance to drive north to Florence and south to the Val d'Orcia. One place for 7 days will give you chance to stay at all the places that require a week's stay. Take a look at the ones here: http://www.tuscanyaccommodation.com/siena/
There's a wide variety so you can choose, I'd personally go with a rustic but welcoming place where small kids can roam freely. Take a look specifically at Vernianello and Romitorio di Serelle in the Castellina area, or Incrociata.
If you want something closer to Florence, I also often suggest Podere Casanova or Agriturismo Montalbino.

Tell me what you think!

Sean in Toronto

New member
Thank you Lourdes, that's so helpful. I hear you on the two bases... but my wife and I are willing to be a bit more aggressive and try for three. We have historically been accustomed to seeing a few different places and going 4/4/4 seems doable while allowing us to at least settle for 4 nights. We will probably be driving an hour or more daily anyway for day trips, so ok to change venues a couple of times.

With that in mind, what three "types" of places, or perhaps areas would you suggest?

Here are a few ideas I had for a 4/4/4 stay (order to be determined):
-Chianti countryside/Val d'Orcia countryside/coast
-Chianti countryside/city like Florence or Siena/coast
-Chianti countryside/inside a walled city like San G. or Lucca/coast

Would any of those make sense? And would you want to stay inside of San Gimignano? While it's clear we'd want to go there, I did read about how crazy it is in terms of being packed with tourists and therefore perhaps better not to stay for a prolonged period.

I will definitely have a look at the areas you suggested in the Costa degli Etruschi. Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi get so much attention, but perhaps that is what was meant by being a bit too much like a resort town (which you seem to have corroborated).

Thank you again for your help, all really valuable given lack of familiarity with the region!

Sean in Toronto

New member

Hi Lourdes, if you are still reading, I did end up booking a few things since we spoke, and will be spending some time in northern Tuscany near San Donato, and then some time in Montepulciano. Pretty much following your website's suggestion for how to spend our time.

The only thing of course, is where to make our day trips... it seems there's so much to see and so little time, if we want to also relax. Which cities/towns would you prioritize in 5 days in each region?

In the north, we'd want to see Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca (?), some small towns like Radda, Castellina, Greve... not to mention Siena, which we could see from the south.

From the south, I assume we'd want to spend time in Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza, and see the Val d'Orcia.

But again, that seems like a ton of stuff to do with a toddler if we also want to relax and some days just wander near where we stay. Would be curious which of the above are must sees and which can be passed on.

But maybe the driving itself is the best part of the trip and it's all relaxing?!?

Anyway, appreciate all your help again.