We’ve holidayed in Park Albatros in Coastal Tuscany twice now, in 2012 with two small boys and in 2015 with 3 kids under 7. Given the age of our kids we did a lot of day trips that involved eating ice creams in different places, and very few museums.
We are daytrippers by nature, and with small kids who sleep in the car we still managed to fit in a lot of them from our base at Park Albatros. Since our kids were very young and not very able for the heat we did lots of whistlestop/tick-box touring, and our maximum time on the move in any destination was about 90 minutes. This is one of the compromises (along with many, many ice-cream stops) that we made to make our holiday work for us all.
Elba is a beautiful island just off the coast, famous as being the island that Napoleon was exiled to and it was one of our favourite trips. The boys loved the ferry trip and we loved the gorgeous coastal drive. Ferries to Elba leave regularly from Piombino, it takes about 15 minutes to get from the campsite to the dock and you buy your tickets in the dock office. We got a 9.30 am ferry out and a 6pm one back. The ferry is pretty expensive so try to get the most out of the trip by spending the whole day there.
Google maps brought us to a small valet carpark on Nazionale, right at the start of the Market Stalls and if you have small kids the 4 euro an hour is worth being parked smack bang in the middle of the city right next to the market. We had a wander, a lovely lunch and took photos of the Duomo. The guidebooks will tell you what to see.
Lucca’s fortified walls provided lots of running around and photo opportunities. It’s a pretty town, a little north of Pisa. While many profess this to be their favourite Tuscan town I confess while lovely we preferred others.
You can’t fly to Pisa and not visit the world famous landmark. The leaning tower is easily accessible from the motorway (we got there thanks to Google Maps) with lots of parking nearby, we came off the motorway and parked in a private car park on the road directly opposite the entrance. The site is very, very busy, we got there around 11am and it was heaving and very hot with not a lot of shade. We did the prescribed photo opps, had an icecream, looked at the tower, dallied briefly at the handbag stalls and went back to the car for some air con and another stop on our journey.
Siena is a must visit. The ancient town isn’t the most buggy-friendly, we managed it with our Phil and Ted one but your average stroller wouldn’t have a chance. The city has a feel of being in another time. The central area Piazza del Campo is a magnificent medieval square that was once a marketplace and not far on foot is the beautiful Duomo. We had lunch off the Piazza in a shaded street and soaked up the atmosphere.
A near enough big town, the Cathedral in the main square dominates Massa Marittima. The walled city is magical and for some reason each time we’ve been there it’s been almost empty. Park in the public car park on the approach road and walk up. We enjoyed an excellent lunch overlooking the Cathedral in the main square.
Gothic Volterra was a highlight of our trip, the narrow streets and views over the hills, together with the excellent gelato has it on our list of must-dos. A walk around here is like stepping back in time. More information here.
One of the closest villages to Park Albatros is CM. It’s a really charming hillside village with narrow streets and cobbles, it’s quiet and safe. Eating wise there’s a snack bar that does ice-cream and toasties in the little square, a small garden on the outside and you can walk to the top of the park for amazing views. There’s also a playground near the public car park. It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours at a slow pace seeking shade and a break from the coast.
San Gimignano, which is halfway between Florence and Siena was my favourite I think, the pace seemed different here, everything even the ordinary was beautiful. We bought some (yet to be framed) prints from an art seller to bring some of the feeling home. We sat on the steps taking it all in, and eating more gelato. More information here.
There are also numerous water parks and other attractions in the San Vincenzo area near Park Albatros. Where would you recommend?