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Photo ©Valentina Dainelli

From Certaldo to Empoli, exploring the homeland of great Italian artists

7 ideas for families with children to discover the land of Leonardo and Boccaccio

Valentina Dainelli by Valentina Dainelli

The Empolese-Valdelsa is the land in between Certaldo and Empoli, and it is renowned for being the homeland of great Italian artists and innovators like Leonardo, Boccaccio and Pontormo. The area is the perfect Tuscan destination off-the-beaten path rich in beautiful panoramas and some fun activities to do with your family and children of all ages.

Tip for you: the museums in the area of Empolese-Valdelsa are all connected and you can buy a family ticket at a very special price, valid for 21 museums. You can get also the Art Passport of Mudev and get a special stamp for each museum.

Leonardo Museum with activity book
Leonardo Museum
Leonardo Museum - Credit: Valentina Dainelli

When you think about Leonardo, you think about the pure genius: he was an inventor, an artist, an architect, a writer, a scholar and much more. He was born near Vinci, where is the Leonardo Museum: the museum displays a large collection of models and machines invented by Leonardo, together with documents and sketches.

If you have children ask for the activity book that guides you through the museum’s exhibit as if you were playing a special treasure hunt with the Genius himself.

Walk to Leonardo’s House

From the center of Vinci and Leonardo’s Museum take the Strada Verde to Anchiano, where there is the house of Leonardo. The Strada Verde is the green trail that connects Vinci to Leonardo’s house; it’s about 3 kilometers long, and it is an easy walk in the Tuscan countryside, surrounded by olive trees and beautiful views over the city, like the one in Poggio Zollaio (about half way).

In Anchiano there is the house where Leonardo was born, where we recommend you watch the video with Leonardo’s hologram.

The Medici Villa in Cerreto Guidi

The Medici family loved this area, especially for hunting and it was in 1556 that Cosimo I commissioned the Medici Villa of Cerreto Guidi as his hunting residence.

The villa is a UNESCO Site, together with other 11 sites related to the Medici family, and it hosts the Historical Hunting and Territorial Museum: on display a large collection of hunting weapons and hunting-related object from the 15th to 19th centuries.

We suggest you download the free map with children activities here. 

The Museum of Shipbuilding and Rowing in Limite
The Museum of Shipbuilding and Rowing in Limite
The Museum of Shipbuilding and Rowing in Limite - Credit: Centro Espositivo della Cantieristica navale e del Canottaggio

The town of Limite takes its name from its strategic position at the limit of the province of Florence. It’s been one of the most important harbors of the Arno river since the Etruscan times and it used to be a renowned center for shipbuilding and rowing.

The Museum of Shipbuilding and Rowing in Limite hosts a large collection of ship models, documents, photographs and tools to used to build boats for the Navy, but also for the navicelli used to transport goods on the river Arno.

The Ceramics Museum in Montelupo Fiorentino
Museo Ceramica di Montelupo
Museo Ceramica di Montelupo - Credit: Giada Cerri

The Museum of ceramics in Montelupo hosts more than 1.000 majolica items on two floors dating from the end of 13th century to 18th century. This is because Montelupo Fiorentino has been for centuries one of the most important center for ceramics in Italy.

The museum has a dedicated itinerary for children that are guided through the collection by Lupo Zaffero and suggested tactile experiences and dedicated games.

Take the funicular to Certaldo Alta
Funicolare in Certaldo
Funicolare in Certaldo - Credit: Valentina Dainelli

Certaldo is the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, and it is divided into the medieval castle located on top of the hill, and the modern town. The two centers are connected by a modern funicular railway, that offers a stunning view over the lower city.

The medieval village of Certaldo is enclosed in massive walls that preserved the original medieval look of this undiscovered gem of Tuscany. One of the tallest tower-house of Certaldo is Boccaccio’s House, a museum and archive dedicated to this illustrious poet, author of the Decameron. Not far there is the tiny and peculiar Nail’s Collection, collecting nails of any kind, dimension and usage.

Don’t miss the breathtaking view from Boccaccio’s House and from the windows of Palazzo Pretorio.

The Botanical Garden in Vico d’Elsa
- Credit: Associazione Culturale Il Giardino Sottovico

In the tiny village of Vico d’Elsa there is the Giardino Sottovico, a quite unique botanical garden because of the large collection of succulent plants. The garden has a 200 square meters greenhouse that hosts succulent plants from the 5 continents; this is probably the largest collection in Italy that includes same rare cactus and succulents.

The Garden Sottovico has a playground and special learning areas, both for children and grown-ups.