Begin your Valdinievole voyage in the small town of Collodi, a fraction of Pescia. You and the kids will feel like you’re in a fairy tale - a cliché, sure, but we mean it literally. Here, you’re directly in the path of the world’s most famous puppet: Carlo Lorenzini, author of The Adventures of Pinocchio, is a native of this town, which inspired his pen name, Collodi.
Episodes from the original Pinocchio tale - which have since been revamped and retold in numerous films, plays and cartoons—serve as the backdrop for the Pinocchio Park, founded in 1956 and one of the town’s main attractions. Little ones can blow off steam in areas like Geppetto’s Games, a wooden playground named for Pinocchio’s carpenter; older children and parents might prefer the entertainment in the Marionette Theatre or poking around the model homes.
Don’t write this off as a mere amusement park, though: contemporary art installations are dotted throughout the sprawling setting, and much of the architecture was designed by key figures including Giovanni Michelucci, known for Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station.
If your “real boys and girls” aren’t particularly keen on the puppet, the elaborate Baroque Villa Garzoni is another fantasy destination, with a terraced staircase leading to a woodsy wonderland where architecture and landscaping mingle, a product of 18th century Enlightenment thinking and a topic to perhaps bring up with older, intrigued kids. Or just marvel at the mystical-seeming theatres, grottoes and mythological figures you’ll see spread throughout, perhaps eventually popping over to the Butterfly House. Part of the same park, it was built on the site of some abandoned greenhouses and is now a veritable menagerie of butterflies, insects and curiosity-piquing plants.
Still got some time and an energetic crew? Round out your day by hiking a section of Le Dieci Castella, a group of hamlets connected by trails and accessible from the town of Pescia, starting from Pietrabuona. These olive-tree-lined hill towns are known as “Svizzera Pesciatina”—a small “Switzerland in Pescia”—and were built for defensive lookout purposes. These days, though, their tranquility belies this legacy.