Today I’m sharing some of the underrated parts of the city: Florence off the beaten path, if you will! Read on to get you past the obvious options.
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Florence has so more to see, do and experience than you can possibly do in one trip! So today I’m sharing suggestions beyond the usual classics: Uffizi Gallery, Duomo, Pitti Palace, and Boboli Gardens.
Florence off the beaten path may be a bit of a misleading title: these aren’t massive secrets. You can still find most of these on TripAdvisor. These tips are for people who are on a second or third trip to Florence or are sick of traditional art museums or want something a little bit unique to see.
One great thing about Florence is to just meander the streets. The city has so much beauty to be seen simply by wandering! Getting a little further from the city center in almost any direction will give you tiny alleys, tiny osteria, and gorgeous artisan shops.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
It’s a mouthful of a name, I know. But Officina Profumo is the oldest still-running pharmacy in the world, and has been offering nature-based skincare and remedies for centuries. It was originally opened in the building next door by Dominican monks in 1221 and continues to be part museum and part shop to this day.
As a working pharmacy and beauty store, the building is very much still a store. Their products are beautifully displayed. Each room has a different focus: skincare, perfumes and scents, herbal dietary supplements, and more! Everything has a classic elegance to it that makes the shopping experience feel like stepping back in time.
You can buy the same perfume that Catherine de Medici wore or browse the antique bottles that line the shelves. Most rooms contain paper menus of their products on offer, with plenty out for you to try. They also have a tea room in the back if you’d rather your remedy be served in porcelain cups. As you wander, don’t miss the sacristy tucked off the side of one room – just another example of the ways that these old buildings’ walls are covered in history!
Visit a Leather Market or Shop
Tuscany is known the world over for its leather, making Florence a great place to invest in something beautiful! If you have the option, I highly recommend heading to a smaller town to buy leather goods in Tuscany. You can typically get a bit better prices from craftsmen in smaller towns. But if you don’t have the time, Florence has great options in town!
In the markets, some of the booths with bargain with you, others won’t. I tend to go for ones that will haggle because you know these booths are 100% targeting foreigners who will pay the marked-up prices.
Don’t have much to drop on a leather bag? Some wallets can run about 20€, giving you the option to buy a nice souvenir that won’t break your suitcase or your budget.
There are leather shops dotted all over the city, many of which are run by the craftsman or a family member. You can also head to the Mercato Nuovo, also called the Porcellino for being next to the famous boar statue or the Mercato Centrale, known for its food stalls as well.
Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Hear me out: no, this museum isn’t necessarily off the beaten path. It’s in the center of Florence, easy to find, and obviously a museum. But in a city bursting at the seams with art, this one probably isn’t on your radar. First-time visitors probably aren’t prioritizing this spot over places like the Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace or even the Duomo Museum.
The Bargello is an art museum focused largely on Italian renaissance art. The building itself has a storied past, at different times serving as barracks, a prison, and home for city officials. Many of the rooms retain their detailed wall paintings from their former uses, and signs in English and Italian do a good job of explaining the different uses of each room over the centuries.
It’s a great museum if you like sculpture, Donatello, or an Italian style of ceramics called maiolica. The latter was my favorite, and probably the biggest collection of this uniquely Italian design. I include it as a Florence off the beaten path option because if you want art but want to try a new museum, this is a great spot.
Basilica of Santa Croce
Similar to the Bargello, you’ll most likely walk by this church in your wanderings. In similar architectural style and colors as the Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Croce is another beautiful – slightly smaller – church overlooking a piazza.
The inside is stunning, in the same vein as many of the great Italian basilicas. The building is famous for being the final resting place for Galileo, Michaelangelo, and Machiavelli among others. There are monuments to other famous Italians who called Florence home, like Dante and da Vinci as well, but their bodies are elsewhere.
Entry is paid, but if you only want to pray you can enter a side chapel free of charge.
If you like church art and architecture, there are hundreds of churches and basilicas scattered through the city. While some of the more prominent require you to buy tickets, you can stick your head in most for free to look around as long as you’re respectful of the worshippers!
Have a Drink with a View
In a city with such a fantastic architectural heritage, rooftop views are where it’s at. From elegant hotel bars to Airbnbs with great views, there are plenty to be found in the city. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorites soon, so check back soon!
I love Florence a little more every time I visit. Plan for at least a few days in the city to get a feel, but you could easily spend a week and not see it all!
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