With a destination as popular as Florence, you wouldn’t expect there to be so many hidden gems. That’s the indisputable charm of Italy though. No matter how well you explore a place, there’s always something more to discover. Here are eight things to do in Florence – off the beaten path!
Outstanding Tours of Florence
Our Florence tours cover the most popular attractions, like the Statue of David and the Uffizi Gallery. However, these walking tours also cover Florence off the beaten path. For example, the Church of Santa Margherita where Dante’s love Beatrice is buried.
1. Giardino Bardini
Lesser known than the popular Boboli Gardens but just as beautiful (if not more) is the Giardino Bardini. A Renaissance garden complete with stunning Baroque staircases, a grove of olive trees and a tunnel full of vibrant and fragrant wisteria. In addition to all these gorgeous features, the Bardini Gardens also boasts the best view of Florence.
In the 13th century, the Mozzi family originally owned the garden. Then, famous antiquarian Stefano Bardini took over the garden in the early 20th century. Upon entering the garden grounds, climb a gravel slope to the top. Your reward? A panoramic view overlooking the Duomo and a killer cityscape framed by fresh flowers and greenery.
2. Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio
Exploring local markets in is an excellent way to discover Florence off the beaten path. Chock full of local food and antique treasures, Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is the place to go to get a different flavor of the capital city of Tuscany. Located about 15 minutes from the Duomo, it’s far enough out of the “center circle” that you won’t just fortuitously stumble upon it.
With an indoor section with everything from fresh cheese and produce stands to a selection of sit-down restaurants, you’ll find many of the best places to eat in Florence here. Outside, circling the interior section, there are clothing, ceramics, knick-knacks, jewelry and other antiques for sale.
3. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
Founded in 1221 by Dominican friars, this perfume store is located in what was once one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The pharmacy once used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens to make medications, balms and pomades for the monks’ infirmary. The pharmacy came into prominence in the early 16th century thanks to Catherine de Medici, the daughter of the most powerful family of Renaissance Florence.
In honor of her marriage to Henry ll, the future King of France, the monks of Santa Maria Novella created a special perfume called “Acqua della Regina“, water of the Queen. You can still buy that same perfume, with the scent unchanged, under the new name of “Acqua di Santa Maria Novella“. Today, you can walk around the various rooms and shop the oils, elixirs, perfumes, or simply engulf yourself with the potent fragrance of flowers and spices.
4. Perseus with the head of Medusa
Smack dab in the middle in Piazza della Signoria, stands this hidden gem. Sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus with the head of Medusa is considered one of the most important and impressive statues in the collection of art that lives in this outdoor space. He began work on his masterpiece in August 1545, and finished it nine years later.
After you get your fill of the front of the statue, walk to the back. You’ll see a face carved into the back of Perseus’s head. This is the self-portrait of Cellini himself. His face is carved with great detail and care, and is easily missed unless you look for it. The statue is located under the left arch of the Loggia della Signoria.
Address: Piazza della Signoria
5. Sei Divino
An enoteca (wine bar) in Florence, Sei Divino is a favorite among locals and expats. With a knowledgeable and friendly staff, this place will not only recommend wines but also has a huge selection. If it’s cocktails you’re after, fear not. Classic Italian cocktails, like the Aperol or Campari Spritz, are available as well. In addition, they are known for reinventing classics like the Negroni. Head to this place for aperitivo for a late-night snack or drink.
7. Gelateria della Passera
When in Florence, the birthplace of gelato, visiting Gelateria della Passera is a must. Located just a stone’s throw away from the famous Ponte Vecchio. At this gelato shop in Florence, instead of paying €5 for a small cup of frozen food coloring, pay €2 for a small cup of organic, handmade gelato. In addition, most of the selection they sell is naturally vegan. Big enough for just one group to go in and order at a time, enjoy your treat outside in the adorable piazza. Don’t believe us? See for yourself and thank us later.
8. Michelangelo’s Secret Carving
In Piazza della Signoria, spot a hidden face carved right into the front of the building. Michelangelo used to spend time every day in the square. Legend has it that the same man stopped by to chitchat on a daily basis. Eventually growing bored of this man’s blabber, Michelangelo supposedly carved this character’s face with his hand behind his back as he was pretending to listen.
Address: Palazzo Vecchio (facing the building, walk to the right hand side towards the Uffizi Gallery. The face is eye-level)
I Want More Italy!
- If you want us to arrange the entertainment in Florence (and beyond!), contact our Trip Planning Team to coordinate an unforgettable Italian experience.
- Check out our YouTube video and step-by-step guide about how to do Florence in a Day. If you’d rather let us guide you, check out our Florence tours.
- Not sure where to stay in Florence? Read this guide!
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