Florence is a very popular destination with a large-village vibe that brings visitors back time and time again. It’s brimming with things to do and many are still undiscovered by tourists, which would explain why this small town gets so much international attention. Here are eight things to do in Florence off the beaten path and a bunch of them are free.
Pro Tip: It’s easier to organize your trip when you have all your resources in one place. Create a browser folder and bookmark this post along with our dedicated guide to Florence to help you plan your trip. Also, check out our article on the best Florence tours.
Unique Things You Should Do in Florence
You probably know the most important things to do in Florence: see the cathedral, Michelangelo’s David, and eat Florentine steak. But if you’re reading this article, you want to get to know the side of Florence that most tourists miss. Discover our favorite off-the-beaten-path things to do in Florence.
Not ready to book a tour? See our best Florence tours to take and why.
8. Giardino Bardini
Lesser known than the popular Boboli Gardens but just as beautiful (if not more so) 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. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view overlooking the Duomo and a killer cityscape framed by fresh flowers and greenery.
Address: Via de’ Bardi, 1 | Hours: Every day, 8:15 am – 5:30 pm | Cost: €10
7. Mercato di Sant’ Ambrogio
Exploring local markets 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 for 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.
Address: Piazza Ghiberti | Hours: Every day, 7 am – 2 pm | Cost: Entry is free
Popular Florence Tours
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our Florence Guide for more info.
6. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
Founded in 1221 by Dominican friars, this perfume store is located in one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The pharmacy once used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens to make medicine, 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, and perfumes, or simply immerse yourself in the potent fragrance of flowers and spices.
Address: Via della Scala, 16 | Hours: Every day, 9 am – 8 pm | Cost: Entry is free
5. Perseus with Head of Medusa
Smack dab in the middle of 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 art collection 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’ head.
This is the self-portrait of Cellini. His face is carved with great detail and care and is easily missed if you don’t know to look for it. The statue is located under the left arch of the Loggia della Signoria.
Address: Piazza della Signoria | Hours: Open all day, every day | Cost: Free
4. La Divina Enoteca
An enoteca or wine bar, La Divina is a cozy little corner with more intimate vibes than other wine bars. You’ll also enjoy some tasty panini here or just delicious meat and cheese platters. Ooh, the truffle butter and prosciutto sandwich is also not to miss!
Enjoy classic Italian cocktails like the Aperol or Campari spritz or enjoy local Tuscan wines. In addition, they are known for reinventing classics like the Negroni. Head to this place for a late-night snack or drink.
Address: Via Panicale, 19/red, 50123 Firenze
3. 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, 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 vegan.
Since it’s only 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.
Address: Via Toscanella, 15
2. Hospital of the Innocents
This museum is dedicated to the first orphanage in italy, the Ospedale degli Innocenti, or the Hospital of the Innocents. It might not be the most cheerful part of your Florence visit, but it definitely gives you insight into what life was like for Florentines centuries ago.
Here, you can learn the history of the orphanage, get a sense of what it used to look like, and understand the adversities that children in Florence endured. You can even see a wheel that used to be in front of the orphanage where parents of unwanted children could give their babies to the orphanage through small slats.
A visit to this museum supports a large institution in Italy that aims to care for children, so supporting this museum might make your trip feel more charitable than you had anticipated.
Address: Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 13 | Hours: Every day, 10 am – 7 pm | Cost: €7
Tours of Chianti & Florence
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our best Florence tours to take and why.
1. San Miniato al Monte
Most people visit Piazzale Michelangelo when seeking out the best views in Florence. If you’ve ever been, you’ll know that while this scenic overlook is beautiful, it can get very crowded.
For fewer crowds and even better views, hike up the hill just a little bit more to reach San Miniato al Monte, a beautiful basilica with ample room to sit outside and enjoy the cityscape.
You can also visit the interior of this iconic Romanesque church. Adorned with breathtaking marble pillars and Renaissance frescoes, San Miniato offers a beautiful perspective of art in Florence.
Address: Via di San Miniato al Monte | Hours: Sundays: 8:15 am – 7 pm, Weekdays: 9:30 am – 1 pm and 3 pm – 7 pm (8 pm in summer) | Cost: Free