The historic city of Florence lures in travelers with its resemblance to a classic European city. Like most European cities, Florence has its main attractions that people flock to, specifically the Uffizi Gallery and the David. If you’re sensing that you need a bit of a break from crowds, waiting in line and top attractions, below, you’ll see our insider’s guide on the most underrated museums in Florence, Italy.
Hospital of the Innocents
Your first stop on this day filled with off the beaten track museums may intrigue you, or completely spook you. The museum makes up part of a large public institution, the largest in Italy in fact, that aims to care for children. With authentic artworks by Brunelleschi, Ghirlandaio, and other esteemed Renaissance artists, the museum presents true artifacts during the operational period of the orphanage. You can even see a wheel with different slots that parents used to drop off their babies to the orphanage. The historical archive of the museum pays tribute to all of the children that grew up in the orphanage. You can study family heirlooms that were left to many of the orphanage’s children and learn all about the inner workings of one of the first orphanages in the world. Definitely one of the lesser known museums in Florence, Italy.
After learning about the historical Florentine orphanage, walk out of the piazza toward the Duomo and turn right. Once you hit a large church with a leather market outside, you’ve found the place–almost. The Medici Chapels are part of San Lorenzo church; however, they have different hours and a different entrance. The chapels function today as a mausoleum for the historic Medici family, who ruled the city during the Renaissance period.
And if you’re looking for some more Michelangelo sculptures in Florence (that aren’t the David), this is the perfect spot. The Medici family commissioned Michelangelo to create several masterpieces for their own personal chapel. These chapels serve as a great off the beaten path attraction, since not many visitors know about them.
Museo del Opera del Duomo
Follow the red dome! One of the best parts of Florence is that if you are ever lost, you can always orient yourself by just looking up and seeing where you are in relation to the Duomo. While travelers consider the Duomo itself as an iconic Florence landmark, the over overlook the museum about the Duomo. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore’s (the Duomo’s full name) baptistry doors, for example, have rich Renaissance history that many travelers overlook. The current doors to the baptistry are mockups of the originals, since Ghiberti’s original Gates of Paradise could not withstand the heat and pollution of Florence. This museum aims to restore all of the original artworks of the iconic Florence cathedral. Up next: the houses of some of your favorite Florentine artists!
Casa di Dante
Lucky for you, this hidden treasure is only about a five minute walk from the last museum. Turn down Via del Proconsolo and make your second right–it will look like just a plain old alley. You’ll suddenly see a brown brick building with a “Casa di Dante” sign–and possibly some people outside taking pictures. The inside, though, is the real hidden gem. This three-floor museum tells the story of the Divine Comedy poet and his contributions to Italian literature.
The first floor of the museum highlights the political and economical culture in which Dante grew up. Dante’s exile provides the the theme for the second floor, where travelers can read about his Medieval writings and even see his bedroom. The third floor of this exhibit specifically speaks about the Divine Comedy, with detailed illustrations for the work by other artists.
You would think that tourists would flock to a place that translates to “Michelangelo’s House” right? The house’s ambiguous labeling and limited hours contributes to its stance as a lesser known attraction. Rest assured, you can still see it if you allocate the time! The walk from Casa di Dante to Casa Buonaratti is yet another easy commute–just walk back to Via del Proconsolo (the street before you entered that little alleyway, turn right, and make your first right onto Via Ghibellina.
Enter a small house that, despite its name, Michelangelo never lived in. There, you have the opportunity to see this iconic artist’s earlier works that helped define his career as a Florentine Renaissance artist. Most notably, you can see Madonna and the Steps and Battle of the Centaurs. The museum also features a gallery that describes the life of Michelangelo through a series of paintings. Your last stop on this tour of unconventional Florence museums lies just ahead.
Turn left on Via di Benci for a scenic ten minute walk to Museo Galileo. You will stumble on Piazza di Santa Croce, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Florence, home to Basilica di Santa Croce. Then after a slight right on Via dei Vagellai, you’re just about there. Museo Galileo sits right on the Arno river, so make sure you get some cocktails after enjoy the views! As you approach the museum, you’ll notice a sundial on the pavement ahead that denotes the time. The museum is devoted to the astronomical and mathematical findings of the classic Pisa-born scientist. Showing devices from early versions of clocks and telescopes to barometers and globes, this museum is fit for any science nerd. And–don’t miss two of Galileo’s fingers and a tooth inside of the museum for your viewing pleasure!
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