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Florence Off the Beaten Path

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Florence is a magnet for its breathtaking Renaissance art and architecture, so important that UNESCO declared the historic city center a World Heritage site. This relatively small area, however, can become very crowded with tourists. In this guide, I will recommend some of the lesser known sights, as well as how to see the blockbuster sights at the right times, in a unique way, or in more depth. Here are a few ideas for Florence off the beaten path that are worthwhile for a first-time visitor, for someone who's been to Florence before, or even for a local!

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Foodie
  • LGBT
  • Luxury Traveller
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

12 Places

11 City Tips

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Map

12 Places

Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Speciality Museums

Museo Archeologico Nazionale

Art Museums, History Museums

Duomo - Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Churches & Cathedrals, Historic Sites, Sacred & Religious Sites

Giardino Torrigiani

Historic Sites, Gardens

San Lorenzo market

Gift & Speciality Shops

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio

Speciality Museums

Stibbert Museum

Speciality Museums

Museo Galileo - Institute and Museum of the History of Science

History Museums, Science Museums

Le Murate Progetti Arte Contemporanea

Points of Interest & Landmarks, Art Museums

Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio

Flea & Street Markets

Giardino Bardini

Gardens, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Certosa del Galluzzo

Speciality Museums

Judy E's City Tips

  • Gratuity is generally included in the restaurant bill. If you wish to add extra, it is very much appreciated but not required.
  • On foot or by bicycle are the best ways to get around the historic center of Florence. For bike rentals, check with the tourism office or at your hotel.
  • The tourist offices are at Santa Maria Novella Piazza Stazione 4, Via Cavour 1r, and Bigallo Piazza S Giovanni 1 (near the Duomo).
  • The Firenze Card offers the best options for savings on museum entries, transportation, and events. It's good for 72 hours, including tram and bus rides and 67 museums.
  • Transportation enthusiasts can ride to the city outskirts of Florence by bus and tram. Trains and various regional bus lines serve the province and the Tuscany region.
  • Dress as for a major, sophisticated European city. Good walking shoes are best on cobblestone streets.
  • Tuscan wines are famous. Chianti Classico (black rooster), Vino Chianti (made outside the Classico area), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino are just a few.
  • Tuscan olive oil is some of the best in Italy. Fine restaurants serve good oil, and if you buy a bottle, look for the IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) label.
  • Food is hearty: Try ribollita (vegetables) and pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato) soups, pasta with wild boar or hare, mushrooms or truffles, and bistecca alla Fiorentina steak.
  • Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are ever increasing in number in Florence, from cozy bookstore cafe to vegan fast food and takeout.
  • Public benches and free places to sit are rare, so plan breaks accordingly in cafes, restaurants, and bars, or even see a film for a rest.
  • Save
    Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    While visitors wait in long lines outside the Accademia nearby, some of the world's most expert art restorers at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure are busy restoring paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects. Founded in 1588 by Ferdinando I de' Medici, this is a place where experts diagnose, analyze, and research all aspects of art conservation. The museum collection includes beautiful mosaics and inlaid stone, while temporary exhibitions display recently restored works of all types. Fine craftsmanship can be seen in the tables, cabinets, and plates that feature fruits, flower, animal, and landscapes designs, offering a contrast to the many religious works in Florence.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • LGBT
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Temporary exhibitions feature all kinds of art restorations, from textiles and tapestries to jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, and drawings from international museums.
    • Art restorers and professors often turn up for lunch at Accademia on Piazza San Marco, for good pasta and meat dishes from Tuscany and Abruzzo.
    • Design buffs will love the mix of antiques and modern decor at nearby Hotel Cellai, with its marvelous sitting areas on different floors. Delicious breakfast buffet here!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #35 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • What a surprising museum 10/07/2018
    • Some of the most beautiful artworks in Florence 09/07/2018
    • Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure
    Address:
    Via Degli Alfani 78
    50121, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 26511
    Price range:
    US$4 - US$4
    Other:
  • Save
    Museo Archeologico Nazionale
    Art Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    Florentine schoolchildren often seem to be the main visitors at the prestigious Archeological Museum. But adults should take notice, too — the impressive Egyptian collection in Florence is second only to that in Torino. The local Tuscan ancestors, the Etruscans, are beautifully represented here, as are the Romans. The Ancients inspired the Renaissance artists and still inspire us today.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • LGBT
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The collection is extensive, so unless you have a few hours to dedicate, focus on time periods or objects (sculpture, jewelry, mosaics, etc.) that are of special interest.
    • This museum's weak point is the lack of labeling on many objects, and labels are often only in Italian. Enjoy the artistic beauty, and to learn more, purchase a guide book.
    • For a granita (flavored ice) or gelato in the neighborhood, try Carabe.
    • "Travel" from Tuscany to Sicily with a snack of arancini (rice balls), pasta, or pastries at Ara, which sells savory or sweet treats typical of Modica.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #102 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Kids love this and close to other major attractions for parents 07/07/2018
    • Not what I expected 19/06/2018
    • Museo Archeologico Nazionale
    Address:
    Piazza Santissima Annunziata n. 9b
    Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 23575
    Hours:
    Tue - Fri
    08:30 - 19:00
    Sat - Sun
    08:30 - 14:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Duomo - Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
    Churches & Cathedrals, Historic Sites, Sacred & Religious Sites
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    The best way to experience the enormous architectural feat of Filippo Brunelleschi in designing the cupola for Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore (Duomo) is to climb it. Not all visitors have the time or stamina to explore the scale and space of the octagonal dome in such an intimate way, but you are rewarded with a 360-degree view of Florence, and can even go up into the lantern. Allow plenty of time to climb up and down, as well as enjoy the panorama once you are up there.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Allow plenty of time to climb the 463 steps to the dome. Heights are impressive and passages can become quite narrow in places.
    • The campanile (bell tower) is less arduous, 84.7 meters high with 414 steps.
    • The Museum of the Duomo is somewhat off the beaten path, too, and has an excellent collection.
    • For gelato next to the Duomo, try Grom: a chain from Torino with quality ice cream and sorbet.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing 17/08/2018
    • Amazing 17/08/2018
    • Duomo - Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
    Address:
    Via della Canonica, 1
    Piazza del Duomo
    50122, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 230 2885
    Other:
  • Save
    Giardino Torrigiani
    Historic Sites, Gardens
    Judy E Says:

    The best way to see this sight in a different way is to book a guided tour. The romantic English-style Torrigiani garden (Giardino Torrigiani) is set in 17 acres in the Oltrarno, near the Pitti Palace, and claims to be the largest privately owned garden within city limits in Europe. A sacred wood symbolizes Arcadia, while the plant and tree collection is sourced from around the world. Your tour will likely be conducted by a family member, making this exploration of history and botany a very personal experience.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • LGBT
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Book in advance to secure your place on a guided tour.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #225 of 672 things to do in Florence
    • Something Very Special 18/06/2018
    • Nicer than Boboli 04/11/2017
    • Giardino Torrigiani
    Address:
    Via de' Serragli, 146
    Florence
    Italy
    Other:
  • Save
    San Lorenzo market
    Gift & Speciality Shops
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    The Mercato Centrale building in San Lorenzo dates back to 1874, so this central food market is not off the beaten path. What's new, however — and still hasn't been discovered by as many tourists — is the food court upstairs. I would imagine it won't remain off the beaten path for long as it's a novelty for Florentines, so I'm guessing it will soon be in all the guidebooks. In the meantime, enjoy the reasonable prices and casual atmosphere of this open floor-plan food emporium. Noisy, bustling, and fun for lunch, snacks, or a casual dinner.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • The Chianti Classico bar is a great place for tasting several Chianti wines by the glass or buying bottles to bring home or for a picnic.
    • If you want Tuscan specialties, go for a good dish of pasta with truffles or a Chianina beef steak or burger.
    • Dress warmly in winter. Like the traditional market space downstairs, the upstairs of the building is not heated.
    • Adventurous foodies and traditionalists can go for the tripe or lampredotto (cow's stomach) sandwiches, which the Nerbone family has been making downstairs for generations.
    • Live music on Wednesday (and some other) evenings. Open until midnight upstairs. Florence is not a major destination for nightlife, but this is a boost for a casual evening out.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 359 Shopping in Florence
    • Great look at italian produce with nice food to eat on the way. 17/08/2018
    • Regular market 16/08/2018
    • San Lorenzo market
    Address:
    Piazza San Lorenzo
    Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    0055-29-21-37
    Other:
  • Save
    Museo di Palazzo Vecchio
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    Right on Piazza Signoria, step off the tourist trail to explore secret passages within Palazzo Vecchio. The tour includes a stairway built within the thick palace wall itself, dating back to the 14th century. You can see the elegant cabinet of curiosities that is the Studiolo of Francesco I de’ Medici and the Scrittoio of Cosimo I, treasures that, in those days, were off limits to everyone except the proprietors. Under the roof, walk around the huge trusses that support the paneled ceiling of the Salone del Cinquecento. Some of the tours available have actors playing historic figures.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Book tours directly at the museum or in advance. Specify English or another language.
    • Want to go higher? For a city view, climb Palazzo Vecchio Arnolfo Tower.
    • Frescobaldi near Piazza Signoria invents updates on Florentine cuisine, like ribollita flan (same flavor but lighter) and tasty fish (in pasta or grilled). Ask for wine pairings.
    • Near Piazza Signoria, the Hotel Brunelleschi, built over layers of history, has elegant modern touches and exquisite dining.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fantastic 26/07/2018
    • Not the Greatest Attraction in Florence, But Worth the Visit 21/07/2018
    • Museo di Palazzo Vecchio
    Address:
    Piazza della Signoria
    50100, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 276 8325
    Hours:
    Thu
    09:00 - 14:00
    Fri - Wed
    09:00 - 19:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Stibbert Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    Both the garden commissioned by Frederick Stibbert and the villa museum are off the beaten track in Florence. Giuseppe Poggi created a romantic English garden with temples, rock caves, a pond, and fountains. An Egyptian-style temple stands on the edge of a pond, while a classic temple has been adorned with a majolica tile dome. Citrus trees find their winter home in the conservatory. The museum has intriguing armor among its varied art collection.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Stibbert has a reasonably priced cafe on the premises.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #40 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • More suits of armor than you ever saw in your life 15/07/2018
    • Worth it. Not for lazy tourist. 12/07/2018
    • Stibbert Museum
    Address:
    Via Federigo Stibbert 26
    50134, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 486049
    Other:
  • Save
    Museo Galileo - Institute and Museum of the History of Science
    History Museums, Science Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    Science and art were so intertwined during the Renaissance that Leonardo as well as Galileo would find it curious that the Galileo Museum, just around the corner from the Uffizi Gallery, is off the tourist trail. Some of Galileo's original telescopes are here, and you will find scientific instruments like sundials, meridians, telescopes, navigation tools, and globes on the ground floor. Upstairs, explore mechanics, atmosphere and light, precision instruments, and chemistry, among other realms.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • History Buff
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • A ticket to Museo Galileo now offers entry to La Specola, the zoological section of the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florence, for a reduced price.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #58 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Brilliant! 12/08/2018
    • Still Amazing 07/08/2018
    • Museo Galileo - Institute and Museum of the History of Science
    Address:
    Piazza De' Giudici 1
    50122, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 265311
    Hours:
    Tue
    09:30 - 13:00
    Wed - Mon
    09:30 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Le Murate Progetti Arte Contemporanea
    Points of Interest & Landmarks, Art Museums
    Judy E Says:

    Florentines were happy to keep Le Murate off the beaten path, as it once housed the prisons. After a 2011 transformation by architect Renzo Piano, Le Murate has become a literary venue with readings and book presentations, national and international. The complex also hosts theater performances, concerts, film screenings, and contemporary art exhibitions.

    Good for
    • LGBT
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Caffè Letterario is open 7 days a week, morning to evening, and has courtyard seating in the Piazza delle Murate.
    From the community
    Ranked #193 of 672 things to do in Florence
    • Most positive surprise during our visit 04/03/2018
    • Lunch in a once prison, once convent 09/05/2017
    • Le Murate Progetti Arte Contemporanea
    Address:
    Piazza delle Murate
    Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 247 6873
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    08:00 - 01:00
    Sat - Sun
    11:00 - 01:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio
    Flea & Street Markets
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    Few tourists make it out to the Sant'Ambrogio food market, away from the center, which has kept it more down to earth and with better prices than its San Lorenzo counterpart (and without the hawkers selling low-quality leather to dodge). The two markets opened only a year apart (1873 and 1874). Vendors set up fruit and vegetable stands both in and outdoors, as well as stands selling meat, cheese, fish, salamis, pasta, bread, and other essentials.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Like most food markets, the experience is best in the morning and winds down around lunchtime, 2pm.
    • For delicious, upscale Florentine-inspired food with a twist, dine at Cibreo or at its moderately priced cafe during lunch or dinner.
    • Tripe and lampredotta sandwiches are a specialty.
    • Closed Sundays.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #55 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • May have got it on the wrong time or day 17/08/2018
    • Nice alternative to packed Mercato Centrale 03/07/2018
    • Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio
    Address:
    Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti
    50122, Florence
    Italy
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    07:00 - 14:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Giardino Bardini
    Gardens, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    The gardens attached to the Bardini villa remain more off the track than Piazzale Michelangelo or the more dramatic and vast Boboli Gardens. Located in the same area, Bardini offers a great view of Florence's historic center and a quiet, green retreat. The garden design was inspired by Victorian-era enthusiasm: British woods and a variety of fruit trees are set off by a long Baroque staircase, and an abundant collection of statues and vases adorns the grounds.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • LGBT
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Check to see if the Kaffehaus is open, a pretty spot for lunch or light refreshments.
    • Costume, art, and fashion buffs should visit the museum for temporary exhibitions. When purchasing a ticket, inquire about admission to the Boboli Gardens as well.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #63 of 672 things to do in Florence
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Beautiful views in a peaceful locaton 28/07/2018
    • Terrific Views! 15/07/2018
    • Giardino Bardini
    Address:
    Costa di San Giorgio 2
    Via dei Bardi 1/R
    50125, Florence
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 2006 6206
    Other:
  • Save
    Certosa del Galluzzo
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Judy E Says:

    The Florence Charterhouse on Monte Acuto offers a tranquil green retreat and a tour of the cloisters, led by a monk. Although the distillery on the premises never seems active, the Cistercian monks have a bar where you can warm up with a coffee or sample liqueurs made by various monasteries.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Florence city bus 37 (Santa Maria Novella/Largo Alinari) stops near the Certosa. From there, walk uphill.
    • Admission by suggested donation.
    • Depending on which monk leads the tour, the command of English may be limited. Look for a brochure or booklet to enhance the tour information.
    • Tours are on the hour 9am-11am and 3pm-5pm (4pm in winter). A minimum of six visitors is required or the visit is postponed to the following hour.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Galluzzo
    • Monasterio della Certosa 11/10/2017
    • Beautiful working monastery with lots of history that may soon be gone 09/08/2017
    • Certosa del Galluzzo
    Address:
    Via del Ponte di Certosa 1
    50124 Galluzzo
    Italy
    Phone:
    +39 055 204 9226
    Other:
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