My daughter Lily texted today with the news:
Just finished my last exam of the semester!
That can mean only one thing:
Summer will soon be upon us!
For those of you NOT going to Florence this year, No Fear! This is the first post of many in a coming series: Paris, London, New York, wherever you may be traveling, let us know here and we'll prepare an off-the-beaten-track Must Dos list for YOU too!
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14 Off-the-Beaten-Track Florence Must Dos
When You Desperately Need to Escape the Queues...
Florence is one of those places on everybody’s bucket list. It’s a fantastic city to visit with kids. Who doesn’t want to visit the Uffizi, stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, stand before the original David at the Accademia, and climb up inside Brunelleschi’s famous dome?
But great as these experiences seem in the imagination, in reality they draw the biggest crowds and the longest queues, especially if you haven’t booked tickets in advance.
To keep you from spending precious holiday time standing in line, I’ve created a list of 14 off-the-beaten-track-Florence-Must-Dos with the help of my fellow Florence-loving friends: Susan Eaddy, Julie Hedlund, Mary Hoffman, and Paul Zelinsky.
Oh, and of course there's our app, In the Footsteps of Giants. Which you can pre-order by sending me a Please Inform Me When the App is Ready message here!
At the moment you can only access Vasari’s elevated corridor, The Path of Princes, as part of a guided Uffizi tour. But there are moves to make it open to the public. Built for Duke Cosimo the 1st of Florence, it runs above ground from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace via the Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Felicita church. This way, Cosimo the 1st could walk from his offices (uffizi, in Italian) to his palace home without suffering from the smells of the butcher and fishmonger stalls on the busy bridge.
"The most beautiful and the least known square in Florence," this piazza is almost entirely overlooked by tourists. The old monastery turned hotel is where da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. And both the Ospedale degli Innocenti (orphan hospital) and the matching church façade were designed by Brunelleschi.
Treasure hunt for the “foundling wheel” where one could place an unwanted baby and with a half-turn of the wheel, deliver him or her inside the orphanage without being seen. Also, check out the bees on the equestrian monument, designed by Giambologna.
across from the Bargello
A 10th-century abbey boasting over 1,000 years of history, the Badia sits smack dab in city center yet is most often passed by. Treasure hunt for the wonderful Fillipino Lippi painting, Apparition of the Virgin.
A much-overlooked church in the Via dei Servi, it houses Pontormo’s mannerist-style Sacra Conversazione.
Tucked behind Brunelleschi’s dome, this little museum tells the story of Florence through a series of paintings from the Renaissance through to the 19th century.
This tiny square outside the Church of Santi Apostoli is where babies who had died before being baptized were buried once upon a time. Legend has it that when the rich banker Bindo Altoviti wanted to raze the church and rebuild it, Michelangelo convinced him to restore it. Today it is one of few churches in Florence to have maintained its High Middle Age features.
This is where Pietro Torrigiano broke Michelangelo’s nose, disfiguring the master sculptor forever. The two boys were arguing about Masaccio’s frescos, which even today are a revelation!
On your way toward the Duomo from the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, check out this shop housed in a medieval building that makes handmade paper and leather-bound books.
Standing atop one of the highest points in the city, the view from this church is spectacular. It’s also a fascinating place. Join the monks for an evening of relaxing and mysterious chanting.
A true oddity – this natural history museum boasts wax figures – over 800 of them! -- used for medical education in the late 1800s.
This whole street is quiet and residential. There’s a quirky drug store on the corner called Munstermann’s that has a “guide” to men’s facial hair. They will mix a custom perfume for you from essential oils. But the real thrill is treasure hunting there for the two St. Jeromes, the Botticcelli, and the Ghirlandiao. Good luck!
Forte di Belvedere is a rambling fort designed at the end of the 16th century. It’s a great place for views over Florence and marriage proposals ;)
An easy bus ride out of Florence, this lovely park – variously described as “a small Versailles” and “a theater of delights, magnificence, and leisure – is home to the wonderful Giambologna giant.
Don’t forget to treasure hunt for the best gelato in Florence. Our bet is that you’ll rank this one among the best, if not THE best.