It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by Florence. Uncountable numbers of tourists swarming the streets like bees in a beehive. Mountains of ice cream gently waiting for your weakness to buy yet another cone. Historical buildings trying to attract your attention, yet the Dome of the Florence Cathedral always wins.
Florence off the beaten track
We were concerned about finding the hidden secrets of this city. Would we be able to get off the beaten track? Let’s find out.
Bell tower versus the Dome
„Dad, I want to climb the top of the Dome!”
-„Come on Alec, have you noticed the waiting line? Do you want to stand in line for 45 minutes?”
On the other side of the cathedral we do find a small door without any waiting line. „You can go up the bell tower here”, the man behind the counter tells us, „Six euro for adults and kids half price.” It is not busy at all and in general we like people who mention anything about half price, so within 30 seconds we take the first step. 413 more to go. Benefit is you can actually see the Dome!
View from Piazza Michelangelo
Don’t let anyone tell you the view on the city from the Piazza Michelangelo is better at night…..or better during the day for that matter. Just go there twice: day and night! At night you can take something to eat and drink and maybe even release a sky lantern (lit the candle, release it and make a wish – or kiss your loved one).
Love locks Piazza Michelangelo
You can find love locks all over the city of Florence. Piazza Michelangelo is of course one of the most beautiful places to declare your love… Try to find these love locks when you are over there!
If you are not really into horticulture, a rose garden must sound pretty boring. Luckily there are some that also offer you a fantastic view. Like the one in Florence.
-I beg your pardon….I never promised you a rose garden –
True, but if you accidentally pass a nice one with interesting sculptures (like the one with the travel suitcase), why not sit down and relax a bit. You will pass the garden when you walk from the banks of the Arno river up to Piazza Michelangelo (and that is a steep climb, so you need a rest!); just follow the smell of roses….
Duomo (or Florence Cathedral) at night
The van den Boomen family is back with some good ol’ jumping pictures (like the ones we did in Barcelona in front of the Sagrada Familia)!
Florence is a city that should be explored in the evening. During the day the Duomo area for example is extremely busy…..too busy for me honestly. It looks like Florence is just one big open-air museum created solely for tourism… Others will just call Florence a very popular city, I’m fine with that too. Luckily in the evening things turn around; people are more relaxed, buildings are nicely lit, and it is less crowded. An overall better atmosphere.
Now we are getting to a real secret in Florence: the white circle behind the Duomo. My friend Laurel of Capturing La Vita pointed this one out to me. In the year 1600 a bolt of lightning hit the copper ball on top of the dome.
After the ball was hit, it rolled down the side of the dome and landed down on the street. The white circle (made of marble) shows you where the copper ball hit the ground that night…
Hardly any of the tourists know the meaning of this white circle. You can imagine the strange faces when they saw me taking pictures!
Antiques at flea market Piazza del Ciompi
The morning sun found its way into the narrow and cold alleys of Florence. It’s warmth slowly woke me up while I was on my way to buy bread for our breakfast. Knowing the family was still sound asleep I decided to walk a bit further.
Some older men are unloading their van on a little square called Piazza del Ciompi. They carry old stuff. I look around and realize I stumbled upon multiple lines of little shops selling….well, second-hand stuff or antiques. Let’s call it a flea market (don’t you dare to call it trash!).
Ponte Vecchio – look the other way
Of course you will visit Ponte Vecchio and of course you will cross the bridge filled with small jewellery shops. The hidden secrets can also be found if you look the other way up the Arno river: beautiful Tuscan scenery.
Fruit stalls and small restaurants
Sometimes the beauty can be found in simple things….like a small Italian restaurant.
Traffic signs by Clet
Have you ever paid attention to the traffic signs? Of course you do when you are driving (I knew that), but in Florence a local artist called Clet decided one day to spice up the city. He adds stickers to traffic signs ever since the summer of 2010. This is really a hidden secret of Florence and you can read all about it in my post Street Art in Florence.
Alessandro Dari goldsmith
Alessandro Dari is a multi-talent: a maestro goldsmith, a pharmacist and a sculptor. I was told he also plays the guitar and we found out ourselves that he is a runner too!
His work is somewhat spiritual and you really have to visit his workshop at via San Niccolo 115/r (on the other side of the Arno river). Alessandro is self-taught and I can honestly say that his work is one-of-a-kind. Some of his pieces are on permanent display in Paris and Venice.
Apartment between the locals
We were invited by GowithOh to visit Florence and try one of their apartments. The apartment was indeed a real hidden secret. Honestly, look at this street, you don’t expect anything from this look do you? But behind the door of no. 27 we found ourselves a wonderful apartment. It’s right on the ground floor (so no balcony with a view of the city) and it is wonderfully furnished.
It has a small outdoor place which is kind of funny as you have to look up 3 stories high to see the sky. The kitchen, bathroom and bedroom are perfect. All is new as the apartment was completely renovated two years ago. The host Massimo was really helpful, explaining us in detail how to get to the apartment.
Check out also our GowithOh experience in Barcelona. I will just repeat here that having a more authentic stay in apartments offered by locals is far more fun and the best way to experience a city.
Thanks Florence and see you next time!