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!).
The flea market is open all week long. You never know if you might discover a great and long-forgotten piece of antique!
Ponte Vecchio – look the other way
“Look at that bridge”!“
“I know, it’s a beautiful bridge”.
“Sure, but it’s the famous Ponte Vecchio! Just look at it!”
-“Just a moment, I have to capture this other view first.”
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. 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.
Thanks Florence and see you next time!
Why not share Hidden Secrets of Florence on Pinterest?
Somehow I missed this post before but saw it thanks to your 2014 round-up post. Some of these ideas (e.g. climbing the bell tower instead of the dome and visiting the rose garden) are the same things I recommend for off-the-beaten-path Florence! 🙂
I’m so happy you found the post in the end Jenna. I know how you love Italy and Florence specifically. Wishing you a wonderful New Year and sending big hugs over from the Netherlands!
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This post made me excited about my upcoming trip to Florence 😀 A lot of great things in here to do!
That’s great! It’s a fab city so I am sure you will have lots of fun! Thanks for leaving a comment.
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My only visit to Florence was on a day trip from Bologna where I was visiting friends. A day was too rushed but it was neat to see the Duomo and the Baptistry. It was also the Florence marathon which we watched by the Duomo (we had no idea!). However, Florence failed to meet the “wow” everyone had told me about. Your writeup has made me decide to give Florence a second chance AND more time for sure!
Thanks a lot Raul, that’s a big compliment! I do think a day trip will only offer you the highlights, viewed from in between crowds of tourists. Like with many places, you will find the lovely details when you travel a bit more slowly. Hope you will make it to Florence one more time!
Great photos! And what a practical tip to go the Piazza Michelangelo at night and during the day. We didn’t even make it there either time when we went, I guess that means we have to go back.
I guess that’s what it means Ann! 🙂 Thanks.
Beautiful photos! I remember going to the Piazza Michelangelo when I visited Florence. What a great view of the city and the river.
Hi Jackie, great to ‘see’ you again! That view is indeed beautiful, surely worth the walk and climb 🙂
Beautiful, once again. You make me want to go there!