A few days will never be enough for Florence, but here are the best off the beaten path places for you to visit. As much as I love travelling, lately I’ve been to a few places with humongous crowds. And, honestly, I’ve grown to dislike crowds and the most famous sights! Thus, I’ve decided to give you alternative sights as things to do in Florence that will give you an even better experience during your visit.
Table of Contents
- 1. The Famous Sight: The Duomo
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead –> Arnolfo Tower
- 2. The Famous Sight: Palazzo Vecchio
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead –> Secret Passages Tour
- 3. The Famous Sight: Piazzale Michelangelo
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> San Miniato al Monte
- 4. The Famous Sight: Dante’s House
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Dante’s Plate Carving
- 5. The Famous Sight: Michelangelo’s David
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> David’s Replica (Palazzo Vecchio)
- 6. The Famous Sight: Loggia dei Lanzi
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Porcellino
- 7. The Famous Sight: Ponte Vecchio
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Ponte Alle Grazie
- 8. The Famous Sight: Boboli Gardens
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Bardini Gardens
- 9. The Famous Sight: Day Trip To Pisa
- * Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Day Trip To Cinque Terre
- Worth The Crowds: Uffizi Gallery
- Best Lasagna In Florence
- Where To Stay In Florence
1. The Famous Sight: The Duomo
Entrance fee: 18 EUR
The infamous Duomo Di Firenze is an absolute marvel of art and I won’t deny it! Brunelleschi did such an outstanding job, that you’ll have a hard time looking away once you see it. The architect had the very bold idea of building the dome without any scaffolding. And surprisingly, he managed to do it! Only the top of the Duomo was finished after his death, and actually, if you look closely, it still hasn’t been fully finished.
However, you’ll find that the lines to the Duomo are quite discouraging. For the total of 18 EUR as the entrance fee to the Duomo Di Firenze, you can visit every building in the complex. The combined Duomo ticket includes the Cathedral, Dome, Baptistery, Bell Tower, Crypt and Museum. To be perfectly honest, this ticket was not worth it at all (so save your money for gelato!). The Cathedral itself is free, even if you go early in the morning, you’d need to wait at least 30 minutes in a very long line. Тhe inside is not nearly as impressive as the outside (unlike, for example, Saint Paul’s in London, which is SO worth it!).
I would also advise you to be very careful, as the combined ticket is valid for 72 hours only, so if your booking for climbing the Duomo is for further ahead – they might not let you in at all 🙁 It almost happened to us, but luckily, we fought our way in and managed to get to the top.
* Hidden Gem To See Instead –> Arnolfo Tower
Entrance fee: 14 EUR (Palazzo Vecchio + Arnolfo Tower)
If I could do it all over again, I would’ve skipped the Duomo complex and admired it from the outside only. A much better off the beaten path alternative to climbing the Duomo is climbing the Arnolfo Tower – the tower of Palazzo Vecchio! The tower has only 233 steps, which is much less than Giotto’s Bell Tower or the Duomo di Firenze. It’s a much easier climb and the corridors are not as narrow. True, you still bypass people going down when you go up (and vice versa) but they have taken care of that – there is a guy at the bottom that only lets a new group go up when the next to last one has gone down.
Pro tip: this is THE tower that will show you the best view of the Duomo! If you want to get the most spectacular view – choose going around sunset, the Duomo will be bathed in the perfect golden light.
2. The Famous Sight: Palazzo Vecchio
Entrance fee: 18 EUR (or if you skip the Archaeological site – 14 EUR to include the Arnolfo Tower)
Now, I’m not saying Palazzo Vecchio is not worth it – don’t get me wrong. The palace is everything like you’d imagine it, straight out of Dan Brown’s Inferno (I love that book!). The paintings on the ceiling and the huge masterpieces on the wall, where you’ll look for “Cerca Trova”, just like Robert Langdon did, are truly breathtaking. However, the true off the beaten path thing to see here is the Secret Tour, see below!
* Hidden Gem To See Instead –> Secret Passages Tour
Entrance fee: 15 EUR
My biggest regret (for which I’m thankful for, since I now have an excuse to go back to Florence!) is not taking the Secret Passages Tour. As I said, I’m a big fan of Dan Brown’s Inferno but I never thought that the tour he mentions actually exists! Only after we visited the Hall of Maps did we see that there is, in fact, a passage right where Dan Brown described it. Here is one place where you can book the Secret Passages Tour. However, bear in mind that you do need to book it well in advance – there are only a few time slots per day and a maximum of 10 people per tour. I am absolutely booking this one when I go back to Florence, there is no way it could disappoint!
3. The Famous Sight: Piazzale Michelangelo
Entrance fee: Free
Piazzale Michelangelo is absolutely one of the most famous and most photogenic sights in Florence. However, it’s also one of the most crowded! 🙁 This famous sight of Florence is most Instagrammable and most visited at sunset, and there s nothing like watching the sun set over one of the best cities in the world. When we visited Piazzale Michelangelo, we could barely find a spot to watch the sunset (and we were 40-50 minutes early!). There was even a couple next to us celebrating their anniversary and they were super cute. They asked us to take a photo of them, but without any people around them… which was… well, impossible.
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> San Miniato al Monte
Entrance fee: Free
So, what should you see instead? There are actually two other spots with very similar views in Florence, but the cutest is San Miniato al Monte. The view is quite similar, only a bit closer and at a slightly different angle. However, this place is definitely off the beaten path and not as crowded at all at sunset! And hey, it’s always worth it to avoid the crowds – you can take MUCH better photos for one!
4. The Famous Sight: Dante’s House
Entrance fee: 4 EUR
The “Museo Casa Di Dante” was actually the main house of the Alighieri according to multiple sources, so the administration of Florence decided to dedicate it as a Dante museum. The house has 3 floors, dedicated to 3 different eras of Dante’s life. There are mainly documents inside, and I think it would actually be much better if they dedicated the 3 floors to Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Otherwise, there really isn’t much to see, you’d be wise to spend your time exploring other Florence sights (and, duh, spend these 4 EUR on gelato!).
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Dante’s Plate Carving
Entrance fee: Free
Right outside Dante’s house, there is something you can easily miss, unless you know to look for it. You might see a bunch of people around a puddle on the ground. So what on Earth are they looking for in that small puddle?
Well, there is a tile on the ground that, when wet, shows its true nature – it has a carving of Dante’s profile! I must admit, I would’ve never guessed about this, a friend of mine told me about it, and I’m forever grateful. It’s pretty fascinating, so don’t miss this hidden gem in Florence!
5. The Famous Sight: Michelangelo’s David
Entrance fee: 16 EUR
Okay, it can actually be cheaper without a reservation. However, you would need to wait about 2 hours in line to get the cheaper ticket! Thus, get the ticket with the time slot reservation and save your precious time in Florence. So, why is this famous sight not worth it? While the 5-meter David statue is indeed an absolute marvel of art, it is the only thing worth seeing in the Accademia. Basically, you’re buying a ticket just to see David, which is okay, but if you end up waiting in line with all the crowds, it really diminishes this experience.
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> David’s Replica (Palazzo Vecchio)
Entrance fee: Free
If you don’t feel like waiting in a 2-hour line and hustling lots of people to see the enormous statue of David, there is an alternative sight. Right in front of Palazzo Vecchio, there is a replica of David which you can also enjoy! Yes, it’s not as detailed, but you can see it for free and not many people know about this hidden gem.
6. The Famous Sight: Loggia dei Lanzi
Entrance fee: Free
Piazza della Signoria, the square right in front of Palazzo Vecchio, has a few different things to offer. Among them is Loggia dei Lanzi, which you’ll see in many Florence itineraries. However, I honestly didn’t find it impressive at all, not even worth a photo. You can expect to see there statues of the virtues – Fortitude, Temperance, Justice and Prudence, but they are not nearly as impressive as statues you’ll see in the Uffizi gallery. Sure, you will stroll around Loggia dei Lanzi, but there is an alternative sight you’ll enjoy a lot more:
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Porcellino
Entrance fee: Free
The Porcellino is one of the cutest sights you’ll see in Florence! You’ll see that the hog’s nose is a different color. Why? Well, because people are constantly touching it! “Legend” has it that if you touch it, you will either win the lottery or you’ll go back to Florence. It’s the ultimate win-win isn’t it? 😀 You can find the Porcellino right next to Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, or you can just use Google Maps to find it (just search it by name). Well, I touched it, so I’m already planning my next Florence trip!
7. The Famous Sight: Ponte Vecchio
Entrance fee: Free
Ponte Vecchio, just like its name (“old bridge”) is indeed the oldest bridge in Florence. It was the only one that survived World War II, actually! This bridge, as most sights in Florence, is too a marvel or Italian art. Chances are, you will pass by this bridge numerous times, and you’ll see a lot of jewelers and goldsmiths. However, if you don’t have quite a lot of euros to spare, you won’t find crossing Ponte Vecchio that fascinating. Instead…
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Ponte Alle Grazie
Entrance fee: Free
… you should enjoy it from a different angle! I loved how Ponte Vecchio looked from the neighbouring bridge – Ponte Alle Grazie. Whether at sunrise or sunset, Ponte Vecchio looked much more spectacular from afar. This lovely bridge was actually older than Ponte Vecchio, it was built in 1227 AND it was the longest in Florence with its 9 arches.
In addition, the neighborhood of San Niccolo is a very lovely and quiet one. You can choose to stay at Palazzo San Niccolo, even, and cross the lovely bridge overseeing Ponte Vecchio every day!
8. The Famous Sight: Boboli Gardens
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Entrance fee: 7 EUR
The famous Boboli Gardens in Florence, located right behind Palazzo Pitti, were inspired by the gardens of Versailles. You can find many sculptures, fountains and sights while walking around this lovely place. The gardens are perfect all-year round – blooming flowers in the spring, a colorful carpet of leaves in the fall, and offering shelter from the scalding summer sun. You can see an amphitheatre and interesting grotto sculptures, there is something for every taste. So why, you wonder, am I not recommending this top thing to see in Florence? You’ll find many people complaining that the lovely Boboli Gardens have actually not been maintained too well and are a bit dirty, too. In addition, their website has a disclaimer that there is often maintenance around the gardens (due to the nature of the artefacts themselves), so even if you catch them at a good time, the maintenance will totally ruin your perfect Florence photo.
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Bardini Gardens
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Entrance fee: 10 EUR
The Bardini Gardens are especially more beautiful than the Boboli in the spring and summer – there are so many beautiful flowers! Bardini are much more recent, but also much smaller, though. You’d be pleasantly surprised to find out there is also a villa there for you to explore and even a porcelain museum. All of these definitely make the Bardini Gardens well worth an off-the-beaten-path hidden gem in Florence that you should not miss! And here’s a little more information on the Bardini for you to explore.
9. The Famous Sight: Day Trip To Pisa
Pisa is certainly one of those cities that you’ve heard about when you were still a little peanut. It was undoubtedly one of the first places in your life to give you utter wanderlust and admiration! But how can this tower be leaning AND not fall at the same time?! Certainly, all of us has asked this question at least a few times in our lives.
Considering that Pisa is just an hour by train from Florence, it is definitely a very popular day trip – organized or not. The train ticket costs only about 6 EUR one way, but a popular full-day trip is to combine Pisa & Lucca. If you decide to go alone, though, you’ll waste about 2 hours total travelling by train, 30-40 minutes walking from the station to the tower and back, and ALL of this just to spend 15-30 minutes and take a few photos with the tower. There is NOTHING else to do in Pisa besides seeing the leaning tower and the complex itself! You could also visit the cathedral (or even climb the tower) for a few extra euros, but it is definitely not as spectacular as you would imagine. To top it all, the tower is tall, but not THAT tall, really 🙂
* Hidden Gem To See Instead -> Day Trip To Cinque Terre
To be fair, Cinque Terre is pretty full in high season. That said, it’s not that popular as a day trip as Pisa or Sienna. You’ll see many many tourists and TEFL teachers around at peak times (noon and afternoon), but if you start your day very early, you’ll be able to enjoy the full beauty of Cinque Terre almost tourist-free <3.
Check out my ultimate guide to visiting Cinque Terre!
Cinque Terre is comprised of five gorgeous villages (which is literally the translation of the sight’s name), and, to be honest, all of them are worth a quick visit. It looks very much like the Amalfi coast, but perhaps it is even more enchanting! The views are absolutely breathtaking, you will fall in love within minutes of setting foot in any of the villages.
You can book a day trip from Florence, or you can go on your own, both options are great. The train from Florence takes about 2-3 hours and the tickets are around 20 EUR one way. When you get down at the station in La Spezia, you can get a day pass for the trains between the 5 cute villages, it costs about 13-16 EUR (depending on whether you visit in low or high season, respectively).
You can definitely take even more than a day exploring Cinque Terre, you don’t need to take just a day trip from Florence. You can easily spend 2-3 days over there – enjoy the beach in Monterosso or even do a hike between the 5 villages! If you have an extra day or two, I’d definitely recommend spending the night, you won’t regret it.
Worth The Crowds: Uffizi Gallery
One of the most popular things in Florence that I immensely enjoyed, despite the crowds, was the Uffizi Gallery. It was absolutely delightful, especially if you’re a art fan! Well, I might not know nothing about art, but I certainly take my time to enjoy it. Uffizi is quite large, and chances are, you’ll encounter crowds during high season. However, we managed to visit about 1 hour 30 minutes before closing time and we didn’t wait AT ALL! The time was pretty tight, though, but provided we knew exactly what we wanted to see (and what we could skip), it was just enough.
I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find that the infamous Birth of Venus by Botticelli was in Uffizi! And I think Botticelli’s room was the one where I spent the most time, all of his work was absolutely amazing. Even though you’ll see tons of signs about Leonardo’s room, I didn’t enjoy Da Vinci’s unfinished pieces as much as I did those of Botticelli. So definitely take your time and enjoy Venus! <3
Best Lasagna In Florence
You can’t go to Italy and not eat pasta! I’m a huge pasta lover (especially bolognese!), so when a friend of mine recommended the best lasagna bolognese in Florence – I did not hesitate one second. There are many restaurants on the central squares around the city, and, to be honest, not all of them are worth the money. The restaurant Il Cavallino is located right next to Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi, you won’t miss it once you’re at the square. At first I was a bit discouraged by all the bad reviews – it has a 1.9/5 on Google, which is beyond abysmal for a restaurant at the very heart of Florence! However, none of these reviews described our experience. The waiters were super friendly and funny, the lasagna was indeed the best I’ve ever had (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!!), the only thing that was true – the prices were quite high. But you know what, you can’t expect to eat great Italian food and overlook Palazzo Vecchio and expect to pay 5 EUR. So don’t skip Il Cavallino!
Where To Stay In Florence
Florence can be quite expensive when it comes to accommodation – most hotels (not hostels) start at about 100 EUR per night. Thus, it is a good idea to research well where you could stay before your visit – you really shouldn’t spend any extra money on something that is not worth it. This is why I can’t recommend enough the residences of Your Place In Florence – Palazzo San Niccolo and Palazzo Belfiore.
Each of these residences has its own perks – Palazzo Belfiore is incredibly close to the major Florence attractions, while Palazzo San Niccolo has a gorgeous lounge and garden (and is only 5-7 minutes further from the attractions!). Federico, the host, is so nice, that you will truly feel like any of these residences are “your home away from home”. You can book directly with them – just send them an e-mail!