Florence is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its historic town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing crowds of visitors each year. Most tourists make a beeline for the exquisite cathedral complex, explore the famous Uffizi gallery, and shop along the medieval Ponte Vecchio. But if you are looking for alternative ways to experience the city, here are five off-the-beaten-track ideas.
Take a tour around the city in an unusual vehicle.
The three-wheeled Ape Calessino is a traditional Italian form of transport, a stylish and compact motor tricycle whose comfortable back seat can easily accommodate three passengers. Book a trip with Tuk Tuk Florence, where experienced local drivers will take you through the narrow streets of Florence or up into the winding hillside lanes.
In fine weather, enjoy the pure Tuscan air scented with Cypress trees as you ride in one of these fabulous open-topped trikes. But if the weather turns, don’t worry – the Ape Calessino will offer protection from the elements.
Discover Galileo’s preserved finger in a museum filled with fascinating inventions.
Right in the center of Florence, close to imposing churches and cathedrals, is a museum honoring astronomer Galileo Galilei. His work exploring the idea that the earth orbits the sun was thought heresy and caused him to be banished from the Catholic church.
The Galileo Museum displays a series of expertly crafted scientific instruments, considered one of the most important collections of this type in the world. But one exhibit is truly unique and a little unsettling – the astronomer’s middle finger, pointing toward the heavens that he studied so closely, is preserved in a glass case and mounted on a pedestal in the middle of a gallery.
Indulge body and soul in a 15th-century monastery.
Housed in a golden-stone former monastery dating back to the 15th century is the gorgeous Villa San Michele. Its stunning rose garden serves both as a studio for early morning yoga sessions and a venue for weekly concerts. Gourmets can feast at La Loggia – a terrace restaurant helmed by a visionary young chef who transforms the best local produce into haute cuisine. Villa San Michele closes during the winter months – so if you are traveling then, consider dining in a magnificent palace in downtown Florence, parts of which date back to the 13th century.
Learn about the history of Italy’s favorite cup of coffee in the birthplace of the espresso machine.
A few miles from Florence’s Renaissance center is a splendid example of perfectly restored industrial architecture – an old factory called La Marzocco, or “The Workshop,” now home to Accademia del Caffè Espresso. The Italian love affair with coffee is no secret, but this atelier charts the evolution of the espresso coffee machine. Visitors can enjoy guided tours, special coffee tastings, or stay for lunch in the impressive restaurant.
Explore the ancient Roman town of Fiesole and take in a show in a 2,000-year-old amphitheater.
Learn about the region’s distant past in Fiesole, an Etruscan town close to Florence. The Romans conquered Fiesole in 283 B.C. and built an amphitheater there between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. The remains of the building are wonderfully preserved and well worth a visit. This site is also home to the ruins of a temple, a necropolis and some thermal baths. During summer, the amphitheater becomes a venue for outdoor musical and theatrical events.