Don’t Miss These Florence Hidden Gems

Get off the beaten path with these hidden gems in Florence

Florence, Italy, is a stunning and ancient (by American standards) city, full of amazing history and art…and food. There are many reasons to visit Florence and you could easily pack a short itinerary with top sites like the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and Michelangelo’s David there are also some wonderful hidden gems in Florence, Italy. Don’t miss these Florence hidden gems.

Exploring the hidden Florence is what will really round out your experience in that great city. 

If you’re in Florence for one day or two, go ahead and stick to the major sites if it’s your first time there. If you’re in Florence for a week or a few days, make time in your itinerary to seek out a few of these off-the-beaten-path sites.

By spending some time in hidden Florence, you’ll be able to avoid some of the tourist mobs at the major sites, and they’re easier on the wallet.

The red tile dome of San Lorenzo visible from the church cloister
There are many Florence hidden gems just waiting to be explored.

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Florence hidden gems featuring art and history

Opera Duomo Museum 

Piazza del Duomo | Allow 1 hour 

Though the Opera Duomo Museum is part of the Duomo complex and sits adjacent to the cathedral, you might miss it.

Please don’t. I think it’s one of the most underrated museums in Florence.

This lovely museum preserves and protects the sculptures and artwork that were made for the Duomo and the other buildings including the famous baptistery doors designed by Ghiberti. 

You’ll also find here a late Michelangelo Pieta and much smaller crowds than at the Accademia Gallery or the Uffizi. We were able to walk in with no wait and no advance reservations.

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Michelangel's Pieta in the Florence Duomo Museum.
The Opera del Duomo Museum is my favorite of the Florence hidden gems. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Clet Street Art 

Scattered all over the city

While wandering Florence’s narrow, cobblestoned streets and alleys, keep your eyes peeled for Clet street art.

Clet Abraham uses stickers to turn ordinary street signs into works of art. Some are amusing, while others communicate political messages.

Though Clet street art can be found all over the world, his studio is in Florence. 

Do not enter street sign with Michelangelo's David on it.
Clet’s street art is scattered all over Florence. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Savonarola’s convent cell 

Convent of San Marco, Piazza San Marco, 3 | Allow 1 or 2 hours 

Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola called San Marco home from about 1490 until his death in 1498. Savonarola is probably best known for his “bonfire of the vanities,” in which his followers burned secular items representing worldliness and decadence, such as art and books. 

He briefly ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498 before he was hanged and burned in Piazza della Signoria (the spot is marked with a bronze plaque). 

Monk's cape in a plexiglass case
Savonarola’s cell at the Convent of San Marco. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

You can explore San Marco on your own or with a private guided tour

While you’re at San Marco, you won’t be able to miss the stunning frescoes created by Fra Angelico (1395-1455). His Annunciation is at the top of the stairs up to the first-floor cells, many of which are also decorated with Fra Angelico frescoes.

Featured activities in Florence, Italy

Orsanmichele 

Via dell’Arte della Lana | Allow 30 minutes (longer if you visit the first-floor museum) 

If you want to visit a Florence church without the lines of tourists at the Duomo or even San Lorenzo, take a stroll over to Orsanmichele

Orsanmichele was once a granary that was then consecrated as a church. The church’s exterior niches were once filled with sculptures by the greatest Florentine sculptors, like Donatello.

The originals are now housed in the church museum on the first floor, while reproductions grace the church exterior. 

Basilica di San Lorenzo 

Piazza di San Lorenzo, 9 | Allow 30 minutes 

Though the Duomo and Brunelleschi’s dome dominate the Florence cityscape, it’s not the only dome topped church in Florence.

San Lorenzo doesn’t offer the stunningly beautiful exterior or the opportunity to dome climb that the Duomo does, but the interior of San Lorenzo (rebuilt by the Brunelleschi of Duomo fame) is every bit as lovely as the interior of the Duomo…without the lines of tourists to get in. 

Consecrated in 393, Basilica di San Lorenzo is in the running for the designation of “oldest church in Florence” and was the family parish of the Medici family who ruled Florence for a LONG time.

Interior of the Basilica San Lorenzo
Don’t miss the interior of San Lorenzo while you explore hidden Florence. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

The Medici reliquaries 

Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6 | Allow 1 hour 

The Medici reliquaries can be found in the Treasury of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, part of the Medici Chapels complex. The collection of sacred relics is both impressively large in size and creepy.   

The Medici Chapels are connected to the Basilica San Lorenzo, but are their own state museum made up of the Treasury, the New Sacristy, the Chapel of the Princes and the Lorenese Crypt. Several prominent members of the famed Medici family are buried there.    

While you’re touring the Medici Chapels of course you won’t want to miss the Michelangelo-designed New Sacristy, featuring his sculptures Night and Day and Dawn and Dusk.

Piazza Santo Spirito 

Take time to wander across the Arno River from the Duomo into the Oltrarno area of Florence and you’re sure to find some historical gems, among them Piazza Santo Spirito.

The cobblestoned square features a soft sandstone octagonal fountain and statue of Cosimo Ridolfi, founder of l’Accademia dei Georgofili. 

The church (Basilica di Santo Spirito) on the square was another Brunelleschi creation, considered by some to be his last great masterpiece.

Porta San Frediano 

The old Florence wall gate with cars driving through it
These portions of the ancient Florence city wall are Florence hidden gems in plain site. Photo. Plan, Ready, Go

Borga San Frediano and Via Pisano 

It may look like just any old ancient archway over a modern road, but it’s actually a remnant of Florence’s old city wall.

Porta San Frediano, which gets its name from a nearby church, includes the original wood door and bolts and served as the access gate to the road to Pisa. 

Other Florence gates include Porta Romana, Porta San Gallo, Porta all Croce and Porta San Miniato which includes a section of the old city wall. 

Hidden Florence shopping experiences

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella 

Via della Scala 16 | Allow up to an hour if trying to select a perfume 

Founded in 1612 (although it can trace its roots back to 1221), Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella resides in what was once the monastery of the Santa Maria Novella church. In fact what is now the sales hall was once the monastery chapel.

The company still makes the special perfume they created for Catherine de’ Medici in 1533 before she left Florence to marry Henry II of France.  

This a great place to find a fragrant souvenir to take home with you to remind you of your trip to Florence. The kind staff will gladly help you select something you’ll love.

Even if you’re not interested in purchasing, the store itself is worth a visit for its history and beauty. But please be respectful of the employees and the store’s historical space. 

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Scuola del Cuoio 

Via San Giuseppe 5R | Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour if you plan to shop 

Tucked away behind the large Santa Croce church is the storied Scuola del Cuoio, the leather school. Here you’ll find artisans at work creating some of the fine leather goods Florence is famous for.  

I recommend stopping in here first before you visit the church. On our visit to Florence, we were able to purchase Santa Croce entrance tickets at the leather school without waiting in line at the main ticket office. 

Yes, you’ll pay a premium for whatever you purchase here, but I think it’s worth it for the quality of craftsmanship and knowing that you have a real Florentine creation. 

Buy gold NEAR the Ponte Vecchio 

The famous Ponte Vecchio has spanned the Arno for centuries. It was once home to butcher shops and tanneries then became famous for its goldsmiths.

You can still purchase gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio, but those shops mainly cater to tourists now, and you’ll pay higher prices there. 

If you are serious about purchasing a gold souvenir from Florence, I’d suggest that you step just a block or two away from the Ponte Vecchio. I recommend family-owned Oro Due at Via Lambertesca 12R.  

There really are so many amazing things to see and do in Florence, Italy. It’s worth taking the time to wander off the beaten path if you can. Every corner of Florence is full of amazing history.

Other things to do while you’re in Florence, Italy

Here are a few other things to do in the city of Florence, Italy, that are probably better known than hidden gems, but not as well known as the big main attractions in Florence.

Bargello Museum

Bargello sculpture museum interior courtyard.
The Bargello Museum. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

The Bargello is housed in what was once the town hall, police station and jail.

Art lovers will swoon over the amazing works of Florentine sculpture there including:

  • Donatello’s David
  • Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child
  • Ghiberti’s and Brunelleschi’s baptistery door competition entries
  • Bust of Cosimo I Medici (featuring a self-portrait of Cellini)

In addition, to the stunning Renaissance art, the Bargello also houses displays of decorative arts and armor.

Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace)

The Pitti Palace was the home of the Medici family after they bought it from the Pittis. You’ll find it on the opposite side of the Arno River from the Duomo and the rest of the Florence city center.

The Palace’s collections include some of the most stunning Raphael paintings you’ll find outside of the Vatican. There’s also an impressive collection of Titian works.

And as long as you’re at the Palazzo Pitti, spend some time walking through the Boboli and Bardini gardens.

Boboli Gardens and Bardini Gardens

Adjacent to the Pitti Palace, you’ll find the famous Boboli Gardens and the Bardini Gardens.

The Boboli Gardens are accessible from the Palace grounds, while the Bardini are a little farther out.

My favorite part of the Boboli gardens was the rose garden, or more specifically the view of the Tuscan hills you get from the rose garden. There’s also a small museum out near the rose garden you might enjoy walking through.

Basilica of Santa Croce

Santa Croce is one of the oldest and largest churches in Florence, but of course you’ll run into far more tourists at the Duomo.

It’s connected to the famous leather school shop we already talked about above, so as long as you’re already there or at the church you might as well see the other.

As I said above, you might visit the shop first and see if you can buy tickets for the church there without waiting in line at the ticket office.

Inside Santa Croce you’ll find the final resting places of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Gioacchino Rossini (the famous Italian opera composer). There’s also a memorial to Dante, poet and writer of the Divine Comedy.

Piazzale Michelangelo

For spectacular views of Florence, I think most people would say you need to head over to Piazzale Michelangelo.

It’s the perfect place to catch a sunset view of the historic center of Florence. The best views of the city, hands down.

You’ll also find a large bronze version of Michelangelo’s David there.

San Miniato al Monte

If you time your visit to Piazzale Michelangelo right, you might think about making a visit to the San Miniato al Monte church to experience the Gregorian chant.

If this is something you really want to experience make sure you confirm the schedule ahead of time.

The church is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture and it’s considered one of the most scenic churches in all of Italy.

Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)

The Palazzo Vecchio (or Old Palace) is Florence’s town hall, and so of course has a rich history.

Michelangelo’s David sculpture once stood outside the Palazzo Vecchio…until the arm got broken off when someone supposedly threw a bench from a window during a political riot.

Then someone said, “Hey, pro tip: maybe we should keep the priceless artwork inside.” So, they moved it to the Accademia Gallery where it stands today…well, eventually anyway.

Of course, that didn’t stop a naughty person from taking a hammer to poor David’s toes at one point, but I think we can all agree that Michelangelo sculptures shouldn’t just be left lying about outside.

But I digress.

The point is that the Palazzo Vecchio is a very important building in Florence and has been for many hundreds of years. If you have the time, I’d recommend that you add it to your Florence itinerary.

It’s also very near the Uffizi Gallery, a place you’re probably already planning to visit anyway.

Where to stay in Florence 

There are many wonderful places to stay in Florence, Italy. If you can, by all means, stay as near the center of the historic city as you can.

Florence is a very walkable city. From the Duomo, virtually everything else on your Florence itinerary will be within a 15–20 minute walk.

In addition to a good variety of boutique hotels and B&Bs, there are many apartment rental options to choose from.

Here are a few highly rated hotel and B&B options:

Hotel Brunelleschi: This lovely hotel is just a couple of blocks away from the Duomo in the heart of Florence and just a 5-minute walk from the amazing Uffizi Gallery. It has a fitness center and two restaurants. Check availability here.

Arno Boutique Hotel: This hotel is further away from the Duomo, but offers good value. All rooms offer air conditioning (not always a guarantee in Italy) and private bathrooms. Check rates and availability here.

B&B Lorenzo de’ Medici: This highly rated B&B is just a few minutes’ walk from the Duomo and offers free WiFi and air conditioning. Check availability here.

Tours and activities

Final thoughts on Florence hidden gems

Florence is a beautiful city full of many famous things to do. But it also has many ways to get off the beaten path and secret places to discover.

There really are so many amazing things to see and do in Florence, Italy. It’s worth taking the time to wander off the beaten path if you can. Every corner of Florence is full of amazing history.

More articles to help you plan a trip to Florence, Italy

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Don't miss these hidden gems in Florence, Italy
Don't miss these hidden gems in Florence, Italy

Don’t Miss These Florence Hidden Gems

2 Comments

  1. The Bargello is another museum not to miss in Florence. It houses many famous sculptors. One of my favorite is the “Black David” by Donatello.
    The building itself is interesting , perfect size for a relaxing visit.
    Just outside of Florence is a wonderful Trattoria “Osvaldos” in Settignano accessible by bus # 7 ( check bus schedule)from San Marco, Train station.The cuisine is superb Tuscan cooking, favorited by artists and Florentines.
    The village of Settignano is known as the “ Jewel of Florence” remaining in its pristine state. Due to narrow roads it’s not accessible by tourist buses from Fiesole set in the hills overlooking Florence.
    It once was a marble quarry until mined out, sending sculptors to Carrera. Settignano also was the childhood home of Michelangelo.
    The famous Villa Gambari famous for its beautiful gardens is a short distance from the center.

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thank you so much for these wonderful tips. And I love the Bargello!

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