Tourists flock to Florence,
one of the most visited cities in the world, to experience its world-class art,
food and culture. As a result you'll find that even during the off-season this
beautiful city is absolutely packed with people. Every major attraction from
the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio is an experience in wading through tourists and
dodging touts to get a decent picture.
The Duomo of Florence gets
all the glory, but there are many other amazing churches found all around the
city. San Miniato, perched up on the highest peak in town, is considered to be
one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, but is often overlooked due to the
massive amount of steps required to reach it. The hike is worth it: dating back
to 1013, the basilica is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and
features beautiful frescos and elaborately decorated floors. The highlight
however is the amazing, panoramic view of Florence below you.
The recently opened Bardini
Gardens are a little known alternative to the ever-popular Boboli Gardens. You
can forget you are even in a city wandering these quiet, romantic gardens,
until you catch sight of the view. The gardens feature Roman statues, secret
grottoes and colorful flowers. The centerpiece is an elaborate baroque
staircase flanked by terraced lawns.
Both fascinating and kind of
creepy, La Specola is definitely a unique addition to any tour of Florence.
This natural history museum is actually the oldest public museum in all of
Europe. While wandering the wood paneled halls you will stumble across
curiosities like a stuffed hippopotamus, exotic plants and a collection of 18th
century medical instruments. The highlight is the museum's extensive collection
of wax anatomical displays: realistic wax models of beautiful women splayed
open to show their internal organs. These were once used to study the body
before dissection became widespread.
If a creepy wax lady isn’t
your thing, check out this museum that showcases the work of one of Florence's
greatest fashion designers. Housed in a 14th century villa, the
Gucci Museum mixes their classic clothing collection with contemporary art
displays. You'll find everything from classic purses to iconic Oscar gowns to a
custom Gucci Cadillac convertible. Before you leave, make sure to check out the
(pricey) gift shop.
Just a few miles outside of
the city is you will find the charming town of Fiesole. A bus ride from the
city center will get you there for around two euros. This is a great place to
spend a relaxing afternoon exploring the town's Etruscan ruins, still operating
amphitheater and Roman baths. The spotlight of course is the view of the
surrounding Tuscan hillsides. You might just forget all about the busloads of
tourists waiting for you back in town.
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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