Florence is a city of secrets hiding in broad daylight for you to discover if you know where to look.
Hidden doors, private passageways and secret rooms are built into the very foundations of this ancient city. So, it’s no wonder that tourists flock here year after year to marvel at the historic city’s beauty; and that master of secrets, author Dan Brown, chose to set his fourth book in the hugely popular Robert Langdon series of thrillers, Inferno, in this mysterious Italian city.
The secrets of Italy’s Renaissance gem are easily discovered with those who will delight in showing you where to look. Florence Town tours are a fun and informative way to see the different layers of the city, and they also run an ‘Inferno’ tour for those inspired to visit Florence by the movie’s exciting and action packed depiction of the city. Inferno is out on Blu-ray and DVD now so make sure you watch it before you go!
One of Florence’s most infamous historic families were the Medicis, and it was their dynasty that created many of the secrets you can discover today.
Walk the corridor that Elena Medici used to travel from the wealthy family’s city palace to the summer palace in secret. Or see the private room lived in by the king’s mistress with a secret door and hidden window allowing the lucky viewer to peek unseen into the majestic ‘Room of the 500’. Another hidden door to this surreptitious chamber can be found concealed behind a map of Armenia in the map room of the Medici Palace. The entrance way – used by the lover of Francesco 1st, Bianca Capella – is on display for the public to see, if you know where to look!
Some of Florence’s other wonders are a lot easier to spot. In fact, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is difficult to miss! Located in Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral’s dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed and can be seen from many of the surrounding streets. The cathedral complex includes both the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. Climb the Campanile for breathtaking views of Florence from all sides!
Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery Museum is, of course, a must see. However, whilst the crowds flock to admire the amazing statue, make sure you take the time to see Michaelangelo’s other sculptures at San Lorenzo too – they’re worth the small detour in your busy itinerary.
What not to miss:
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge that stretches over the Arno River in Florence. Speckled with little jewellery shops that hang over the side of the bridge with their wooden shuttered windows offering views down the river on either side, you can’t miss the bridge as you stroll down the riverbank. Wander over the bridge and peek inside the shops resplendent with gorgeous jewels, and make sure you pay a visit to the beautiful Boboli Gardens on the other side.
A key way to immerse yourself in the flavour of Florence is to indulge in their fine Italian fare. You simply can’t spend any time in this lively city without being presented with an array of gastronomic delights. Treat yourself to a gelato or two, or spend long leisurely evenings pairing fine Italian wine with the food they are famous for – pastas, pizzas, and fresh fish.
To really sink your teeth into the best food Florence has to offer, and for a little help differentiating your Barolos from your Brunellos, book an informative food tour with Grape Escapes.
Enjoying new and exciting flavours coupled with expert local knowledge on produce from the province makes for an afternoon well spent. From full-bodied red wines to wash down a platter of delicate prosciutto and mellow cheese, to crisp fruity white wines that will perfectly pair with freshly made pasta. Mouth watering? Well the fun doesn’t stop there. Discover what real Italian olive oil should taste like – all the different varieties – whilst tasting them dipped in to freshly made bread.
Yes indulging in Italy’s best dishes might involve straying from your New Year resolution diet plan, but it’s not often that you can enjoy food this good so fresh.
Where to stay:
Hotel Brunelleschi is nestled right in the heart of Florence and is perfectly situated to act as the base for all of your exploration. This fabulous four star hotel in Florence has rooms starting from €197.60 a night.
Another product of Florence’s gastronomic exploration is the Negroni. Often one of the strongest cocktails on a bar menu, this bitter mix of gin, vermouth rosso and Campari is an acquired taste. If you’re feeling bold enough to try one, or if you’re just in the mood for some after dinner drinks and maybe some dancing, head down to the Santo Spirito area of the city. Crammed full of cool bars, quirky hang outs and hidden spots found only by following the sound of live music drifting out on to the street, this is the place to come to let your hair down.
Pull up an armchair in Volume to enjoy a menu of colourful cocktails whilst watching bands entertain lively crowds from 11pm on select nights.
If you’ve got any energy left after exploring the streets and many sights of Florence, save a bit of time to shop in the city’s many markets. Leather goods are a real specialty of the city, and you’ll find more bags, shoes, and jackets on display for sale than you’ve got time to peruse them all! If you decide to add a new Italian leather item to your wardrobe, make sure you haggle hard with the market traders before settling on a final price.