Florence always surprises. Each visit offers you something new and special while the changing seasons offer different sights, colors, and flavorful foods. Florence’s major attractions always appeal but hidden treasures await your discovery, starting from lightly traveled side streets and charming squares to many lesser-known, unfairly labeled “minor” museums. In this itinerary we offer a different journey within Florence to intimate museums right in the heart of the city. All are within walking distance of its highlights such as Piazza della Signoria — the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia with its David, and the Duomo. To better understand our directions, please feel free to use the Google Map of the Itinerary Route clicking here.
The Medici Chapels
Start your journey from the Cathedral Square, always worth a visit, to admire the city from the spectacular Brunelleschi’s Dome.
Heading towards the picturesque San Lorenzo Market, with its folksy vendor stalls and shoe bargains, we arrive at the Central Market, a haven for foodies, located along via dell’Ariento. Its 19th century ornamental metal framework hosts an unparalleled explosion of foods from the four corners of Italy and beyond. Be sure to stop at “Da Nerbone” to taste genuine traditional Italian street food specialties.
At the rear of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, an especially beautiful church with an unfinished façade, you will find the entrance to the Medici Chapels, the family’s personal cemetery.
It includes a beautiful Crypt with the tombs of the Dukes, the sumptuously decorated Chapel of the Princes with rich carvings dominated by the second largest dome in Florence. The New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo, added more complex shapes and triumphal arches to Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy creating tombs dedicated to Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and his nephew Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. It is a not-to-be-missed masterpiece! Book your entry to avoid lines and to better organize your day off-the-beaten-path in Florence.
Fra Angelico at San Marco
Starting at Piazza San Lorenzo, take Via Gori and turn left on Via Cavour, one of the most elegant shopping streets within the city’s center, hosting stores such as La Casa della stillografica an amazing store for pen lovers. Along Via Cavour you will also find cafés to refresh and restore you. Reach Piazza San Marco where you are just a few steps away from the Accademia Gallery and Michelangelo’s David. If you haven’t already been, don’t miss the most famous statue in the world!
Here you will also find San Marco Museum, located in the monumental part of the ancient Dominican convent. Admire the monks’ cells where you will discover a striking architectural masterpiece by Michelozzo, the world’s best collection of works by Fra Angelico including the beautiful Annunciation, an absolute masterpiece in its use of perspective and the expression of the Virgin and the Angel. Other works of art include The Last Supper by Ghirlandaio and the Tabernacle of the “Linaioli”.
When you leave, take Via Ricasoli and turn left into Via degli Alfani. At number 78 stop at the curious Pietre Dure Museum for Restoration & Cultural Heritage. It is one of the oldest institutions of Florence, created in 1588 by Ferdinando I de’ Medici to teach the art of Florentine mosaics and is still one of the most prestigious venues in the world for mosaic restoration. The museum uses valuable works of art, tools, and a didactic explanation of carving techniques to reveal the secrets of this ancient art. For a quick lunch, try the panini at I’ritrovino dei Servi nearby at Via dei Servi 89r – fresh ingredients and loving preparation make for sublime dining!
Donatello at the Bargello
After lunch, return to the Piazza del Duomo and take Via del Proconsolo from behind the Cathedral. A five-minute walk will take you to the formal facade of the Bargello Museum, an ancient fortified palace that was once the seat of the Council of Justice and a prison. It has an amazing interior courtyard with an impressive staircase leading to the first floor that hosts a significant art collection, including the David bronze statue by Donatello – a striking masterpiece of sculpture and first male nude from the Roman era – plus Bacchus by Michelangelo, as well as pottery, antique weapons, and jewelry.
From here, leaving the city’s historical center, take Via Ghibellina. At number 70 you will find Casa Buonarroti, Michelangelo’s family house that features the artist’s early works including the fine bas-relief of the Madonna della Scala (his first documented work) and especially the Centauromachy sculpted when he was just 16 years old.
The museum also hosts the most complete gallery of sketches by Michelangelo, such as the facade of San Lorenzo, whose construction was left unfinished. On Via Ghibelina you will also find beautiful palaces, leather and footwear craft shops, and the famous Enoteca Pinchiorri (at number 87). It is one of the most awarded – and expensive! – Italian restaurants thanks to fine cuisine and the best Italian wines.
For a cheaper dinner in the area, go to Via Isola delle Stinche behind the Verdi Theater. At 7r you will find the Caffè Italiano and one of the best pizzas in Florence. A few doors away at 11r you will find some of the best gelato in Florence at Gelateria Vivoli. Otherwise, try a traditional and fun Wine, Cheese and Oil Tasting in a tasty and friendly package!
Galileo’s Ancient Science
For a second day in Florence off-the-beaten-path, we suggest three options. The first is the Galileo Museum, located on the Arno River side of the Uffizi Gallery (have you booked your fast track entry?) just to the left of the beautiful loggia that leads to the river.
Formerly Museum for the History of Science, it has recently been completely renovated and illustrates the evolution of knowledge and scientific instruments from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. The collection includes extraordinary pieces such as Galileo’s telescopes, historic world maps and globes and a series of surprising amusements such as machines that create optical illusions.
Three hundred meters away, at Via de Benci 6 – very close to Piazza Santa Croce and its the splendid Basilica – you will find our second suggestion. It’s the Horne Museum that reconstructs the environment of a typical ancient Florentine home, with a rich collection of antiques, sculptures and an especially a remarkable collection of paintings on wood dating from the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. Our third suggestion is just a stone’s throw from the Central Train Station, the Church of Santa Maria Novella with exceptional frescoes and ancient monumental rooms of the Officina Profumo Pharmaceuticals, which has been manufacturing prized natural preparations since the 16th century.