Mary Ann Issac
17 Offbeat Things to do in Florence!
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
1. Catch a roadside puppet show
It was by chance that I came across the puppet show when I was walking around near the Duomo. There was a small crowd around the puppeteer, which caught my attention. The show was in Italian, so I didn’t understand anything, but it was a fun experience.
So, keep your eyes open for street performers, to experience things you wouldn’t have otherwise.
2. Stop & listen to the music
Florence is one place where there are musicians at every street corner. So I had music in the background almost everywhere I went in Florence. (It’s mostly around the Duomo, and Ponte Vecchio) It was my first time listening to Italian instrumentals, and I fell in love with it. So much so, that I listen to Italian music on Spotify now!
All the musicians have their CDs on sale, (€10) which you can buy to support them.
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3. Spend the morning at San Lorenzo Market
This is the most popular market in Florence, and is frequented by locals & tourists-but it is a tourist favourite. So if you want to explore the market when it is quiet, get here as soon as it opens.
San Lorenzo Market is separated into two sections, the indoor market (known as Mercato Centrale or Central Market) is for food, & the outdoor market is for souvenirs, clothing, leather, & more.
The food market sells fresh produce, like seafood, meat, pasta, fruits, & vegetables. You can also buy some Italian specialties to take home-truffle oil, truffle honey, extra virgin olive oil, wines, and anything else that catches your fancy!
The market also has a food stalls and a large seating area where you can grab a meal.
4. Shop for some luxury bags, or their knock-offs, from right outside the stores!
This was an absolute surprise! Not that there were knock offs of luxury brands in Florence, but that they were right outside the stores! I found it quite funny that they were selling their wares in the open without a worry in the world. (Of course there were enough shoppers to keep them busy-who wouldn’t want a Gucci bag from Italy! :p) (In case those of you reading didn't get it-this was me being silly, but shop away for those who are interested!)
There is nothing offbeat about the following three on the list, but, going on a search for the best of the best in Florence is certainly a little offbeat! I didn’t follow a list of ‘the best’ places to get Pizza, tiramisu, or gelato- I tried them at places I came across as I was walking about. (Most of the places that I went into were crowded, so I just followed the crowd, and I wasn’t wrong!)
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5. Eat a lot of Gelato
There are so many Gelaterias in Florence, that I had to find out whether one was better than the next. Unfortunately, I do not remember which Gelaterias I stopped at, but it was one good trail!
6. Eat way too much Pizza
Pizza is obviously everywhere in Florence, and its easy to find a good place, because all of the places that I tried pizza at were amazing! Until then I was happy with Dominoes, but after eating pizza in Italy I have never been able to eat pizza from any of the big chains. ( I now make my own pizza at home, which is pretty good, if I should say so myself! :P)
7. Search for the best tiramisu
I don’t know if I should be proud or sad that tiramisu (other than gelato) was the only dessert I tried in Italy. Everywhere I went, I tried tiramisu after my meal. And they were all good, sometimes, one better than the next. There is a lot more that I wanted to try, but somehow I’d end up ordering the tiramisu.
8. Eat the Lampredotto Sandwich
I didn’t try this sandwich, because I didn’t know about it until after I left. I should have done a little bit of googling, & I would have been able to put it on my list. So if you see a stand selling the Lampredotto sandwich, be sure to give it a try, and if you do, let me know how it was!
The Lampredotto sandwich is a popular local dish- it is the fourth stomach of a cow that is cooked in a herb broth, then thinly sliced and served on a broth soaked bun with a choice of sauces!
9. Walk through the streets-just walk
Go off the tourist route, and just walk through the streets, through residential areas, to see life unfold. But be mindful of the locals’ privacy. I also loved looking at the residential buildings, so beautiful-just as I imagined it!
10. Sit down at a cafe with a cup of coffee
More often than not, when we are on a tight schedule with so much to see and do in a new place, we forget to just sit down, and take a breath, to enjoy the moment we are in. It was the same for me for most of my travels, until I reapplied how important it was to just sit and take a moment to savour the moment, and to be thankful for the opportunity to explore a new place, no matter where in the world I may be.
So get a cup of coffee at a cute cafe, and just sit there thinking all your thoughts, and watching the world pass you by.
11. Search for the best views in Florence
Now this is something I love hunting for. There are so many stunning views of Florence that I decided to put it all in a separate article-check it out here!
12. Watch the sunset over Florence
There are some beautiful spots to view the sunset in Florence, be it by the Arno river, as the setting sun swathes the sky over Ponte Vecchio in orange hues, or at the Piazza Michelangelo, from where you can see all of Florence, or maybe one up, by walking a little further up from the Piazza Michelangelo to San Miniato Al Monte to see an even more expansive view of Florence being painted beautiful by the setting sun.
13. Visit the herbalist at Santa Maria Novella
It is said to be one of the world’s oldest pharmacies-the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (Address: No 16 Via Della Scala). It was established in 1221 by Dominican Friars.
Buy mint lozenges made with a centuries old recipe, candles, fragrances, and even liqueurs!
14. Explore the Tempio Maggiore
When in Florence, a list of medieval churches is on everyone’s list, but did you know that one of the oldest synagogues in Southern Europe is in Florence?
The beautiful Tempio Maggiore (completed in 1882) is open for visitors 6 days a week. It is closed on Saturdays. Check for timings before you plan a visit.
15. Shop at a flea market in Sant Ambrogio
If you are in Florence on the last Sunday of the month, head to Piazza di Ciompi to shop for antique furniture, vintage clothing, paintings, and other decor items.
16. Get the local experience at Sant Ambrogio Market
A short walk from Piazza del Duomo, at Piazza Ghiberti, is the Sant Ambrogio market. It is less popular among tourists than its counterpart at San Lorenzo, so it will be a more authentic experience of an Italian food market. The market sells fresh fruit, vegetables, & a wide range of fresh & cured meat, fish & a variety of cheeses. You can get a ready meal from there as well. Get some handmade pasta, fresh pesto & some parmesan or pecorino cheese & you have a gourmet meal for the family for a fraction of the cost! The market is open from Monday -Saturday, from 7AM to 2PM.
17. Take a peek at the work of art restorers
There are art restorers in the streets behind the Uffizi gallery. If you are walking around that area, keep an eye out for their workshop, strike up a conversation with a friendly art restorer, and ask to take a look at their work!