Florence is a tourist hot spot. Thousands upon thousands flock to this small city every year. And rightfully so.
I fell in love from the offset; the architecture, food, history and culture.
It wasn’t actually the ‘must see’ sites that sold me (the Duomo, Golden Bridge…) but the back streets, hidden gems and Florence’s natural beauty. Locations only known by a true Fiorentina. And thankfully, I was with one.
Here are my favourite off the beaten track finds in Florence:
The Florence Experiment
Hosted by the Palazzo Strozzi from 19th April – 26th August 2018.
Florence isn’t just steeped in rich cultural history; it’s also combining modern science and art. Even better, this experiment allows you to be at the centre of the experience.
Devised by artist Carsten Höller and plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso, The Florence experiment combines art and science to study the interaction between plants and humans. It also explores all living’s beings ability to communicate and experience emotion – can we really communicate with plants?
Part 1: The Florence Experiment Slide
Each week a random selection of visitors descend the 20 metre slides carrying a bean plant. They then hand the plants to a team of scientists in a special laboratory connected to the façade, who analysis the photosynthetic parameters and molecules we have emitted onto the plants in response to the sliding experience. Which is so much fun. These results are then compared to plants who have not been subjected to the slide experience.
Part 2: Plant Decision-Making Based on Human Smell of Fear and Joy
This section consists of 2 cinema screens showing extracts from horror films and comedies. Visitors’ fear or joy produce different volatile chemical compounds released in the breath, these are taken through two ducts to the façade to see whether they influence the growth of Wisteria plants climbing on exterior Y-shaped structures. The “smell of fear” is released on one shaft of the Y while the “smell of joy” is released on the other.
If you are in Florence at this time, I would highly recommend a visit. Be part of future scientific knowledge.
Walking up to Piazalle Michelangelo
It may have been a very hot, sweaty hike up to this Piazza, but the view was worth every painful step (the wrong footwear may have been worn…).
It was so refreshing to get ‘out’, or ‘above’ the city. Somehow it’s even more impressive from this perspective; you can properly take in its intricate mazes and scale of the great architectural sites. I was shocked by the size of Florence as a whole; it sprawls out far beyond the iconic centre which tourists seem to be contained to.
Parco della Rimenbranza
This is a Memorial Park in memory of the Italian Red Cross Volunteers who died in WWI and WWII. It is a sacred, respected spot where you can enjoy peace and stillness surrounded by natural beauty.
Each cypress tree bears a metal maker inscribed with the name of military personnel or a volunteer nurse who belonged to the VIII Red Cross Mobilisation Centre of Florence and died serving their country.
It is a beautiful tribute to those fallen.
Church of San Miniato
With gorgeous detail both inside and out, this great structure creates a calming ambience and sense of awe. No wonder Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio, is buried here.
This is another spectacular viewpoint of Florence. This time from a slightly different perspective.
Museo Giardino di Boboli
This find is more than just another garden or ‘green lung’ in Florence; the Boboli Gardens are considered one of Florence’s greatest open-air museums. It embraces the culturally rich heritage site of the Pitti Palace, whose courtyard, known as the Cortile dell’ Ammannati, holds the Artichoke Fountain, an Egyptian Obelisk, and opens up onto the large horseshoe amphitheatre.
The hedges and green clearings throughout the garden are decorated with statues based on Roman mythology.
The Medici family made citrus groves fashionable; citrus plants were considered exotic at the time. Boboli therefore has its own Limonaia, which at one point even homed the family’s exotic animals, including a hippo!
Don’t be fooled, the Viottolone (steep sloping avenue) is no easy feat. Flanked by cypresses and statuettes on both sides, it connects the Porta Romana and Isolotto: a highly decorated water feature that holds the Ocean Fountain. This elaborate fountain is surrounded by three sculptures representing the Great rivers of the Nile, Gange and Euphrates.
Ristorante Enotecca La Barrique
This find is nestled in Florence’s quieter back streets, just a few minutes walk from Piazza Santo Spirito. Here you can enjoy intimate alfresco dining in their beautiful garden courtyard. A charming setting is perfectly paired with delicious food. Their pasta is a must!
Giardino delle Rosse
Last but not least. This was probably my favourite find in Florence.
Located in the Oltrarno area, just below Piazzale Michelangelo, this park was created in 1865 by Giuseppe Poggiand. It now has around 400 varieties of roses to admire alongside lemons and other plants. This makes it the ideal romantic promenade or get away in a green oasis in the heart of Florence. Giardino delle Rosse offers a different panoramic view over the city and even has an ornate Japanese Garden to enjoy.
Grazie Florence, I will be back.