A few years back, I had a chance to visit Florence for business. It was a wonderful opportunity to meander through the city and just absorb life there. One of my favorite things to do is to wander the streets and see things other than the ‘main attractions.’
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is one of the most recognizable attractions in Florence. But, as interesting as the Cathedral is, I find that the area around it and the sounds you hear while walking are just as interesting.
Walk down the side streets and off the main paths; you’ll see large racks of bicycles, scooters, and motorbikes. Florence is a city of two wheels, which makes sense given the tight streets and parking space premiums.
The city is a very walkable place. The main attractions are easily within walking distance. And even a long walk is enjoyable as you see some of the local neighborhoods between the tourist areas.
From the Cathedral side of the Arno, cross the river on the Ponte Vecchio bridge. While there are shops on the bridge, wander around the other side, and you’ll find many small shops with unique items. Of course, you’ll also see the “mass-produced unique items,” so choose wisely. Honestly, since you’re creating memories, as long as you don’t pay too much, the “mass” items aren’t so bad, either. Just try for something unique if you can.
If you want to get the most from a trip to Florence (or any city), look beyond the tourist attractions. Find the little areas in the neighborhoods that give you a feel for the way people in the city really live.