Secret guide: Florence

Immerse yourself in this magically romantic city. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, lose yourself in medieval streets and discover artworks and landmarks belonging to some of the greatest thinkers in history.

Intricate, magnificent churches and cathedrals like the Duomo and Basilica di Santa Croce illuminate the city in splendour, whilst Florentines sip espressos and sink into delicious aperitivo on the city’s grand piazzas. Explore the flavours of this Tuscan jewel, walk the Ponte Vecchio or relax in the beautiful Boboli gardens. Florence is effortless in its charm – although its small in size, it features at the top of many ‘must-visit’ lists, offering a clue as to its magnetic draw. To help unravel the city a little further, we’ve selected the best hidden gems in the city, to make sure you don’t miss a single thing. Live like a Florentine, if but for a weekend.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

A rare gem, this 600-year-old Parfumerie stocks potions of ancient recipe. Aside from glorious frescoes from the 14th century, you’ll find concoctions invented to stave off plague, aromas mixed for royalty and the history of Florence told through the plethora of small glass vials that line the shelves.

Mercato Centrale

This local’s food market, though pretty well known, is a great spot to enjoy cheap eats from a variety of excellent street food traders. Alight for delicious fresh pasta, or brave the Florence fave Lampredotto, a sandwich filled with tripe unique to this city.

Vasari Corridor

Book a slot to escape Florence like a Medici, along the secret passageways they built at the height of their power. Secretly built into homes and shops across the city, you’ll cross the famous Ponte Vecchio with the foot traffic none the wiser. The artwork that adorns the passageway (because Medici’s flee in style) is a sight to behold.

Galileo’s Middle Finger

Yep, you didn’t read that wrong. In the History of Science Museum you’ll find Galileo’s middle finger, ironically treated like a relic (ironic as he was a heretic in the eyes of the church) in its own gilded glass jar. It is now accompanied by his index finger, thumb and a tooth.

L’importuno di Michelangelo

Inconspicuously scratched into the aging walls of Palazzo Vecchio, a small profile of a man appears sunken into the stone. Michelangelo, graffiti artist – it’s hard to picture, but true. Why he did so reveals a treasure trove of theories worth discovering.

Trattoria da Ruggero

For authentic Tuscan dining, make the trip to this homely, family-run trattoria. Off the beaten track, alight for Tuscan delicacies and home cooking, served in traditional old-world digs. A charming local’s spot perfect for a delicious Florentine meal.

Clet’s Road Signs

Street artist Clet Abraham has spent the last few years transforming the utilitarian blandness of Florence’s road signs with clever little stickers. A hilarious battle ensues as the signs are removed and more are modified. Head to his shop for prints and postcards of his previous works, or keep an eye out as you walk the streets.

Flea Market

The famous Piazza di Ciompi flea market was a treasure trove of antiques, vintage clothing and the kind of knick-knacks savvy bargain hunters love. Unfortunately the market buildings needed renovation, so most of the traders were moved to Largo Pietro Annigoni (a few streets across). Ciompi was set to re-open, so ask a local where to find this treasure of Florentine kitsch and vintage.

Aperitivo Atop Westin’s

This chic Florentine gem is a true local’s fave, making for a stunning spot to enjoy the Italian tradition of aperitivo. The rooftop bar of the Westin Hotel serves some of the best appetizers in the city, with views to die for – wash it down with a cocktail and start your evening in style.

Medici Hall of Maps

Hidden in a storeroom of the vast Palazzo Vecchio, you’ll find a collection of Renaissance maps that chart the known world of the time. Gloriously decorated, they hang to tell the story of Renaissance ambition and Medici power, decorated by vast globes and scientific instruments that gild the room.