This is the place I like the most in Florence, the view up there is simply wonderful! By looking at the city makes me try to imagine how the life was back then. The Piazzale, italian name for square, was built in the 19th century during the so-called urban renovation “Risanamento” put in act by the government. At that time Florence was Italy Kingdom’s capital so they wanted to beautify it and enlarge it. As any other places in Florence, the Piazzale is pretty crowded with people especially during summer and spring but there are much less tourists here if compared to the city centre or the queue to in front of the cathedral. This place is perfect for taking a glimpse of the city, which is exactly as it was in the Renaissance with just one difference: the dome of the cathedral. The square was built by Giuseppe Poggi to pay honour to the great artist Michelangelo. Not by chance, at first, they wanted to display some of his works here but then, this idea was never put in act.
- Piazzale Michelangelo is a Must for the tourists that come to visit Florence
- There are other places that are worth a visit just near the Piazzale like Iris Garden and San Miniato
- In order to reach the Piazzale, you need to get on a bus, whose number is 12 or 13
- You can also walk until the Piazzale but the hike will be a bit long so if you are in a hurry, just take the bus
This place is great alternative than just staying in the crowded historical center and can give you some relax after days and days of queues. Some people think that the symbol of Florence is the Lily but some think it is the Iris, not by chance, this nice garden is dedicated to this beautiful plant. The place is quite huge, here you can wander around without all the people obscuring the sight and of course, the best period to visit is may, when all the Iris blossom creating a colourful show.
Just adjacent to the Iris garden, you can also find a piece of Japan…yeah, you read well 😉 Florence is twinned with the Japanese city of Kyoto and to celebrate their friendship, they decided to build this cute garden. It is relatively small but really gives you the feeling to be in Japan even if you just need to look a bit further and you will notice the Renaissance buildings of Florence 😀 I advice you to have a look here if you are wandering around the Iris Garden or visiting Piazzale Michelangelo. It is not a place that every tourist coming to Florence know or visit.
San Miniato Al Monte
This place, unlike any other churches and monuments in Florence, is not packed with people and the fact quite surprised me because from here you have a splendid view of the city, even better than in Piazzale Michelangelo. The story of this place is very curious: the church is dedicated to San Miniato, probably a greek merchant or an armenian prince,that left his home country to go on a piligrimage to Rome. He reached Florence in order to start an hermit life but was beheaded by a ferocious Roman emperor. Here the creepy part starts! San Miniato, after the beheading, took his head under his shoulders and walked until the hill where now you can find this church, which at the time was his hermitic place. In order to commemorate this event, later on, they decided to build this church that was, at the beginning, a Benedictine Abbey. The monks, still nowadays, produce liquor, honey, ect that can be bought in a shop adjacent to the church. As you can see, the façade is built in the typical Florentine architecture; this was the first time this style was used and inspired all the other architects that built the façades of the other churches. Another curiosity is that the architectural style is the same as the one used in a pagan temple.
Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica is a huge square, which is nowadays and, was also in the past, the heart of the city. During Roman period here there was the famous Foro Romano (Roman Forum) and kept this function even during the Middle Age becoming the market square. This place was the commercial and popular counterpart of a Piazza del Duomo, which was the political heart of the city. In the 19th century, during the so-called “Risanamento“(urban renovation) this place was totally changed: many churches and other historical monuments, that were located on this square, were destroyed and so, long lost. Now it is filled with restaurants and bars where you can rest drinking a cup of coffee.
Chiesa di Orsanmichele
This gem is very well hidden but at the same time it is located in the most famous and visible place in the whole Florence: in a minor street halfway Palazzo Vecchio and the main cathedral. I just found it by chance because outside I spotted some beautiful statues with incredible frames therefore I decided to have a look and it turned out it was a small church with beautiful frescos inside. The history of this place is quite interesting, too. The nowadays church in the past was a woman monastery, later, changed into a church named after the Archangel Gabriel. This church was destroyed and at its place a loggia for stocking the corn was built by Arnolfo di Cambio. On the wall of the complex there was a picture of Madonna that was very loved and worhsipped by the people but was burnt during a fire. After this event, Bernardo Daddi made a painting that served as substitute for the previous one and the building was enlarged and enriched becoming a church again. Florence economy was organised in Guilds, sort of corporations, that controlled the arts and trades and one of these corporations, asked the government to create a series of statues representing the protecting Saints of the Arts and this request was granted in the 15th century. The various statues can be found outside the building and they were created by different artists, among them, the most famous are Donatello, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti. The surprises are not limited to this, the inside is even more wonderful than the statues outside: the ceiling is covered with detailed frescos and built with vaults, typical of the Renaissance. Next time you visit Florence, or you are planning to visit, remember to look for this hidden gem and do not lose the opportunity to search for other hidden but beautiful places like this one…I can assure you there are a lot 😉
Tempio Maggiore Israelitico
As you already know, Italy is the heart of catholicism as in Rome we have the headquarter of the Pope but this does not mean that we do not have any other religions. In Florence, as most of you think, there are not only catholic churches but there is also a beautiful synagogue that I found by chance while browsing on internet. The Jewish community in Florence is very old but we do not have much information about their life; despite this lack of documents, it is said there were two synagogues in the Jewish ghetto that were closed in the 19th century. The synagogue, you see now, was built in the 19th century by using white travertine imported directly from Israel, while the style is clearly the Moorish one. The synagogue also hosts a museum about the Jewish ghetto’s history, the ornaments and funiture of the religious complex and some explanations and details about Jewish festivals and practices. I chose not to visit because I did not have time and I was afraid it was closed because nobody was around but I really regret; as soon as I get back to Florence, I want to have a look inside. The building really makes you think you are not Italy anymore but were catapulted in Israel xD
Well, I think you all realized that I have a thing for the alleyways ahah in many of my other articles I often dedicate a section to the alleyways. I do not do this to make the article longer (maybe?!) but because the narrow and hidden alleyways are always underestimated while they keep the real authenticity of a place. I remember that in Florence, a city usually packed with tourists all year round, the alleyways that were located just near the most known landmark, which is the cathedral, were totally deserted. Yeah, you read well, deserted. I mean, in Florence you do not find a place without people at all but here I just saw some students passing by and a few random tourists that discovered this secret and of course, locals. The atmosphere is really magic, finally you can taste the true essence of Florence without always having guided tours and tourists around pushing you because they want to get to see the famous monuments. Here there are no monuments, just the old charm of the city.
I am planning to visit the city again soon because I want to visit the secret Vasari Corridor and have a tour of the secret passages of Palazzo Vecchio. Furthermore, since I still had not the chance, I would like to visit the Uffizi museum but the time and the great tourists’ flow always prevented me from going there.