Things to do PART II: non-churches/museums in Florence

The list continues!! Here you will find some of my favorite things that are NOT churches, monasteries, museums or gardens:

Some of the offerings at the San Lorenzo market

San Lorenzo outdoor “goods” market and indoor food market
This is a huge food/clothing/leather/everything-under-the-sun market that basically surrounds San Lorenzo church. There are endless street vendors that sell very similar things so it is very very easy to get lost in the winding streets. The best way to stay oriented is to keep an eye on the Dome of the church as a reference point. I have bought some really nice things here as well as some crappy things. Make sure you are ready to bargain and be aggressive, but also look around. You may find the same exact thing for much less.

Endless cheese in the San Lorenzo Market food market

The food section of the market itself is inside a huge building around which all the stalls are parked. If you head into the fray you are bound to hit it and you can always ask someone. Downstairs you will find all the meats, cheeses, and specialty items, while upstairs is the fresh fruit and produce. You can get all kinds of amazing cheese for nothing (they will happily vacuum seal it if you want to sneak some home) as well as great cheap lunch plates and authentic wild boar sandwiches. Like the market outside some places are more expensive than others though they sell the same stuff so walk around for a bit before you settle on a stall. (Note: The clothing market is open all day but the food closes at about 1pm or 2pm so go early).

Other Markets
There are quite a few markets (flea, antique, farmers, and impromptu) that go on in Florence. They are generally on Sunday mornings and either in Piazza Santo Spirito or around the Loggia di Pesce. It usually depends on what Sunday of the month it is. Pick up a Florentine (local English newspaper) and flip to the back. They list all the weekly happenings. This is especially useful for the random chocolate festivals, olive oil fairs, or German sausage markets that come through town.

Two lovely chocolate sellers at an impromptu chocolate fair

There is also another everyday farmers market (with a bit more a local feel and a bit less expensive than the San Lorenzo market) at Mercato San Ambrogio. (Note: Open all mornings except Sundays).

Most of the things in the city are on the “main” side of the Arno (i.e. where the Duomo is) but the other side of the Arno (called the oltrano, meaning “beyond the Arno”) is really nice too. You can take the Ponte Vecchio—a very famous bridge that is covered in very expensive jewelry stores and tourists—or any of the other bridges and just explore. Things are cheaper and the Italians are nicer.

If you are staying in Florence for a week or longer you may want to take the opportunity for a day trip outside. If you’re looking to stay local here are some awesome options to see a whole other side of Florence that most tourists never see!

Fiesole is one of the very cute hillside communities around Florence. It is easily accessible by bus and takes you up into the hills for a view, some outdoor relaxing lunch, and site seeing. They have some nice old churches and a gorgeous museum that features some of the amazing Etruscan art found around that area. Sometimes I like to go for a coffee or a gelato just to escape the hustle and bustle in Florence. It is also a great walk if you’re up to it (don’t be surprised if Florentines look at you like you’re crazy.)

The inner cloister at the Certosa outside Florence

The Certosa (said Cher-tosa…and yes, technically a monastery belonging in Part I rather than Part II but whatever) is this amazing and MASSIVE monastery right outside Florence. Again, easily accessible by bus (just mention to the driver that that is where you are heading and ask to let you know where to get off), this building (really a set of buildings) is a wonderful hidden treasure. Not many people go so there is only one custodian who leads you around as you explore. The star of the show is the huge central cloister, the biggest I have ever seen, and some wonderful frescos by the talented artist Pontormo.
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