My 8 Favorite Secrets of Florence, Italy- You Don’t Want to Miss

Florence Shop

Welcome to Florence, Italy! Here are my 8 favorite secrets of this beautiful and historic city.

Sure, Florence has Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise!

These masterpieces are surely not to be missed. Although, if you are looking to add more to your Florence experience, you will want to try these spots out.

I found myself on a bit of a scavenger hunt recently. I had done some research to find out some of these lesser known spots of Florence, and I ended up coming across a few of my own.

Here are my 8 favorite secret spots of Florence!

I’m intentionally vague on some of the locations, half the fun is in finding them!

1- La Bottega del Chianti

Photos above and below.

This little shop, hidden among the streets near the Ponte Vechio, is one you will really want to visit. It is filled with charm and all sorts of goodies, inside and out. Don’t come with a big group, there is barely room for 2 or 3 in this tiny market! Located on Via Borgo Santi Apostoli, this little gem can be found one block out from the Arno, northwest of the Ponte Vecchio.

Florence Shop Panini

2. The Bull and the Baker

If you take a walk around the left side of Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as The Duomo, you will find the head of this bull.

Historically, the intention of this bull head was to honor all of the animals that lost their lives during the Duomo’s construction. However, the myth holds a bit more intrigue. Apparently, the master stonemason working on the Duomo was having an affair with a local baker’s wife. The baker found out and took them to trial for adultery, resulting in the two lovers being forced to separate. The stonemason was so enraged, he mounted the bull’s head to face the baker’s home, as a constant reminder of his wife’s real love.

Duomo Bull, Florence

This is a great photo as to its location. It took me almost 30 minutes to find it, with very little direction.

Duomo Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Cupola’s Fallen Ball

The Duomo took 170 years to complete. With the first stone laid in 1296, it was finally completed in 1469 when Verrocchio’s copper ball was placed on top of Brunelleschi’s Dome. In January of 1600, a massive storm moved through the city of Florence. A bolt of lightning hit the large copper ball, breaking the supporting brackets. The ball rolled down the side of the dome and landed into the stones of the piazza below. After two years of restoration, the copper ball was restored to its original position above the dome.

Duomo Golden Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a circular marble stone in the piazza, on the back side of the Duomo, signifying where the ball dropped that night.

I loved how no one stopped to look at it the entire time I was there. I did get a few looks as to why I would be photographing this spot on the ground. I felt like I was in on some secret “in the know” club that the other tourists weren’t privy to!

Mark of the Duomo, Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Florence Street Sign Art

You won’t be walking around Florence long, before you start noticing these decorated street signs. The secret is not that they are there. but who is doing it! Who is the artist behind these entertaining forms of harmless graffiti?

Sign Florence Kiss

The artist is Clet Abraham, a 43 year old French man, residing in Italy for the past 20 years.

In an interview with Tuscany Arts, Clet says of his expression,

“As a professional in the world of visual space, I feel called to intervene, both to notify the public of the absurdity of the situation, and to propose a constructive and respectful alternative. My adhesives are developed to add a further level of reading [to street signs] constructed on the base of their original signification in order to maintain its utility but give it some intellectual, spiritual, or simply amusing interest. The final objective? That traffic keeps flowing without us feeling spoken down to!”

Sign Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can even visit one of Clet’s shops in the Oltarno district of Florence. You will find stickers, signs, and t-shirts with his street sign art designs.

Signs Florence Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Pad-Locks of Love on the Arno

According to legend, if you attach a padlock to the historic Ponte Vecchio then throw the key away into the Arno River below, your love will go on forever. Millions of lovers have traveled to the Ponte Vecchio just for this reason, seeking that eternal love.

What probably started as a very clever padlock seller with superb marketing skills, has turned into an all out lover’s revolution. The city keeps removing them and the lovers just return to replace them twice over.

It is thought that the locks may be causing damage to the historic bridge, so perhaps it is best to just rub the existing locks to share in their eternal-love energy.

Locks in Florence

 

6. The Walled-In Window

In 1560, Cosimo I de’ Medici would always take the same route to Piazza S.S. Annunziata. When Pandolfo de’ Pucci wanted to kill Cosimo I, he hired an assassin to hide behind the first window of Palazzo Pucci, on the corner of Via de` Servi. The instruction was to kill Cosimo I as he walked past. The Medici secret service discovered the plan and Pucci was sent to trial and eventually hanged. Cosimo I continued to walk the same route after that, but had the window closed in for his protection.

Here we are, 453 years later, looking at that same walled in window.

Medici Murder

 

7. Loggia del Bigallo

While this structure is by no means hidden, or secret, it is often overshadowed by its rather grand neighbors.

Built in 1352–58, sitting on a corner in Piazza del Duomo, the Loggia del Bigallo served to shelter lost children and abandoned infants. It was also used to help those in need, which at the time consisted of mostly people affected by the Plague.

The Loggia is now a museum containing frescos, including a fresco from 1342 dedicated to the Madonna of the Misericordia, created by Bernardo Daddi, a pupil of Giotto.

 

Loggia del Bigallo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above the Loggia (out of view in photo above), you see this Madonna and Child created by 14th century Italian sculptor and architect, Alberto di Arnoldo. He was one of the most influential Florentine sculptures of his day.

Madonna and Child

8. The Doors of Florence

The best part about this one, is they are not hidden and you can find them EVERYWHERE! All you have to do is look up and take notice!
Florence Doors

 

From the old to the new and the delicate to the absurd, the doors of Florence are sure to offer something interesting every few steps!

Modern Doors Florence

Don’t miss out on Naked Debtors- More Secrets of Florence-Part 2!

Join in on the conversation below!

For info on another great city in Tuscany, see my post on San Gimignano!

 

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

32 Responses to My 8 Favorite Secrets of Florence, Italy- You Don’t Want to Miss

  1. Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel March 18, 2013 at 1:41 AM #

    Between the Vatican coverage and now these amazing photographs I am positively pining to go back to Italy!

    • Laurel March 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM #

      As you should, Corinne :)

  2. Allison March 18, 2013 at 2:34 PM #

    Such beautiful photos! They really capture what makes Florence wonderful.

    • Laurel March 18, 2013 at 4:57 PM #

      Thank you, Allison. It’s difficult to take a bad photo there!

  3. wandering educators March 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM #

    LOVE these photos – WOW. it makes me want to read more history – and head to florence!

    • Laurel March 18, 2013 at 4:57 PM #

      We will be waiting for you! :)

  4. Corinne March 18, 2013 at 5:38 PM #

    Okay, where did you find out all these great little tidbits? I need your researcher! I love these kinds of things!

    • Laurel March 19, 2013 at 2:12 AM #

      Corinne, honestly, lots of internet research and many, many miles of walking around Florence! Aren’t they fun? I love a good history scavenger hunt!

  5. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family March 20, 2013 at 2:25 AM #

    I love the inventive little street signs. So cute!

    • Laurel March 22, 2013 at 3:30 AM #

      Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

  6. Travel with Bender (Erin) March 22, 2013 at 3:09 AM #

    Cant wait to get back there. So excited now, thanks for the inspiration.

    • Laurel March 22, 2013 at 3:31 AM #

      Thanks for stopping by, Erin! Stay in touch and feel free to ask any questions about Tuscany with the kids :)

  7. Colleen Lanin March 22, 2013 at 5:08 PM #

    Oh! I love this. I want to go back to Florence and do a scavenger hunt to find all of these!

    • Laurel March 23, 2013 at 6:47 PM #

      Oh, Colleen, it was so fun finding them all!

  8. Donna March 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM #

    As always, your photos are incredible. I went to Florence years ago but missed so much. I can’t wait to go back next month with you and see some of these secret spots!

    • Laurel March 23, 2013 at 6:48 PM #

      We can’t wait to have you! I promise you will see MUCH more this time!

  9. Christine Tan May 1, 2013 at 12:05 PM #

    Such intriguing snippets of information. I will be going to Florence in June and will take along your info. Hope I will be able to locate and photograph all your interesting finds.
    Christine

  10. Carmela July 9, 2013 at 7:37 AM #

    Hi, I loved those little secrets! It help me immensely for my Italy project! Thank you very much!!!!

  11. Italian Talks August 9, 2013 at 12:33 AM #

    Laurel,
    You have truly captured eight special scenes in Florence with your amazing photography! Grazie and bellissimo!

  12. Alecia September 17, 2013 at 4:53 PM #

    I will be traveling there during my spring break to Study Abroad. I live in a small town and I’ve never really traveled, so this is going to be extra amazing to me! I’m so excited and I’m going to keep a lookout for these! Thanks so much :)

    • Laurel Perry Turner October 23, 2013 at 3:02 AM #

      It will be a wonderful trip, Alecia. I will be posting more soon, so keep a lookout!

  13. ficus flanagan September 25, 2013 at 2:50 AM #

    Just incredible. Will be in Florence for 7 days in May and I promise if I come across something as special as your secrets I will send you one. Thank you so much. This is EXACTLY what makes traveling so much fun.

    • Laurel Perry Turner October 23, 2013 at 2:59 AM #

      Thank you, Ficus. Do let me know how it goes. I will be posting more secrets soon!

  14. Lauren January 20, 2014 at 5:02 PM #

    Oh I love this! My daughters and I will be traveling to Florence in May and we can’t wait to see all this coolness! Please keep us posted if you find more!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 7 New Reasons to Go Visiting Cathedrals - A Traveler's Library - July 31, 2013

    [...] Florence, there are two really cool things to see and learn about – the Cupola’s fallen ball, and the [...]

  2. The Educated Traveler | WorldStrides International Discovery - October 2, 2013

    [...] Today, you can see a white marble circular stone on the piazza, to mark where the ball fell. Read of these two hidden treasures’ stories (numbers 2 & 3). Do you know some hidden facts about historical buildings? Share them with your [...]

  3. Michelangelo the Graffiti Artist- More Secrets of Florence- Part 2 - - January 5, 2014

    [...] first, My 8 Favorite Secrets of Florence, Italy- You Don’t Want to Miss was so fun, I had to go hunting for [...]

  4. Naked Debtors- More Secrets of Florence- Part 2 - - January 5, 2014

    [...] first, My 8 Favorite Secrets of Florence, Italy- You Don’t Want to Miss was so fun, I had to go hunting for [...]

Leave a Reply