Hidden Florence – How to avoid all the queues and discover Florence’s hidden treasures.

Hidden Florence – How to avoid all the queues and discover Florence’s hidden treasures.

Take only photos, leave only footprints used to be the advice to tourists, but now Florence is suffering from this ethos. The city is overcrowded with people in the same handful of locations taking selfies. People arrive, take their photos and leave without supporting the local artisans or independent restaurants. They are coming in such vast numbers that the city feels like it is being invaded rather than discovered. It's such a vast problem that even national British newspapers like The Guardian are writing about it. 

While journalists and politicians are highlighting the problems, none are suggesting solutions but I think I have some good ideas. Instead of doing the most popular things and standing in queues for hours at the best wine windows, for a sandwich at All'Antico Vinaio, to see the David or being squashed as you cross the Ponte Vecchio, shop on the Via De' Tornabuoni, or try to enjoy the view from the Piazzale Michalangelo, try taking your holiday to a whole new level by discovering the hidden gems in Florence that few people know about. 

One of the things I love the most about running my business is that it has given me a deep appreciation of the challenges independent businesses who make a quality product face. When I find a company who is exceptional at what they do, I want to shout about it from the rooftops because it is very hard to compete with huge brands who have massive advertising budgets and prime locations.

So here's a few suggestions you won’t find on travel blogs about Florence to get you started on your journey.


Alessandro Dari

While it is hard to move for tourists when crossing the Ponte Vecchio, all staring into windows of gold that you can see in any town across the world, just a few steps away is the fairytale jewellery museum belonging to Alessandro Dari.

Dari jewellery museum in florence italy

On a side street that leads up towards the famous Piazzale Michelangelo, Dari has a exhibition of his work within the building that he lives in. It is really one of the most incredible experience I have ever had. Dari considers himself a Maestro and is not only a master goldsmith but also an alchemist, pharmacist, craftsman, and musician, embodying the legacy of Florence’s great Renaissance artists. His museum is like entering a steampunk world. Rotating cogs surround jewellery cases, some of which have jewellery submerged in water, some are displayed in deep sea divers helmets and there is a ships’ wheel that appears to be steered by a ghost.

Alessandro Dari jewellery maestro

The noise of bubbling water is mixed with a recording of a heartbeat and scattered around the room are pharmacist bottles with unknown potions. There’s an upstairs section where jewellery is displayed inside a bedroom. When I visited, I was the only person in the museum, and this really added to the atmosphere. Dari’s creations are like the kind of thing you would find in a film or video game – they have taken so much work to create and are so imaginative that it would never be financially viable to produce them. But here they are. On display and for sale and completely ignored by the majority of tourists who are squashed like sardines on the Ponte Vecchio. It is so often the case that the best of anything is overlooked in favour of the mass produced and it is to the detriment of society that people who make exceptional work are under appreciated due to fact that most people don’t make the effort to look beyond what is placed in front of them. If you take a look at Dari’s homepage, you will see a video of him working in the museum and some of his incredible jewellery creations.


Palazzo Strozzi

Florence is famous for its art galleries and also for the queues to get into them but there are many other museums in the city that don’t have queues and which have fascinating, changing exhibitions. On the Via de' Tornabuoni, you will find the Palazzo Strozzi. The building is beautiful to visit. It has large open entrances on three sides and you can go into the courtyard for free where there is always a large piece of art to view from their current exhibition and also a bar and restaurant where you can sit and enjoy the space.

palazzo strozzi art gallery florence

Last year we visited the Reaching For The Stars exhibition which featured work by 50 international artists including Damian Hurst, Anish Kapoor and Cindy Sherman.

This year the Strozzi has an exhibition of the work of Anselm Kiefer called Fallen Angels. It’s a very interesting collection of some of his sculptures and paintings. One piece of work has a section of pavement that is broken up into pieces with large teeth scattered across it. The work is inspired by the novel The Solitary Place by Raymond Roussel that features a road-mender's tool which, when activated by the weather, creates a mosaic of human teeth. 

Anselm kiefer art at the palazzo strozzi florence

Another room has sixty of his paintings covering the walls and ceiling and in the middle of the room, there is a huge mirror that reflects them so that also appear to cover the floor.

The paintings reminded me of my Hero collection because they have been exposed to radiation to destroy the original work and transform them into something new. Kiefer says that there is beauty in deterioration that we are socially conditioned not to appreciate.

oxidised silver ring for Heroes by jewellery designer Christine Sadler

The Palazzo Strozzi is open until 8pm each evening except for a Thursday when it is open until 11pm. The late opening makes it a perfect place to go in the evening and there have never been any queues or crowded rooms when we have visited.


Museo Novecento

The Museo Novecento is right in the middle of Florence, opposite the Santa Maria Novella Chapel but it is easy to walk right past. It looks like an official building and the signage is very discrete. There is a café to the left of the building and to the right, you’ll find the entrance and again, no queues. The current exhibition is work mainly by Andre Butzer, a German artist who was born in 1973 and whose work combines European Expressionism with American popular culture. Imagine Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse and Walt Disney on MDMA. You’ll find paintings with titles such as “Sprite, Fanta, UHT milk, Mickey and Donald” and protraits of The Madonna with Walt Disney eyes.

Andre Butzer Madonna of the stars

The museum also has and exhibition of sketches by Jannis Kounellis.


Centro Pecci

Although this museum is not in Florence, it is easily accessible from Florence. It is a 20 minute train ride to Prato which is a major centre for modern art in Italy. The museum had no queues and the only other people there on our visit were two small groups of students. It’s a beautiful space with a collection of contemporary art including a piece by Andy Warhol. One of the pieces that I found most interesting is called The Glove’s Repository by British artist Paul Etienne Lincoln. It is a large display cabinet with gloves that belonged to famous people, all of whom are linked by betrayal.


Some have been betrayed, others have achieve fame through deceit. The gloves rotate the same number of times as the years of each person’s life. I discovered many contemporary artists that I hadn’t heard of so the trip has left me with lots of fun research to do, finding out more about their work.


Celebrating craftmanship is in Florence’s DNA and MIDA is an international crafts fair held in Florence each year. MIDA showcases artisans using traditional hand-skills handed down through generations who combine a continuous attention to detail with an ongoing search for new techniques and materials. It is a feast for all the senses. You can wonder for hours, meeting the makers of clothing, furniture, jewellery, sculpture and painting before moving on to their section dedicated to artisan food.

An intoxicating experience of spices, cheeses, meats, breads, drinks and sweets that is simply breathtaking in its quantity and variety. When you need to take a break from this exhilarating experience, there is an open air space with artisan street food to refresh and renew you. The craft fair is held in the Medicean Fortezza da Basso and you can explore the building when you visit. We booked our tickets online and there were no queues to get in and the exhibition wasn’t crowded or overrun by tourists. It was a terrific way to pass four hours.


Mio Concept

If your visit doesn’t coincide with MIDA, you can see forty local artists who were exhibited at MIDA in a tiny but beautiful shop called Mio Concept. It is in the centre of Florence, on a street off the famous Via de' Tornabuoni. Via de' Tornabuoni is packed with tourists shopping at international brands that you can find in every major city, like Prada, Gucci and Dior, but walk just a few steps in the Via Della Spada and you will find a treasure trove of true local artisans selling their handmade items at affordable prices.

art gallery shopping in Florence


Sciabika - Giorgia Papa Salerno

Just a few doors along from Mio Concept is Sciabika, a clothing store belonging to Giorgia Papa Salerno. Giorgia is passionate about sustainable fashion and handmakes unique pieces of clothing in her shop that she opened in 2020. After training in fashion and design in Florence, Giorgia took the brave step of opening her own shop. The name Sciabika honours her maternal grandmother, a Sicilian surname of Arab origin whose meaning is a ”fishing net made from the union of various recycled pieces with meshes of different shapes and sizes”. This technique was used to contain the costs of fishermen’s labor, when “the value of things” was still important. Giorgia incorporates this spirit into her business by buying end of line pieces from high fashion fabrics and handmaking the pieces herself to create affordable unique clothing that is sustainable.

affordable handmade clothes in florence

Instead of purchasing a pair of Prada trousers for £1500 that anyone can buy around the world, you can treat yourself to a one off item that no one else will have for £150, handmade by Giorgia who will handwrite your name on the gift tag that details how to look after the piece.

We had a chat about her journey so far and it reminded me of our own. She opened her shop at the same age we did and for similar reasons. She wanted to create a quality product that is different and special and she is going the extra mile to make her customers feel special while taking on the responsibility and burden of running her retail shop with all the costs and tasks that involves. I will really treasure the clothing I bought from her because I know that it was made with love. 

If you visit and you don't buy anything, leaving a google review will help more people to find out about her. Doing this for any independent business you love will really make a difference to them.



Gune is fine dining experience like no other. 

The passion and skill that the team at Gune have comes across in everything they do and it is a privilege to dine here. I have noticed in Florence that the role of women is celebrated and appreciated and Gune is a restaurant with this ethos in its DNA. The owner chose the name Gune after the ancient Greek name for women to pay tribute to women, especially the strong women in his own family. The restaurant's stylish interior features contemporary wall art depicting famous women or images of women that are empowering.

gune restaurant florence

They have an inventive and impressive cocktail list that draws inspiration from the world of women: whether it’s the name of an important woman or a reference to a memorable action, all invented and created by their resident mixologist, Eleonora Romolini. The BB, for example, is a gin cocktail named after Brigitte Bardot that has sesame seeds and wasabi on the outside of the glass and the flavour combination is exciting and perfectly balanced.

best cocktails in Florence

The restaurant gives you the option of having tasting menus paired with cocktails or wine, making it a fun and unique experience. They also have a cocktail bar next door where you can have aperitivo.

The owner, Nicola Langone, manages the restaurant personally and with his team, he creates the perfect balance between making the dining experience fun, relaxing and special. Gune is another example of a owner who is present in his business on a daily basis to ensure that everything is just right and as a business who also runs this way, we really appreciate his commitment to their customers.

best fine dining in Florence

Gune is a short ten minute stroll along the river from the main attractions in Florence. It is located in the San Frediano area of the city which is considered to be one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world. A visit to Gune is a must for an unforgettable dining experience in Florence.


La Via Del Te

Just a few minutes walk from Gune, you will find the beautiful oasis of La Via Del Te. We noticed it in passing as, from the front door, you can look through to a tiny garden at the back of the shop that is too tempting to ignore.

tea shop in florence

The shop has a tearoom behind the shop and a wide selections of teas and delicious cakes to tempt you. There are more than enough teas on offer to have a different one each day of the year. It’s the perfect place to refresh yourself on a day of shopping and sightseeing in Florence. They also have a beautiful selection of ceramic cups and teapots that make perfect gifts.

decorative ceramic tea cup from florence

There were no queues, no one standing waiting for a cup with their name written on it and there was no urgency to make way for the next person looking to use your table. A place of complete tranquillity in the middle of the chaos of the city.


The Basilica San Miniato al Monte

The Piazzale Michalangelo gives you a beautiful view of the city but if you want a better view without the crowds, climb a little further up to the Basilica San Miniato al Monte. The church sits above the Piazzale and few people make the journey up the steps, making it the perfect place to see the city at sunset, or any time of the day.

view from the church at the top of Florence

At the top, to the right of the church is a tiny pharmacy which is now used as a gift shop. Inside there is a selection of herbal remedies and many souvenirs. When I purchased some small charms, the monk blessed them before giving them to me. An unexpected gesture that made the pieces feel that they were sold with love.



If you would like an ever higher view of Florence with even fewer people, the tiny hilltop village of Fiesole is a 20 minute bus journey from the Santa Maria Novella train station. It is like escaping to the countryside. We walked up through a wooded path to the viewing point at the top of the town and shared it with only three other people who were there. It’s a really delightful trip to get a break from the noisy, overcrowded areas of Florence.

fiesole view over Florence

These are just a few of the treasures I found on my last trip to Florence that aren’t mentioned on travel blogs but I know the city is full of many more that I will find on future trips. My best tip for visiting Florence is just to wander and notice what draws your attention, exploring beyond the popular tourist areas. You’ll discover a whole new side to the city that will be so enriching to you and to the local people working hard to provide exceptional experiences.

Perhaps the new advice to tourists should be take only thoughtful actions, leave only google reviews?


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