Florence in Five Insider Tips

After Hamburg, for the second instalment of our brand new series we’ll show you Florence through the eyes of locals.

First time in Florence? Don’t miss our post on how to book Uffizi tickets!

Florence Bridges
Florence from up high

Forget David, forget the crowds and forget the queues snaking outside the Uffizi. Forget tacky souvenir shops and overpriced pavement cafés. Five Florence residents shared with us their favourite places in this beautiful city. From gardens to hilltop churches, from a ‘shot artist’ to giant panini, ditch the crowds and discover another side of Florence.

1) San Miniato al Monte – recommended by Marco, a lover of good life and the time of Ancient Rome

Florence Inside Miniato Church
San Miniato inside

Everyone knows Piazza Michelangelo, the hanging square on a hillside that offers killer Florence views. The piazza is packed at all times of day and night, but few venture into the surrounding area, and even fewer climb all the way to San Miniato al Monte, a few minutes walk on top of the hill. The church itself is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in Italy, a stunning example of Florentine Romanesque, with a geometric façade, frescos and mosaics in the interior. What we loved most of this place was the peace and quiet, perhaps courtesy of the adjacent Benedictine convent.

2) Giardino delle Rose – recommended by Davide, a globetrotting philosopher

Florence Duomo from Rose Garden
A view of the Duomo from the Giardino delle Rose

If you decide to walk to Piazza Michelangelo, you’ll pass a sign pointing to ‘Giardino delle Rose’. When we walked into the gate of this walled garden, we couldn’t believe our eyes. A sloped hillside, terraced and planted with dozens of rosebushes, in full bloom under the May sky. And beyond, Florence, its steeples and domes and the waters of the Arno. There is also a Japanese garden, donated to the city of Florence by a Kyoto Temple.

3) Eby’s Bar – recommended by Carla, a Brazilian-Italian image maker, gypsy and free spirit

Florence Crazy Shots Preparation
Eby and his art

My dear friend Carla took us to Eby’s Bar, describing Eby as ‘a shot artist’. I had absolutely no idea of what she meant until we entered and saw Eby working behind the counter. Forget Jagerbombs, tequila salt and lemon and such rubbish; Eby is indeed an artist, mixing colours and layers in tiny glasses, adding fruit juices and coloured powders. Carla ordered some ‘Eby’, his signature shot, with coke, kahlua and god knows what else, accompanied by a platter of chopped fruit in the shape of a face.

4) All’Antico Vinaio – recommended by Isabella, a jewellery artist and graphic designer

Florence Al Antico Vinaio
Fighting through my finocchiona panino

This is no secret. The place has occupied the top position of Tripadvisor Florence restaurants for years. There’s a queue outside all day long. For a reason. This place offers the biggest and tastiest panini you’ll ever eat in Florence. Thick slabs of schiacciata, a focaccia-type bread, filled by order with an array of meats and cheeses. We tried finocchiona, a fennel flavoured salami, and porchetta, roasted pork with herbs. Both delicious, huge portions and a reasonable price at 5€ each.

5) Giardino di Boboli – recommended by Michele, who was Argentinian in a former life, loves River Plate and barbecues with friends

Florence Garden Boboli Neptune Fountain
Garden art at Giardino del Boboli

Florence is beautiful, but it can leave you overwhelmed. The crowds in Piazza del Duomo will drive you insane, along with the pushing and shoving on Ponte Vecchio and the ubiquitous ‘Italian style’ queues. Want to spend a day away from it all, in a place that is so artistically beautiful that it left me with a bad case of Stendhal Syndrome? Head to Giardino dei Boboli, on the far side of the Arno just behind Palazzo Pitti.

Ditch the queue in front of Palazzo Pitti and head south until you find a little side-entrance to the Giardino, with next to no-one queuing. Pack a picnic and spend the day wandering around the garden, between statues and landscaped gardens, fountains and fake grottoes. Even if you’re just spending 48 hours in Florence, you can’t miss it!

Bonus tip! Fancy an ice-cream? Head to Gelateria della Passera in the square of the same name just off Ponte Vecchio. This tiny gelateria churns out the best gelato in Florence, with regular flavours as well as original ones such as ‘Monna Lisa’ with apples and raisins and ‘Crema alle spezie’ with seven spices.

Boboli Gardens are very popular, so make sure you book your entrance ticket ahead of time. Find out how to book Boboli tickets here!

Do you have any more Florence tips to add to this list? Leave me a comment!

39 thoughts on “Florence in Five Insider Tips”

  1. Some really nice out of the way places you’ve shared. A visit to any would be agreat way to escape the tourists in city centre. Thanks

    • Thanks James! There’s so much to see and do in Florence beyond the tourist traps (and even the tourist traps are pretty good!)

  2. Love Florence, the Arno, the bridges, and Boboli. I spent many months there years ago and always enjoy a revisit even if only in my memories.

    • Thanks for your comment, Glad you liked the post! There’s so much to do in Florence, you need another visit!

  3. Love, love, love Florence. I didn`t make it to the Boboli gardens when I went, but I could always see them from the rooftop of our hotel. They looked amazing. Next time I`ll go I will visit them!

  4. This is why we like insider’s tips, and we always interact with locals in the public place or a pub. The suggestions they give are always off-beat and well worth visiting. The view of the city and the church interiors are superb.

    • Hey Mindi! Those sandwiches are amazing, and a night at Eby’s is great fun! Glad you liked the post!

  5. Brilliant article, If only people attempted to explore cities properly and not just visit the famous touristy spots – I have been guilty of this on many occasion, in fact I’ve been to Florence and seen non of the above haha!

  6. Very timely as I am off to firenze soon. I visited no.1 about 10 years ago whilst cycling with friends and we were the only ones there which was great. So will go again this time. Ebys bar looks ace too! Thanks for the tips.

  7. I have been to Florence many times, but usually been to the tourist-places, by the pool (it was VERY hot some of the times we were there) or by the sea (we drove). Thanks for sharing these insidertips!

  8. We loved Florence, although it was brutally hot when we went. Some of the best tips are from the locals. People were waiting in line for 2+ hours just to see David. We got lucky that our hotel made a reservation for us and we were able to skip the line.

    • Florence can be hot and the David lines can be a killer! You did well getting the hotel to book for you!

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