When I lived in Florence on two separate occasions, once for a semester in college and again in my early twenties for a summer, one thing was always clear about the city. It was popular with travelers near and far. My walks to class involved battling map-toting tourists who frequently stopped in the middle of already narrow sidewalks to gaze up in wonder. I would bemoan the crowds, the lack of secret places to hide away in town, until I realized one essential component to traveling through this Renaissance city: resolve. In order to appreciate Florence, you must resolve to embrace the crowds but also commit to finding its hidden treasures.
Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and basically an open-air museum with every turn, Florence’s popularity is justified in every regard. However, if you want to spend your honeymoon in Florence as so many do, you don’t want the crowds to rain on your Under the Tuscan Sun image. In hopes of dodging the hordes of travelers exploring Florence on a daily basis, we have come up with your go to guide for exploring the city’s secret and cool sides on your honeymoon.
Where To Stay
Palazzo Magnani Feroni
As Florence is a great walking city, many honeymooners opt to stay right in its heart. Palazzo Magnani Feroni is one of Florence’s top luxury accommodation options. With just 12 suites, you can have that desired honeymoon attention and privacy. Each suite harks on the Renaissance with vintage furniture and textiles, marble bathrooms and baroque style mirrors. The 16th century property sits just a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery. Amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite TV, a billiard room, gym and free breakfast. Honeymooners flock to Palazzo Magnani Feroni’s unique panoramic terrace for stellar views of the Florence skyline. Sip on cocktails or arrange to have a private dinner up here and the magic of Florence, even with its crowds, will engulf.
J.K. Place Firenze
Florence’s accommodations aren’t all in keeping with a Renaissance spirit. Some, like J.K. Place Firenze, offer the chance to stay in a property with decidedly more contemporary décor. Located on Piazza Santa Maria Novella, close to the high-end shops of Via Tornabuoni and 10 minutes walking to the Duomo, the property is the first from the Italian chain. J.K. Place Firenze is the work of Italo-Israeli hotelier Ori Kafri and local designer Michele Bonan. It boasts an eclectic yet classical tone throughout its 20 guestrooms and suites. What makes J.K. Place Firenze high in our books its in unconventional check in and check out process. Rather than standing at a desk, guests check in and check out over drinks in the property’s lounge.
Borgo San Pietro
To take your Florence honeymoon to the next level, you can instead select to hide away at night in the surrounding countryside. Borgo San Pietro is the perfect place to do so, a 13th century villa turned boutique hotel. Located just an hour from Florence in the idyllic Valle Serena, the villa exudes that historic ambiance. Every room and suite features ornate chandeliers, antique furnishings and hand painted murals. Suites outfit with fireplaces and private courtyards. To sweeten the Tuscany image, couples can also take a dip in the property’s freshwater infinity swimming pool.
What To Do
Nothing quite says, “Honeymoon in Florence,” like tiptoeing along a secret corridor built exclusively for the Medici. Constructed in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari, the Vasari Corridor is one of Florence’s most exclusive and secret attractions. It acted as private walkway for the Medici to go between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti. Medici born could enter the city without having to rub elbows with the locals in the streets below.
The unique Florence attraction can be accessed through a secret stairwell near the Uffizi Gallery entrance. Measuring nearly 1 kilometer long, the passageway contains over 1,000 paintings and some of Florence’s little known views. Honeymooners will want to pause at the self-portrait collection, home to art spanning from the Renaissance to 20th century. The corridor runs the interior of the church of Santa Felicita and down the tops of the houses and gardens of the Guicciardini family. Eventually you’ll wind up in at the Boboli Gardens. The Vasari Corridor is only accessible by appointment.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
You will often spot the endless line to climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence for views high above the city’s rooftops. However, if you want a more private experience, try the neighboring Giotto’s Bell Tower instead. While quite recognizable in Florence with its white, red and green marble makeup in Piazza del Duomo, the 14th century bell tower is frequently passed over for the Duomo. Begun by Giotto in 1334, the tower features 414 steps to reach the top for its views above the city. You’ll often face a much short line and fewer people at the top than the Duomo.
Clet Street Art
Florence is known for its abundance of Renaissance art and architecture. If you want to explore a different side to the city, roam Florence’s streets in search of Clet street art. Artist Clet Abraham has been sprinkling Florence’s street signs with removable stickers for some time now. You can spot his work all over town or even pop in his studio in the San Niccolo neighborhood to take home stickers, prints and more.
If you are searching for one of Florence’s truly strange attractions on your honeymoon, look no farther than La Specola, the largest wax anatomical collection in the world. Part of the Museum of Natural History in Florence, the oldest public museum in Europe, the exhibit began as a personal collection of the Medici family. Opened in 1775, you can roam La Specola and its realistic and often frightening models.
When you need to wash your eyes a bit after viewing the models of the La Specola collection, honeymooners can head to the Bardini Gardens for a completely different image of Florence. While most head for the Boboli Gardens while in town, the Bardini Gardens quietly rest just a few hundred meters away. Only reopened to the public in 2005 after extensive restorations, the gardens frequently allow visitors to have them all by their lonesome. Throughout the 10 acres, you can spot sculptures, terraced hills and bright flowers. The Bardini Gardens were originally laid out in the 13th century.
The Leather School of Florence
Florence is known for its leather goods but many don’t know about the Leather School of Florence, otherwise the Scuola del Cuoio. Created after World War II to give orphans of the war a means to practice their trade, the school sets up in the former dormitory of the Santa Croce Church’s monastery. The Leather School of Florence is the largest genuine laboratory in the city where you can actually see the artisans at work creating leather goods.
Bike ON The River Arno
Sure, you could stroll along the River Arno, which runs right through Florence, hopping over the city’s many bridges along the way. However, Florence surprises with an unusual way to explore the river without the crowds. Water bike tours are offered along the Arno River in the morning and at sunset. You’ll climb aboard a floating bicycle system while enjoying the city’s Renaissance palaces, bridges and gardens along the way without having to dodge crowds in the process.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
Before you leave Florence, you’ll want to pick up something to remember the city by and your honeymoon. Head around the corner from the Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella for just that at the Officinia Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Believed to be the world’s oldest pharmacy and cosmetic shop, the 600-year-old establishment still uses ancient recipes to make its perfumes and cosmetics. While long in operation privately, the pharmacy opened its doors to the public in 1612. You can still purchase the Acqua di Santa Maria Novella which was the perfume created to commemorate Catherine di Medici’s marriage to Henry II.
A honeymoon in Florence doesn’t have to look like every other. While famed sites like the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo and Uffizi Gallery are worthy in their own regard, the couple seeking Florence’s secret side won’t be disappointed in this itinerary.
Have you been to Florence? What secret attractions have you uncovered?