Its famous pharmacy, founded by Dominican friars in 1221, is located around the corner from the square at Via della Scala 16. In their gardens they cultivated medicinal herbs that were used to prepare medications, balms and ointments for the small monastery. They follow the same formulas for preparation of spices, liquor, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to this day.
2) THE "DUOMO" (THE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE")
The facade and dome of Santa Maria del Fiore is imposing and awe-inspiring, dominating the large piazza in which it stands it is so large that it is impossible to photograph the entire structure without a special lens. Its beautiful marble polychrome facade of greens, pinks, and whites is unlike any other I have seen. The interior is massive and spectacular, my favorite part being the massive dome completed in the 1460s with a fresco of the apostles who appear to be sitting on the edges with their legs dangling over the sides.
This is one of the most impressive structures I have seen anywhere in the world and is a MUST SEE if visiting central Italy. Unlike the rest of the complex (dome, baptistery, vault, bell tower, and museum), you can enter the cathedral for free. Entry is through the north door of the massive west-facing facade and the line snakes along the routinely shaded (in summer) north wall of the cathedral, but it moves rather quickly. There are even free guided tours in several languages lasting around 30 minutes, so check at the desk on the left after you enter to inquire.
It has been said that Dante met his muse, Beatrice, here for the first time and fell in love with her. Beatrice’s family had tombs are there where her father, Folco Portinari, is buried. Many visitors like to think that Beatrice is buried in the church and in front of what tradition has identified as Beatrice’s tomb, you can find a chest full of messages lovers leave to Beatrice asking her to protect their love. Beatrice, however, was married to a member of the Bardi family and was likely buried in the tomb of her husband’s family in the cloister of Santa Croce Church.
Address: Piazza dei Giuochi, 50122 Florence, Italy
• MERCATO DELLE CASCINE: Is located in the beautiful Parco delle Cascine (the largest park in Florence). Open every Tuesday from 7AM to 2PM, it is probably the biggest and cheapest market in town where you can buy clothing, shoes, housewares and much more.
• THE CURE MARKET, In Piazza delle Cure, it is open every morning except Sunday and holidays.
• THE FIERUCOLINA: “The Fierucolina” is an organic market that promotes organic farming and biodynamic agriculture with food, wine, and handmade bio-manufactured products. It takes place the third Sunday of each month (except in August) in Piazza Santo Spirito (Oltrarno).
The tours are available 10 consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:
- CONTEMPORARY ART AND INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
- WHEN THERE WERE THE ETRUSCANS / ETRUSCAN PAST
- THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
- THE PATH OF PILGRIMS
Just down the street from Palazzo Piti on the Altarno side of the river, Casa Guidi is located on the first floor (second floor to Americans) of a historic palazzo. There is an engraved stone marker above the massive door indicating where she lived and a brass nameplate above the buzzer outside with details about operating hours. There is also a single brass button below the rest that merely says "Elizabeth".
The apartment consists of just three rooms that you can visit, but they are spectacular and contain furniture of hers and from the period as well as photos, paintings, busts, and other memorabilia. Her husband study is small, but has elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The dining room is large, but not extremely interesting. The living room, off of which are the bedrooms and kitchen (not open to the public, but apparently you can rent them for lodging). is massive and contains a large library of her works, more artwork, and some beautiful period furniture as well as some of her possessions.
The visit is self-guided and FREE, but you must visit on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (April to November) between 3PM and 6PM only. Just ring the buzzer for Casa Guidi, though the giant door and a gate, then go up one flight of stairs to her apartment on the left.
Address: Piazza San Felice 8, 50125 Florence, Italy
Phone: +39 055 354457
17) PONTE VECCHIO
18) PASTAFICIO CHELUCCI: PASTA FACTORY TOUR
During World War II, the Nazis took over the building, a villa, making it their headquarters in 1942. The family had to walk for two days to Florence while the Germans occupied their home. Once the Nazis fled from Allied Forces in December 1942, they returned home and were the first pastificio (pasta factory) of 36 in Pistoia to resume operations after the war. They are the only remaining pastificio of the original 36 in Pistoia.
The valley in which the villa sits is quiet, green, lush, and much cooler than smoldering Florence, so it was a breath of fresh air, literally, after a month in 100 degree Florence and its wall-to-wall tourists. If visiting Tuscany and tell him CombatCritic sent you!
Read my full review now!
Via di Valente, 7
51100 Pistoia, Italy
Phone: +39 0573 42011 for free tour reservations
Free entry to the outdoor Apriti cinema, an international film festival, held from the end of June to late July, is located in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, just east of the Accademia Gallery and Piazza San Marco. Films are from all over the world and are in their native languages with Italian subtitles. Starting at 21:30 nightly, there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase when available.
Title: 20 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence, Italy (Firenze)
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