An alternative journey: what to do in Florence to avoid the crowds?

The 2023 tourist attendance data is clear: Florence, excluding the capital, is the Italian city that has welcomed the most tourists in the past year. Second place shouldn't come as a surprise, considering how much it has to offer; over 10 million tourists appreciate the historical, artistic, cultural, and gastronomic events in every season. Who wouldn't want to find themselves, at least once, surrounded by Florence's Duomo (with Brunelleschi's unmistakable dome), the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and Giotto's Bell Tower? Who wouldn't want to admire the exercise of perfection of the David? Who wouldn't want to see the works of Botticelli, Titian, Da Vinci, Giotto, Caravaggio in person, in one of the most captivating museum complexes in the world?

As an endless source of wonder, these rightfully renowned attractions are the main destinations that mass tourism converges on. However, the experience is often marred by long queues, mandatory reservations, waits, and confusion. Alongside the classic destinations, though, there is another city, a non-touristy Florence that can offer just as much wonder to those with the right perspective. In this article, we offer an alternative journey: here's what to do in Florence to avoid the crowds. 

Are you ready to embark on this adventure?


A tour of non-touristy Florence in four stages

That's the beauty of the city cradle of the Italian Renaissance: the abundance of universally recognized treasures and the presence of hidden gems, waiting to be discovered. Let's embark on a journey that takes us through less-visited places, far from the whirlwind of mass tourism, and rich in charm, leading us to the things to see in Florence that few know about.

Let's start at a gate on Via Trento. Once we cross the threshold, we will enter a fairytale garden known as the Orti del Parnaso. An ideal stop for children and anyone looking to awaken their sense of discovery. Greeting us is a sculpture in the shape of a snake, or a dragon. It's the first guardian of a territory that lies halfway between reality and legend. On Mount Parnassus (which gives the park its name), it is said that Apollo slew a gigantic snake. Once past the creature, we can delve into the Tepidarium del Roster: an ancient Liberty-style greenhouse, one of the largest in Europe, filled with enchantment and life. A truly unique territory where you can lose yourself and rediscover your senses.


Continuing our journey into non-touristy Florence, we change dimensions. Just below Palazzo Vecchio, our descent begins. If you appreciate unusual places filled with mystery, the underground Florence is just what you're looking for. We descend staircases, explore buried rooms and corridors, known as "burelle," even mentioned in Dante's Inferno. These are places that were already explored in medieval times and are witnesses to Florentine history submerged over the centuries.

Once resurfaced, we set out to find Clet. If you're not already familiar with him, he's a French artist who fell in love with Florence and made it the home of his creations. On the left bank of the Arno River, just a few steps from the Ponte alle Grazie, you'll find his studio, but his works are scattered all over the city. Unconventional and irreverent, Clet is famous for his street art on road signs, turning them into ingenious art installations. Keep your eyes open to discover them all.

Our tour then takes us to an almost magical place, so close to Santa Maria Novella, but so far from the bustle of tourism…


Florence without a reservation - Arrival station: HZERO

We've arrived at HZERO. It's one of the best answers to the question of what to see in Florence without a reservation. Just walk through the entrance, and you'll feel like you're entering a space that has nothing to do with the "outside." The spaces of the former Ariston cinema, whose echoes can still be heard, are now home to one of the largest model railways in Europe. We pass through the red curtain, and there it is in front of us. We can approach it, walk through a variety of landscapes. Over 280 square meters of tracks that traverse hills, bridges, tunnels, and cities. The gaze latches onto a lamppost, to two lovers on a bench, to the sloping roof of a cottage, to a passing train carriage, clinging to it like catching a moving train. Meanwhile, the lamppost lights up, the train disappears behind the hill, autumn has arrived. It's an unprecedented show, and everyone is in the front row - adults, children, train enthusiasts, and the curious.


HZERO: The museum within the center, away from the chaos.

Entering HZERO is a bit like crossing a space-time portal. Just a few steps are enough to leave the chaos of tourism behind. Inside HZERO, time moves slowly on the tracks and quickly on the seasonal panels. The model is immersed in tranquility, so far from the hustle and bustle of the squares. If we climb the stairs, we can access the gallery: from there, we have a complete view of the entire model. We admire its harmony; it's a perfect microcosm in balance. When we think about what to see in Florence away from touristy spots, HZERO holds a special place: it's a world apart, just five minutes from the train station. A place to visit with children, to experience firsthand through dedicated workshops, or to carve out a moment of private peace, to observe from behind the glass before heading back outside. Or as a social call: with the intention of not staying for long, and the pleasure of lingering a bit more. Book your ticket now!