1. Explore the Altro Arno
While most tourist stick to the “main” side of the river exploring the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Palazzo Vecchio, across the river the on the “Altro Arno” you can get a glimpse into authentic modern day Florentine life along with a couple of must-see tourist attractions. Head to the neighboring districts of San Frediano and Santo Spirto to feel the creative energy that fills the streets. From the artist galleries, cool cafes, to the little artisan shops there is so much to see and explore.
2. Sunset at San Miniato Al Monte
One of the top tourist attractions is to climb up to Piazza Michelangelo for the breathtaking views of the city. While this is something that is a must do, what most tourists don’t know is another three minutes by foot up the hill is San Miniato al Monte. This church is located on one of the highest points in the city and is said to be one of the most scenic churches in all of Italy. The grand steps leading up to the church make for a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the sunset while admiring the renaissance beauty of Florence.
3. Eat where the locals eat
One thing that does get the tourist to venture across the river is Gusta Pizza, a tiny stone oven pizza place right off the main square of Santo Spirto. The small shop was featured on the travel channel and so they have become a huge bucket list spot for foodies. While their pizza is pretty great, not far from there is a little place called Berbere. Here you will find the locals enjoying stone oven pizzas, a glass of wine and of course tiramisu.
4. Santo Spirto at night
At night, it is great to wander around the main squares like Piazza Republica with its grand archway and vintage carousel, or Piazza Della Signoria with all of the sculptures lit up and the fountain of Neptune. However, if you want to experience the real energy of an authentic Florentine night, head to Piazza Santo Spirto, the hotspot for the locals to meet their friends in the evening. You will find the piazza filled with groups of people mingling while sipping on their glasses of wine. Stop in any of the little bars in the square and grab a glass of wine to go, and sit on the steps of the church and people watch, or practice your Italian language skills and mingle with the locals.
5. Find a secret bakery
If you’re still out wandering the streets around 2 am, there’s a high chance of turning down a street to find smells of sweet delights lofting through the air. While you might not immediately know where the smell is coming from, if you follow the locals you will be surprised to find that scattered all around the city are “secret bakeries.” Selling croissants through their back doors, these bakeries are unmarked, and typically baking large batches for hotels, bakeries, and restaurants for the next day. If you happen upon one, just knock on the door, and say how many sweets you want. They will bring you back whatever is fresh out of the oven, typically a Nutella croissant.
Back on the main side of the river near the main train station, there is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This is one of the oldest pharmacies and perfumeries in the world. It has been running since 1612. While it does get some tourist going through, it’s not nearly as known as the other attractions. Step back in time as you explore the ancient apothecary where you can still buy the natural remedies that the Dominican friars studied.