Florence's Centro Storico, the area between Piazza San Marco, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, and Santo Spirito, with all its elegant (and expensive) shops, is an odd microcosm that Florentines have to a certain degree surrendered to the hoards of tourists who descend upon their city throughout the year, as a sort of fiddler they must pay for living in one of the artistic capitals of the world, and in the hope that having done so, they will be left to live their lives in peace in their neighborhoods.
The ploy has worked, and while there are some positive aspects to this, it is also a shame, because Florence is much more lively than the casual visitor who strolls across the Piazza Della Signoria, reading signs in English and hearing a smattering of languages, might guess. And, as is the case with any city worth visiting, it's the life that one wants to see; after all, without its vitality, Florence would never have attracted the artists whose works people flock to see today.
These walking tours will give you an opportunity to see several parts of the old city that few tourists visit, and which are much more fun than the sterile sections where all the stores cater to foreigners. The tours are quite detailed, and you may want to print them out.
From Piazza del Duomo to Palazzo Pitti, the
long way around.
Florentine Squares: Views of the City.
L'Oltrarno: Florence's Left Bank
Florentine Churches: Seeking Brunelleschi and Finding other Things as Well.
Heaven and Hell, Warriors and Mechanics: A visit to Florence's Cathedral.
Liberty: The Italian equivalent of the Belle Epoque. There isn't much in Florence but it is quite pretty.