Michele Bricci, a born-and-bred Florentine and general manager of FH Hotel Calzaiuoli, reveals his tips & tricks to explore unexpected Florence, a side of the city that often stays in the shadows of its more famous monuments.
A museum in the oldest hospital in the world
Just 500 metres from FH Hotel Calzaiuoli stands Santa Maria Nuova, the oldest hospital in the world still operational and the only one to have a museum boasting 700+ exhibits. Established by Folco Portinari in 1288, this year the hospital celebrates its 730th anniversary. It is supposed that Leonardo Da Vinci dissected corpses here to study their anatomy. Today Santa Maria Nuova makes for a fascinating walk among cloisters, the church of Sant’Egidio, and semi-hidden halls and rooms where you can discover artistic masterpieces by the likes of Alessandro Allori, Piero della Francesca, Buontalenti, Bicci di Lorenzo and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am-1pm/2-6pm; Saturday 9am-1pm. Guided tours in Italian and English. Duration: 1 hour. Max. 20 people.
Reservations: 055 2001586 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost: € 15 per person, by way of a donation.
Piazza Santa Maria Nuova, 1.
An old-world Florentine art workshop
The next stop on our tour of Florence is the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore Restoration Workshop, once situated behind the cathedral apse and founded 722 years ago to craft the sculptural and architectural decorations of Florence Cathedral and Bell Tower. Michelangelo and Brunelleschi both worked here. Now visitors can be wowed by master stone-cutters and restorers who, with the same tools as in the past, work to preserve this unique world heritage.
Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday – Friday at noon. Guided tour in English of the Workshop + Cathedral + Baptistery. Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes. Max. 20 people.
Buy online, cost: € 30 per person
Tours in Italian or at different times on request (min. 10 people).
Via dello Studio, 23A rosso
Perfume-making masterclass in Santa Croce
Ready for a scent-filled adventure? Devote an afternoon to the perfume-making workshop at Aquaflor. Nestled in the Renaissance cellars of the perfumery parlour, an olfactory expert will introduce you to the techniques used to design a custom fragrance. Equipped with beakers, pipettes and a raft of scents, you’ll train your nose how to distinguish the nuances of an essence in order to find the perfect formula for your very own perfume. The end result? A 100 ml bottle of scent made by you.
Workshop times: Monday to Friday at 11am or 3pm. Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes. Max. 15 people.
Calendar and buy online
Cost: 150 euro per person
Private workshops on request: email@example.com
Borgo Santa Croce, 6.
Iris in bloom, the symbol of Florence
A green expanse stretching 2.5 hectares beneath piazzale Michelangelo, which vaunts stunning views over the city. Florence’s Iris Garden took root in 1954 to host the first international competition for the best iris varieties, and since it’s taken place every year. A wonderful walk that winds along stone paths, down steps and beside a little lake to gaze at the 2,000 iris hybrid varieties from all over the world. The Iris Garden is only open in the spring during flowering.
Opening hours: 25 April to 20 May, Monday to Friday 10am-1pm/3-7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am-7:30pm. Free.
Guided tours in Italian and English on request: 055 483112 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting there: ATAF bus routes 12 and 13 (from Santa Maria Novella train station)
Viale Michelangelo, 82.
Dinner at an Oltrarno fashion atelier
Far more than a mere tailor’s shop hand crafting original clothing and home furnishings, Atelier Via Maggio is a space where artisan tradition embraces food and wine. Via Maggio organizes an experience series in its workshop rooms: private breakfasts and lunches, style advice, custom clothing and sewing and patterning masterclasses. Every month there’s a dinner lineup featuring Michelin-star chefs. Imagine dining among patterns, fabrics and haute couture…
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm
Events calendar online – Information: 055 2399093 – email@example.com
Via Maggio, 78.
Sleep in a room with a Duomo view
What better way to end the day than relaxing in a prestige room with a Duomo view at FH Hotel Calzaiuoli? The hotel is situated halfway along via Calzaiuoli, with everything you could possibly need at your fingertips: shopping, restaurants and main attractions.
Reservations: 055 212456 – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.calzaiuoli.it
Via dei Calzaiuoli, 6.