Off the Beaten Path in Italy

Italy is the world’ most popular tourist destination and for good reason. Besides the usual list of things to do, there is a wealth of cultural and historic sights that are well off the beaten path and therefore less crowded.

Costa S. Giorgio, 2, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
The Bardini Garden is one of Florence‘s best kept secrets. It was built in the 12th century as part of a large estate owned by the Mozzi family. During the 20th century it was closed for many years and only reopened in 2005 after significant restoration. The garden is small and easy to walk through in about an hour and its hillsides offer spectacular views of Florence. Wandering among the terraces and flowers is an excellent way to escape from the touristy historic center and instead feel part of what this old city once was. During the off-season and in the morning or late afternoon, you may be the only visitor! The Bardini Garden can be accessed in two ways. One is by going into Boboli Gardens and exiting on the left side—this can be hard to find, but is marked on the Boboli Gardens map you receive on admission. The second way is via street da Costa San Giorgio 2. The garden opening hours vary according to season. It is closed the first and last Monday of each month. Admission is included in the Boboli Gardens ticket, or can be purchased separately for around 10 euros (and includes admission to the villa). There is also a restaurant with beautiful terrace views.
Via della Scala, 16, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Elevate the normally mundane experience of shopping for medicine-cabinet basics like soap and toothpaste with a visit to one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. In this 13th-century chapel with early Renaissance frescoes, Gothic carved wooden cabinets, and crystal chandeliers, most items are still crafted according to formulas originally created by Dominican monks. A small museum displays equipment once used to make Santa Maria Novella products, as well as a collection of beautifully painted ceramic jars that held the herbs and powders. Linger a little longer in this fragrant world by ordering a pot of herbal tea or a small glass of one of the historic liqueurs in the tearoom.
Via Montebello, 58r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
During my last stay in Florence, I wanted to learn more about the artisan trades, and Bruscoli was recommended to me by a local. I am so glad it was. As I walked along the Arno River on my way to the workshop, I had no idea what an extraordinary little slice of Florence’s history I was about to witness. At Bruscoli, you can learn about the artisan heritage of Florence from Paulo Bruscoli, a fourth generation craftsman and owner of a small shop that sells both Florentine paper and leather products engraved with gold leaf. From stories of the bookbinding tradition in his family and the great flood of 1966 to his extensive collection of traditional engraving tools, the details housed in this small shop bring to life a tradition deeply rooted in Florence’s heritage yet unlikely to continue in the future. Bruscoli is an easy walk from the city center. High-quality leather and paper products are for sale, but Paulo Bruscoli specializes in personalized items, which you can order and pick up later or have sent to you. Mr. Bruscoli speaks English.
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