Visiting Florence off-season and why I prefer it
Crowds, heat, queues, bad odour, mosquitoes. This is just a brief characterisation of how I would describe as a holiday from hell. With all those bodies of tourists stuck to you, it does make it more challenging to be able to capture the true essence and character of a place. And most importantly to be able gain a more enriching travel experience.
Florence is one of my favourite cities in Italy that has such captivating heritage and culture. Which in my opinion, is best-visited off-season, where there are a less amount of tourists cluttering your visual range. One of my favourite cultural travel blogs – This is my Happiness – recently spoke about the importance of quality travel and the negative impact of mass tourism. It’s a very insightful read if you are interested in gaining an overview of the underlying issues related travel and sustainability. We both have a huge on-going passion for this subject, especially after our experience of attending Florens 2012, a conference formed by Fondazione Florens, to raise awareness of cultural and heritage issues in Italy and on a global level.
The quietest times to visit Florence
There are admittedly obvious reasons such as school holidays and T-shirt weather that make the summer season so popular to visit a destination such as Florence. Yet, wouldn’t it be great if you could walk down through the Piazza del Duomo without stepping on people toes? Or to be able to walk straight inside the Uffizzi Gallery without spending endless hours in a queue?
Without boring you with statistics, the quietest months (according to arrivals recorded in 2011/12) to visit Florence were November, January and February. Numbers of visitors reduce to nearly 100% compared to the summer months. OK, so a warm coat, some long johns and earmuffs may be required. But the cold can be soon forgotten when get that nice feeling that you have the city all for yourself with the locals. You can also make yourself feel even warmer in spirit for the fact that you’re doing your contribution towards making tourism more sustainable for the city.
Off-season highlights in Florence
Here are some enjoyable insights suggested by some locals ‘in the know’ of what to see and experience during the quieter months in Florence.
Festa del Cioccolato Artigianale – Chocolate Fair
Veronica Ficarelli’s events and specialities guide of Florence, “A Great Reason for Every Season”, recommends visiting the Chocolate Fair that takes place ever year in February. If you have constant dreams of bathing yourself under a huge chocolate fountain, then Florence is the best place to make those dreams come true. It is here that masters of chocolatiers across Italy gather together to provide the most indulgent chocolate experience ever.
Veronica’s guidebook features other interesting and unique ways to explore Florence in different seasons of the year, including some entertaining historical facts and seasonal Tuscan recipes.
The reopening of Tempietto del Santo Sepolcro, Rucellai Chapel
Alexandra Korey, Florence-based art historian turned blogger, will know of just about any new event or happening related to art in Florence. Her recent article on her blog ArtTrav, talks about the imminent reopening to the public, of renaissance polymath, Leon Battista Alberti’s imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem at the Rucellai Chapel.
Check out her website for ongoing stories about the ‘past and present’ of life in Florence, from art and architecture to current events.
Exploring the lesser-known Florence
Are you keen to explore more about the lesser-known history, art, craftsmanship and stories that Florence has to offer? The Florentine, the English-speaking news magazine in Florence, has started to offer a new series of guided tours and visits, led by the magazine’s own Editor-at-large, Alexandra Lawrence. A licenced guide, combined with 14 years of living in Florence, Alexandra has upcoming private visits planned, including the Villa Corsini and the Palazzo Davanzati.
Read more about her tours in her article So you think you know Florence?
The J.K. Place Boutique Hotel Guide to Florence
My favourite boutique hotel in Florence, J.K. Place has recently launched a blog as a compliment to their hard copy Essential Guide to Florence. In addition to talking about special events and exhibitions, they gives ideas on other interesting experiences such as creating your own perfume fragrance. Florence’s tradition of perfume distillery goes back to the Medici era and it still holds its high reputation today with brands like Dr. Vanjres – a Florentine pharmacist, and cosmetologist all in one. Read more here about how you can spend a day with him and illuminate your senses in his world of perfumery.
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, J.K. Place, Florence