Maddie sets out on her own adventure in Florence with an agenda to discover local and cultural spots beyond the tourist attractions. If you love supporting small and local businesses, this list is for you!
I am halfway through my semester in Florence. Since arriving in Florence for my summer study abroad program, I have started adventuring out into the city and exploring past the typical tourist attractions and into the hidden gems.
1. Pino's Sandwiches
Pino's is a panini shop down the road from the CAPA Center. Since I have class from 9am-12pm every day, I usually walk out of class starving. I will give my readers fair warning: this shop definitely caters to study abroad students, making it less of a local’s spot. You walk into the panini shop and see a wall full of USA college pennants. The man behind the counter is a friendly guy who likes to tell jokes as he prepares your food. The food is amazing, and the atmosphere is cozy, making this spot well worth checking out when in Florence. For those who plan to grab a panini from the shop, make sure you say hello to the real boss of the operation–the small dog who sits in a room off to the side and barks orders anytime the commotion settles down.
2. Bottega D’Arte Eredi Paperone
Tuscan marbled paper.
Florence has a long history of making marbled paper, with techniques dating back to the 16th century. I found a shop that uses traditional paper marbling techniques to create one-of-a-kind paper. The owner is a 5th generation paper creator and a very friendly guy. I walked in one day looking for some authentic Tuscan souvenirs to take home. The shop owner invited me to make my own paper design and showed me how to create what’s called the peacock design. I’d suggest this authentic and local gem to those who want to support local artists and own a piece of Italy's culture.
3. La Loggia Degli Albizi
Because I am studying abroad in Florence, most of my days are spent in a classroom. My professors give us an 'Italian break’ (15 minutes, more or less) to divide up our 3-hour courses. During one of my breaks, I discovered La Loggia Degli Albizi coffee shop and fell in love. They have the friendliest staff that put up with my attempt to order in Italian (that is difficult before my morning espresso). I also suggest ordering the pastio pastry. This cafe is also home to the best cappuccino, in my opinion–and I've tried a lot.
4. The Leather School (Scuola del Cuoio)
Tuscan leather school.
When walking around Florence, you're never more than a stone's throw away from a leather shop or leather vendor. That's because Tuscany is known worldwide for their leather goods. This includes artisans hand-making amazing leather goods. Scuola del Cuoio is where you can go to buy handmade and authentic leather goods directly from the artist. The prices are a little higher, but it is worth it to support a trade that is threatened with extinction by the mass production of products.
These handmade items are also of a higher quality than mass produced items. The Leather School’s shop offers everything from jackets and handbags to smaller items like wallets and coin purses. Most of the products they sell are customizable, with the option to have one of the artisans monogram your purchase.
5. Street Vendor Artists
Here you can see the artist set up outside of the Uffizi Gallery.
Italy is home to some of the oldest and most well-known pieces of art. Florence is home to the Birth of Venus, Primavera, and Medusa, to name a few. It’s definitely worth visiting the museums around Florence and spending a day wandering the halls looking at the art. I’d also suggest checking out the artists OUTSIDE of the museum—in particular around the Uffizi Gallery. On a whim, I commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of my cat, as I figured it would make a sentimental and memorable souvenir.
The lovely woman who painted a photo of my beloved pet, Randall.
A close-up of the art I get to hang on to until I see my cat.
Maddie Anderson is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Interdisciplinary Studies major from the University of North Florida, she is studying abroad in Florence this summer.
See more of Maddie's journey in Florence.