The Internet, a modern marvel. From my apartment in Houston, TX, it has provided me with research and contacts for a first-time visit to Florence. It helped me discover the website you’re reading and through a generous offer, an invitation to guest blog about my travels and preparations as a result of conversations with website founder, Alexandra.
The undeniable beauty of Florence is on display in gorgeous photos posted on Flickr and described in assorted blog posts around the Internet. It’s a piece of cake to find office travel guides and comprehensive reviews online (Fodors, New York Times, Lonely Planet). Google searches with “My Florence trip” will find visitors raving about personal trips to the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi. And, for centuries, traveler have visited the Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Galleria degli Uffizi, Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace.
But there is also the weird traveler, one who skews away from the average, who’s fussy inclinations leave them dissatisfied with the straight and narrow and looking of the unusual and odd. There are resources for myself and those who like their city’s served with a side of the eccentric. London has Quirky London Tours and the newly published Secret London: An Unusual Guide, collaborative travel site Nothing to See Here is international in scope and everything the fifty state’s have to offer can be found on Roadside America.
There is no “Not For Tourist” guide to Florence, and since the best sources of such attractions often come from locals, my lack of language skills keeps me from reading any websites other than English ones. In the hunt for the offbeat, Atlas Obscura is a good starting point for Italy on the whole. “A compendium of this age’s wonders, curiosities, and esoterica… with the goal of cataloging all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist.” Dylan Thuras and Michelle Enemark, of Curious Expeditions also travel the world, “devoted to unearthing and documenting the wondrous, the macabre, and the obscure from around the globe.” Between the two websites, they have unearthed intriguing Florence destinations like the oldest still-operating pharmacy in the world, Galileo’s middle finger, and La Specola, “the largest and most famous wax anatomical collection anywhere in the world”
Lastly, I have to add the Casa del Formaggio, a destination with a sense of humor and lacking in some taste. With even the author of the post unsure of where he found it, the House of Cheese might put me on a wild goose chase through Florence. And often the best places are the one stumbled upon while trying to arrive somewhere else.
Editor’s note: Robert will be happy to know that there is also a Casa del Prosiutto, which is a simple, cheap restaurant in Vicchio about an hour’s train ride from Florence (but don’t try to get to the restaurant from the train station by foot). A display of prosciutto greets you at the door and you can have your cured meat sliced and slapped onto bread. Sadly his visit is in the winter, and without a vehicle, or else I’d suggest the Niki de St. Phalle Tarot Card park in Maremma, about which I will write this summer.
Readers – can we help Robert by suggesting other weird, odd, obscure things to do in Florence?