Despite being one of the most traveled to countries in the world, the Bel Paese (in Italian "beautiful country", endearing nickname for Italy)still offers some off-the-beaten-paths, most authentic and less touristy destinations....even in the heart of the worldwide renown cities and areas!
Let's start exploring where one could go, visit and even eat! to feel like a local and not being constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists.
Our first discovery in this "Off the Beaten Paths" series is the Renaissance capital of Italy, and probably the most loved destinations but stars-and-stripes travelers:
FLORENCE...BETWEEN ART, CULTURE, LANDSCAPES AND GASTRONOMY
Along the Arno river, few steps from the shopping streets and hidden between the Grand Hotels and the American Embassy, there is Palazzo Corsini al Parione, one of the few and most prestigious example of Baroque architecture in Florence. Built and decorated in the XVII century, and now privately owned, this magnificient palace features some of the finest frescoes in the city, together with a spiral staircase and the extremely unique finely sculpted Grotto.
On the other side of the Arno river, in the so called Oltrarno, one can find another notable hidden site, the palace Casino Torriggiani al Campuccio, worth visiting thanks to its monumental gardens which create a well kept Italian style park in the historical center of Florence. Like the Boboli gardens but less visited, hence quieter!
Of course being in Florence, we need to mention also a couple of museums: 1) the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Hard stones laboratory) where one can visit all the laboratories where the city artistic masterpieces are restored, fixed and brought back to their original splendour; 2) the Bargello museum, Florence best kept secret, being definitely less visited and renown than the Accademia or the Uffizi Gallery, but featuring some of the best and most though provoking sculptures by artists such Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini, Giambologna......
Last but not least, some of the less talked about food specialties of the Florentine/Tuscan cuisine. While in Florence, one must try the typical crostini misto toscano (bruschetta with different spreads among which the chicken liver pate'), ribollita (overboiled vegetable soup....but the translation doesn't convey the deliciousness of this dish, one has to go and try it!!!!), pappa al pomodoro (delicious tomato and bread soup), pici con burro e salvia (hand made thick long pasta with butter and sage sauce...), trippa alla fiorentina (for real exotic food lovers....Florentine style tripe), rosticciana alla griglia (grilled prok ribs with olive oil and local herbs), salsiccia e fagioli all'uccelletto (Tuscan sausage and beans slowly cooked with tomato sauce and sage), peposo all'impruneta (beef stew slowly cooked with black pepper and Chianti wine), Vin Santo e cantucci (typical Tuscan biscotti with Vin Santo).
Even if it is not your first time in Florence, you can still enjoy it as if it was!