The Lesser Known Museums of Florence
When visiting Florence, expect to be surrounded by great food, impressive architecture, rich culture, and museums of art and history. All these things are what makes the city so special, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most-visited destinations in Italy.
This elegant city brims with numerous famous pieces of artwork and was heavily influenced by the creatives who established the Renaissance period in the 14th century. Surrounded by such culture and diversity, Florence has many museums and galleries to choose from, whether you want to learn more about the city itself or enjoy admiring the work of some of its most influential previous residents.
Whilst all the tourists rush to places like the well-known Uffizi Gallery or the Palazzo Vecchio, you might prefer to head off the beaten path and visit some of the lesser-known museums in Florence. If this is your plan then you’re in luck – with so many things to do and places to see in the city, here’s a list of great museums that aren’t as well-known in this outstanding city.
You have no doubt heard of the famous high-end designer Gucci, and this museum is a brilliant place to learn more about the brand and the creative innovator behind it.
Gucci was born in Florence, so it makes sense why the home for its history and storytelling is based in this beautiful city. Situated in between the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo del Bargello, the great thing about the Gucci Museum is that you don’t only get the chance to find out more about how this incredibly successful fashion designer came about, but you are also able to take in the history that the stunning buildings have to offer.
This unique museum allows you to experience all the eccentric and artistic designs that come from Gucci, including some of the more outstanding pieces of clothing and accessories. It also tells the story of the evolution of Italian fashion through the years, so it is a great place to visit if you have an interest in style.
You can also find the Gucci Osteria; a classy restaurant is to the left of the museum’s main building. The food at the Gucci restaurant is currently made and prepared by a Michelin star chef, so expect to experience some high-end food as well as high-end fashion.
After you’ve explored the museum and paid a visit to the restaurant, why not purchase a couple of souvenirs from the small, boutique Gucci store and Gucci Bookstore, where you can buy a range of clothes and accessories as well as plenty of different books on Italian art, fashion and design.
The next museum on our list is the Horne Museum. Here you can find furnishings and art that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and are all located in the former Palazzo Corsi.
Herbert Horne wanted the museum to be a place where people could gain knowledge of both history and art. The museum opened in 1921 and has since worked hard to keep its rich history alive and open to the public.
Currently, you can find impressive paintings, sculptures, furniture, and decorative arts at the Horne Museum. During your visit, you should also be sure to check out the library on the second floor of the Palazzo Corsi and admire the impressive collection of books that are housed here.
Fredrick Stibbert, who came from an English father and Italian mother, was born in Florence and educated in England. After inheriting wealth in his twenties, Frederick Stibbert became an electric art collector and opened his museum to display his possessions, leaving it to a foundation in his will that still manages the building and its exhibitions today.
The Stibbert Museum contains about 50,000 objects part of the collection, including European, Japanese and Islamic armor, a picture gallery, costumes and porcelain ornaments. There are currently ten rooms open to the public, showcasing a brilliant range of historical items that not only shed light on Italy’s past but also the past of cultures and civilizations from across the world.
Stefano Bardini Museum
The Stefano Bardini Museum is a great place to be when out and about with the whole family, as there is something for everyone here. There’s no particular theme to the items displayed in this museum, which makes it a great choice of somewhere to visit if you’re traveling with a group that have lots of different interests.
This museum has acquired its name after its creator, Stefano Bardini. Bardini was a well-known and well respected antique dealer, who decided to open a museum in which he would display his collection to the public.
Years of work went into curating the collection housed at this museum, which means that the items on display are quite spectacular, with plenty of hidden treasures. The building itself is worth visiting for its style alone, which is predominantly inspired by Renaissance design but was ‘eclectically’ adapted by Bardini to suit his tastes.
La Specola Museum
At this spectacular museum, you’ll find a profuse collection of natural history. La Specola Museum has a mission of ‘enhancing the scientific and historical collections – from mineralogy to astronomy, passing through botany, zoology, anthropology – as public goods for people and communities. With all this and more on offer, this is one museum in Florence that will not disappoint.
There are more than 8 million specimens to explore and find out more about in this museum, which means there is more than enough to see to visit this museum a whole day out in the city. Marvel over the collections and let the La Specola absorb you in an abundance of knowledge.
The collection here has taken over 5 centuries to accumulate, so the specimens on display are very diverse. If you are looking to gain a wider insight into the history of the planet, visiting the La Specola museum will allow you to do just that.
When it comes to museums in Florence, this is a great one for the whole family, particularly if you have kids that love animals and the natural world.
Salvatore Ferragamo Museum
Another museum that pays tribute to the stunning history of Italian fashion, in particular footwear, is the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Established in 1995, the museum was created to display the stunning artistic skills that the famous Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo possessed and tell the story of what later developed into a luxury lifestyle retailer.
This unique museum will take you on a journey through time that started with the Ferragamo family, showcasing some of their most impressive work as well as the story of how they grew the company over the years.
The building that houses the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum is the historic Palazzo Spini Ferroni in Florence, with the collection located in the basement. The museum has previously toured the world, with exhibitions visiting London, LA, Tokyo and Mexico before the owner realized that the permanent place for the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum was to be in Florence.
The Palazzo Spini Feroni was built in 1289 and during the nineteenth century was used as a luxury hotel before becoming the seat of the City Council at the time of Florence Capital. In 1938, just after Salvatore Ferragamo opened his first footwear workshop, the Palazzo Spini Feroni was purchased to become the headquarters of the company as well as its first store.
You can now see stunning seventeenth and eighteenth-century Florentine art hanging in the rooms of the palace, with the entrance hall displaying the medieval coats of arms of the Florentine Arts. This impressive building, paired with the story behind Salvatore Ferragamo and his family is something that you should experience when in Florence.
Perfume and Apothecary Workshop of Santa Maria Novella
Taking you right back to Florence, 1221, the Perfume and Apothecary Workshop of Santa Maria Novella tells the story of how this amazing company developed from what was originally a garden made by a convent.
The garden was created by the convent of Santa Maria Novella, developing over time into a place where a wide variety of plants and flowers were grown. Years down the line, products from this garden were used to create cosmetics, fragrances and wellness products.
The stunning perfume shop that still uses the products from this garden is so full of history that it feels more as though you are stepping into a museum. It’s not only a shopping experience; it’s an opportunity to experience how these products have developed over the years and see first-hand one of the oldest organizations in Florence are still going strong today.
If you are wanting to combine your love for history with your passion for beauty products, then you must visit the perfume and apothecary workshop of Santa Maria Novella.
Museum of the Innocenti Institute
The Museum of the Innocenti Institute was originally an orphanage that also helped families who struggled to care for their children as a result of poverty. Opened in 1419, this incredible museum centers around the unique story that sets it apart from all others in Florence.
The exhibitions here tell the story of the children and families that came to be protected and cared for through the years, displaying their stories through art. Whilst the Institute is still active today, it is now also open to the public so that they can explore the compelling stories that lie within this astonishing place.
If you are looking to admire the work that happened and continues to happen in this institute, you can find the Museum of the Innocenti situated in the Piazza Della Santissima.
Although Florence is full of great Italian cuisine, beautiful architecture and historic streets to shop and roam, you must not miss out on all of the wonderful things that can be found in the lesser-known museums of Florence. A holiday full of knowledge and culture is a holiday well spent. Get to know how Florence grew, what businesses helped make it thrive and who came from this beautiful part of Italy that is now recognised all over the world.
We hope that after reading all our suggestions above, you’ll now be able to discover some of the best museums that lie off the beaten path within Florence.
When planning your perfect trip to Florence, feel free to browse our trip types to see what else you can get out of your special holiday to Italy. Alternatively, get in touch with our team and start planning a bespoke tour of this incredible city.