I’d highly recommend visiting this time of year – crowds are fewer, there are several events going on, the climate is mild and the costs are less. Florence is a temperate city, with an average of only 88 days of rain annually. November is typically the rainiest month of the year, but the start of January has been a gray and gloomy one. But you don’t have to let dreary days drag you down!
Take a romantic rainy day stroll. So this isn’t exactly indoors as my blog title suggests. Maybe it’s because I’m originally from Raincouver (Vancouver, Canada), but my first suggestion to you is to pull up your boot straps and pop up your umbrella for one of the most enchanting afternoons you could picture. Florence can be even more magical in the rain, fog, or under the umbrella of clouds. The piazzas are speckled with colourful umbrellas and puddles that reflect the strong structures that surround you. Loggias, overhangs, shops, churches, and covered patios offer refuge, and the rain often lets up pretty quickly here. Get singing in the rain!
Cozy up with a tea cup in una sala da tè. St. Regis is one of the most swanky hotels in town, so I shyed away from setting foot in it, until a friend so smartly invited me to afternoon tea there. At a very modest price of just 15 euro per person, we enjoyed a splendid cup of tea and trays stacked with scones, sandwiches, macaroons, and other truly scruptous treats that could fill you for lunch or at least tie you over for a later dinner. The service and scenery were exquisite.
The presentation makes you feel like a noble, as the trays of fine teas and china, delicate finger foods, clotted cream and jam are all placed with care before you while you lean back on velvet cushions and lay your eyes on the illuminated stained glass ceiling of the Winter Garden. The structure was originally designed by Brunelleschi in 1432, turned into a hotel over 400 years later, and now pieces that add to the luxurious ambiance like the gorgeous marble fountain and grand Murano blown glass chandelier create for a perfect place to pop your pinky up with your tea cup. From 3:30-5pm daily in Piazza Ognisanti, call to reserve a table +39 05527163787
La Via del Tè offers a slightly more casual but still divine tea time. To sit down for nibbling and sipping time, go to one of the tea room locations either on Via Santo Spirito 11 or Piazza Ghiberti 22 (there are 3 locations in town, the other on Via della Condotta is a shop only). You’ll feel very Victorian here and the staff knows their wide selection of teas well. Be sure to go tickle your nose with the tea sample jars and choose a couple to take home with you to extend your tea party time. http://www.laviadelte.it/
Or, if hot chocolate is more your “cup of tea…” head to Rivoire, THE formal Florentine institution for cioccolata calda since 1872. This is not the powdered stuff you may be familiar with, but rather thick and rich “European drinking chocolate.” You’ll need the spoon. If you wish to sit and enjoy the bustle of the most lovely piazza in town, Piazza della Signioria, know you’ll be paying for table service. Or simply enjoy it at one of the most antique bars in the city.
For further cafe options, have a look at these locales where you’re welcome to stay a while to read, write, chat, surf (the web), or just chillax.
Hideout in a museum. Rain or shine, you know that Florence is flooded (pun intended) with museums of all sorts. The art city is abundant with museums of genres across the art canvas, but there many other fascinating types of museums to visit.
Get into some mad(ly awesome) science. Explore the brilliant minds of Galileo and other early scientists who made revolutionary discoveries in science and technology that we take for granted today at the Museum of the History of Science. Not only are instruments and experiments exhibited here, including the groundbreaking telescopes that Galileo constructed to see Jupiter’s moons, but also part of the very hands at work – Galileo’s fingers! The museum has won international awards and is a great one to take the kids to, with a family ticket option available and engaging workshops for young scientists. The building is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to the 11th century. For more information, see the museum’s website: www.museogalileo.it/en/
A little bit of everything at the historical Stibbert museum. It’s well worth the short bus ride just outside of the centre (Take the number 4 from Santa Maria Novella station and get off at stop “Gioia”) Stibbert had an Italian mamma and an English dad, inherited a fortune from his commander governor grandfather, and had eclectic taste. He already had a museum in mind when decorated his house, and wrote his vast collections over to the city of Florence in his will so it would enlighten the lives of others like you and I. You have your paintings, sculptures, costumes and furniture pieces, but the main spectacle here is the armoury collection. An impressive sight is a room with fully dressed Italian, German and Islamic knights of the 15th and 16th century on horseback. Other particulars of the villa are the collections of Oriental arms (Samurai stuff too!), the robe Napoleon wore when he was king of Italy in 1805, and the wall drawings crafted in leather. There are over 50,000 items to see in the Stibbert museum. The gardens outside are worth a walk, even on a gloomy day! This is another kid-friendly museum and garden to visit. For more information see website http://www.museostibbert.it/en
History is chic. Fashion museums like Gucci and Ferragamo are a stylish choice. Florence houses the flagships of these iconic fashion masters. The Gucci building is a cafe, bookshop, museum and shopping boutique all in one heritage palace in the beautiful Piazza della Signioria. Walk through nearly 100 years of fashion artistry while you gaze at red carpet dresses worn by the stars, alongside all the accessories of course. There’s even a Gucci car that was commissioned in the US. 50% of each ticket sale benefits the City of Florence preserve and restore the city’s signature art treasures. http://www.guccimuseo.com/en/museum/
The Ferragamo museum is located in another stunning, historical palace and its museum brings to light the illustrious artist’s mind through photographs, print, clothing and accessories – and, the shoes. Oh the shoes. Ferragamo was born in Naples, emigrated to the US at a young age and ended up in Hollywood crafting custom shoes for celebrities, especially pioneering women of the day. If you have a shoe fetish, you’ll want to see for yourself the 10,000 models of shoes from the 1920s to present day are on display! http://www.ferragamo.com/museo/en/usa/
Speaking of shoes, now might be a good time to go boot shopping. Who doesn’t want a pair of Italian leather boots? If you’re looking for a durable pair for the weather, but aren’t looking to spend a small fortune, check out Geox, Bata, or Peluso, and a shop that carries several quality brands that is under the train station but forgive me, I always forget the name! But if you are looking for those fancy names for your feet, hit up Via Tornabuoni for shops like Prada, Tod’s, and Ferragamo. Wherever you’re roaming in the city, those gray skies are gonna clear up and you’ll put on a happy face when you see all the SALDI signs. It’s sale season.
Meander in an indoor market. Florence’s Central Market, Mercato Centrale had a face lift in April 2014 and it’s always packed with people, because it offers so much to do in see in one place. You can sign up for a workshop (cooking class anyone?), eat at a variety of quality restaurants, shop the stands for fine Italian goods, sit down for a drink of any sort, and shop for souvenirs. If you decide to sit for something to eat and find the main floor too crowded, there are tables up top at most of the restaurant stops.
Or, sit at the bench of the piano placed in the space to bring mood music to the patrons. These pianos are in a few different spots around town, the train station has another for example, as they are in many other cities in the world. A young man tried his hands at the one in the Milano Centrale train station just recently, and landed himself quite a bit of a attention – millions of video views, work offers and interest from a television producer. Could the next YouTube sensation be you playing a tune in the heart of Firenze on a rainy day?!
Downstairs there is a food market open in the mornings that has a big spread of produce, dairy, meats, oils, herbs and spices to do your shopping for homemade meals or just have a bite right there!
Catch an original language flick in a beautiful cinema. The Odeon Theatre is a spectacle in itself. You feel as if you’ve walked into the 1920s as you stride across the original carpets and draw your eyes heavenward at the stained glass dome overhead. Films are available in English with Italian subtitles. See the program here: http://www.odeonfirenze.com/ There are two great spots for aperitivo or just drinks right outside the cinema doors in Piazza degli Strozzi: the Odeon Bistro http://odeonbistro.it/ and Colle Bereto. http://www.cafecollebereto.com/ Take your pick!
See a live performance. Bless your ears with symphonic sounds at the Teatro dell’Opera di Firenze. This opera house is modern with state of the art acoustics. The whole complex is an architectural work of art in itself, and if a contemporary structure can win over the classically-hearted Florentine residents, then it must be something to see. It contains three separate concert halls, allowing for three simultaneous shows to entertain audiences of up to 4,800. If you wish for some fresh air before or after the show, the theatre backs right on to the large Cascine Park. http://www.operadifirenze.it/en/
There is also the very beautiful and less costly Pergola theatre, a historic opera house that was built in 1656, Teatro Verdi, which interestingly was founded in 1854 on top of an old prison with some cells still visible today, and other small, local theatres where live shows are performed. http://www.teatrodellapergola.com/
Looking over these options, I realized that most of them are more lazy-day type activities. Do you have any suggestions for more active, indoor things to do in the city? Or any other ideas in general? Let me know!