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One of the world’s best-known cities, Florence holds many treasures and it’s one of Italy’s most popular places to visit. Once you’ve enjoyed the highlights, make sure to build time into your visit to explore the nooks, quirks, and hidden secrets of the Renaissance city. Our guest author and boutique tour leader Corinna Cooke will help you find them.
If you want to uncover Florence beyond the main sights, you simply need to walk a few streets away from the main attractions. Hidden in plain sight are incredible Renaissance masterpieces, quirky wine windows, and charming wine bars where you can while away an evening or two.
Author Corinna Cooke loves to wander the city, ducking into small churches, down tiny laneways, and pretty piazzas in search of Florence’s history and soul. One minute you’re spritzing a 400 year old perfume and the next you’re getting a bird’s eye view of Michelangelo’s David. This is the best way to explore Florence. Far from the crowds, you’ll find its Renaissance heart beating as it has for hundreds of years.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- Why you should get up early one day when you visit Florence
- Where to go for the best views of the city at sunset
- Why you should visit churches in Florence even if you’re not religious
- What to eat for breakfast in Florence
- Where to go for gelato in Florence
- Where to go to try a perfume that was made for a Queen hundreds of years ago
- Places where you can go to escape the crowds even in peak summer
About our guest – Corinna Cooke
I grew up in New Zealand. A high school art history teacher with titian gold hair who wore gypsy skirts introduced me to Italian Renaissance art. She was so impassioned when she talked about Botticelli and Raphael that it made me fall in love with them too. It was the beginning of a lifelong love of art, not just the paintings and sculptures, but the stories of the works and the lives and loves of the artists themselves.
I moved to London to go to makeup school and for the next few years traveled all over Europe and actually visited every painting Mrs Anderson had taught me about. Never underestimate the impact you can have on another human’s life by directing their eye to seek something special in even just one piece of art!
While in London I discovered the impressionists and would read books about their lives then go walk the streets of Paris they lived their lives in. More recently an art historian named Andrew Graham Dixon turned my world upside down by speaking so passionately about Caravaggio. He got me so excited about the artist that I had to go find every painting in Rome and am now working through a list of every Caravaggio I can visit in the world.
I have been a makeup artist forever. I left Europe to move to Los Angeles for work then after many years ended up moving to Phoenix. My work takes me all over the country and all over the world.
I have always had wanderlust. My favorite journey is the one that takes me to the airport to set out on another adventure. Often we travel spending just a few days in any one place, with the thought that we will get an idea of where we want to come back to. At some point I decided I didn’t want to keep seeing new places, instead I wanted to spend as much time as humanly possible in the one place that spoke to me more clearly and more passionately than any other – Italy.
One day a lady reached out to me on Facebook and said she had always wanted to go to Italy but that her husband didn’t travel. She didn’t want to go on a big bus tour and she didn’t want to go on a cruise. She wanted to do a trip that looked like the photos I posted on social media. One where she could sit in beautiful piazzas with a glass of wine or a coffee, wander the streets where the tour buses didn’t go, interact with locals going about their lives. She said her husband had had a great idea – why not pay me to take her on a trip?
With that my little tour business was born. She blew up her social media with photos of her trip and before long women from all over were asking to come on Glam Italia Tours.
Over the next few years people were constantly telling me they would love to do a trip like I do but wouldn’t know where to start. They all had the same questions, concerns and pain points, and I knew the answers. So I wrote a book telling them how to do it: Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy, Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget). The book quickly became a best seller.
One of the greatest loves in my life is the city of Rome. Personally I think Rome is the greatest city on earth. Yet people kept telling me they didn’t care for it, it was too crowded, too dirty, too expensive. When I dug a little deeper I discovered they were only going to the main tourist sites, being stuck in huge crowds and eating at tourist restaurants.
So I wrote a book to tell the world about some of the other truly amazing things to see and do in Rome. I wanted everyone to see Rome away from the tour bus crowds and to fall in love with the city the way I have. Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome came out in May 2019 and for the rest of the year stayed in the top 5 Rome travel guides on Amazon, and was frequently the top selling Rome travel guide.
Florence is another of my great loves. Over the last few years it has seemed as though each year there are even more tourists than the one before, all hanging out in the same handful of places, at times in overwhelming numbers. So I wrote my most recent book, Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Florence, to show travelers some of the other amazing places to visit in the city, places that knock your socks off but that again the tour bus crowds don’t go to.
I plan to write a total of 11 books in the series. These books aren’t written from the point of view of a cultural expert – instead they are the stories and discoveries of a regular person who happens to travel a lot and loves to experience more than just the main tourist attractions.
You can find Corinna on these channels:
- CorinnaCooke.com – Corinna’s author website
- Corinnabsworld – Corinna’s blog
Places mentioned in the show
- Le Volpi e l’Uva – wine bar in Florence recommended by Corinna for evening wine and cheese
- Piazzale Michelangelo – piazza up high in Florence with beautiful views of the city
- Gelateria La Carraia – artisan gelato store in Florence – one of Corinna’s favorites
- Oltrano – district of Florence with artisan wares
- Saskia – handmade shoes for men
- Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – shop where you can buy the hundreds’ year perfume of Queen Catherine de Medici
- Palazzo Vecchio – town hall of Florence in the Piazza della Signoria which was the former home of the Medici family
- Piazza della Santissima Annunziata – one of Corinna’s favorite piazzas in Florence close to the Duomo
- Chiesa di San Salvatore in Ognissanti – church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio & Botticelli
- Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele – Church in a 14th-century granary with a marble shrine to the Madonna.
Resources from Untold Italy
- Find out what to do in our Best things to do in Florence, the city’s Hidden Gems and district and accommodation recommendations in Best place to stay in Florence
- Discover the different ways to get from Rome to Florence, from a high-speed train to a leisurely drive through Tuscany
- Listen: to our other episodes with Corinna – Episode #104 Experiences to include in your dream trip to Italy, Episode #081: Packing for Italy, Episode #053: Planning the perfect Italy itinerary, Episode #006: Florence highlights
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.