Imagine walking the streets of Florence and having them mostly to yourself. Picture yourself posing for photos in front of the Duomo or the Forte di Belvedere without having to get the angle right to cut out the other 1,000 people around you.
At some point, this will be reality for a little while.
It’s hard to believe that a few months ago we were talking about overtourism in Florence, Venice, and other parts of Italy. If you went there in the summer last year, you would have found it packed with crowds everywhere you went in the historic center and seen a long line of tour buses at the lookout spots too. All those people came for a good reason though. Even when crowded its allure is strong, which is why for many it’s their favorite Italian city.
It’s the city of Da Vinci, the home of the statue of David, great art museums, and that alluring skyline with church domes and burnt reddish-orange tile roofs. Is it high on your list for when we can move around again?
Visiting Florence With Fewer Tourists
As I write this, the country is still not open to any foreign visitors. “Dreaming of Florence” is just that for now. Italy has taken a forced breather from the usual influx from around the world, but eventually it will be a different story and one of the world’s most popular countries will get a flood of visitors again. Unless we get a vaccine quickly though, a return to peak traveler numbers will probably take years. Are you ready to beat the crowds?
Lots of rumors are swirling around about when you’ll be able to visit again, but before using those as your guide as to when you’ll be able to tour Florence, check the official Italy Tourism site for North America to get the truth. The tourism bureau is a government ministry, so they’re the official word on when borders will be open again and people from outside Italy can come visit. For obvious reasons, they are going to take it slow and be cautious after suffering early and heavily from the virus effects.
Things will be different, of course. When it’s safe to fly and safe to visit, booking a small group Duomo tour with insider access makes twice as much sense as it used to. Something tells me the days of 50 people shuffling through a place while following a leader with a flag and a megaphone is going to be out of the picture for a while. It’s going to be far preferable to book with a local company like Ciao Florence that is actually running its own tours and can tell you the exact parameters.
You’ll probably want to take a more active role than usual in planning where you stay as well, making sure it’s not going to put your health at risk. Sleeping in a hostel with 12 dorm beds in a small room is going to feel a lot more risky than it used to. Requesting information on an inn’s cleaning and sanitizing program would have seemed quirky and obsessive before. Now it seems perfectly reasonable and prudent to ask about this before booking.
As you take day trips from Florence or travel to other cities in Italy, splurging a little to get more separation between you and other passengers is probably going to be a worthy expense.
Take a Trip to Florence in the Movies
If you are dreaming of Florence and want to satisfy your wanderlust from home in the meantime, there are a few movies where the city plays a starring role or is at least a supporting actor.
In Room With a View, the view is Florence and the film won three Oscars, so this is a good place to start your dreaming of Florence movie marathon. This 1985 beauty that takes place around 1900, directed by James Ivory, has a cast of veterans plus a young Helena Bonham Carter playing a normal woman for once. Daniel Day-Lewis is in a secondary role before awards started piling up on his shelves from every movie he appeared in.
To see how much the movie business has changed since the early ’60s, check out this cringe-worthy trailer for Light in the Piazza, a sort of mystery and love story in one that is set in Florence, when a mother and daughter are visiting in the summer.
The Tom Hanks movie Inferno got panned by critics and audiences alike, which didn’t exactly end the Dan Brown series with a bang. (The first one grossed $758 million, this one about 1/10 that.) But while the first one (The Da Vinci Code) mostly took place in Rome and the Vatican, Florence gets more screen time here.
The 1999 film Tea With Mussolini takes place in a Florence of 1935. The critics savaged it and audiences didn’t show up either, despite the all-star cast of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Lily Tomlin, maybe because they were joined by Cher.
If you like a good mystery, the 1975 Brian de Palma film Obsession might be up your alley. Part of it takes place in a Florence visited by the character played by always intriguing John Lithgow. The musical score was nominated for an Oscar.
Another mysterious one is The Best Offer from 2013, starring Geoffrey Rush and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It didn’t catch on in North America, but was a big hit in Europe and won a slew of awards there.
Under the Tuscan Sun, based on the beloved Frances Mayes book, was directed by Audrey Wells and stars a radiant Diane Lane. Critics hated it, but audiences ate it up and the movie raked in millions for its producers. Most of it takes place in the countryside of Tuscany, but parts of it were filmed in Florence.
If you want one to watch with this kids, get an animated version of Florence in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a spin-off from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon universe and with Ty Burrell of Modern Family voicing Mr. Peabody delightfully. The duo travels through time and around the world, with one part being a visit to Florence during the Renaissance days of Da Vinci.
If you’re more into action flicks, there are scenes from Florence in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and Michael Bay’s 6 Underground, There are also some scenes in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal.
After a while, when the world opens back up to travelers and it’s safe to move about the planet again instead of just watching it on a screen, we might see you on the streets of Florence, from two meters away…