Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Non-tourist experiences in Florence and Venice

Non-tourist experiences in Florence and Venice

Aug 31st, 2006, 05:12 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 12
Non-tourist experiences in Florence and Venice

My husband and I are spending 9 days in Italy the 2nd week of September. During that time we will be spending 2 days in Florence and 2 days in Venice. I have been before (15 years ago) and love the traditional Art and Architecture attractions that are well deserved tourist attractions...however my husband is less interested in these and is looking more for unusual experiences...Any suggestions?

I know this sounds vague...maybe someone out there understands what I mean.


teakdog is offline  
Aug 31st, 2006, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
Can you describe your husband's interests? Woodworking? Gardening? Genealogy? Sports? Photography? Flying? Cooking? Metalwork? Erotica? Comic books? Movies? Fishing?

nessundorma is offline  
Aug 31st, 2006, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,630
In Venice, if you take the trip out to Torcello, there won't be many tourists there. Very lovely, very evocative and ... I think lonely is the word. Magnificent mosaics.

Try to find the camel house. This house with a camel on the front is in a very untouristed part of Venice. Or buy the Chorus Pass and hunt down the churches that aren't on the tourist path; there are several. You will see some cool sights. Find the only wooden house in Venice, near the gondola building yard.

In Florence, head over the Ponte Vechio, bear left, and uphill, and wind and walk until you get to San Miniato al Monte. Attend vespers and here the chanting. Then walk to Piazzale Michelangelo, have coffee, and head down the steps back into Florence.

Also, don't miss the complex at Santa Croce. Everything there is a little different.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Aug 31st, 2006, 07:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,382
In Venice, we enjoyed watching the construction of gondolas at a workshop in Dorsoduro near the Zattere Traghetto.
Jean is offline  
Aug 31st, 2006, 07:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,299
I think just getting lost in Venice-away from the Rialto-San Marco tourist path-is fantastic, and it sounds like something your husband might like. There is something special around every corner in Venice, it seems.
christy1 is offline  
Aug 31st, 2006, 07:50 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,456
> Find the only wooden house in Venice, near the gondola building yard.

I did not know it was the only wooden house in Venice but thinking asbout it, it could well be. A bit funny in Venice but it's a tyrolian architecture. It IS the building of the gondola repair place.

What Jean suggests is the same place.

I think most of the things you do there are touristic things anyway at certain level. And Venice itself is an unusual experience, esp. for the first timer however touristic and crowded (you are going in hight season)it can get.

If your wish is to get away from the crowd, perpaps visit the cemetery island of San Michele, only 5 minutes vaporreto ride from Fondamenta Nouve stop of Venice on the way to Murano. Get off the boat with local old ladies with flowers, visit a vast graveyard and take a peek of Venice Island from there. Some famous people including Igor Stravinsky are buried there. Cemetery island, doesn't that sound a bit unusual ? But even there, it cannot be completely free of tourists. Giudecca Island might work too, closer to Venice island and a gorgeous view over Venice away from the crowd of Venice itself.
kappa is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 05:07 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,618

Buy yourself a picnic at the Mercato Centrale in Florence.

You might also enjoy the Museum of the City of Venice, which is little-known but really interesting.

Read Wm. Goldman's `Silent Gondoliers' and try to spot the places mentioned in the book -- the waterboat fire station, the `final exam' corner for gondolier school, etc.

capxxx is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 05:15 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 12
Thank you all! I appreciate your thoughtful insight...will have to look into these wonderful suggestions!

teakdog is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 05:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,759
Try a trick a friend taught me: find a restoration/construction site just before lunch break and follow the workers to their choice of eatery. We discovered a terrific tavalo calde in Florence that way and an even better trattoria in Rome and felt part of the midday camaraderie of folks who actually live in the city.

In Venice, one of our students, asked at Gam-Gams, a Jewish ghetto kosher restaurant , whether they knew of a Seder supper: they invited him to attend a Friday night meal that the locals host for visitors from around the world every week.

My husband, who is into bookbinding, showed an educated interest in a papermakers' speciality shop in Florence and we ended up in a backstreet bar talking esoteric bibliographic stuff for hours over really good local wine.

As the previous poster suggests following your hobbies and passions with some conversational openers can lead to off-the-official-tourist-itinerary adventures.

Good luck!
LJ is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 05:43 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 4,874
If you go to one of the church "squares" (e.g. Frari or S.S. Giovano e. Paolo) after school is out for the day, you will see the kids with their hoola hoops, riding toys, etc., with their parents sitting on benches or at tables watching them. It is a little glimpse of daily life of the residents of Venice.
missypie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 06:12 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,178
In Flroence, you and our husband might try the Science and History museum which is full of mechanical devices and dsiplays, including those belonging to Galileo. There is also a separate anatomy museum of sorts--really interesting or really ghastly depending on your stomach--called La Specola, which is full of anatomical models. If you google "La Specola Florence" you should link to their web site.

If you visit San Miniato al Monte in Florence, you can avoid the climb by taking the #12 or #13 bus there and then walk DOWN the hill.

You might have lunch at Ristorante Omero overlooking Florence, in a building opposite Galileo's house. Take a taxi there, have lunch, then walk down the hill back into Florence on country roads. You'll eventually reach San Miniato and Piazzale Michelangelo.
ellenem is online now  
Sep 1st, 2006, 06:19 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 4,874
I'm going to add this, not for you, but for anyone with kids who might pull up this thread later on: Our favorite "non-tourist" experiences have involved our kids playing on playgrounds. In Florence, there was a little playground near our flat. Our daughter was approached by two younger Italian boys who "made" her play with them (they led her by the hand to where they were shoveling rocks onto the slide). The played together so adorably for about 45 minutes, until the little boys had to go home to dinner. Such a terrific memory!
missypie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2006, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 92,039
These are places I seek out:
grocery store
post office
hardware store
laundry matt
street markets
These are not necessarily 'unusual' for locals, but are normally not activities for tourists.

Also watch for flyers, local papers, and ask around. I have found church bazaars, school pagents, firemans BBQ, free music festivals, fundraising events, special exhibitions, etc.

suze is online now  
Sep 1st, 2006, 06:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 92,039
LJ's suggestion of discretely following locals is one I have used too. In Venice I couldn't find the grocery store. Saw an older lady with an empty cart on wheels and followed her... sure enough, lead me right there!
suze is online now  
Sep 2nd, 2006, 07:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 102
BRR is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Jul 11th, 2016 10:19 AM
Jan 16th, 2008 12:31 PM
Mar 9th, 2007 08:51 PM
Mar 8th, 2007 10:04 AM
May 19th, 2004 05:16 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:33 PM.