LAUANTAI, 12. SYYSKUUTA 2020
Cradle of the Renaissance, romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible, Florence (Firenze) is a place to feast on world-class art and gourmet Tuscan cuisine.
Florence, capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell'Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.”
Art & Architecture
Few cities are so compact in size or so packed with extraordinary art and architecture masterpieces at every turn. The urban fabric of this small city, on the banks of the Arno river in northeastern Tuscany, has hardly changed since the Renaissance and its narrow cobbled streets are a cinematic feast of elegant 15th- and 16th-century palazzi (palaces), medieval candle-lit chapels, fresco-decorated churches, marble basilicas and world-class art museums brimming with paintings and sculptures by Botticcelli, Michelangelo et al. Unsurprisingly, the entire city centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Italy's fashion industry was born and bred here. Homegrown designers Guccio Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo opened haute-couture boutiques in Florence in the 1920s and shopping in the Tuscan capital has been stylish ever since. A-lister fashion houses lace Via de' Tornabuoni and a Pandora's box of specialist boutiques selling all manner of beautiful objects parade alongside family-run botteghe (workshops) in a glorious tangle of medieval backstreets. Watch fourth-generation Florentine goldsmiths and shoemakers at work, buy artisan scents evocative of the Florentine countryside and Tuscan sea breeze, and know the tag 'Fiorentina' is one of the finest international labels going.
Taste of Florence
Quality produce sourced locally, seasonally and sustainably is the holy trinity and Florentines share an enormous pride in their culinary tradition. Their city, surrounded by wine-rich hills, is a gourmet paradise where eating and drinking exceedingly well is mandatory. Be it a traditional bowl of earthy ribollita (bean, bread and veg soup), a tripe panino at a family-run food truck or a blue T-bone steak served in a market trattoria unchanged since 1915, dining in Florence is timeless and memorable. Raw cuisine, fish bistros, craft cocktails and the dazzling creativity of modern young Tuscan chefs add contemporary edge.
La Dolce Vita
Stand on a bridge over the Arno several times in a day and the light and mood changes every time. At sunset hike to Piazzale Michelangelo to be dazzled by a palette embracing every known shade of soft pink, orange and fiery amber. Surprisingly small as it is, Florence looms large on the world's 'must-sees' list – and not just for its unmatched treasure chest of art. Rich in culture, backdropped by history and anchored by family, faith and food, the Florentine lifestyle is enviably sweet. Enjoy a go-slow afternoon passeggiata, indulge in an aperitivo at dusk, savour la dolce vita…
BEST TIME TO GO TO FLORENCE
The best time to visit Florence is between May and September when warm weather ushers in art festivals, open-air dining and the kind of Italian sunshine that inspired the Renaissance painters. Unfortunately, it also brings sweltering weather, tourist swarms and high hotel rates. If you visit in late fall or winter, you'll enjoy lower room rates and much shorter lines at the Uffizi. But the meteorological conditions won't be as hospitable, with low temperatures dropping into the mid-30s Fahrenheit.
In April, you'll experience temperatures in the 45- to 65-degree Fahrenheit range, making a light coat necessary – although the Italian sunshine still beams bright. During this time of year, you also have a higher chance of scoring a deal on a hotel. But you also might contend with children on school trips and more rain showers.
Florence is alive at this time when the vibrant sunshine, festivals and open-air restaurants lure travelers. But just as temperatures (average highs in the upper 80s) and tourist crowds swell, so do hotel rates. Book your room several months in advance to secure your place. Note that many Italians go on vacation in August, meaning some shops and restaurants may close for a few weeks at a time. However, most businesses around the center of Florence will likely remain open to appeal to visiting tourists.
Temperatures between the mid-30s and upper 50s keep tourists at a minimum. But if you're willing to brave the cold conditions – sometimes icy and windy – you'll enjoy fewer lines at major attractions and reduced hotel rates.
The fall sweet spot, October, features mild weather with warm days and barely chilly nights – average highs linger in the low 70s. Plus, the city will have emptied out a bit after summertime's tourist rush.
GETTING TO FLORENCE
Florence is well-connected with the rest of Italy and with Europe, and is easy to get to by air or land. In the last few years there has been a significant increase in traffic in and out of Florence's Vespucci Airport, and the infrastructure and facilities are constantly being upgraded. Florence is also a key node on the Italian railway network. It has good connections with the main cities in the north, while to the south Rome is only about an hour and a half away. Work on the Bologna-Florence stretch of the high-speed railway line (TAV, Treni Alta Velocità) is at an advanced stage, and a new station is due to be built in Florence.
The A1 motorway, the main road artery linking the north and south of the country, runs past Florence, which has four exits. A third lane is currently being built on the Barberino-Incisa stretch of the A1. The A11 motorway and the Florence-Pisa-Livorno (FI-PI-LI) dual carriageway link the city with the west (Tyrrhenian Sea) coast.
GETTING AROUND FLORENCE
The best way to get around Florence is by foot. In fact, you can walk from one end of the city to the other in about 30 minutes, passing many recognizable sites along the way. Hopping aboard an ATAF bus is another option. To get into the city, many travelers fly into Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA) in Pisa, making a pit stop at its Leaning Tower before taking the train to the main station, Stazione di Firenze Santa Maria Novella. You can also fly into the small Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR) in Florence and take a bus or taxi to the city center. Renting a car is not recommended because skinny, one-way streets make driving a nightmare and many areas are relegated pedestrians or authorized traffic only.
By Foot - Florence was practically made for walking – except, perhaps, for women fond of heels. The ancient city's cobbled walks will de-heel pumps faster than you can say arrivederci . We recommend wearing a comfortable pair of walking shoes and exploring this intimate city's slender streets – and all of the Renaissance architecture, quaint shoe shops and tasty Tuscan restaurants along the way. The streets are easy to navigate, but if you want a little guidance sign up for a walking tour.
Bus - If your feet get weary from walking, you can hop aboard one of the city's efficient ATAF buses – but remember to validate your ticket once you get on. One-way tickets cost about 1.50 euros ($1.70) and are available at local Italian convenience stores.
Car - Cars and Florence really don't mix. For one, much of the city center is off-limits to tourist drivers – those areas marked with "ZTL" (" Zona a Traffico Limitato " or Limited Traffic Zone) are for authorized traffic only. Two, the city is composed of numerous pedestrian areas and narrow, one-way streets, which make driving an absolute headache. To top it all off, you need a special ZTL permit to do any driving. If you must drive, you should park your car on the city outskirts in one of the parking compounds. And then depending on the lot's distance from the city, you can either walk or take a taxi in.
Taxi - Taxis are expensive here: The meter starts at about 3 euros ($3.40) on weekdays and Saturdays, and is even higher on Sundays as well as between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. If you're on a budget, you should use taxis sparingly. In fact, many travelers rely on them only for transportation to and from the Stazione di Firenze Santa Maria Novella (Florence Train Station). You should also note that hailing taxis is illegal here – call ahead or head to an official taxi rank (line) found at most major squares.
WHERE TO STAY IN FLORENCE
- NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa
Located 350 m from Ponte Vecchio, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is an elegant 5-star hotel in Florence. It offers uniquely decorated rooms with modern décor, free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV. All rooms at the Firenze Porta Rossa hotel include air conditioning, a minibar and private bathroom. Some also feature original frescoes. Ironing facilities are available on request. The Savini Tartufi Truffle Restaurant Firenze restaurant serves local cuisine and Italian classics, specialising in Truffle-based dishes. An extensive buffet breakfast is served daily in the elegant dining room. Discounted rates are offered at Savini restaurant. Located in a pedestrian area, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is 500 m from Florence Cathedral and 300 m from the Uffizi. The 12th-century Monalda Tower is also part of the hotel.
C-Hotels Joy offers accommodation in the heart of Florence, 150 m from Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free WiFi is featured throughout. All rooms at this 4-star hotel are air conditioned and offer a flat-screen TV. Guests will find a 24-hour front desk at the property. C-Hotels Joy is 1.3 km from Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio. The Uffizi Gallery is 1.6 km away. Fortezza da Basso is 600 m from the hotel. The nearest airport is Florence Airport, 6 km from the property.
Located a 15-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella Train Station, Horto Convento offers rooms with free WiFi in Florence. Guests can enjoy a garden and an on-site bar. Featuring garden views, all rooms come with air conditioning and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. The bathrooms include a rain shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Pitti Palace is 1 km from Horto Convento. Both Santa Maria del Fiore and Piazza della Signoria are a 20-minute walk away.
Set in a 16th-century palazzo, Hotel del Corso offers accommodation in the historic centre of Florence, within 300 m of the Cathedral, Piazza della Repubblica square, and Palazzo Vecchio. The elegant, air-conditioned rooms come with parquet floors and are hypoallergenic. They offer satellite TV, a safety deposit box, and a minibar. The private bathrooms are complete with a hairdryer. Hotel del Corso features a terrace with panoramic city views. Guests have access to a common room with a library and 3D TV. Santa Maria Novella train station is 16 minutes’ walk from the Del Corso Hotel, and the Uffizi Museum is 500 m away.
Hotel Villa Agape is near the Arcetri Observatory in Florence, and is surrounded by a 8-hectare park with olive and cypress trees. A free round-trip shuttle service to the city centre is available at the property. All air-conditioned rooms come with free WiFi and a flat-screen TV. Most overlook the Pian dei Giullari hills, and some are located in an annex building. Former residence of the Duchess Anna D'Orleans, the property features an elegant lounge with open fireplace, TV and piano. Parking is free at the property, which is a 5-minute drive from the panoramic terrace in Piazzale Michelangelo.
Hotel Orcagna is located in a quiet area near the Arno River. You can walk to Piazza S.Croce in 15 minutes, or get a bike at reception and visit the entire Florence. Hotel Orcagna has a small, relaxing garden and serves buffet breakfast. You will find a free internet point in the lobby and free Wi-Fi in all the hotel.
Set in a 17th-century building, Solo Experience Hotel overlooks Florence's Basilica of San Lorenzo, and offers large rooms with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and private bathroom. All the rooms at Solo Experience Hotel are soundproofed and feature air conditioning and an LCD TV with satellite channels. Some also feature views of Piazza San Lorenzo. The rich buffet breakfast includes home-made products. The property is in the historic centre of the city, within easy reach of the Medicean Chapels. Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is 350 m from Solo Experience Hotel, while Santa Maria Novella Train Station is less than a 10-minute walk away.
Located 100 m from the River Arno in Florence's historic centre, Hotel Executive is a noble residence dating back to the 18th century. It offers air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi. Rooms at the Executive Hotel feature satellite TV, a minibar, and a private bathroom with hairdryer and courtesy set. You can admire original frescoes and antique furniture in the lobby and some of the rooms. All have been renovated in 2014/2015. Guests can enjoy a large buffet breakfast in the morning and drinks in the elegant lounge bar with grand piano in the evening. The Executive is just 300 m from Florence's Opera House, Teatro Comunale Florence. Both Santa Maria Novella Railway Station and Ponte Vecchio are 10 minutes' walk away. Staff are always available to offer advice and tourist information.
Housed in an 18th-century building, the Lombardia is a friendly little hotel set in front of Santa Maria Novella Basilica in Florence. The train station is a 2-minute walk away. All rooms are en suite. The rooms come with parquet or carpeted floors, air conditioning, and a TV. Free WiFi is available in communal areas. Hotel Lombardia serves a daily breakfast in the ground-floor breakfast room. In the lobby you will find a bar, and a book-swapping corner. The Cathedral is a 5-minute walk from here.
Located in the historic centre of Florence, Hotel Monna Lisa is set in a 15th-century building, 5 minutes' walk from Florence Cathedral, the Duomo. It is surrounded by peaceful, landscaped gardens. Rooms at the Hotel Monna Lisa are all unique and designed differently. Each is air conditioned and features satellite flat-screen TV, a minibar and private bathroom. Some rooms have a spa bath, and WiFi access is available throughout. This elegant 4-star hotel is fitted with antique furniture, as well as paintings and works of art including pieces by Giovanni Duprè, an ancestor of the hotel's owner. Free Wi-Fi is provided in public areas. Michelangelo’s David and the Accademia Gallery are just 600 m from the property. Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station is less than a 20-minute walk away.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE
Whether you’ve organised a relaxed itinerary or vow to experience it all in one go, from urban palazzos to Renaissance churches and bustling squares, there are some absolute must-see attractions in Florence that you can’t miss. From vintage shopping and aperitivo bars to beautiful gardens and bustling markets, a visit to Florence offers a unique mix of artistic attractions, traditional activities and the innovative cuisine of an exciting modern city. These are the best things to do & places to visit in Florencce with family and friends or you alone.
Among the oldest cathedrals in Florence, the Basilica di San Lorenzo was consecrated in 393, at which point it was located outside the city walls. It was a Medici family stronghold, and there’s a wealth of storytelling to explore on a tour of the church. For example, the Chapel of the Princes reveals an innovative design as well as an ambitious plan to smuggle the Holy Sepulchre from Jerusalem and place it in the centre. The Basilica is as much a museum as a place of worship, with sculptures by Donatello and Michelangelo, the 15th- and 16th-century Medici Chapels Medici Chapels and the church’s Filippo Brunelleschi-designed dome.
Leonardo da Vinci claimed that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but his art and inventions provide more than just a window into his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. The artist’s designs introduced new worlds beyond the canvas, and even furthered the study of the universe. On a tour of the Da Vinci Museum, visitors can experiment with interactive displays and embark on a journey into da Vinci’s genius mind with various models that demonstrate the study of gravity, mechanics and design. Audio guides are available.
Located inside Palazzo Castellani, the Galileo Museum is home to one of the most important scientific collections in the world and is a scientific research centre for Italian and international scholars. A visit to the museum reveals a collection that spans 500 years of instruments, inventions and displays, from the Renaissance period to the 19th century, and even includes Galileo’s famous telescope. Everything from antique globes and celestial spheres to microscopes and special lenses can be found in the museum’s wide-ranging collection.
- National Museum of Bargello
Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Florence, the Palazzo del Bargello, which dates back to 1255, the Bargello Museum’s walls have witnessed important events in Florence’s civic history, including meetings of the Council of the Hundred, in which Dante himself participated. Tickets to the national museum include a tour of its two halls and courtyard, with works by Donatello (including the early marble David and the later bronze sculpture), unique panels by Brunelleschi, masterpieces by Michelangelo and Bacchus, Roman and Byzantine treasures and Renaissance jewels all on display.
Established by the Medici family, the Boboli Gardens are something of a crossroads between nature, architecture and science. A combined ticket for the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti includes entry to the open-air museum. Amid majestic landscaping are 16th-century sculptures, Bernardo Buontalenti’s famous grotto, sanctuary gardens, fountains and exemplary architecture. Across the neat levelled gardens, visitors picnic, relax and wander along pretty pathways. The views over Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hills from the Boboli Gardens are unmissable, and spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit, when the flowers are in full bloom, as is autumn, when the leaves start to change colour.
Standing in front of Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture is an unforgettable experience. Visitors slowly circle to observe every angle of this masterpiece in marble, which is found at the Galleria Dell' Accademia and is 5.17 metres (17 feet) tall. The massive marble slab that was used to create David remained untouched for 25 years before the statue was commissioned in 1501, when the artist was just 26 years of age. Michelangelo’s David is depicted before his battle with Goliath, at the instance between choice and consequence. The biblical hero’s eyes exude an expression of warning, and the sculpture is placed facing Rome to represent the defence of the Florentine republic’s civil liberty.
- Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)
The shining crown of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore is a civic centrepiece from the late 13th century that took 200 years to complete. Built on the remains of a seventh-century church that is visible during a tour of the crypt, the exterior features emerald green and pink marble slabs, while the interiors exude a rather subdued aesthetic to allow the artworks to stand out. The Duomo includes frescoes of Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement (1572), scenes of Florence by Dante (1465) and mosaic works spread out like immense carpets. The stately dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
This seemingly silent medieval fortress contains a hidden inner world where history, art and politics converge. The Palazzo Vecchio is an everlasting symbol of the city state’s civic power, playing host to the supreme governing body for centuries. Constructed in 1299 on the ruins of an ancient Roman theatre, the fortress belonged to the Ghibelline Uberti family before their expulsion, and became the residence of Cosimo I de’ Medici. Today it houses Florence’s town hall and a museum with Roman ruins, Renaissance paintings, lavish secret halls and the striking Salone del Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred, 1494), whose frescoes and stories demand a guided visit. Don’t miss the palazzo’s hidden passages and Arnolfo’s Tower, but be warned that the latter involves a climb of 416 steps.
Accessible as part of a single ticket to the Duomo Complex, Giotto’s Bell Tower is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The 85-metre (279-foot) tower is adorned in marble and features hexagonal panels and lozenge reliefs (diamond shapes) that represent the universal order, as well as statues of kings, patriarchs and prophets made by sculptors Andrea Pisano and Donatello. Climb up the 414 steps for panoramic views over the terracotta-coloured city.
Home to some of the world’s most outstanding collections of ancient sculptures and paintings, the Uffizi Gallery is a treasure trove of unique works dating from the Middle Ages to the Modern period. Pre - booked tickets and comfortable shoes are the way to go here. The journey through the gallery’s priceless works of art includes masterpieces by Giotto, Piero della Francesco Botticelli, Correggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as works by German, Dutch and Flemish painters.
- Archaeological National Museum (MAF)
Although it’s one of the oldest museums in Italy, the Archaeological National Museum of Florence features spacious halls and modern showrooms. The exhibitions here appeal to all ages, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the history of human civilisation through archaeology. Inside is an impressive collection of Etruscan sarcophagi and Roman relics that date as far back as 450 BC, private collections of the Medici and Lorena families, ceramics from Ancient Greece and an Egyptian collection with more than 14,000 artefacts.
Piazza Santa Croce has been a centre for public gatherings and events in Florence since the 14th century, and seasonal markets and Florentine football matches (with the form of football known as Calcio Fiorentino) are still held here today. Perhaps equally as famous as the square it sits in is the world’s largest Franciscan church, the Basilica of Santa Croce, which truly merits a visit. The original structure was built in 1212, when St Francis of Assisi first visited Florence. Beyond the marble facade is a Franciscan church with 16 chapels and the Temple of the Italian Glories, the resting place of many of Italy’s great creators, including Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Machiavelli.
Purchased by the Medici family in 1550 as the official Grand Ducal residence, the Palazzo Pitti is a symbol of the family’s prominent rule over Tuscany, which included the dynasties of the House of Lorraine-Habsburg and the House of Savoy. With a prime position at the foot of Boboli Hill and connected to Boboli Gardens, the palace houses Florence’s largest museum complex, with treasures from the Grand Dukes, the Palatine Gallery, a Modern Art Gallery and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
- Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
This 13th-century church is one of the most important Gothic-style structures in Florence and deserves a spot on every traveller’s itenirary. The interior holds precious works of art including Giotto’s Crucifix, Masaccio’s The Trinity and Ghirlandaio’s frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel – all financed by the most important historic Florentine families. The church was built on the site of a 9th-century oratory and took 80 years to complete before its consecration in 1420. Interiors feature clever and harmonious designs to elongate the space, as well as fine works of art conceived by masters of the time.
According to local legend, in a series of huddled houses near Torre della Castagna stands the birthplace of Dante Alighieri, born in 1265. Rebuilt in the 20th century using historical references, Dante’s home, located in the heart of medieval Florence, is now a museum and centre of study that highlights the life and work of the man himself, one of Italy’s most brilliant thinkers. Guided tours and workshops walk visitors through highlights of the poet’s life.
A mysteriously resilient bridge – historic documents refer to its first appearance in 996 – Ponte Vecchio was rebuilt in the 14th century after a flood that devastated Florence, was spared by Hitler during World War II and survived another flood in 1966. When the Medici family moved to Palazzo Pitti, they decided to build a connecting route from Ponte Vecchio that was hidden from the public and ordered the construction of the Vasari Corridor in 1565, which still runs above the bridge. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to open shops on the bridge, banishing butchers, fishmongers and tanners. Look out for the bust of Benvenuto Cellini, a 16th-century goldsmith, who is honoured on the bridge. Ponte Vecchio remains strong and is a beloved spot for photographers and romantic walks.
Inaugurated on 24 June 2014, Museo Novecento is dedicated to modern and contemporary art from the 20th century. Rotating installations are featured in the open courtyard, while inside, a permanent collection showcases works by important Italian artists, many of them included in the Alberto Della Ragione collection – Giorgio de Chirico, Gino Severini, Giorgio Morandi and Felice Casorati, among others. The museum also offers workshops and guided tours.
Mercato Centrale is located above Florence’s oldest indoor market, San Lorenzo, which is set in one of the city’s most vibrant districts. The contemporary food market is housed within a place of great historical and architectural importance in Florence, in a beautiful building constructed in 1874 by architect Giuseppe Mengoni during Italy’s Rinascimento (rebirth), when Florence was the capital of Italy. The decision to construct such a market house represented the ambition of Florence and reaffirmed its cultural influence. The market today introduces discerning visitors to a cultural container of honest produce and quality-first cuisine made exclusively by local artisans. Dubbed by its creators as “a rebirth that returns artisans to the heart of the food scene”, the focus is on fresh and simple food that meets the highest standards, all the while allowing space for social and cultural events.
- Il Battisterio di San Giovanni
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the city’s most fascinating architectural gems. The structure’s exact age is unknown, but legend tells that it was a pagan temple, a belief that is supported by ancient fragments and inscriptions and marble slabs from the ruins of Roman Florentia. The marble-clad church combines a clever mix of faith, history and art within its unique octagonal layout and concealed dome, whose interior was decorated with mosaics by Jacopo Torriti in the 13th century. The highlight of the church is Lorenzo Ghiberti’s (1425–52) magnificent bronze doors, found on the eastern side. Referred to by Michelangelo as the “Gate of Paradise”, each of the 10 scenes is a window into stories from the Old Testament, with relief sculptures that capture several scenes in a single frame.
Located on the left bank of the Arno, Piazzale Michelangelo was built on the hills above the city in 1869, at a time when Florence was the capital of Italy. Designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, the panoramic terrace is dedicated to the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo, and offers uninterrupted views of Florence in all its splendour. The scene is particularly picturesque at sunset, when the entire cityscape unfolds and historic landmarks glisten in the red sun.
- Take some time out at a Florentine garden
Escape Florence’s bustle at the city’s beautiful parks. The Boboli Gardens are certainly worth a guided visit, and a day ticket grants full access until closing time, so you can freely explore the majestic open-air museum imagined by the Medicis. The marvellous park is adorned with antiques, fountains and marble statues, while hidden paths and sprawling lawns overlook the city – perfect for an urban picnic, perhaps with a bottle of Tuscan wine from the city’s Mercato Centrale. Check the website for special exhibits in the park. Another favourite is the 16th-century Torrigiani Garden, an enchanting botanical garden and woodland designed with Romantic-style landscaping. Visits are by appointment only (call +39 055 224527). For 360-degree city views at sunset, head over to the grounds of the 12th-century Church of San Miniato on the outskirts of Florence, a beloved, tranquil spot for reflection and photography.
- Learn to Cook Florentine Cuisine
One of the top attractions in Florence for both kids and adults is the food. Wandering around the streets of Florence, children can't help ogling the tubs of rainbow-hued gelato, pillowy pasta and gnocchi, and colorful pomodoro-topped pizzas. Budding chefs can attend small-group cooking classes to learn how to make these popular foods. Classes range from family affairs in private Florentine apartments and historic palaces to rustic Tuscan farmhouse lunches. Several hotels also offer children's cooking classes, and a few start with a Florence market visit, so young cooks can help pick the fresh produce and create the meal from start to finish. Even if you don't enroll in a cooking class, kids might enjoy a visit to the Mercato Centrale, the city's large food market, with its fresh produce, pungent herbs, and colorful flowers. If you're looking for a rewarding cooking class with personal attention, the three-hour Family Friendly Florence Experience Cooking Class is a great option. Little chefs use fresh organic ingredients to create classic Italian cuisine, like pasta, pizza, and tiramisù, all under the guidance of an expert chef. After the class, participants can feast on their creations.
- Ride Piazza della Repubblica's Antique Carousel
Piazza della Repubblica buzzes with locals and tourists alike. Before a busy day of museum and gallery visits, toddlers and young children will love riding around on the beautiful antique carousel here. Notice the scenes of Florence painted around the top. The piazza has a festive ambiance. Street musicians and performers often entertain the crowds, and shops and cafés line the square, including Caffé delle Giubbe Rosse, a meeting place for many of the city's artists and writers, and Cafe Gilli, which tempts the sweet-toothed with its Florentine pastries and sweets. Also nearby is the delightful toy workshop, Bartolucci, where you can buy wooden toys and Pinocchio souvenirs made by the namesake family. For adults, the Uffizi Gallery is a short stroll away.
- Admire Antique Armour at the Stibbert Museum
Young fans of knights and armor will especially love the Stibbert Museum (Museo Stibbert), on a hill about 20 minutes by taxi or bus from the historical center of Florence, but anyone will be impressed by the treasure trove of artifacts here. Frederick Stibbert (1836-1906) inherited this collection and continued to add to it, eventually transforming his 19th-century villa into a museum. Frederick collected artifacts from all over the world, including costumes, tapestries, furniture, musical instruments, and paintings. Most impressive here is the grand main hall, with horses and knights in procession, as well as arms and armor from eastern and western civilizations. Only guided tours are permitted. After viewing all the exhibits, you can take the kids to the little café here or stroll through the English-style gardens surrounding the villa.
- Peek through Ancient Telescopes at Museo Galileo
Older school-age kids and teens, especially math, science, and gadget geeks, will enjoy this little museum, just around the corner from the Uffizi Gallery. Focusing on Galileo's contributions to scientific discovery, the museum hosts exhibits on fields such as astronomy, geometry, meteorology, navigation, and medicine. Particularly fascinating are the displays of ancient instruments such as early microscopes, telescopes, globes, clock parts, and even the first thermometers. It's a good idea to read up on Galileo before visiting, so you can imagine how some of the instruments were used. Some of the exhibits are interactive to keep younger children entertained. A gruesome exhibit, which older kids might enjoy, is a display of what is supposedly one of Galileo's preserved fingers. The website offers mini-guides you can download (available in several languages) to help you organize your visit, including a map of the two floors of the museum.
- Learn about Nature at La Specola (Natural History Museum)
Europe's oldest science museum, La Specola Natural History Museum is a great choice for older kids who are burned out on paintings and palaces. Stuffed animals and skeletons comprise most of the exhibits at this quirky museum, and young zoologists will be dazzled by the array of insects, sea creatures, birds, and mammals, including a stuffed hippopotamus that was a former 17th-century pet of the Medici family. Another section, which some parents might want to skip, displays wax figures with detailed cross-sections of human anatomy that were designed in the 18th century for medical students to study the human body, but these might be a little confronting for younger children. The museum lies adjacent to Boboli Gardens, so you can take a picnic lunch here and let the kids blow off steam after your visit.
Get a unique and unforgettable bird's eye view over one of the most gorgeous cities in Italy and Europe: Florence, the City of Lilies! This is probably one of the best spots to try out skydiving with the friendly and highly qualified team of Skydive Dream. The team will pick you up from the city centre, at the entrance of the Boboli Gardens and will drive you to their base at the Strozzi Machiavelli Dropzone, only 2km away from the centre! After a ground training on the good technique and position in the air, you will gear up and board the plane at the Vespucci Civil Airport, located 20 minutes away from the base. You will get to enjoy a marvellous panoramic view of Florence and the famous Chianti countryside - just what you need to relax before the jump. At 14000 ft, the doors will open and it's time for some serious fun! You will get the adrenaline rush of a lifetime during a 45 second- free fall. At 5000ft, your instructor will pull out the canopy and you will be able to relax and simply enjoy your flight!
- Urban Rafting in the Heart of Florence
Explore Florence from an alternative sightseeing tour that will reward you with panoramic views as you navigate your way down the Arno River! You will get to experience unique views of some of the most famous landmarks in Tuscany as you paddle through the historic center of Florence. After a 30-min briefing, you will get to board the raft and let yourself get lost into your surroundings as you learn more about the rich history of Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region. Your professional, friendly guide will regale you with stories of the Arno river and its centuries-old relationship with the city as you immerse yourself in the beauty of the Renaissance capital of Italy. This urban rafting trip is the perfect combination of culture, history, and sport since you will get to discover Florence from an unconventional perspective as you make your way down the river. This adventure also includes an exciting descent of the San Niccolo dam! Starting from San Niccolo to Santa Rosa, you will embark on a 1.5-hour rafting trip where you’ll get to paddle down the Arno river that offers incredible photo opportunities of notable monuments. You will get to have an out-of-the-ordinary perspective of Florence as you paddle past the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the Vasari Corridor, Uffizi Gallery, the St Trinity Bridge, and more! Perfect for friends or families with small children, this urban rafting trip has it all! For your next holiday, get away from the crowds and experience Florence from a unique rafting adventure down the Arno River.
Take to the skies and experience a bird’s eye view of Florence, the classy capital of Tuscany that’s known to be the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. During this private, 15-minute helicopter tour, you’ll get to soar above one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, taking in postcard-perfect views of Florence’s famous monuments and sites. This unique vantage point will give you an unforgettable perspective of this enchanting city that’s world-renowned for its Renaissance architecture. Your flight will also include a bottle of champagne to help commemorate this extraordinary experience!
WHERE TO EAT IN FLORENCE
Besides being the cradle of the Renaissance period, Florence has also been the birth place of some of the most fantastic food innovations, the kinds that will leave you wanting more. From bocconcini mozzarella to melt-in-your-mouth gelato, Florence has a wealth of dishes to try. Considering this is Italy, there’s a great trattoria on every corner, but we try to bring you the ten very best in town.
In Florence, if Michelangelo is the artist whose masterpieces connoisseurs come to see, then Enoteca Pinchiorri is the restaurant that all foodies come to dine at. This three star Michelin restaurant is gastronomic experience at its best. In fact, its owner and chef Annie Féolde is the first woman from Italy to receive the coveted three stars. Everything, from it imposing façade and antique-filled decor to the gourmet cuisine can be described as nothing short of impressive. Their tasting menu is a lavish six to eight courses, which is best paired with a glass of fine wine. Giorgio Pinchiorri, the sommelier and co-owner, has a stock of 12,000 bottles of the to complement the cuisine.
This treasure of a place is the brainchild of Fabio Picchi and his actor wife Maria Cassi. One needs to pay the membership fee in order to enter the restaurant, which is housed inside an old theatre. Dinner is usually complemented by a live performance. The ambience is warm and chaotic, conversations and food fly about. The chef, just prior to serving, usually announces the dishes and guests queue up at the glass hatch. The menu varies everyday and features up to ten dishes, each one more delectable than the other. This trattoria is Italy at its most natural, sociable, theatrical and welcoming.
The world famous Italian hospitality finds its truest manifestation in this place. The Latini family has a loyal foreign and local clientele, who ensure that the place is always crowded. Forget ordering off a menu, your waiter probably knows better. The agnello fritto (fried lamb) and Florentine steak are the dishes that regulars tuck into with ardent devotion. The friendly waiters ensure that food and wine keeps magically appearing on your table but make sure you save some room for the limoncello, a sweet lemon liqueur, to complete your authentic Italian gastronomical experience.
A trip to Florence is incomplete without tasting a wood-fired pizza. This is exactly why one needs to head to Trattoria Nerone, which is considered to be one of the best pizzerias in Italy. The interior is eccentrically and the atmosphere is warm and lively. The pizzas are fresh out of the wood fire oven and made only with the choicest of ingredients. Although their menu features many other Tuscan dishes, it’s the pizzas that people come for. When the weather is pleasant, the outdoor area is abuzz with wine filled chatter. A must visit for those who want to taste pizza as it is intended to be.
Eating gelatos while sprawled out on the grass is one of the many reasons anyone would come to Italy. If you need some convincing then this gelateria, founded in 1930s by Rafaello Vivoli, will definitely change your mind. The recipe has been handed down the family and the biggest reason for their cult following is the freshness of the ingredients. All the gelatos are freshly made using locally sourced ingredients, without any flavouring or additives. The two flavours that locals swear by are the crema and riso, both delectable and creamy in their goodness. Mr Vivoli promises that eating his gelato will make you ‘spread your wings and touch the sky’, and it may well do so.
Ora D’Aria translates into hour of air, a reference to the time when prisoners spent their time exercising in the open air. This chic ristorante tucked away behind the Uffizi Galery is indeed a breath of fresh air. Everything from its interiors to the food presentation is minimal, elegant and tasteful. The glass walled kitchen, through which one can watch the chefs fuss over your meal, ensures that the food is at the centre of the experience. The chef Marco Stabile has loyally stuck to his Tuscan roots, while experimenting and modernizing the cuisine. Starting from the bread basket, which features an assortment of freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven, to the selection of over 600 different kinds of wine, this restaurant will leave you wanting more.
Wine lovers are completely spoilt for choice in Cantinetta Antinori. Located in the historic 15th century Antinori Mansion, the Antinori family have been providing Tuscany with some of the finest wine for 26 generations. This trattoria combines the finest wine with Tuscan cuisine. Despite the rustic appearance of the wooden tables in the restaurant, the standard of the cuisine and service is impeccable. The freshness of their ingredients, sourced directly from the Antinori farms, guarantees that the flavour is completely authentic. A visit to Cantinetta Antinori is not complete without sampling the gran prezzo, a Chianina beefsteak, fettunta or the Bistecca alla fiorentina.
A line outside a restaurant is always the best indication of a restaurant’s quality. In Gusta Pizza, the queue is usually a curious mix of locals, students and tourists who tread off the beaten track. The service is quick and, despite the winding queues, one usually gets a place fairly soon. Their speciality is the Pizza Napoletana, which boasts dough which is both soft and crispy. The ripe juiciness of the San Marzano tomatoes, coupled with the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella, ensures that every bite is a succulent piece of heaven. Priced modestly, this place ensures that every pizza-lover gets the Neapolitan flavour whilst in Florence.
The staff at Cibrèo do not believe in having a standard menu card. They believe in devising their dishes according to the rhythms of the seasons and freshness of ingredients available. While September will see a rise in fig based dishes, November ensures that you have the freshest porcini mushrooms on your plate. The service is personalised and the waiters are real masters of words, enticing you with tantalising descriptions of the food, which leaves you salivating even before your dish arrives. Of course, once it does, one realises that words, however beautifully spoken, can do little justice to the real taste, which is bursting with flavour.
Tucked behind a courtyard with very little signage, one can easily pass by this café-restaurant without realising it is a bibliophile’s dream come true. But once one does stumble upon it, this vegetarian restaurant will make sure you spend at least a couple of hours inside. The walls are lined with white shelves, which are stacked with art books and magazines. The food is freshly prepared with the freshest organic vegetables and is unbelievably light and refreshing. So after you’ve had your fill of art at the Uffizi, head over and have an unbelievably stimulating brunch, while sipping on Chianti and poring over books.
WHERE TO SHOP IN FLORENCE
Although Milan is hailed as the fashion capital of Italy, many would argue that Florence is its real fashion capital. With great shopping, high fashion brands who make Tuscany their home base, and plenty of fashion events that happen in the city throughout the year, Florence is always on top of the latest styles. This is a great city for expressing your creative side though your clothes. Encompassing big brands and smaller stores, Florence’s style options seem endless, from steampunk and vintage to high fashion Harajuku trendy.
When this store opened in 1970, the main idea was to display new, independent and innovative designers outside of the famous Florence brands. Over the years, they expanded to feature international brands, too. Today, their shop has expanded into two smaller shops and the décor and vibe is completely laidback — a snobby high fashion store this is not.
Having made its name as an extremely popular online store, Luisaviaroma’s brick-and-mortar store has gained the same prestige. Located right near the main cathedral (known as the Duomo), the store can’t be missed. The display windows and entrance alone are attention-grabbing with a new theme every season that always sparks curiosity and makes it look more like a colourful wonderland than a clothing store. With brands such as Alexander McQueen, Kenzo, Lanvin, and Burberry, as well as few new up and coming brands, this place has lots of fun high fashion pieces for your wardrobe.
Carrying both men and women’s clothes, this store has been around for a while and all the trendy Florentines know about it. This is a fashionista’s paradise; not only do they carry the trendiest clothes, they also have vintage items, interesting new books, and are a great place to discover new music. They also host some events and you can always find something new to add to your collection here.
If you’re looking for new statement pieces, this is your place. A mix of fashion trends for men and women, Gerard Loft has tons of interesting new trends, some bold statement pieces, and a great mix of luxury and everyday styles fill the store, with a hint of irony in their designs and décor.
- A Piedi Nudi nel Parco (A.K.A. PNP)
This fantastic boutique has an alternative twist and a great selection for those who have an edgier style. Dark decor in the store, bold pieces and slight grunge rocker vibe, this place is great for unique pieces full of your own personality. Mostly black and simple, with some edgy asymmetrical cuts, PNP is the perfect boutique to match your black heart with your black wardrobe.
No, this store was not inspired by the quirky singer by the same name. With minimalist décor and a Nordic vibe, this concept store has a distinct style. Featuring all things design, including art, photography, fashion and design magazines, and books, they know how to make a creative setting. The large window in front and lack of clutter inside makes this space bright and airy, which is like a breath of fresh air while shopping. Find this boutique in the Oltrarno neighbourhood, and experience where the locals live.
Trends come and go, but good boutiques last the test of time. Nadine now has two locations in Florence, which means it’s doing something right in this fashion city. Not only is there a great selection of vintage clothes, the entire store is full of vintage items and has a great classic vibe with pops of modern décor. With old trunks, silk dresses, accessories, home wares, and even non-vintage styles from upcoming designers, this place has it all. The location on Via de’ Benci is a bit hidden by a window with a beautiful view of a garden, so look closely when you go. Their newer location is in the Oltrarno neighbourhood, so after stopping by Bjork, get a change of scenery with Nadine’s.
Finding this little gem is like finding the X marking the spot on a vintage lover’s treasure map. Looking for a great leather jacket? How about a classic pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes? Gently used items with big names make their home here. You can find a steal at almost half the price of what you would spend in store, with brand names including Prada, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Louis Vuitton, to name but a few. Well-organised, and style and color coordinated (which we can all appreciate), this vintage find is a must-visit.
This brand new jewellery and accessories boutique will definitely be the hottest place to shop this year in Florence. With innovative, handmade designs and a unique style, Cristian somehow manages to have something for everyone. His designs are diverse, with everything from futuristic pieces inspired by technology to intricate medieval inspired pieces. This is a must-stop while you’re in Florence. Cristian, surprisingly, has never had any traditional training in jewellery design, meaning all his ideas and creations are organic and entirely of his own making. He runs the store along with two other designers, Fabio Gianni and Paolo Gianni, and together they make this store stand out from the rest. Check out their Instagram to see what we mean.
This boutique is for men and women, and their collection is fantastic for fashionable wardrobe staples. A corner location just outside of the centre, this store is where many trendy locals shop. With brands such as Maison Margiela, Henrik Vibskov, Alexander McQueen, Helmut Lang, and Société’s own brand, they definitely know the right pieces to pick to feature in their store, which makes this place a great boutique for fashion lovers.