Florence, or Firenze – as it’s called in Italian – is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy in a country full of picturesque landscapes and iconic architecture. The city is relatively small, and like most European cities, has been built over the centuries as a circle, radiating around the Duomo at its center. It is an easily walkable city with pleasant cobblestone streets and minimal automobile traffic.
Any guide book will tell you the famous highlights: The Duomo, David, the Galleria Degli Uffizi, and Ponte Vecchio are must-sees for the first time visitor. But Firenze is so much more than the well-trodden tourists spots, there’s a quaint and romantic vibe that pervades the city.
For an authentic experience, go with an AirBnB instead of staying in one of the city’s many hotels. You’ll not only save money likely compared to nightly rates, but you’ll get a feel for what real Florentine life is like. Our rental had ceiling frescos and was in the center of town for around 100 Euros a night.
Situatied off of Piaza della Republica, this was the most happening spot during Pitti Uomo, with the well heeled fashion set flocking to its grand interior to sip martinis and trade industry gossip. The food is expensive, but you’re mostly paying for the ambience and the chance to enjoy a meal in a historical setting.
There’s at least one gelateria on every street in Florence and sometimes two or three. The truth is that it’s hard to go wrong with any of them, but Gelateria Edoardo was my favorite. This place makes their own hand made cones and the ingredients are organic. It’s easy to spot by the long line behind the Duomo.
A traditional Tusan dining experience with huge portions that is beloved by locals and in-the-know tourists alike. The steak and pasta are favorites of its patrons – just be sure to come in ravenous – you’ll still leave with food on the plates.
Don’t bring your vegetarian friends here: famous for its Florentine steak, which must be ordered rare or medium rare for the full flavorful experience. Located in the basement, the dining experience is reminiscent of an intimate cave.
This temple to classic Italian style is a must-see for fashion lovers. Featuring the storied brand’s history from its founding as a small Florentine house that soon attracted the attention of Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn who flew to Florence for made to measure footwear, it is an immersive experience to witness the birth of an iconic global brand. There are yearly new exhibitions, this year’s theme being “Across Art and Fashion,” examining the question: Is fashion art?
Santa Maria Novella
One of the oldest historical landmarks and cultural treasures in Florence is not Michelangelo’s “David”, the Duomo or even the Uffizi Palace, but the increasingly world-famous Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, which has been in business for over 600 years. Situated on a small cobblestone street off the piazza that shares its name, the line of beauty products and colognes on offer better known simply as Santa Maria Novella predates most of Florence’s famed tourist destinations considering the brand began in 1221 as a medicinal operation run by Dominican monks within the walls of the monastery that to this day serves as the flagship location.
For a breathtaking panoramic view of Florence, head across the Arno to this spot atop a hill. If the crowds aren’t your thing, you could head to Bardini Gardens just a short walk away with the same magnificent views.
The “old bridge” of Florence is quite a sight: multicolored shops teetering on the edge of an old stone bridge. Some of the best leather and glove makers reside here.