Florence Travel Guide
Rich in culture, rife with charm and oh so very alluring; Florence is veritably synonymous with everything we love about Italy. It’s a city where food is a passion, passion is a way of life, and life is somehow sweeter.With so much to do and see in Florence, it seems there’s never enough time to experience is all. A city of superlatives, the romantic streets of Florence teem with the world’s best museums, most iconic architecture, sigh-worthy shopping and oh, that amazing food. It’s an urban dream wrapped in romance, a city where history dances with the future and an experience meant to be savoured. Wondering what to do in Florence? Mr Hudson has got you covered.
The best hotels in Florence
While the enticements of Firenze can last well into the night, at some point the time will come to say buona notte. Elegant, effortless and stunningly beautiful, these hotels are some of the best for drifting into sweet, Tuscan dreams.
From its perch on a hillside in beautiful Fiesole, the Hotel Il Salviatino treats guests to spectacular Firenze views as seen from an opulent, Tuscan villa. Paying homage to Italian graciousness and world-class service, the property beautifully melds the charm of Tuscany with the excitement of Florence in one utterly unique, deliciously indulgent destination.
Situated in one Florence’s most covetable neighbourhoods, the Ferragamo Group owned Portrait Firenze offers exquisite elegance and unparalleled views of the Arno River and iconic Ponte Vecchio. Featuring the divine design one would expect from a hotel under Ferragamo’s chic umbrella, guests to the Portrait Firenze will find gleaming hardwood floors, a carefully curated collection of mid-century furnishings and a style rich with chic, modern good looks. The stunning aesthetic of the hotel is tempered with a dose of Italian warmth that embraces guests – and all within steps of the behemoth palazzo that houses the Salvatore Ferragamo flagship store and adjacent museum.
Just steps from Stazione Santa Maria Novella, an easy stroll to the Duomo, shopping on the Ponte Vecchio and the very heart of Florence, the J. K. Place Firenze boasts a location that is nothing short of idyllic. This modern, well-equipped hotel is perfect for travellers insisting on both convenience and luxury. Five-star service and thoughtful amenities prevail in rooms that feature satellite flat screens, Wi-Fi, DVD players and sleek, elegant appointments. Private parking is available to guests as are the services of the hotel’s 24-hour front desk, concierge, and business centre. A favourite with guests and locals alike, the hotel lounge is a popular place to see and be one of the beautiful people while sipping an afternoon aperitivo or enjoying a leisurely dinner.
Taking your espresso standing up at one of the area bars is entirely de rigueur
Things to do in Florence
The start of a perfect day to see the best Florence points of interest begins at Piazza della Signoria in the centre of town and a leisurely al fresco breakfast at Café Rivoire. A legendary local hangout – and one of Florence’s prime spots to both see and be seen – mornings at Café Rivoire revolve around people watching, café and biscotti.
While walking around clutching a to-go cup is something you’d never see a Florentine do, taking your espresso standing up at one of the area bars is entirely de rigueur. At Bar Damiano on Via di Parione you can hone your fledgling Italian with the convivial barista while downing un caffé doppio, leaving you both smiling and well caffeinated in only a matter of minutes.
Where to eat in Florence
From the most humble of bars to the grandest of restaurants, it doesn’t take long to discover that dining in Florence is a celebration for the senses. Taste what is arguably the most delicious Panini in Tuscany at I Due Fretellini. A favourite with the local crowd, you won’t find tablecloths – or even tables – at this gem; only a storefront window is drawing a queue of customers from the moment the tiny shop opens for business.
For a casually elegant meal, Trattoria 4 Leoni located in Oltrarno is an impossibly declivous experience in Northern Italian dining. Reservations are necessary if you want to score one of the best tables and be sure to try the fioccheti or ‘little purses’ filled with harvest ripe pears and succulent goat cheese.
For an experience that puts you in the kitchen rather than simply at the table, head just outside of Florence to Fiesole and the Belmond Villa San Michelle. There, in the sun-filled student kitchens tucked away within the villa’s former conservatory, Chef Atillio di Fabrizio will guide you through rolling gnocchi, mixing panzanella and mastering tiramisu before inviting you to a feast featuring the fruits of your labour served on the hotel’s grand loggia.
Shopping in Florence
Un pomeriggio perfetto in Florence can only mean shopping. And there’s no better place to start your shopping foray than just a few blocks from Piazza della Signoria in the Florence epicentre of luxury retail, Via de’ Tornabuoni. Home to Cavalli, Hermes, Loro Piana and Ferragamo – for the couture-obsessed, this is as close to Mecca as one can get. Indeed, even window-shopping your way through these veritable temples to style is an experience not to be missed. Should your interests lend themselves more towards admiring fashion rather than acquiring it, plan to spend and hour or two at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. Located on the banks of the Arno in Palazzo Spini Feroni, the exquisitely curated museum pays homage to nearly a century of design by the man who is arguably Italy’s most revered designer.
For a thoroughly authentic shopping experience in Florence, shop where the locals shop and head to Via del Corso and the tiny streets surrounding it where you’ll find everything from handcrafted leather goods to exquisitely woven textiles and cutting edge couture. For shoes and boots handcrafted in Italy, take a look at Leonardo’s on via dei Cerchi or Sabatini’s on Borgo degli Albizi. Also on Via dei Cerchi is Jean Saade, a local mainstay for exquisitely handcrafted fine jewellery.
Venturing across the Arno into the Oltrarno neighbourhoods of Florence is a must if you’re serious about shoes. At the workshop of Stefano Bemer, you’ll find breathtakingly beautiful men’s shoes made from leathers that range from the predictable calfskin to exotic elephant and eel. And while you’re in the Oltrarno, take a stroll down Borgo San Jacopo for the quirky vintage and antique stores it offers and as well as to stock up on the deliciously indulgent, Sicilian soaps found at Ortigia.
Florence is full of markets and two you’ll want to make a point of going to are the Flower Market held every Thursday at the Piazza Repubblica and the Fortezza Flea Market, held the third weekend of each month (sans August) in the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. And for a shopping experience that comes wrapped within a history lesson, don’t miss the Scuola del Cuoio, or Florence School of Leather. As rich in history as it is rife with exquisite leather, you’ll find fabulous goods in this little-known gem.
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Photo: Gina Samarotto
Scuola del Cuoio
Piazza Repubblica | Photo: Gina Samarotto
Scuola del Cuoio | Photo: Gina Samarotto