A city break in Florence is a true culinary and cultural journey where food and art will merge together from start to finish. Expect to feast your eyes and your stomach as you wander around the ancient streets of Tuscany’s capital city. Even the hotels are masterpieces in their own right, often boasting frescoes and stucco-work that reflect the glory of the renaissance city.
We have narrowed down our shortlist of accommodation, gastronomy and activities based on price, location, service and beauty so that you can just sit back, relax and enjoy a little cantuccini and a glass of Vin Santo.
Villa Cora was built in the late 1860s by Baron Oppenheim and remains to be one of the most opulent and eye catching villas built on the low hillside located to the south of the city.
As a result, the elegant rose gardens and shady tree-lined grounds at Villa Cora offers respite from the hot summer months in the city centre, yet remains a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the landmark bridge, Ponte Vecchio.
Inside the hotel, guests will continue to be wowed by the rich, opulent décor of the once stately home. With polished parquet floors and magnificent chandeliers, Villa Cora is an immaculately restored hotel that offers the type of superb facilities and stellar service that you would expect from somewhere as lavish as Florence.
Probably scoring a 10/10 for its central location, you don’t even have to leave the hotel to catch a glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio because the Portrait Firenze hotel is actually situated on the banks of the River Arno overlooking it.
Ownded by Florentine fashion heir Leonardo Ferragamo, the Portrait Firenze is just a stone’s throw away from landmark sights such as the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo and the Bargello Museum, as well as Ferragamo’s own eponymous collection at the Museo Ferragamo just around the corner.
With a modern Italian colour scheme throughout the interior, guests are invited to experience a contemporary version of this ancient city. If you are looking for a convenient location with 5-star service, gourmet dining, spacious accommodation and all the mod-cons (think ipads in the lifts and foyer) then Portrait Firenze is the one for you.
Another great option for those looking to have the best of both worlds is Il Salviatino. Albeit a little further out of town than the other two options, the 16th Century building is everything you would hope from a stay at a stately home.
Situated in the hills above Florence, Il Salviatino is a truly magnificent show of museum-like décor and design – think marble features, original artworks and frescoes and formal attire for dinner.
The hotel is ideal for the warmer months, or for those who are perhaps staying a little longer and have already seen the main sights of the city. It is a country villa offering a chance to relax in true Italian decadent style, whilst only being a 15-minute journey into Florence.
Recommendations for food in Florence are endless and outside the usual suggestions, you can pretty much just walk around and happen upon delicious street food stalls, friendly trattorias, and quality enotecas – and that’s not even mentioning the wealth of gelaterias that you will encounter.
It’s hard to know where to start! Here are our favourites, which cover classic, traditional, gourmet and progressive as a starting point.
The best way of getting the feel of the place is usually by checking out a local food market. It’s a way of orientating yourself and checking out what the locals are eating and drinking and Mercato Centrale does exactly that.
The ground floor is dedicated to fresh produce stalls so you can sample some of the finest goods of the local terroir, while the open warehouse-style upstairs offers cooked food in a lively atmosphere.
A classic stop in the city, Enoteca Pinchiorri is as legendary to Florence as the art. Created by chef Anne Féolde and her sommelier husband, Giorgio Pinchiorri, the award-winning establishment is the only three star restaurant in Florence and one of only six in Italy.
Serving classic Tuscan flavours with creative twists just metres from the Michelangelo Buonarroti museum, Enoteca Pinchiorri is a perfect way to round off a day spent exploring the city’s sights. It’s elegant without being fussy and the food is packed full of flavour yet light and sophisticated – a perfect reflection of the city.
Located directly behind the Uffizi Gallery, Ora D’Aria restaurant originally takes its name from its previous site opposite a former women’s prison. Meaning ‘hour of air’, from the compulsory hour that prisoners had to spend outside in the fresh air, the Michelin-starred restaurant is now one of the top venues in the city.
Known for its excellent seafood menu and contemporary Italian dishes, Ora D’Aria is a great example of gourmet Tuscan gastronomy at it’s best. For an even more exciting experience, visitors of up to four people can reserve the chef’s table in the beautiful wine cellar.
La Bottega del Buon Caffè
With a ‘Farm to Plate’ philosophy as the driving force of La Bottega, guests can enjoy super fresh seasonal menus that showcase Florence’s select produce. Not only working with some of the finest producers of the region, the restaurant also has its own farm kitchen ensuring that their cuisine is both as authentic and honest as its ethos.
Paying respect to their location, the menus are designed to reflect the region’s unique gastronomic heritage and vibrant culinary culture. Artisan butchers supply the kitchen with exceptional cuts of locally-reared meats whilst the very freshest fish are delivered from the Mediterranean. With some of the best sommeliers having curated the menu, there is also wine list to match the unbeatable cuisine.
As a country known for its premium selection of wines, it’s not hard to find somewhere to go and sample a good vintage on the streets of Florence. However, for those of you that prefer a malty alternative, visit Il Bovaro craft brewery. Using Tuscan flavours and local ingredients such as chestnuts, honey and wild herbs, Il Bovaro make their own double malts, dark and speciality beers all from their lively venue near Porto San Frediano.
If you happen to be in the historic centre of Florence and in desperate need of a crisp glass of wine then Cantinetta Antinori is a must-do. Located on the ground floor of the Antinori Mansion, the iconic family-run restaurant and wine bar makes all its own wine using grapes from the families various estates in Tuscany and in Umbria.
Served by the bottle or glass and accompanied by first-class nibbles if desired, Cantinetta Antinori offers some of the best wine in town and all from one of the best examples of 15th Century Florentine architecture.
Known as the cradle of Renaissance due to the prominent characters that resided there: Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo among others, means that Florence is simply teeming with cultural gems.
With an unrivalled concentration of churches, galleries and museums, visitors really do just need to step outside to find themselves immersed in some form of historic place of importance. However, if you are visiting Florence for the first time there are some iconic landmarks and activities that you simply won’t want to miss.
The Uffizi Gallery is a must-see for art aficionados, but if this seems like a big undertaking time-wise, then the smaller museums such as Accademia or the Bargello also offer great collections.
Another great recommendation is to climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s cathedral dome, or the Tower of Arnolfo of Palazzo Vecchio for unmatched views of the city and surroundings before heading down to the Piazza della Signoria for a pit stop at one of the many buzzing cafés and trattorias.
Florence is not only architecturally beautiful; it is also an undeniably romantic city. Here, you can transport yourself to a bygone era just by enjoying a leisurely sunset stroll along the Arno River, crossing the infamous Ponte Vecchio and taking in the historic views from Piazzale Michelangelo.
This editorial first appeared in FOUR’s 03.19 Edition.
Images © in order of appearance: Florence Municipality; Giovanni Ghiandoni; Giovanni Ghiandoni Alessandro Moggi; Roberto Quagli; Cantinetta Antinori; Florence Municipality.