Travel to FlorenceFlorence – La Dolce Vita
A city that will inspire you to run away to Italy, Florence epitomizes what life should be about. Even after just one night, Florence will convince you that all the world needs is food, wine, and love. For the latter, the scene could not be more picturesquely set. Take in the gorgeous art at the Uffizi, stroll the leather markets, and walk across the Ponte Vecchio, not caring at all where that bridge will take you. Florence is about the luxury of being in the moment, as the sun sets and dusk transforms the city into pure magic.
Your own Renaissance Palace
There is no shortage of gorgeous places for romance Italian-style. The Savoy is a long-time boutique favorite with impeccable service, simple but chic rooms, and a prime location, just steps from the Duomo. The all-suite Palazzo Magnani Feroni is how you’d imagine Italian nobles lived 500 years ago, because it is. With 12 suites decked out in all their Florentine glory, the Palazzo will inspire you to have a Renaissance of your own.
The heavies have moved into Florence in recent years, with the arrival of Four Seasons andSt. Regis. You know you’re going to score a homerun at these luxe spots, with their high-end service and all sorts of creature comforts, from 24-hour room service to Wi-Fi. For those who spend lots of time on the road, this is the perfect opportunity to redeem those Starwood points at the St. Regis. Four Seasons and St. Regis are also good family options, which makes Florence vacays with the kids a whole lot more accessible.
The Lay of the Land
Florence is best conquered on foot; unless you’ve mastered the cobblestones, make sure to leave your Louboutins at home. To experience the essence of Florence, you’ll want to wander aimlessly, stepping into the quiet of a beautiful church, checking out an under-the-radar museum, and getting lost on the side streets. The big names – the Uffizi Gallery for Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, and the Accademia for Michelangelo’s David – should be on your list, but there are dozens of other small specialty museums worth visiting, like the Ferragamo shoe museum, and medieval-era churches tucked away on side streets.
Speaking of churches, you’ll find yourself stopping by the Duomo morning, noon, and night. As the sun rises and sets, and moonlight comes over Florence, the Duomo and the surrounding tile roofs become a picture in motion. Your circuit will also include the Ponte Vecchio, which extends over the Arno River. Touristy as heck, it’s still the perfect vantage point to soak in one of the prettiest cities in Italy. With this view as inspiration, it’s no wonder the Renaissance was born in Florence. While you’re in the area, explore the myriad little shops like Il Papiro for handmade Florentine paper. Afterwards, wind down over a drink at Sky Bar at Continentale Hotel for the insider’s place to catch the sunset and then warm up at the Hotel Lungarno to kick off the famed Florentine aperitivo hour.
For a liquid lunch, take a day trip to the wine region. This is Tuscany after all, home to some of the world’s best wines. The medieval town of Siena is a short hour ride away and its famed restaurant Cane e Gatto is worth the drive alone. Need some retail therapy? The Prada outlet and The Mall, in nearby Leccio Reggalo, will have you outfitted in haute couture for at least 70% off. We’re talking goodies from Alexander McQueen and Armani,and naughty little numbers from La Perla. Also worth a visit is the Villa San Michele, which has a gorgeous spa, cooking school, and restaurant.
To Market, To Market
Florence’s markets are a rich part of the cultural experience. At the San Lorenzo markets, check out the buttery leather bags and gloves, or just absorb the ambiance. The higher quality goods are Scuola del Cuoi for serious buyers. Snap some Kodak moments at the Centrale fruit markets, a leisurely stroll away. And, you’ll find quaint shops everywhere. Florentines are known for their handmade paper in a signature print. Pick some up at Il Papiro and Carte, which also has limited-edition engraved etchings of Florence and photo albums. For her, head over to Street Doing for vintage finds like frothy delights of dresses from the 1960s and Louis Vuitton vintage trunks for surprisingly “reasonable” prices. Michelle Negri is a local designer who will outfit you in the signature Florentine ponchos and fur capes and of course Roberto Cavalli for even just a wee peak at his gorgeous clothes and a stop in the store’s Cavalli Café for people watching. To bring back home the signature scent and beauty products of Florence, head to Officina Profomo Farmaveutica di Santa Maria Novella. This is the oldest pharmacy in Florence in what looks like a museum of a store and is a signature Florentine gift. For him, head to Il Pietro for handmade tailored shirts, and Valentino and Armani, which sometimes carry even a better selection than in Rome. Whether you live or loathe to shop, Florence offers such beautiful items that you’ll enjoy dropping some coin.
The Religion of Food
Breakfast and lunch at Gilli, where it seems that people watching was invented with its prime location on the Piazza della Republica. For breakfast, stand at the bar for a coffee and croissant, or soak in the scene at a table on the square with an American Breakfast of eggs. Lunchtime brings gorgeous pasta Bolognese and seafood linguini. Gilli is one of the few quality places that is open all day: lunch promptly ends at 2:30 at most restaurants at which time you’re out of luck except for the little takeaway shops.
The cuisine scene in Florence is off the hook, sure to leave you reminiscing for years. You’ll reach heaven in the form of a plate of Bistecca alla Florentina at the boisterous bistro La Giostra, where wine flows as freely as the truffles, which are exuberantly shaved by a Hapsburg prince, no less.
For orgasmic Tuscan fare, don’t miss the cutting-edge Cibrèo, outfitted with a trattoria, restaurant, and café. The restaurant serves tapas-style tastings, where you’re charged by the number of courses you order. There’s no menu, but trust the chef to bring out items as exotic as tripe and as simple as chickpeas.
Enoteca Pinocchiori is considered one of the finest, if not the most expensive, dining experience in Florence. This is a jacket and tie affair, and the menu features culinary delights like Agnolotti filled with fresh ricotta in a mint and clam sauce (€70) and spit-roasted goat (€90). If you want to splurge, this is the place.
For a more traditional meal, go to Il Caminetto, a beautiful, simple Tuscan restaurant we were lucky to stumble upon years ago but have been visiting ever since for their antipasti and homemade pastas. This is one of the best values in town. Cammillo Trattoria, on the other side of the Arno, is where the chic locals and expats dine on exceptional mozzarella salad, beef tenderloin, fresh pasta and porcini mushrooms in season. Between sightseeing, squeeze in a stop at Vestri to indulge in their delicious chocolates, each one a work of art.
All the World Needs is Food, Wine, and Love
The only thing missing in Florence is a booming nightlife, but with all the food, wine, and love, who needs it? With the best of all three, Michelangelo’s David won’t be the only pure body of perfection you’ll experience.