Florence, Italy is having something of a renaissance right now. With the opening of Gucci Garden, and jewelry designers such as Temple St. Clair opting to set up shop in historic locations like the Ponte Vecchio, there’s never been a better time to visit. Even on a more foundational level, the city is rebuilding itself: One initiative intends to install 30,000 LED lamps around the city by the end of the year, while another will resurface roads and cycling lanes. There is much movement, but at an easy pace—never forgetting what came before. Florence will always be filled with history. Here, a guide on what to do now, as the city finds new energy.
Where to Eat in Florence
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, connected to Gucci Garden, a hybrid fashion museum and shopping space, the small restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
FAC. Created by chef Simone Cipriani (of the Florence restaurant called Essenziale), the restaurant is an international, fast and casual (the last two descriptions being the literal acronym behind FAC) take on Italian food housed on the first floor of Eataly. The menu is divided into three concepts: street food, revolutionized traditions, and bowls.Try taco lasagna or edamame with spicy amatriciana sauce.
For a snack while shopping Florence’s lively markets, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio (the city’s oldest) now offers one of the best lunches straight from Luca Menoni. Though the space has functioned as a butcher shop for nearly 100 years, Luca Menoni opened its Risto-Macelleria Terrazza Menoni late last year, just above the space where it sells traditional and local meats. Diners now have the chance to try a seasonally rotating menu of beef, pork, poultry and veal cooked using Tuscan recipes. The atmosphere shows its history with vintage posters and locals buzzing around the restaurant, multiple generations in tow.
What to Do in Florence
Florence is a city with tourism founded on its own broad history so there is rarely a need for newness—just expansion. A few years ago inside the infamous, centuries-old Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the pharmacy opened a café inside its minimalistic halls. Go for the beauty products and architecture, but stay for the unique menu. Along with lotions, supplements and soaps concocted from 13th-century recipes, the café serves everything from liquors and teas to homemade cakes and chocolates infused with various plant and herb-based liqueurs.
When in Italy, you still have to catch the classics. Those include the Uffizi gallery(for obvious reasons: it contains the masterpieces of Titian, Caravaggio, and The Birth of Venus from Botticelli), Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. For the first time this year, travelers are able to buy a ticket that covers access to all sights with priority entry for three days.
If you’re taking a stroll on the legendary Ponte Vecchio, keep an eye out for American jewelry brand Temple St. Clair’s first boutique on the bridge, which had its soft opening this month. It officially opens later this year. The Virginia-native created her first ever piece of jewelry in Florence, made her debut in Barneys in 1986 and has since showcased her pieces in the Louvre. The shop has been created in collaboration with the Vettori High Jewelry shop, which will be internally connected to Temple St. Clair’s boutique.
For more of a secret Florence, uninhibited by the crowds that quickly fill up the most popular attractions, head to the Garden of Irises. The former olive grove is now devoted to blooming iris plants (the symbol of the city of Florence). Situated on the corners of Viale dei Colli and Piazzale Michelangelo, there are over 1,500 different iris varieties, few tourists, and an incredible view of the Arno—it’s best to visit in April or May, when the flowers are at peak season. Another hidden treasure is the Scuola del Cuoio, or leather school, in the Santa Croce area. Anyone can take a three-month course, or various day workshops where you’ll leave with a hand-crafted book cover or leather pouch.
It’s also never been easier to work in Florence as an international traveler. In January, the city’s Chamber of Commerce got a makeover in a brand new location with a panoramic rooftop restaurant and new co-working spaces called “Work in Florence,” purposely in English. The high-tech suites are bookable by companies and individuals.
Where to Stay in Florence
Set in a former Medici Palace, the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze makes a stay in Florence incredibly luxurious. It’s situated just a few blocks away from the major attractions, but the manicured gardens and tranquil pool evoke easy Florentine living. An expansive spa with ten treatment rooms makes it worth staying inside your hotel all day. Services range from the Iris Sensations treatment to a Chianti Wine Massage, both Florentine themed.
Villa Cora is another building made new again. The former 19th-century villa is now a luxury hotel surrounded by hills, sky, and Tuscan greenery. Take advantage of the panoramic rooftop views for watching the sunset over the hills, or get lost inside one of the many maximalist Rococo-style halls, complete with gold molding, detailed frescos and marble statues. The hotel overlooks a quiet section of the Boboli Gardens.
Palazzo di Camugliano, another former family residence, still retains its 16th-century foundation with a hint of modernity. Rooms are furnished with antique elements, and details of frescos still remain on some of the ceilings. This boutique style hotel has only ten rooms, each of which overlook a garden area—a regal setting for such an intimate, hidden hotel on a residential street. For a more urban feel, try Hotel Spadai, which sits directly next to the Duomo. A private observation deck allows you to get the same view of Florence as you would from the Duomo, without all the crowds.
MUST DO: “Best focaccia sandwich ever!” at All’ Antico Vinaio !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Le Vespe Cafe Florence: brunch hotspot
La Terrazza Florence: best rooftop bar
ANTICA MACELLERIA FALORNI FLORENCE: BUTCHER & TASTING ROOM BOUTIQUE NADINE: Concept store for shopping LADIIIIIES! We NEED good coffee. No matter where we are :-). Ditta Artigianale is a coffee bar you should know in Florence.
CUCINA TORCICODA FLORENCE: THIS RESTAURANT IS FOODIE HEAVEN