Four Seasons (Borgo Pinti, 99; +39 055 26 261)
It feels like you’re staying in a museum at this sprawling new resort situated just minutes from the center of the city. After an extensive renovation, the 15th century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the ‘Conventino”, a 16th century Palazzo, have been restored to their Renaissance glory. Stroll through the massive gardens or book a facial in the spa using products from the world’s oldest pharmacy, Florence’s Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
J.K. Place (Piazza Santa Maria Novella 7; +39 055 26 451 81)
Located in the center of Santa Maria Novella square, J.K. Place is an intimate hotel that attracts a hip, sophisticated crowd. This luxurious townhouse has the feel of an elegant private residence with small public sitting rooms with fireplaces aglow. The reception area is a gorgeous geometrical black library with no check-in desk. With only 20 rooms built around a small courtyard lit by Moroccan lamps, this boutique property perfectly blends traditional and modern elements for a luxurious hideaway. Soak in the majestic city views while sampling an apertivo at the J.K. Lounge.
Rates from $384
Hotel Savoy (Piazza della Republica 7; +39 055 27351)
This chic hotel sits just steps from the Duomo and Uffizi. The sister property of the De Russie in Rome, the Savoy boasts stylish interiors with an eclectic mix of antiques and modern art. The prints of shoes hanging on the muted white walls are a nod to the Ferragamo family who owns the property. Although most of the 102 rooms are on the small side, they feature contemporary yet classic interiors with luxurious marble and mosaic bathrooms.
Rates from $360
Eat & Drink
La Cucina del Garga (48R Via del Moro; +39 055 239 8898)
This charming family-owned restaurant has a joyous vibe and fresh-from-the-garden Tuscan cuisine. Waiters are known to sing opera and some even don flowers behind their ears, creating a boisterous ambiance to match owner Giuliano’s bright paintings that adorn the dining room walls. The delicious fare draws locals and in-the-know travelers who gather here for a fun-filled night of entertainment and traditional Tuscan fare.
Buca dell’Orafo (Volta dei Girolami 28r; +39 055-213-619)
This tiny cellar restaurant has been a local haunt for ages, but the word has spread to tourists who fill up the dozen tables, so be sure to book ahead. The waiters can be a bit testy, especially if asked to cook a Florentine steak medium, but that’s just because they take their food seriously here. Fresh pastas and fish are also top notch and the tiramisu is light and airy. It can be hard to find, so be sure to keep left of the Ponte Vecchio where its sits under the overpass.
Enoteca Pinchiorri (87R Via Ghibellina; +39 055 242 777)
Sample excellent vintages at one of Florence’s top wine bars housed in an upscale, estate-style setting. This Enoteca offers a wide assortment of sampling glasses, but the food is also a main draw with three Michelin stars and full multi-course meals.
Trattoria Sostanza Troia (Via del Porcellana 25/r; +39 055 212691)
This modest restaurant offers the best bistecca alla fiorentina, the famous Chianina porterhouse steak. There are 2 sittings at communal tables: 7:00 pm is mainly tourists, while the locals usually eat at the 9:00 pm sitting.
See & Do
Piazza della Signoria
One of Florence’s most exquisite squares also contains some of its finest sculptures, or at least copies of famous icons like Michelangelo’s David and Giambologna’s equestrian Cosimo I.
The Uffizi is one of the best art galleries in the world and is not to be missed. But be sure to reserve a ticket online before visiting since this picture gallery is the busiest in Florence and has winding lines to enter. With so many masterpieces on display, first time visitors may be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of paintings — there are 15 rooms alone just for the Florentine Renaissance painters. Pace yourself and book online at Uffizi ticket office.
Galleria dell’Accademia (Via Ricasoli, 58-60; +39.055.294883)
A visit to Florence is not complete without a stop at the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Standing underneath this gleaming 16-foot high marble wonder that Michelangelo chiseled to perfection is a magical experience. It took the artist three years to transform a single block of marble into the world’s most famous sculpture. There are also five other Michelangelo sculptures along with several unfinished works on display. Book tickets online at Ticket Italy Accademia. Open from 8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. Tuesdays through Sunday Closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25
Pitti Palace (Piazza Pitti; +39055-238-8616)
This former palace contains the Medici family’s private art collection and the vast Boboli gardens.
Duomo (Piazza del Duomo; +39 055-230-2885 )
The world famous Duomo with its massive Brunelleschi dome should be viewed from afar during sunset, with its warm, glowing hues cascading over the city. Be sure to view the stunning tricolor marble façade of the cathedral, baptistery and tower up close and even climb to the top of the dome for sweeping city views.
Santa Maria Novella (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18; +39 055 28 21 87)
This green, pink and white marble façade church is lovely and houses beautiful artwork, including a series of frescoes by Ghirlandaio.
Florence is home to global brands like Gucci, Pucci, and Roberto Cavalli, and of course Ferragamo, whose stores can be found along both sides of the elegant Via de’ Tornabuoni, with an extension along Via della Vigna Nuova and other surrounding streets. Other big names include Armani, Prada, and Dolce & Gabana ensconced in old palaces or modern minimalist boutiques.
On the other end of the shopping spectrum is the loud San Lorenzo street market where haggling is encouraged. The market is open Tuesday to Saturday during normal shop hours 07.30 – 19.00 and the first Sunday of the month. After shopping, stop by one of the oldest churches in Florence, San Lorenzo church.
The market runs from the Piazza San Lorenzo up the via dell Ariento to via Nazionale.
Florentine shopping hours are daily from 9:30am to noon or 1pm and 3 or 3:30 to 7:30pm
To get a great overview of the city, head for Piazza Michelangelo in Oltrarno (other side of river Arno) or the higher vantage point at the church of San Miniato.
Basilica di San Miniato al Monte (Via del Monte alle Croci/Viale Galileo Galilei; 055-234-2731)
San Miniato sits atop one of Florence’s highest peaks and offers one of the best views of the city. Go around 5pm to hear the monks’ Gregorian chants and catch spectacular sunset views.
Casa Buonarroti (Michelangelo’s House) (Via Ghibellina 70; +39 055 241 752)
This gorgeous 16th century palazzo where Michelangelo lived between 1516 and 1525, was left to the city of Florence by the artist’s last descendant in 1858 and opened to the public in 1959. It houses an impressive collection of art amassed by the Buonarroti family. Apart from a variety of paintings and sculptures by the master artist, the museum also includes a priceless archive and library of more than 200 of his sketches and autographed drawings. Open daily except Tuesdays, 9.30am to 2pm.