Where to Stay:
This 15th and 16th century elegant Renaissance hotel was recently named to Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2015 as one of the world’s best hotels, as well as being voted by Trip Advisor as one of the top 25 hotels in the world. Those accolades are definitely merited. Situated on 11-acres with beautiful gardens in the middle of this historic city, the setting couldn’t be more refined and serene. I will post a full review of this property, along with plenty of photos in a separate post. But for now, suffice it to say that the beauty of the property is matched only by the exquisite service.
While I did not have a chance to visit this property, friends and colleagues stayed here during my visit. They sang the praises of the unbelievable views from the hotel, which overlooks the Boboli Gardens. Others laud the property as well, as it regularly wins Readers’ Choice awards from Conde Nast.
What to Do:
Formally named Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral is commonly known simply as the Duomo. It was designed in 1294 to be the largest Roman Catholic church in the world at the time. The cathedral and its dome were ultimately completed in 1436. At almost 50 meters wide, the dome itself harkens onlookers from miles away, as it protrudes above the Florence skyline. But better from viewing afar is climbing to the top. The 463 steps are not easy, but they are well worth it for the 360 degree views of both the city and the rolling Tuscan hills surrounding the city.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo
Widely considered the most famous sculpture in the world, you simply cannot miss seeing David. Created form 1501 to 1504 and housed in the Accademia Gallery, the astonishing sculpture stands at over 14 feet tall. It is truly a marvel.
3. Soak in the view from the Ponte Vecchio bridge
This is a must do, both for the history and the views. Constructed during Roman times, the bridge remained the only bridge crossing the Arno until 1218. The bridge has weathered many storms and even wars. During World War II, the “Old Bridge” as it is known, was the surviving bridge across the Arno. The rest were destroyed by the fleeing German.
Besides its historical significance, the bridge holds the most enchanting, romantic views. Prior to traveling to Florence, I had seen such breathtaking photos shot from this location. I was hoping to recreate those beautiful sunset photos during my stay. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy while I was there. But nevertheless, the views were still quite ethereal.
4. Peruse the Gucci Museum
Not only is this a wonderful museum, particularly if you enjoy the history of fashion, but it is also a charming place to stop for a break. And that’s exactly what I did. I had a lovely afternoon snack of fresh fruit and a cappuccino in the cafe, and then I browsed the gift shop, which contains exclusive Gucci merchandise.
5. Shop at Luisa Via Roma
Well, since the purpose of my trip to Florence was to attend a Luisa Via Roma event, I’m sure you figured out that I spent some time shopping in store. But beyond my personal reasons for shopping there, the store embodies an inspiring business success story. Started in 1930 by current CEO Andrea Panconesi’s grandmother Luisa on a little street called Via Roma, the store is now celebrating its 85th year this year! During that time, the store has transformed itself from a small local boutique to an online leader in the fashion industry through technical innovation.
Where to Eat:
Before I left for Florence, my neighbor recommended that I eat at Vini e Vecchi Sappori, which she described as a tiny restaurant with handwritten menus. Upon my arrival at the Four Seasons, I immediately talked with the concierge about making me reservations here. Alas, they were closed for a private party one evening and closed for business the other two evenings of my stay.
But, the concierge graciously recommended Osteria dell Tre Panche for a similar authentic, local vibe. His recommendation did not disappoint! The name, which translates to “Tavern of Three Benches,” proved to be very apropos as the restaurant literally had three small bench tables. And it had handwritten menus as well, listing the in-season white truffle specials. As if that wasn’t enough, as I was sitting there, a gentleman walked in from the fields near Siena carrying the white truffles he had just harvested. Needless to say, I ordered pasta with white truffles and ate every delicious bite.
If you are searching for the best ravioli in Florence, Caffe Coquinarius tops many lists – and rightfully so. This cozy wine bar and restaurant happened to be on my walk home from Palazzo Vecchio to the hotel. So, as I passed by it, I had to stop to sample this ravioli. Put simply, the lists are right! The pear ravioli, one of their most popular dishes, was perhaps the best ravioli I have ever tasted. It had such a unique combination of flavors. I highly recommend it.
3. Grom gelato
What is a trip to Italy without gelato? And one can’t ever go wrong with Grom, which uses only the freshest and highest quality ingredients. There is one very near the Duomo, so be sure to wander by for a sweet treat.
What to Wear:
This may come as a surprise, but I am a fairly light packer. Particularly for brief trips like this, I like to fit everything into a carry-on. So, I strategically planned my packing list for Florence to be short and sweet. I had to take my golden obsession dressy pieces, but other than that I limited my packing to basics (black hat, black tees, black jeans, black leather pants, black boots, black tennis shoes, black bag), plus a few jackets and sweaters and fun accessories that could mix and match with the other pieces.
One last note on packing: I will readily admit that when I am traveling on a long overnight flight my priority is not looking good. Comfort takes priority over fashion! Dressing comfortably allows me to rest more easily on the plane. And that allows me to hit the ground running when I land. So my outfit of choice for an extended flight tends to consist of yoga clothes and tennis shoes.
My heart certainly fell in love with Florence. As I look back on my photos from my recent journey, though, I notice that my photos are much like my trip itself — a high-level overview, a macro perspective, an introduction to the city. I certainly look forward to visiting again and digging deeper and getting to know her better. Do you have any Firenze recommendations? Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.