Founded by Emperor Julius Caesar in the year 59 BC, the city of Florence is as much a masterpiece as the monumental works of art discovered within its maze of streets. From the iconic Duomo with a terracotta-tiled dome designed by Brunelleschi to the Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s sculpture of David looms grand, prepare for all of your senses to be ignited. The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region is also home to inventive chefs and skilled artisans, making it an ideal dining and shopping haven.
Art and Culture Fix
For an engaging lesson in art history, discover the impressive sculpture and painting collections at the Uffizi Gallery. Become better acquainted with illustrious Italian artists Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci while viewing works by Dutch, German and Flemish painters. Book tickets online to avoid a queue and stop by the rooftop café to inhale city views, including iconic landmarks Il Duomo by Brunelleschi -— part of church Santa Maria del Fiore — and 13th-century Palazzo Vecchio, all worth a visit. Noteworthy cultural institutions also include Dante’s House Museum, the former home of poet Dante Alighieri, and the Da Vinci Museum offering a glimpse into the inventor’s brilliant mind. Another important stop revealing Gothic-style architecture is 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria Novella where Giotto’s crucifix, Masaccio’s Holy Trinity and Ghirlandaio’s frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel await admiration.
From the stately Piazza della Signoria, home to Michaelangelo’s David, head south to the legendary Ponte Vecchio rebuilt in the 14th century, and pass the dozens of glimmering goldsmiths and jewelers lining the bridge. Take the high route by booking an exclusive tour of the enclosed Vasari Corridor running above the bridge. Stop by the regal Palazzo Pitti, now split into four museums including the Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Costume and Fashion, before strolling the bucolic Boboli Gardens. Considered a living museum, these grounds are home to ancient and Renaissance statues and a number of captivating grottos and fountains.
With its proximity to the Arno River where water is in plentiful supply for the tanning process, Florence is well-known for its leather goods. While the San Lorenzo Market offers a wide array of leather belts, jackets and bags, the most artisanal items are more covert. A leading family leather atelier that has been hand-crafting bags, wallets and belts since 1975, Infinity Firenze is just a stone’s throw from Ponte Vecchio. They also create made-to-order items using top-quality leathers. Head to the Santa Croce neighborhood for a uniquely scented experience in a historic setting, one that dates back to the days of Caterina de Medici. An atelier, olfactorium and laboratory, Aquaflor is dedicated to the art of perfumery. Bespoke scents, home fragrances, candles, and soaps are also part of the collection. The Florence Factory offers a well-curated selection of contemporary clothing and housewares all made in Florence, while a stop at design-savvy La Ménagère, a concept shop, florist, and café, satisfies many shopping (and dining) impulses.
Both a restaurant and a convivial meeting spot welcoming into a plant-filled atrium, Konnubio serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner by combining Tuscan tradition with gastronomy. Chef Marco Anselmi creatively fuses fresh local ingredients to create tasting menus inspired by both land and sea, Bistecca alla Fiorentina included. Another top culinary address whose minimalist setting complements the simplicity of the ingredients is iO – Osteria Personale. Innovative dishes by chef Matteo Fantini can be sampled over a tasting menu with wines from their globally-sourced cellar. Don’t miss a sweet stop at the latest outpost of award-winning pastry chef Iginio Massari where his cakes and chocolates can be savored in a stylish tea salon.
Sleep in Palatial Glamor
Dating back to the 12th century, settle into one of the city’s oldest palatial residences along fashionable Via Tornabuoni, in the very heart of Florence. At the skilled hands of architect Andrea Auletta who infused the space with vibrancy, the former Palazzo Minerbetti has transformed into a 5-star hotel IL Tornabuoni. Each of the 62 rooms and suites is outfitted in a distinct regal color including vivid yellows and teals, with breathtaking views including the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, and Ponte Vecchio. The majestic Tornabuoni suite boasts a private terrace competing with views from the rooftop lounge. Original frescos decorate the spacious suite, Lorenzo Il Magnifico, providing the sensation of sleeping in a museum. From breakfast to dinner, dine on eclectic cuisine at whimsical Il Magnifico Ristorante or embark on a gastronomic journey at restaurant Lucie before heading to the neighboring Butterfly Terrace for a cocktail.