Florence Guide

Florence is a living museum – with unrivalled food, shopping and world-class art packed into its cobbled streets...


Where to Stay in Florence

Unsurprisingly, in a city where locals are outnumbered by tourists 7-1 in the high season, there’s no shortage of decent places to stay. Design hotel the Continentale has an air of the glamorous 50s and a gorgeous lounge bar on the terrace overlooking the river and the Duomo. To push the boat out and stay in your own personal museum, check into the Four Seasons, which occupies two painstakingly restored palazzos set in a wonderful private park in the centre of the city. Finally, for those on a bit of a budget, Floroom 1 is a slickly designed B&B (that has more in common with your average boutique hotel), located on the cool, bohemian side of the river.


Where to Eat in Florence

Local celebrity chef Fabio Picchi’s Cibreo Ristorante (8 Via Andrea del Verrocchio; +39 55 2341100) is the smart place to go for traditional Tuscan food (think earthy peasant fare with plenty of beans and vegetables along with the famous T-bone steak, the bistecca alla fiorentina, served very rare). Alternatively, you can make like the locals and head to Sant’Ambrogio’s covered market for lunch at Da Rocco where Tuscan favourites are served up with cheeky banter – and the city’s lowest prices. Across town, just outside the San Frediano Gate, is the city’s finest fish restaurant, Fuor d’Acqua (37 via Pisana; +39 55 222299), which specialises in simply prepared fish and seafood served with a minimum of fuss and fancy tricks. Enoteca Fuori Porta (10r via del Monte alle Croci; +39 55 234 2483) has excellent wines and crostini served either on the terrace or inside on wooden benches. Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri (87 Via Ghibellina; +39 55 242757) is expensive and formal but the food is beyond compare – if you can get a table, that is. For the best pizza in town, head out of the Romana Gate to Antica Porta (23 Via Senese; +39 55 220527) where locals feast on the mouth-watering, thin-crust creations. A traditional Florentine cellar restaurant, Buca dell’Orafo (28 via de Girolami; +39 55 213619) is small and packed to the rafters with boisterous locals. The menu is traditional Tuscan and all ingredients are seasonal, local and unerringly delicious. Hidden away down an arched alleyway, L’Antico Noe (6 volta di San Pietro; +39 55 234 0838), is a typically rustic Tuscan joint with cured hams and copperware hanging on the walls, and a range of excellent grilled meats and fresh pastas. Next door is a traditional wine shop, one of the last hole-in-the-walls left in Florence.


Where to Go Out in Florence

The city’s nightlife scene is serene and stylish rather than wildly hedonistic. Aperitivo is a Florentine favourite – after-work drinks served with delicious bar food. Procacci (64 Via de’ Tornabuoni) is famed for its truffle panini. The large terrace of the Colle Bereto (4-6 Piazza Strozzi) is opposite the Palazzo Strozzi museum. It’s one of Florence’s chicest watering holes – and a perfect spot to settle in for some top-class people-watching. On the other side of the river, the hippest hangout in the city at the moment is the Zoe (13 Via dei Renai) with its large terrace and serious aperitivo. The Fusion Bar (3 Vicolo dell’Oro) at the Gallery Art Hotel has become another of the city’s glam meeting places du jour with its menu of fusion nibbles and delicious cocktails. A bar and club with a loyal local clientele, Rex Café (23 Via Fiesolana) features Gaudiesque mosaics and good nibbles, while Baroque club Montecarla (2 Via de’Bardi) is kitsch chic with plenty of plush velvet and leopard skin.

Where to Shop in Florence

Shopping in Florence has to start at the historic Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (16 Via della Scala) – one of the world’s oldest pharmacies, with handcrafted products in a beautiful, fresco-lined building. Bottega del Cioccolato (50R via de’Macci) is an artisan chocolate shop which serves sinfully good handmade chocolates. For vintage frocks and furniture, visit the fabulous Elio Ferraro Gallery (47 Via di Parione), for divine end-of-line fashion labels at discount prices make for Gerard (24-26 Via Lambertesca), and for really good quality artisan leather, head to the Scuola del Cuoio (inside the Basilica of Santa Croce) where you’ll find excellent quality leather products from bespoke handbags to key rings. Leather gloves (in every colour of the rainbow) are a Florence trademark and just south of the Ponte Vecchio, Madova (1 Via de' Guicciardini), is the only glove shop in the city to produce its stock on-site, with a little factory behind the shop producing the exquisite gloves in all styles.

What to Wear in Florence

Forget the bling beloved of Roman ladies, Florentines are a discreet, conservative bunch and observe religiously sartorial rules such as no sandals before the end of May and no shorts or vests in the city (under any circumstance!) In town, Florentines are always properly dressed and frown on those who are not. Or worse – they call them ‘American tourists’ with a sage shrug.

Beauty SOS – Where to Go for Pampering in Florence

Set on the ground floor of a typical palazzo, Soul Space (12 Via Sant’Egidio; +39 55 2001794) is a beautiful spa with wonderful treatments and a hammam. Gabrio Staff (5r Via de' Tornabuoni; +39 55 214668) is Florence’s top hair salon and regularly provides stylists and makeup artists for shoots and weddings, along with an indulgent range of beauty and pampering treatments.

Planning a trip to Italy? Check out our Rome guide. Or see all our travel guides.

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