Peeking out over Piazza della Repubblica Florence…
Peeking out over Piazza della Repubblica Florence…
The stylish hotel in the centre of Florence
How to spend a relaxed summer day in the heart of the Renaissance with a balance of culture, cafes, and a little bit of shopping…
8AM Waking up in my room with a view at the Savoy right on Piazza della Repubblica. My extra comfortable bed makes for a good night sleep and after a shower I have a bit of fruit from the breakfast buffet. I hold off having coffee so as to have it at Gilli across the street.
9:15AM Quick caffe at the counter at Gilli before heading out for some exploration. Lots of options, but I start with a visit to Santa Maria Novella to take in important Early Renaissance art work without the crowds. Masaccio’s Holy Trinity marks the beginning of the Renaissance, and the extensive work of the Tornabouni Chapel has work by Ghirlandaio, Da Vinci’s teacher, and showcases meticulously painted frescos on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some of the best examples if Italian painting of the era are in this bejeweled church and without the long queues like at the Uffizzi gallery.
11:30AM No trip to Florence is complete without a stop in the Farmacia de Santa Maria Novella to pick up some of their one of a kind forest scented potpourri and a bottle of their Acqua Colonia fragrance, the original perfume made for Catherine de Medici.
1PM A leisurely walk over to the Mercato Centrale where the upper floor has many lunch options on offer. Several different food counters, wine bars, food shops are temptations for the best of Italian food choices. A nice truffle panini or a slice of pizza, salad, fresh cooked vegetables or plates of pasta.
2:30PM A bit of shopping starting at the Via Tornabuoni and surroundings. Scarves at Faliero Sarti and decorative paper gifts at Il Papiro make great souvenirs.
4:30PM When the heat and crowds gets to be too much, sitting on the terrace of Rivoire with views over the Piazza della Signoria to have and iced coffee or an iconic Negroni makes for a great tonic. Linger a while and take in La Dolce Vita.
6PM A spiritual visit to San Miniato al Monte to listen to the monks chant vespers is a rare and moving experience. After the service, take the short walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to look over one of the best views over Florence in the entire city.
7:3oPM Time for a glass of fine wine aperitivo at Le Volpe e l’uva in Oltrarno, one of the best wine bars in Florence before walking down the road to have Tuscan cuisine at the lively Santo Bevitore.
10PM A short and easy walk across the river I make my way back to the Savoy. Pausing briefly on the Ponte Santa Trinity to observe the Ponte Vecchio. Back at the Savoy I enjoy a nightcap glass of grappa at Irene before tumbling back into my cloud like bed and the enjoy the sweetest of dreams.
Sit on the Piazza della Signoria in the evening and listen to the music. Its a free outdoor concert.
Go to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset for the best views of the city. While there explore the nearby San Miniato al Monte and stop in to listen to the chanting of the monks.
Do your Christmas shopping early as with so many artisan craftsmen in the area you will find unique and one of a kind gifts.
Stop and taste the wine. So many great bottles, so little time!
Explore the Santo Spirito area in the Oltrarno side of the river. Lively part of Florence where the locals hang out.
Art without the crowds: the Branacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine has outstanding 15th century frescos and showcasing some of Masaccio’s early work. A rare jewel and worth the effort.
Head for the piazzas! And the popular Caffe Gilli or Rivoire for aperitivo time or after dinner drinks. You’ll have a near feast of aperitivo snacks or enjoy the free music on the piazzas for after dinner entertainment. Not to mention any time is a good time to sit in a caffe and people watch, rest one’s feet, or just enjoy an espresso in these two spots, this is Italy after all and caffe life is the way of life here.
For a more trendy twist on cocktail hour, L’incontro bar in the Savoy Hotel offers a sophisticated take on the classic. Breezy in summer and cozy in colder months with views of the Piazza della Republica.
For an upscale wine bar, and this is prime vino country after all, the baby grand panini bar Procacci on Via Tornabuoni offers exceptional wines by the glass along with the world famous Truffle panini.
While I do enjoy a meal at places like Cibreo, I tend to prefer a more laid back trattoria style of eating when I’m in Florence as I crave hearty, homemade style cuisine. A place which serves high end food in a relaxed environment is Caffe Pitti, right in front of the Pitti Palace. Their specialty is truffles though they offer a modern Tuscan menu. And for the sweet tooth a semifredo with berry sauce that is heavenly.
Quite touristy, though you will see some locals here as well, is Paoli, (12, Via Tavolini) between the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria. A complete Italian menu serving all the favourite dishes so you can’t go wrong. What makes this place a bit more special is it is located in a medieval building with fading frescos of old Florence. A great place to sit and take in a bit of historical Florence. Service is hit or miss, but for the most part friendly. This is a good “all arounder” for a solid dinning experience and a jovial place to be.
For a lively ambiance with an elegant menu, try trattoria Parione (Via Parione 74/76). A contemporary take on Tuscan cuisine is exciting though the portions are large. The place is quite busy but the service is excellent so you won’t be kept waiting. Great local mushroom dishes.
For a good all around meal Caffe Italiano is a classic eatery not far from Santa Croce (Via dell’Isola delle Stinche 11/13r). Small but appealing menu and serving a good selection of wines by the glass. At night they have the best pizza in town in the tiny alcove next door. Serving only 3 choices of pizza all are baked in a wood burning oven and since there is not a lot of space to sit, pizzas can be ordered for take away.
…After pizza you can always stop at Florence’s best gelateria Vivoli located just down the street from Caffe Italiano. Choose from tempting selection of flavours made daily from seasonal ingredients. Some of the best ice cream around.
Pizza and vino at Caffe Italiano
Shop for Florence’s famed artisan paper products. They make great gifts and you support a centuries old tradition. Wonderful shops include Il Papiro, Johnson’s & Relatives, Il Parione, and Signum. Buy a box of small decorated note cards as they always come in handy.
Pick up perfume like Catherine de Medici used to wear at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. The shop alone of this centuries old apothecary is a museum in itself.
Hard to resist the many delicious pastries and candies throughout Florence. Especially when they are so lushly displayed and so prettily packaged. At Migone (Via Calzailuoli) near the Duomo they will package their extensive array of handmaid candies in boxes decorated like many of Florence’s popular landmarks. This makes for excellent gifts to take back as you can give chocolates in a colourful box of the Duomo. Fabulous! And of course Rivoire started off as a chocolate shop so their candy and pastry counter is worth a stop.
Pretty Florence themed boxes of chocolate at Migone