III FLORENCE III
Florence is by far one of my favorite cities if not my favorite city in the world. I first set foot here three years ago while I was touring Europe with a friend after my college graduation. We were apartment hunting since I was coming to undergo a Masters in Interior Design later that fall. While living here, I completely fell in love with the city, it felt like living in an open air museum. There are few things in this world that beat the feeling of walking on the same cobble stone streets as Michelangelo and crossing bridges designed by Leonarda Da Vinci- it is pure magic. Not only was it the rebirth of art but it was my inspirational rebirth, I found myself again in this spectacular city. This will forever be my home and I invite anybody who plans a trip to Italy to spend a few days in Florence, you will never regret it. If you do not enjoy cities or museums, you can drive not even 5 minutes from the city center and you will be in the Tuscan country side, some of the most picturesque rolling hills you will ever see.
The Birthplace of Renaissance has some incredible sites to offer, if you are a lover of classical art (like I am!) you will fall in love with art all over again. I studied Art History in high school, university and graduate school, but nothing compares to seeing it in person.
Galeria de Uffizi, Bargello, Accademia di Arte (Statue of David), Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Strozzi (if you are only in Florence a few days, these are the ones I recommend the most)
For a more complete list, click here
Piiti Uomo (fashion event), Vogue Fashion Night out, Easter Sunday, Notte Bianca (there are concerts and private events throughout the city and stores stay open until midnight) Concerts, Calcio Storico ( this traditional event takes place in the summer in Piazza Santa Croce, the four "neighborhoods" of Florence play against each other in a historical version of what can best be described as rugby/soccer- it is quite a brutal sporting competition) .
You can also check The Florentine (the local newspaper, for any big events that are happening during the specific week you are visiting)
For a complete list, click here
Shopping: Via Tornabuoni (all the high end stores are located on this street), Via Cazaiuoli, the Mall (outlet with all luxury Italian brands).
Be sure to check out the Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo store (they were founded in Florence, they also have museums showing the progression of the design and style of the brand over the years and their relation to the city, interesting if you like fashion history ).
Rinascente, Patricia Pepe, Flavio Castelani, Liu Jo, Pinko, Luisa Via Roma, Aquazzura (also founded in Florence. The interior of the store in black and white stripes with accents of green, I am absolutely obsessed with this store! If you want a fashion souvenir from Florence, here is the place, the shoes are to die for!), Dessivintage (second hand luxury store with some interesting finds), Raspini, Midimette, Le Poème, Calvani (shoes), Cornelliali (men), Twin Set by Simona Barbeiri, Michele Negri, Borsalino (hats, much like a Panama), Eredi Chiarini (men), Montgomery, Flow, Valentino, Intimissimi, Mormoni, Ermanni Scervino (one of my favorite gown designs), Lora Piana, Roberto Cavalli, Sergio Rossi, Cozzi (a small fur shop that is also the workshop on 72 via del Parione), Boutique Nadine, Miss Trench, Mmega, Vincent Croce, Odica/sister’s, Tre di Mattoni (shoes)
Torrini Fotogiotnalismo (Via condotta 20R)- amazing original black and white photographs of Florence.
Florence is also known for their leather goods, you can get a tailor made jacket if you want, there are many stores near Mercato Centrale. For accessories made in leather, I recommend Dantesca (via santa margherita 13R), everything is made by their in house artisan.
Bookstores: Feltrinelli RED, Ibs.it bookshop, Gucci Café (they have a large selection of designer books and the view is amazing, my favorite café of the whole city)
Home accessories: Garage Bagu, Frette, Flair, il Papiro (for Tuscan handmade paper and books), Pratesi
The locals usually order an antipasto (appetizers), then a primi (first plate which usually consists of either pasta, risotto or gnocchis), AND THEN secondi (this is either meat or fish), dolce (deserts), coffee and then a type of digestive (probably offer you a limoncello). You should probably experience this type of meal at least once during your trip but normally pick either between a primi or a secondi, if not you will be overly stuffed.
Acqua al Due (They are famous for their Filetto all’Aceto Balsamico), Rubaconte, La Giostra (my favorite restaurant in the city!), Cipolla Rossa, Caffe Italiano, Finesterrae, SushiNami, Torcicoda, Vecchio e il Mare, Donini (Piazza Reppubblica), Gucci Cafe (great selection of books), Mercato Centrale (on the upper floor there are various restaurant/booths with a large variety of options), Piazza Santo Spirito (there are a lot of good restaurants in the Piazza, try the trattoria of Santo Spirito), Il Latini, La Buchetta, La Prosciutteria (good if you want to get antipasti- selection of hams and cheeses with crostinis), Lions Fountain (Irish pub that is centrally located), Moye, Florian, 4 Leoni (great steaks!), Torre 69 (order the Tagliata- sliced meat with arugula and parmesan shavings, a Tuscan specialty, it is very good here!), trattoria Mamma gina, Il Borro bistro, Obica (best place to taste fresh mozzarella!), il Sanyo bevitore, Konnubio.
Roof Top of Hotel Cavour, roof top of the Westin , roof top of Continentale (these are the best combinations of view and setting)
Panini- Antica sosta degli Aldobrandini (this is near Mercato Nuovo and Medici Chapel, you get to pick the ingredients, they also make salads, very fresh, my favorite place!), All’antico vinaio (this has been rated as the third best panini place in the world, I recommend sharing since they are very large), Cantinetta dei verrazzano, Fo' Caccia la Notte (Via Verdi 43R- this place is only open at night until 5am, the best place to go for an after party snack!)
Gelato- la Carraia (hands down, one of the best gelato I have ever had), Gelateria Santa Trinita (order your gelato and sit on the bridge looking towards Ponte Vecchio, you will feel like you are in a movie), Grom, Gelateria dei Neri, Perche No, Amalo
Pizza- Gusta pizza, Mister pizza (4 formaggi...enough said )
Aperitivo- (The Italians have come up with an amazing concept called the Aperitivo- small assortment of find foods while drinking a cocktail before you go to dinner- I usually would consider this my dinner) Colle Bereto, Kitsch, Rivalta Cafe
Night Life: Colle Bereto (Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best nights!) , YAB (on Wednesdays and Fridays this is a good option), FLO (open only during the summer, its an open aired club that is near Piazzale Michelangelo and overlooks the city) Otel (definitely recommend for Saturday- it’s not in the center of the city but probably one of the largest night clubs in Florence), Blanco (Only open during the summer, I definitely recommend it on Thursdays). Night life in Florence ends pretty late so if you are looking for a place to after party until the sun rises I recommend either Blue Velvet or Dolce Zucchero.
Piazzale Michelangelo (best view of Florence), Uffizi, Piazza Reppubblica, Piazza Santa Croce, Bargello, Accademia di Arte (statue of David by Michelangelo), Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio (some of the best jewlers of the city are located on Ponte Vecchio- if you are looking for gold and silver, here is the place, but keep in mind since it is a touristy spot the prices will be much higher than anywhere else), Fortaleza, Forte Belvedere, Palazzo Pitti (take a ticket that includes the Boboli gardens), The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as the Duomo, the most majestic building of Florence and known for Brunelleschi’s Dome, you can also climb to the top and there is an amazing view, make sure its not a cloudy day), Giotto's Bell Tower (make sure you have comfortable shoes to walk up the windy 400 and more steps to reach the top) Baptistero, Basilica de Santa Maria Novella, Medici Chapel (the hidden gem of the city, some of the most beautiful statues by Michelangelo are found here), Palazzo Medici Ricardi, Palazzo Strozzi (they have several temporary exhibits a year), Loggia di mercato Nuovo (here is located the local legendary Porcellino, the legend says that if you rub the boar’s snout it will ensure your return to Florence), Fiesole (it’s a small village on a hill a little outside of Florence but offers great restaurants and amazing views of the city), San Miniato (a small church and monastery on a hill overlooking Florence, breathtaking view!).
If you are a student in Florence, check out “Florence for Fun”, they plan day and weekend trips to various locations in Italy and throughout Europe. The cost is decent and you get to meet very interesting people during the tours. I have had really good experience with them!
Chianti Tour (if you are a wine lover, this is the tour for you, they will take you to several vineyards and there is usually a tasting paired with hams and cheeses of the region). Vespa Tour (one of my favorite excursions in Tuscany! I recommend- Walkabout Florence Tours- Italian Wheels Vespa Tour), Cinque Terre (These are 5 villages near Florence that border the sea, they are definitely worth visiting during the spring/summer), Day trip to Pisa (visit the famous Piazza dei Miracoli), Fiorentina Soccer game (the purple color of the team is a little bit of a turn off but all the games are very lively and definitely worth going to see at least one) .