Part Renaissance repository, part fashion hub, Florence is a curious blend of old and new. The latest hotels, restaurants, and galleries are reinvigorating centuries-old institutions and traditions. Take Zeb, a neighborhood grocery store turned informal restaurant that serves updated Tuscan dishes, such as ravioli stuffed with ricotta, minced duck, and orange peel. Near the Duomo, Florence meets Paris at La Boulangerie del Rifrullo, where baguettes come with such Florentine fillings as truffle-flavored lardo. Recent additions to Florence’s illustrious cultural roster include the Giardini & Villa Bardini, an Italianate garden and villa that houses a museum dedicated to Roman fashion designer Roberto Capucci. During the past five years, Florence has become the center of a burgeoning contemporary arts movement—a counterpoint to all those Botticellis in the Uffizi Galleries. In the basement of the Palazzo Strozzi museum, public exhibition space La Strozzina sets the pace with themed shows by upcoming artists, many from Tuscany. On the city’s outskirts, in the Quartiere 3 zone, EX3 is a new contemporary arts center that displays cutting-edge works by emerging stars.
Florence Affordable Tip: Stay at Relais Villa Antea, a six-room B&B in an ochre-colored 1887 villa that’s a 10-minute cab ride from the Duomo. Run by two sisters, this grand family home has Empire-style furnishings and vintage floral fabrics. Breakfast (eggs made to order; buttery croissants; local fruit jams) is served in a magnificent salon with stuccoed ceilings. Doubles from $157.
Florence Family Tip: At the Palazzo Vecchio Family Museum, you can see rooms usually closed to the public in the landmark Romanesque town hall on Piazza della Signoria. You may even get to chat with a duke or duchess (actually an actor in costume). 1 Piazza della Signoria; 39-055/276-8224.
Florence: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 2 city overall
No. 1 city in Europe