How to take a World’s Best trip to Florence.
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
EX3 81/83/85 Viale Giannotti; 39-055/628-8966; ex3.it.
Giardini & Villa Bardini 2 Costa San Giorgio; 39-055/2006-6206; bardinipeyron.it.
La Boulangerie del Rifrullo 24r Via de’ Rondinelli; 39-055/281-658; ilrifrullo.com; lunch for two $57.
La Strozzina PalazzoStrozzi; 39-055/264-5155; strozzina.org.
Uffizi Galleries Piazzale degli Uffizi; 39-055/238-8651; polomuseale.firenze.it.
Zeb 2r Via San Miniato; 39-055/234-2864; zebgastronomia.com; dinner for two $64.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Following a massive building restoration, Florence’s 116-room Four Seasons hotel opened in June 2008. Located in the fifteenth-century Palazzo della Gherardesca—with monumental frescoed halls and room décors that range from opulent Renaissance suites to a discreetly elegant, almost Georgian style in most rooms—this is the city’s first true resort hotel. Facilities include a spa, an outdoor pool, and an 11-acre private park. Room amenities go beyond the usual satellite TV to included DVD players, iPod docking stations, twice-daily maid service, and WiFi. Service, under manager Patrizio Cipollini, is top notch. There's an ex-convent—500 yards away, on the far side of the park—with its own entrance at 46 Via Gino Capponi.