T+L's Definitive Guide to Florence
Lay of the Land
Centro Storico: The city’s historic district is filled with art museums and Renaissance churches, along with homegrown luxury brands like Gucci.
San Lorenzo: This maze of streets between the San Lorenzo Market and the Santa Maria Novella train station has been re-energized thanks to the addition of Mercato Centrale, a food lover’s dream.
Santa Croce & Sant’Ambrogio: Authentic trattorias and sidewalk cafés line the narrow lanes of these two neighborhoods, where university kids hang out.
Oltrarno: On the Arno River’s south bank, this lesser-known quarter has artisan workshops, galleries, and a nightlife scene around Piazza Santo Spirito.
Piazza di Santa Maria Novella: This central square is home to the just-opened Museo Novecento and the popular Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a 400-year- old pharmacy that sells traditional elixirs.
Our picks of the city’s top hotels, from the most buzzed-about openings to longtime favorites.
Portrait Firenze: Inspired by 1950s Florence, the Ferragamo family’s latest hotel is done in shades of lilac and gray, with vintage photographs of stars like Richard Burton on the city streets. $$$
Palazzo Guicciardini: One of the few hotels in Oltrarno, this 15th-century palazzo has just eight rooms with wall paintings depicting Italian landmarks. Other details we love: the hawthorn soaps by Fattoria di Belcanto and the classical music in the lobby. $$
Soprarno Suites: A former designer for London’s Fortnum & Mason recently opened this intimate inn. The 11 colorful rooms mix contemporary elements, like calligraphy throw pillows by British artist Carolyn Quartermaine, with original 19th-century frescoes. $$
Four Seasons: Hidden in an 11-acre park, this is the city’s first true resort property. A grand villa and former convent house the 116 rooms, which look out onto a lush garden. The spacious spa is a rarity for hotels in Florence. $$$$
J.K. Place: This chic town-house hotel puts a premium on service, with a staffer for every guest. Designer Michele Bonan outfitted the 20 rooms with marble fireplaces and classical sculptures. Come evening, head to the rooftop terrace—the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail. $$$
St. Regis: Antique Murano chandeliers and restored 16th-century frescoes fill the public spaces at the St. Regis, in Centro. Don’t miss dinner at the hotel’s Michelin- starred Winter Garden restaurant. $$$$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
These authentic shops showcase the city’s long tradition of craftsmanship.
1. Now owned by Gucci, the 18th-century Richard Ginori is the ultimate source for high-end porcelain tableware. Look for 1940s patterns by Gio Ponti, available in 10 different color combinations.
2. Housed in a 15th- century former stable, AquaFlor Firenze stocks nearly 100 scents created by master perfumer Sileno Cheloni. Snap up a bottle of Corps Diplomatique, with notes of frankincense, lemon, vetiver, and musk.
3. At Antico Setificio Fiorentino, you’ll find exquisite silks—ermisino, lampasso, brocatelli, and more—made on antique handlooms.
4. Tommaso Melani sells ready-to-wear oxfords, derbies, loafers, and brogues at his small shoe store, Stefano Bemer. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis was so impressed with the shop that he signed on as an apprentice for eight months in the late nineties.
5. In the monastery of the Santa Croce church, Scuola del Cuoio has been crafting leather bags since the 1950s. Best bet: the Baulettino, a pillbox-style tote with a tassel zipper.
Four fresh looks at Florentine culture.
1. Florence’s only modern-art museum, the Museo Novecento debuted last summer and chronicles 100 years of Italian painting, with works by top artists like Lucio Fontana and GiorgioMorandi.
2. Local entrepreneur Umberto Montano recently reopened the long-abandoned first floor of the Mercato Centrale, which spotlights roughly 14 high-end producers. Ricottas from Franco Parola, pine-nut gelato from Cristian Beduschi, and handmade tortellini from Raimondo Mendolia are threestandouts.
3. The iconic Uffizi Gallery continues to expand its collection, having recently restored five galleries. Among its vast holdings are paintings by 15th-century Italian masters like Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini, as well as ancientRomansculptures.
4. The bold, new rectilinear Operadi Firenze has three performance spaces, including a 2,000-seat open-air theater for warm summer nights. A highlight: The Tempest, on view this month.
Where to dine in Florence now.
Le Fate: This vegan restaurant in the middle of Florence is both a surprising find and one of the best new places to eat. The menu is inspired by the signs of the zodiac, with crowd-pleasers like spaghetti with almond purée, fennel, lemon, and dried apricot. $$$
Osteria De L'Ortolano: Until recently, this gourmet shop run by husband-and-wife team Massimo Zetti and Marta Mezzetti had remained unchanged since the 1960s. Last year, the owners converted the store’s two intimate rooms into a casual mom-and-pop osteria serving traditional Tuscan dishes. Try the chickpea soup with crispy bacon, followed by the chitarrine ai tre ragù, angel hair pasta with three sauces. $$
La Bottega Del Buon Caffe: This creative restaurant just relocated to Oltrarno’s San Niccolò district. Inside the stone-walled dining room, locals gather for chef Antonello Sardi’s sophisticated creations, like mallard with green apple and foie gras. $$$
Sud: On the first floor of the Mercato Centrale, this lively pizzeria serves sensational Neapolitan pies. Go for the Toscano, topped with sausage and roasted red pepper. $$
Sesto On Arno: In a glass cube on the rooftop of the historic Hotel Westin Excelsior, the buzzy Sesto is run by TV chef Entiana Osmenzeza. Among her inventive Balkan- and Armenian-inflected dishes: charcoal-grilled scallops with pumpkin and orange. $$$$
Amble: “Fresh food and old furniture” is the motto at this bohemian café off the Ponte Vecchio, which doubles as a vintage design shop. On the menu: a selection of tramezzini filled with local ingredients like sbriciolona (fennel- flavored salami) and white asparagus. $
Obica: You would never guess that this mozzarella bar is part of a chain across Italy and the United States. Its location, in the Palazzo Tornabuoni, is unbeatable, and the kitchen turns out some of the best cheeses in town. Snag a table in the courtyard and order the smoked mozzarella paired with pink Tuscan mortadella. $$
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Three insiders share their favorite places in the city.
“For no-frills Tuscan food, I go to Trattoria Sostanza (25 Via del Porcellana; 39-055/212-691; $$), in Santa Maria Novella. The artichoke-and-egg fritter grilled over charcoal is excellent. There’s also the elegant Alle Murate ($$$), which I own, in a gorgeous palazzo with 14th- century frescoes. Try the bistecca alla fiorentina. In the evening, there’s no better place for an aperitivo than Rivalta Café, where you can sip martinis while watching the sun set over the Arno.”
Co-owner of boutiques Stefano Bemer and Scuola del Cuoio
“Oltrarno has great one-off shops. At Alessandro Dari, you’ll find pieces like gold- and-diamond rings inspired by angels. Nearby, perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi blends bespoke scents from hundreds of ingredients. Across the river, I love the tailored suits at Liverano & Liverano, and the wool coppola caps from Grevi are ideal for when the weather turns chilly.”
Director at Strozzina gallery
“Florence’s contemporary art scene is small but worth exploring. Biagiotti Progetto Arte displays emerging Italian artists like Andrea Facco, and Galleria il Ponte carries a range of international 20th- and 21st-century talents. For a coffee break, Libreria Brac has a wonderful café that’s packed with design books. At Castello di Ama, an hour’s drive south, you can see works by Kendell Geers and Anish Kapoor.”
Three cooking schools that teach the Tuscan way.
Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici: At this high-tech kitchen, you can sign up for a themed lesson (pizza making, say) or simply watch a master chef prepare a meal.
Desinare at Riccardo Barthel: Up to 10 students gather daily at Riccardo Barthel’s interior design emporium to learn about everything from wine pairings to food photography.
MaMa: Tuscany’s top chefs lead the classes at MaMa, on the outskirts of Oltrarno. Perfect your ravioli or discover the secret ingredients in osso buco.
Looking for more on the best restaurants in Florence, Italy? Read T+L’s Restaurant Guide to Florence.