Florence, Italy is considered one of the world’s greatest art cities thanks to its wealth of Renaissance works, created by some of history’s most inspirational minds in the realms of painting, sculpture, architecture, and design. But the city doesn’t cling to its role in the Renaissance to preserve its relevance.
Florence remains a vibrant, creative epicentre for fashion, artistic, and culinary innovation. One that’s as worthy of attention as the works of Michelangelo and Botticelli.
From where to eat, drink, play, and of course, see Florentine art come to life, this city guide offers something for every type of creative and art lover.
WHAT TO PACK
Where To Stay
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel more lavish and immersive of Florentine art than the breathtaking Four Seasons Firenze. This property resides in the former palazzo of a counselman, and its Renaissance-era opulence has been painstakingly preserved throughout. It’s also home to the city’s largest private garden – filled with both contemporary and historic sculptures – and is just steps away from top sites like the Uffizi and Accademia galleries, along with Palazzo Vecchio.
Beyond its historic and artistic prominence, there are a million other reasons to make Four Seasons Firenze your base for a weekend or more. It houses a spectacular Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Palagio, which also offers a fabulous breakfast to fuel your busy mornings, as well as private dining experiences with unbeatable views of the Duomo. Plus, there’s a luxurious outdoor pool and spa, the latter of which is considered one of the city’s best. Perfect once you’ve had enough of galleries for the day and are in need of some R&R.
If you’re looking for something that feels a bit more local check into the lovely SoprArno Suites, located in buzzy Oltrarno, directly across the famed Pitti Palace. This boutique B&B features 13 rooms, all of which have been individually designed by local architect Franceso Maestrelli and decorated by Florentines Matteo Perduca and Betty Soldi, who have filled the spaces with a collection of art and antiques. Plus, the rooms feature dazzling original frescoes that speak to the building’s history.
Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni 1 is another ideal hotel for art-enthusiasts. While the views alone are enough of a reason to book a stay in this Medieval tower-house, the hand-painted walls, sumptuous suites, and culinary program are sure to convince you. Plus the location: steps away from top destinations like Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, and designer stores.
What To See
While first-timers and Florence veterans alike will want to consider savoring a few hours in the most popular art destinations like the Uffizi (to see works by the Italian Renaissance’s biggest names) and the Galleria dell’Accademia (to get up close and personal with Michaelangelo’s David), it’s worth exploring beyond the city’s most desired (read: most crowded) sites for a more well-rounded and peaceful exploration of the city’s art history and culture.
A local-favourite that remains somewhat hidden in the city is the Stibbert Museum. Located in the gorgeous Villa di Montughi, where the eclectic arts and antiquities collector Fredrick Stibbert resided in the 19th century, the house-museum boasts an impressive 50,000 items, from Medieval suits of armour to ceramics, furniture, and paintings. And if you’re planning to check out the Duomo, don’t miss a walk through its art museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Florentine monumental sculpture.
If you’d prefer to see pieces from a more recent century, beeline for the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, a gallery built in 2007 to give Florence an international centre for contemporary art. Fashion lovers won’t want to miss an immersive experience at the Gucci Garden: the gallery space is a celebration of the brand’s vast success, today and yesteryear. You could spend an entire afternoon here perusing the archives, lunching at the Michelin-starred osteria, and of course, doing a bit of shopping at the boutique.
Those who want to get outdoors after wandering the packed halls of the Uffizi should look to Villa Bardini and its stunning gardens. Nearby to the famed Boboli Gardens but less busy, this bucolic destination is the perfect escape from the bustle, and offers spectacular views of the city. Be sure to catch the ultimate Instagram moment at the dreamy wisteria pergola that’s draped with sweeping lilac and violet blooms.
Where To Shop
For those that are less interested in Leonardo de Vinci as they are in, say, leather goods, Florence has plenty of opportunities to shop for the home, closet, and vanity table. The city has a rich history of perfumery: Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy (the world’s oldest) and the glamorous AquaFlor will offer immersive fragrance experiences that will make for souvenirs you’ll actually be excited to use when you get home.
Tableware obsessives and consummate hostesses won’t want to miss out on a trip to the Richard Ginori 1735 porcelain factory, which feels less like a factory and more like an elegant Florentine manse filled with the iconic brand’s colourful creations. If you have your sights set on bringing home some luxe leather, pop into the locally adored Il Bisonte for chic bags, hats, and wallets that are sure to become wardrobe staples.
Located on the antique-lined Via Maggio near SoprArno Suites is Dexter, a vintage-inspired clothing store for men and women that features products all produced within the region of Tuscany. Or, if you have your heart set on something truly one-of-a-kind, Viajiyu lies directly across the river and is the perfect place to create your idea of the ultimate Italian loafer, sneaker, heel, or flat in an array of custom colours and materials.
Where To Eat + Drink
This city is full of places to drink and dine that are as Instagram-able as your favourite gallery of the day. Brunch at La Ménagère – a must for excellent coffee, juices, and smoothies, plus elevated takes on our favourite morning meals, like French toast and poached eggs with avocado. If you’re looking for some authentic Tuscan cuisine and fabulous natural wines, a night at the widely adored Il Santo Bevitore is essential (you’ll want to give yourself some time to explore the area’s shops before popping in for an unforgettable meal). If it’s cocktails you’re after, Gunè San Frediano is also in the neighbourhood and offers innovative takes on the region’s cuisine in an incredibly chic setting.
Florence caters to the vegan and vegetarian communities more than anywhere else in the country, and has some delicious options. The plant-based eaters in your party will appreciate a stop at Brac, a bookshop, natural wine bar, and chic vegetarian restaurant, all inspired by contemporary art. An evening here will leave you feeling like a Renaissance woman yourself.