Planning your next Italian vacation? Make sure you stop in Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance, this beautiful city is filled with enough culture, art, shopping, and culinary delights to keep you busy for months on end. It’s no wonder that over 12 million tourists journey to the city each year to sample the historical wonders for themselves. It’s also the reason why, last year, the Mayor of Florence issued a marketing campaign to show all tourists how to be a ‘better visitor.’ Hint: don’t sit on the steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce to eat your lunch; the Mayor instructed them to be hosed with water to deter such anti-social behavior. Don’t let that put you off, the city is a pleasure to wander through and get lost in any time of the year and with much of the city center pedestrianized it easy navigate your way around this ancient and sophisticated city.
Every meal you eat in Florence is a true delight. From a gelato snapped up on a street corner to a Michelin-starred tasting menu feast, the fresh produce and buzzing foodie scene make this city a real culinary hotspot. A top tip when looking for somewhere to eat is to steer clear of the restaurants close to the main tourist zones. A lot of them will have menus filled with pictures, and inflated prices to boot. Instead, look for the side streets and trattorias filled with locals dining there – always a sign of a place with delicious bites to enjoy. One such eatery is Trattoria Sostanza. It’s a cash-only eatery specializing in traditional fare like Tuscan bean soup.
On the Oltrarno side of Florence (or Southbank) is Il Santo Bevitore, a popular restaurant, which made it into Conde Nast Traveller’s ‘Best Restaurants in the World’ list this year. It’s easy to see why, and the eatery’s fresh take on classic dishes, like braised octopus in red wine, keeps many locals and tourists coming back for more.
Of course, when in Italy, it would be a shame not to try a slice of pizza. La Sud Pizzeria is close to Mercato Centrale, a 19th-century indoor fresh produce market, and makes a great place to have a slice of margherita after a quick tour of the wares the busy marketplace has to offer. Another market specializing in the fresh produce of the region is San Lorenzo. It’s open every Sunday through Tuesday and has stalled, both indoors and outdoors, selling a variety of cured meats, fresh cheeses, and olive oils. While you are there check out La Menagere, a restaurant, tapas bar, and flower shop rolled into one. Live bands will serenade you most nights of the week at this place.
For something a little more formal, make a reservation at Bottega del Buon Caffe. This Michelin-starred restaurant is famous for its ‘farm to plate’ ethos and grows many of its vegetables and herbs in its kitchen garden. The elegant surroundings and extensive wine list are a pleasure too. Finally, you can’t leave Florence without trying a scoop of gelato. Make a beeline for Carabe, which many believe to offer the best flavors in the city; their cannolis are also legendary.
There is an abundance of galleries and historical buildings in Florence, including the iconic Uffizi gallery. During the summer months, it pays to plan ahead and book tickets to the main museums in advance, as the queues can get very long. Speak to your Luxury Retreats concierge about doing this, especially for guided museum tours, or consider buying a Firenze card, which allows you access to all of the museums for three days, with queue-jumper privileges.
As Florence is mostly pedestrianized in the center, make time to walk to the museums as you will see so much on every corner you pass. The Uffizi gallery is the most popular of all the galleries in Florence. This former Florentine magistrate’s office from 1560 is vast and houses priceless artworks by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and so many more. The sheer number of artworks on offer can feel a little overwhelming and many art lovers opt for a private tour of the gallery, to ensure they view all of the artworks they want to see. The Palazzo Pitti, former home of the Medici family, and the Boboli gardens make a wonderful day trip, too.
If you’re energetic, take the hundreds of steps up to the top of the Duomo cathedral’s cupola for awe-inspiring views over the city.
Fashion is an important part of Italy’s past and present history. A quick tour of the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, showcasing shoes designed for his A-list fans, or the Museo Gucci, displaying items from its archive, will give you a glimpse into the impact this city has had on the multi-billion dollar fashion industry.
When choosing a villa at which spend your vacation, Luxury Retreats does all the hard work for you. The edit of world-class villas captures everything you require from location to modern amenities and housekeeping services.
A family vacation in Florence is a truly special experience that family members will cherish for years to come. At Luxury Retreats, our Florentine villas are all set just a little outside of the city center, so you and your brood can enjoy the expansive beauty of the Tuscan landscape. Many villas are situated in the Chianti Classico wine region and are former 16th Renaissance villas, complete with ornamental gardens, olive groves, marble fountains and brick laid sun terraces. The grandeur doesn’t stop there, as the interiors are fit for royalty, with opulent furnishings and chandeliers, all set within large open plan living rooms and chef-grade kitchens. Formal dining areas are available inside and outside the villas, so you and your family can enjoy the region’s clement weather and iconic sunsets.
For the active members of your team, tennis courts, soccer fields, and saltwater swimming pools are all available at select properties. The heart of Florence is just a quick drive away, so you can head into the city whenever the mood arises. Most bedrooms are en-suite with king or queen-sized beds and daily housekeeping comes as standard. Many of the villas have fully stocked wine cellars, with local wines from this award-winning region to enjoy, too.