The birthplace of both the Renaissance and the powerful Medici family empire, Florence has long been a city to soak up some of the most opulent art and history in Europe. That’s still the case: you can’t visit Florence and not see Il Duomo cathedral or visit the Accademia. It’s just that these days, it’s not only history that’s on offer, as younger creatives infuse the Tuscan capital with their own brand of cool. The most memorable holiday in this region combines the best of both worlds.
Within spitting distance of Il Duomo, Hotel Spadai is only a short stroll from many of the city’s other top attractions (like the Uffizi museum, home to many of the city’s masterpieces including Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus). Insider tip: the Spadai has its own private viewing platform with practically the same view as that from the top of the neighbouring cathedral, so you can take in the sights without the queues or the crowds. For a little bit of luxury, stay at the Four Seasons surrounded by historic buildings and a quiet garden sanctuary or for an escape overlooking the city, Belmond Villa San Michele is a must!
For fashion fans, there’s really only one reason to visit Florence: the newly opened Gucci Garden housed in a 14th century palazzo. Everything Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele touches turns to gold, and that includes the Garden, which has become a retail mecca since it first opened in January this year. The elaborate space combines an exhibition area, a restaurant and of course, a store packed full of exclusive finds, including a much-hyped collection of homewares. Only visit if you’re prepared to pay the excess baggage fees on the way home.
For a slightly more traditional retail experience, head to Pratesi for some of the world’s finest linens; the family-run company first set up shop here in 1906. And a visit to Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – which has been making cosmetics, perfumes and other apothecary items for more than 400 years – is an absolute must.
No matter what your taste or budget, there’s no excuse for not eating well in Florence. Part of the Gucci Garden, the Osteria da Massimo Bottura is helmed by a three-Michelin-starred chef and combines fine dining with pop flourishes, such as hamburgers served in neon pink Gucci boxes. Insiders rate Il Pizzaiuolo as serving some of the best pizza in town. Or choose your own produce in the Mercato Centrale Firenze, a large indoor artisanal food market. And don’t leave Florence without sampling gelato (the city claims the title of birthplace of this sweet treat) from either Vivoli or Perche’No.
Once you’ve had your fill of ancient buildings, cobblestone streets and incredible art (be sure to visit Michaelangelo’s David at Galleria Dell’Accademia), take a road trip to experience more of Tuscany’s beauty, further afield. Leave the top down on your rental car as you cruise through the stunning wine region of Chianti or the medieval town of Lucca. Or head for the sea and explore the five coastal towns of the Cinque Terre. Make sure your camera is fully charged, as this photogenic region offers picturesque opportunities at every one of its many twists and turns.
If a trip to Florence is little more than a daydream right now, you can still enjoy a taste of the region via Lumira’s Tuscan Fig scent. It’s warm and earthy, and really captures the luscious sweetness of a handful of figs ripe enough to burst. No matter where in the world you find yourself, if you close your eyes and inhale deeply, you can practically feel the sun on your face and see the rolling green hills of Tuscany.
Written by Michelle Bateman