Florence the capital of Tuscany in Italy is the birthplace of the Renaissance and filled with wonderful architecture, art and artefacts. It’s easily one of the best cities to head to if you fancy a stylishly cultured weekend, our writer Emma Clair recommends where to head to…
There is something beautifully ethereal about Florence, maybe it is the stunning architecture or maybe it is the fact that it was the centre of the Renaissance, the stomping ground of Leonardo and Michelangelo whose spirits perhaps still linger among the cobbles and side streets. Here’s how to spend a stylishly cultured 48 hours in Florence to ensure maximum exposure to all this breath-taking Italian city has to offer…
Start the day with brunch at Se-Sto on Arno
In order to grasp the magnificence of Florence, I would recommend starting your day with a relaxed brunch at Se-Sto on Arno which offers innovative Italian and European cuisine with stunning views on the side. This much-lauded venue overlooks the city and affords breath-taking views as far as the horizon on Florence. Up and coming chef with a Michelin background conjures up wonderful dishes which bring an unconventional point of view of culinary traditions.
Climb the Duomo
Next head to the Duomo, the matriarchal cathedral whose Renaissance dome watches over the city. Even those who are not art enthusiasts will appreciate the superb frescos in the cathedral but a visit is not complete without climbing to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola- all 463 steps!
Visit Galleria degli Uffizi
Once you descent the mighty Duomo’s steps, weave your way past Zuccari’s frescoes and head towards Galleria degli Uffizi, one of the most famous museums in the world. Inside the hallowed halls of the museum you will be swept up in a wave of history as unusual and rare artworks are displayed in every corner. Most of the collection was left by the famous Medici family to “adorn the State, be of utility to the Public and attract the curiosity of Foreigners” and the Uffizi is absolutely true to its ethos.
Take a stroll through the Vasari Corridor
Attached to the Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the most unique places in Florence, the spectacular Vasari Corridor. Built-in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari the corridor is a kilometer long passageway that connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace and houses a one-of- kind collection of self-portraits started in the 16th century.
Have picnic lunch in Giardino delle Rose
After a busy morning, take some time out to have a picnic lunch in the pretty Giardino delle Rose, the Rose Garden created by architect Giuseppe Poggi in 1865. There is no better spot in Florence to munch on some freshly baked pastries and sip on take away espressos amidst the brightly coloured shrubs with scent of peony filling the air and the gentle lapping of the River Arno lulling you into a deeply relaxed state.
Rent a bicycle and see the rest of the beautiful sights
Having refuelled, next rent a city bike and whizz through the Florence streets and head to the wonderful Santa Trinità Basilica. Inside you’ll find 15th century frescoes by Ghirlandiao (Michelangelo’s teacher) and the Piazza della Signoria which is a historical symbol of the Florentine Republic. The piazza was the first home of the original David along with other famous Renaissance pieces that bristle with political connotations going back to the 15th century and many can still be admired today. The Ponte Vecchio is only a short pedal from the piazza, perhaps one of the most famous Florentine symbols, although the original shops that line the bridge were butchers, the current tenants are a lot more delectable, ranging from jewellers to art dealers.
Stop for an expresso at Chiaroscuro
After all that cycling, it is certainly time to stop for a breather and an espresso, and where better than Chiaroscuro, a unique café offering luxurious coffee and tea concoctions from all over the world.
End the evening with dinner and drinks at Alle Murate
For your evening meal washed down with plenty of Tuscan wine head for acclaimed restaurant Alle Murate. Part restaurant, part museum this elegant and unique restaurant serves up traditional Tuscan cuisine with a modern twist. Located right in the city centre there are two floors where you can enjoy the frescoes from the 1300s–and the meal tends to match the beauty of the nearby walls.
Go for brunch at Villa Cora
After a busy Saturday taking in the art and history scene of Florence, it’s time to dedicate some time to the other thing the Italians do well- food. First on the agenda, brunch at Villa Cora. Enjoy a sumptuous meal, among the most luxurious gilded décor and restored frescoes and maybe a dip in the heated pool before a relaxing stroll around the nearby Boboli Gardens. The gardens are a spectacular example of “green architecture” decorated with sculptures and the prototype which inspired many European Royal gardens, in particular, those at the Palace of Versailles. The original plans were first drawn up in the 15th century and were continually developed throughout the following 400 years, so naturally the gardens we see now, are beyond compare.
Visit the Bargello National Museum
Next get another culture fix and take a wander around the Bargello National Museum. Before marvelling at what’s inside, pause a moment to appreciate the setting- the building dates back to the 13th century and is truly a sight to behold. The impressive contents of the museum range from the terracotta statues to famous artworks to bronze artefacts.
Fill up on tasty lunch treats at Mercato San Lorenzo
For a lunch like a local, head to this famous popular central indoor/outdoor market filled with stalls selling local art and delicious regional foods. There will be plenty of opportunities to sample tastes indicative of Italy whether it is a truffle, a snifter of wine or a thimbleful of balsamic vinegar. Try to stick with the locals, if there is too much English in the signage – there is too much tourist in the price! And of course, haggle, haggle, haggle!
Go for a Tuscan wine tour
The Tuscan area of Italy is famous for its food and wine equally, so having stocked up on bread, olives and cheese, opt for a wine tour to learn your chardonnay from your chenin blanc (and of course make the most of the beautiful Tuscany scenery)! Most of the wineries that offer tours are small and family-run, with very good reputations and award-winning wines.
End the evening with dinner at La Ménagère
Head back to Florence and finish your stylishly cultured Florence weekend at La Ménagère. Established in 1896, La Ménagére is a concept based restaurant with its roots in a homewares store background, it has been resurrected into a funky eatery which is hugely popular with both locals and visitors. Overseen by the same team behind La Prova del Nove (another Florentine faithful) and operated by the Saffi hospitality training institute, the restaurant serves fine Italian fare with a reverence for ingredients.
Although it’s impossible to see all of Florence in a mere weekend, it is possible to soak up some of the spirit of Florence, perhaps just enough to inspire another trip back next year!