Italy’s Renaissance capital is a must-visit destination, with its picturesque piazzas, world-class art museums, and stylish accommodations. Rome-based journalist and frequent visitor Laura Itzkowitz shares her official HAP city guide below.
Where to Stay:
Florence’s most elegant new luxury hotel is named for the street on which it’s located: Via de’ Tornabuoni, the city’s most upscale shopping street. Some rooms have original frescoes while others are adorned with butterflies, monkeys, and other animals. The Butterfly Terrace on the rooftop is a hidden oasis for drinks with lovely views of the city’s terracotta rooftops. Stay tuned for the opening of the gourmet restaurant.
25Hours Piazza San Paolino
Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, this new hotel tucked away in the centro storico has a devilishly chic design by acclaimed designer Paola Navone. Some guests sleep in heaven while others sleep in hell. The San Paolino restaurant serves a buffet breakfast and becomes animated in the evening, and there are lots of other fun spaces to explore, including a billiards room, cinema, spa area with a Finnish sauna, and a curated shop.
Where to Eat:
Borgo San Jacopo
For a romantic dinner, book a table at this Michelin-starred restaurant inside the luxurious Hotel Lungarno owned by the Ferragamo family. The chic nautical design might make you feel like you’re dining on a yacht on the Arno River. Opt for one of the chef’s tasting menus, which feature elegant dishes like pea ravioli with raw shrimp, its consommé, and tomato soup.
When in Florence, you’d be remiss not to try bistecca alla fiorentina and there’s no better place to get it than at Regina Bistecca around the corner from the Duomo. Housed in a former antiquarian bookshop, the restaurant retains its old-world charm, with arches, white tablecloths, and original paintings. Though the emphasis is on steak, there are some delicious pastas, including ricotta and spinach gnudi in a butter and sage sauce.
Where to Drink:
La Terrazza Rooftop Bar
When it’s time for an aperitivo, the place to be is the rooftop of the Hotel Continental owned by the Ferragamo family. The people-watching is great, but for the best views try to snag a seat overlooking the Arno and soak up the atmosphere with an Aperol Spritz or Negroni in hand.
Where to Visit:
Galleria degli Uffizi
One of Florence’s top museums, the Uffizi has heavy-hitters like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus as well as paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Titian, and other Renaissance and Baroque masters. Book your ticket online to skip the line—it also gives you.
Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi
Housed in a 15th century palace near Piazza della Repubblica, this small museum hosts rotating exhibits of historic and contemporary art that range from Donatello to NFTs. Check to see what’s on before you go.
Scuola del Cuoio
Established after WWII to give orphans a skill they could use to support themselves, the city’s premier leather school still teaches professional leather-working courses and offers workshops to visitors that range in length from a few hours to a few days. You can also visit just to admire the artisans at work and shop for the leather goods that Florence is famous for.
Explore the Oltrarno
This artsy neighborhood across the river from the main sights epitomizes the Florentine’s Florence. It’s full of antique and vintage shops as well as funky little boutiques where artists and designers make and sell their wares. Walk up Via Maggio and the little streets surrounding it, popping into shops like Galleria Quarant’otto for delicate jewelry, PianoD to check out the vintage furniture, and LucillaVecc for fun, funky illustrations by local artist Lucilla Vecchiarino, before stopping for a drink or a bite at Caffè Ricchi on Piazza Santo Spirito. The neighborhood is also home to Palazzo Pitti—the Medici palace—and the Boboli Gardens.