The seventh in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to Florence, Italy, features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
Perhaps the most agreeable thing about Florence is its manageable size, with nothing of conspicuous interest being much more than a 20-minute walk away. The city’s crown jewel is its magnificent cathedral topped by Brunelleschi’s extraordinary dome. At the heart of the city is the incomparable Uffizi Gallery, founded by a Medici bequest. And located on a famously scenic height above Florence, five miles from the city center, is the exquisite hill town of Fiesole.
When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in Florence.
Because of its location in the Arno River Valley, Florence can be hot and humid from June to August. April, May, September and October offer the best combination of fine weather and thinner crowds.
Want to experience Florence like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industry.
Andrew Harper, Editor in Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel
When I’ve had my fill of museums and galleries after a few days in Florence, I love to spend a morning at the lively Mercato Alimentare Sant’Ambrogio in the Piazza Ghiberti for a change of pace. The stalls at this popular market sell all kinds of Tuscan delicacies, including olive oil, Pecorino cheese, charcuterie, dried wild mushrooms and more. It’s much less touristy than the Mercato Centrale, the city’s main market, and there’s also a small, simple, inexpensive restaurant, Trattoria da Rocco, that’s a great spot for a bona fide Florentine lunch.
No visit to Florence is complete without a stop at the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the herbalist, perfumer and pharmacy founded in 1612 and located in a former Dominican monastery. But for handmade perfumes, creams and other cosmetics, head for the boutique of Dr. Vranjes, another herbalist perfumer, which is where the Florentines themselves tend to go.
The hotel choice in Florence is between the city itself and the hill town of Fiesole. We suggest the city in winter, but in other seasons, head for the hills to escape the heat and humidity, and enjoy the astonishing view.
Dining in Florence is about finding superbly rendered Tuscan classics prepared with seasonal, top-quality ingredients. Seek out pappa al pomodoro (a hearty tomato and bread soup), bistecca alla fiorentina (grilled Chianina beef with rosemary and olive oil) and house-made pastas.
I am not in the habit of recommending hole-in-the-wall places to Harper subscribers, but this restaurant is exactly that. Buca literally means “hole,” but the entire phrase can be translated as “goldsmith’s cave.” Just a few paces from the Ponte Vecchio, you will see the uninspiring entrance to this subterranean restaurant. Owned by the Monni family, this intimate and charming place serves comfort food of a high order. Closed Sundays.
This exceptional trattoria provides a warm welcome, a lively crowd and uncomplicated food. On a recent visit, we began with fettuccine hidden beneath fragrant shavings of white truffles. For the main course, I opted for bistecca alla fiorentina, a thick T-bone. Simply seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, the steak was grilled rare, sliced and served with sautéed porcini mushrooms. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
This unpretentious restaurant is located next to the St. Ambrogio food market. Chef/owner Fabio Picchi presents a menu of traditional Tuscan fare with dishes such as pappa, salt cod with garlic bruschetta, and his signature ricotta, pesto and potato soufflé. The less expensive Trattoria Cibrèo next door is also worth a lunchtime visit. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Pink tablecloths, lemon-colored walls and antique furniture create a gracious and refined setting for chef Annie Féolde’s cucina nuova and traditional Tuscan cuisine at this renowned Michelin three-star establishment. Among my favorite delicacies: paccheri (Neapolitan pasta tubes) with cardoons, thyme and pigeon ragout; polenta agnolotti with braised stockfish; grilled sea scallops with celery root, quince and rosemary; and suckling pig accompanied by Jerusalem artichokes and mustard seed-studded shallots. The remarkable wine cellar contains more than 4,500 Italian and foreign vintages. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Brick walls and low light create a warm,relaxed setting in which to discover the excellent contemporary Tuscan cooking of chef Matteo Fantini. Committed to using only local seasonal produce, Fantini changes his menu regularly, but dishes such as poached egg with raw red prawns, herring caviar, lemon thyme and a cream of Jerusalem artichokes as well as pork fillet with chestnut purée and turnip greens in a red-wine reduction show off his culinary imagination. Closed Sundays.
This animated trattoria serves generous portions of Tuscan classics such as spaghetti dell’ubriacone (cooked in red wine and sauced with a mixture of sautéed garlic, parsley and peperoncino). Don’t miss the charcuterie that includes sublime cold cuts such as fennel-scented salami and wild-boar ham.
Paolo Paroli is a gracious host at this osteria near the Piazza Santa Croce. The cooking is excellent; I enjoyed dishes such as ravioli stuffed with veal and buffalo milk ricotta, and grilled Chianina beef.
Florentines like to keep this simple little trattoria a closely guarded secret, since it serves superb Tuscan comfort food such as pasta fagioli (with beans) and zucchini stuffed with veal. Closed Wednesdays and Sunday evenings.
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