Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique air – just like the Florentines themselves.
A climb up the Duomo or Campanile is rewarded by a panoramic view of Florence but if this is too strenuous there are other options. You can enjoy a wonderful view of the city and the Piazza della Signoria from the rooftop terrace of the Uffizi cafe and the bar in the La Rinascente department store offers a bird’s-eye-view of the Piazza della Repubblica and a close-up of the cathedral complex. In summer you can spend Thursday evening surrounded by stunning views when visit the rooftop bar of the Hotel Minerva (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella 16; www.grandhotelminerva.com) for their aperitivo buffet.
FLEA MARKET ANTIQUES
If you are patient and keep your eyes open, you might find something of interest at one of the stalls at Florence’s flea market, the Mercato delle Pulci, on the Piazza dei Ciompi. When palazzi and villas are sold most items go to Pandolfini, Sotheby’s or Christie’s, but some fine objects do find their way to the flea market. In any case, it’s always fun to browse.
COOL RESPITE FROM SUMMER’S HEAT
On warm summer days, as in times past, Florentines travel up to Fiesole where they sit in the bars and restaurants on the tree-lined piazza and enjoy the cooler air. In July and August the beautiful Roman amphitheatre hosts popular ballet, theatre and concert performances as part of the Estate Fiesolana (Summer Festival).
STREET FOOD ALLA FIORENTINA
Dishes such as bistecca alla fiorentina may be famous but for Florentines the humble panino al lampredotto is a firm favourite. Lampredotto is tripe that has been simmered in a broth and is then tucked into a freshly sliced roll; the roll is then wrapped in a piece of grease-proof paper – and Buon appetito! The street stalls, or trippai, are usually always on the squares and street corners of the city centre. The locals know them, love them and vote for the best one every year – and it is perfectly acceptable to be caught with a tripe roll in your hand even if you are wearing your most expensive Armani outfit.
ALL THE TASTES AND SMELLS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
The food hall of the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo is a true culinary paradise. Here, everything is closely inspected, squeezed, turned upside down – no matter whether it be fresh fish, truffles, bistecca, Parmesan, ham, pheasant, suckling pig or fruit and vegetables. You can just take in all the sights and intoxicating aromas or, better still, taste the fare at Nerbone where the locals put their purchases down next to their bench and tuck in – just as they have been doing since 1872.
OASIS OF CALM
Retreat to the magical Boboli Gardens on a hot summer day and take a relaxing wander through its cypress avenues lined with statues, past the Casino del Cavaliere manor house and explore fanciful grottoes, splashing fountains and ornamental pools. A short visit to a spa, such as Soul Space (Via Sant’Egidio 12, 055 200 17 94; www.soulspace.it), is another good way to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city.
MADE IN ITALY
It need not be an entire outfit; even the tiniest little handbag from one of the top designers will delight! Via de’ Tornabuoni in the west of Florence is a prime shopping street for fashions, shoes and accessories.
The Oltrarno has a magic all of its own with its little artisan workshops and narrow side streets. There are still some small corners that have remained untouched by tourism and the tiny Piazza della Passera is one of them. The Trattoria 4 Leoni is located on the spot where there has been a pub since 1550. Here, you can still enjoy your meal in an authentic Tuscan ambience, even though when you now eat outdoors on the piazza, modern sun awnings provide your shade.
Buy the Florence Marco Polo Guide.