That Florence Feeling

Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique air – just like the Florentines themselves.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS

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.

COSY CORNERS

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.

 

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Florence Marco Polo Guide

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Eat Like a Local – Florence

The Italians love to indulge themselves at the table. They enjoy their food – often dining for hours on end.  And it’s true – you can eat your fill, even in Florence, without breaking the bank.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

Local Specialities to try on your visit to Florence:

Arista alla fiorentina – grilled fillet of pork with rosemary and garlic

Baccalà alla fiorentina – stockfish in tomato sauce with basil

Biscotti di Prato (cantucci) – almond biscuits to be dipped in vin santo, a sweet dessert wine

Bistecca alla fiorentina – a 3.5-cm (1 1/2 in) thick T-bone steak

Carciofi fritti – fried quartered artichokes

Cinghiale (coniglio) in umido – wild boar or rabbit in tomato sauce

Crostini toscani – toasted bread spread with a paste made of chicken liver, capers and fresh herbs

Fagioli all’uccelletto con salsicce – white beans in tomato sauce with sage and pork sausages

Fettunta – toasted slices of white bread: in summer with tomatoes and basil; in winter with garlic and drizzled with freshly pressed olive oil

Lesso (bollito misto) con salsa verde – boiled meat (beef, tongue, chicken) with green herb sauce

Minestrone/zuppa di verdura – thick vegetable soup

Panzanella – a summer salad served on soaked white bread and tomatoes

Pappa al pomodoro – luke-warm tomato and bread soup

Pollo al mattone – chicken, pressed flat under a brick and roasted over a wood fire

Ribollita – re-heated vegetable soup with white beans and bread

Tagliata – steak, stripped from the bone and cut into strips

Tagliatelle alla lepre (al cinghiale) – ribbon noodles with hare or wild boar ragout

Trippa alla fiorentina – calf tripe with tomato sauce

 

Restaurants serving traditional Italian cuisine:

RIVOIRE
Expensive (if you sit down at a table), but in a class of its own. Don’t leave town without trying a cioccolata calda con panna (hot chocolate with whipped cream); the Rivoire is as much a part of Florence as the Palazzo Vecchio opposite. Tue–Sun 8am–midnight | Piazza della Signoria 5r

PENSAVO PEGGIO
It’s practically impossible to eat well and cheaply in the centre of Florence – but here’s the exception to the rule! Freshly prepared pasta dishes at lunchtime, followed by delicious fish in the evenings. Mon–Sat | Via del Moro 51r | Tel. 0 55 28 54 86

PROCACCI
If your palate calls for a glass of good white wine and an exquisite truffle pâté sandwich, rather than sweet snacks, and if you favour a slightly genteel atmosphere, you’ll go crazy for this place! Mon–Sat 10am–8pm | Via Tornabuoni 64r | www.procacci1885.it

CANTINETTA ANTINORI
At this pleasant cantinetta (wine bar) in the Palazzo Antinori, you can not only sample the famous wines from this winegrowing dynasty, but also try the appetising foods produced on the Antinori estates. This has long been a favourite meeting place for Florentine movers and shakers. Mon–Fri | Piazza Antinori 3r (Via Tornabuoni) | Tel. 0 55 29 22 34 | www.cantinetta-antinori.com

COCO LEZZONE
For years now, one of the places to be. Florentine society people squeeze into the cramped interior to enjoy superlative cuisine. Closed Sun and Tue evenings | Via del Parioncino 26r | Tel. 0 55 28 71 78 | Moderate | www.cocolezzone.it

DA MIMMO
Mimmo is committed to using only fresh ingredients for his excellent dishes – one more reason to come for a meal at this beautiful 17th-century theatre! Closed Sat lunchtime and Sun | Via S. Gallo 57–59r | Tel. 0 55 48 10 30 | www.ristorantedamimmo.it | Moderate

OSTERIA DEI PAZZI
Let Paolo spoil you with a few Florentine delicacies, including the typical bistecca alla fiorentina! Tue–Sun | Via dei Lavatoi 3r | Tel. 05 52 34 48 80 | Moderate

NERBONE
The Florentine clientele have been descending at lunchtime on this Mercato Centrale stand since 1872. Typical dishes at reasonable prices. Mon–Sat 7am–2pm | Mercato Centrale | Via dell’Ariento | Budget

 

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Top 10 Things To Do In Florence

Marco Polo’s list of the top ten things not to be missed in Florence! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Florence’s most important sights.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

1. DUOMO SANTA MARIA DEL
This magnificent building is the symbol of the city and third-largest church in Christendom – il Duomo is a source of great Florentine pride and is the city’s top attraction.

2. GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA
Home to Michelangelo’s David, an imposing (4.1m /13.5ft high) masterpiece that was sculpted from a single block of Carrara marble. Other sculptures by the master are also on display in the museum, which was founded in 1784.

3. SANTA CROCE
With 23 monumental graves and hundreds of tombstones, this Franciscan church is Florence’s pantheon.

4. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
The beautiful piazza is dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, the Uffizi and the enormous Neptune Fountain.

5. PONTE VECCHIO
At sunset this is one of the most picturesque sights in Florence when “the old bridge” jewellery shops and the River Arno are all aglitter.

6. GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI
One of the largest and most famous art galleries in the world: the works of art – paintings, tapestries and statues – are exhibited in over 100 rooms and a series of corridors.

7. MUSEO NAZIONALE DEL BARGELLO
What was once the city’s goal and torture chamber is now one of the most famous sculpture galleries in Italy.

8. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA
The main attractions of this Dominican church are its marble facade and precious frescoes.

9. PALAZZO PITTI
The largest of all of Florence’s palaces, the complex and adjoining Boboli Gardens, now house seven museums. The Galleria Palatina, with its exquisite collection of paintings, is especially fascinating.

10. SAN MINIATO AL MONTE
A classic example of Romanesque architecture and sweeping vistas of Florence – this iconic location is recognisable from Florence guidebooks, and the reality more than lives up to the image!

 

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Florence Marco Polo Guide

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