Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is considered the "cradle of the Renaissance" - an important period in which the great masters of art and architecture, under the patronage of the guilds, merchant class and wealthy bourgeois, created some of the most important works of art in the Western World. The architecture of the now world famous Duomo, Palazzo Pitti, Bargello and Santa Croce church, as well as the important sculptures and paintings housed in the Uffizi Galleries and the Accademia, recall this important period of European history.
From our bed and breakfasts situated in the historic centre, it is possible to visit Florence exclusively by foot.
Walking along the Arno river you will find the Ponte Vecchio - the city's only bridge that was not destroyed during WWII, and the only bridge in the world that houses jewellery artisans and the Corridoio Vasariano (Giorgio Vasari's secret passageway, constructed for Duke Cosimo I de'Medici at the end of the 16th century).
Taking a walk in the Sant'Ambrogio neighbourhood, toward Piazza Santa Croce, is the famous church and monastery that houses the works of Giotto and the tombs of famous Florentines such as Michelangelo. A lively neighbourhood that is coloured by markets, workshops, caffes and typical Florentine restaurants, you'll meet local characters that lend to the city's spirit.
Continuing toward the heart of Florence, in Piazza della Signoria, is the massive Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Galleries, the latter of which houses such masterpieces as the "Birth of Venus" by Botticelli. In the same piazza you can find the historic Caffè Rivoire, famous for their homemade hot chocolate with cream. Crossing the piazza, dotted with souvenir vendors, you'll come to Via Calzaiuoli - famous for its high-end designer shops. After which you will arrive at Santa Maria del Fiore, with its towering dome, created by the great architect Brunelleschi. It is still put into question how he managed such a feat without today's modern technology. The art historian Giorgio Vasari tells the story of how Brunelleschi proposed a little challenge amongst his colleagues when he was working on the project: "...it( the dome) will be created by he who manages to balance an egg on a flat surface. Naturally, no one found a way to balance the egg on a flat surface, except the architect (Brunelleschi) who, showing off his wit, struck the egg on the table rending the lower part of the egg flat and allowing it to stay straight and balanced."
Here in Piazza del Duomo, one finds the magnificent Campanile di Giotto (the bell tower constructed by Giotto in the 14th century) and the Baptistery (Florence's oldest building) in front of the church. The golden Gates of Paradise (the original now rests in the museum behind the Duomo) adorn the building's entrance.
Museums worth a mention are the Galleria dell'Accademia - home to Michelangelo's "David" and other great works by the Florentine artist, the Bargello Museum and Palazzo Pitti with it's Palatine Gallery.
B&B Michelangelo Guesthouse rests on the left bank of the Arno river, in the San Niccolò neighbourhood of the Oltrarno, just in front of the green hill which rises up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which has a fantastic view over the city and the ideal place for a panoramic photograph. The Oltrarno is an area rich with artists' and craftsmen's workshops, where it is still possible to see the remainder of the walls that once protected the city and their entrance gates, such as that of San Miniato. Outside the gates, one will find the historic restaurant Enoteca Fuoriporta, where you can drink the best wines of the Chianti region and typical specialties such as salamis, aged cheeses and crostini fiorentini (toasted bread with delicious toppings). Dining for lunch or dinner during the summer is especially enjoyable on their terrace.
From here, you can walk along the remainder of the medieval wall until reaching Forte Belvedere, visit the Museo Bardini, grab an aperitivo on the museums terrace, or talk a walk on the outskirts of the city, in the countryside – along Via San Leonardo with its elegant villas. The Oltrarno is an excellent place to take a walk and explore! Visit the Boboli Gardens, where in the summer months they stage opera ballets.
The centre of Florence is a paradise for shopping with its elegant high fashion boutiques in Via Tournabuoni, Via Calzaiuoli, Via della Vigna Nuova and Via Roma. In Piazza San Lorenzo is the outdoor market which is known for its leather goods - an excellent place to find leather bags, gloves and shoes as well as other souvenirs.
Dinner, Lunch and other Locales
For lunch, we recommend Caffè Paszkowski in Piazza dell Repubblica whose open-air tables dominate this large piazza.
The centre of Florence is home to many places to meet for an aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink and snack) - just think that the famous cocktail, the Negroni, was born here! Whether you are staying in the B&B Michelangelo Guesthouse or the Santa Croce Attic Penthouse, you can meet young Florentines at Zoe Bar in the Oltrarno, or Moyo and 'Oibo in the city centre for the best pre-dinner drinks, like a mojito, and great music that will keep you going all night long.
After a bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak) at the Ristorante alla Vecchia Bettola, your evening can continue in Piazza del Carmine with a nightcap at the Dolce Vita - a popular locale since the 80s - or hop on over to the new Cavalli Club, Yab Yum Club or the high end Colle Bereto.
From the Nardi Suite Holiday Home, you will arrive in few minutes in the centre by way of Borgo Pinti where you can eat at the famous Ristorante La Giostra.
The Local Kichen
The Florentine kitchen is known for its simple, country food that is always of high quality: Tuscan bread (hard crusted and without salt), extra virgin olive oil, meat such as roasted or grilled pork, wild boar and rabbit and Chianti wine (robust, from the Sangiovese grape).
We recommend that you try our favourites:
Bistecca alla fiorentina - Florentine steak (slowly cooked, tender and flavourful)
Crespelle alla fiorentina - pasta with ricotta and spinach
Crostini di fegatini - pâté on toasted Tuscan bread (a local favourite)
Faglioli all'uccelletto - Tuscan white beans in a tomato sauce with garlic and sage
Trippa/lampredotto alla fiorentina - tripe in red sauce; also delicious in a sandwich (find carts selling these tasty sandwich all over the city, especially in the Market of the Porcellino
Pappa al pomodoro - a summer bread soup with tomato and basil
Pappardelle alla lepre - big, flat strips of pasta covered in a wild hare sauce
Ribollita - vegetable and bread soup (a staple for cold winters, invented in local monasteries - means "re-boiled")
Schiacciata con l'uva - a sweet flat bread with grapes cooked into the dough
Tortelli di patate mugellani - potato pasta from the Mugello region of Tuscany
Events in the City
In January and June, Florence hosts Pitti Immagine Uomo - an important week of male fashion, with runway, parties and other events all over the city. It is a moment in which the city transforms itself and expresses its international voice in a way that is usually hidden.
In June is Maggio musical fiorentino - a festival of dance, music and theatre that is considered very prestigious, even at an international level.
Calcio storico (historic football) takes place every June, as per tradition, and is played in Piazza Santa Croce. The city of Florence recreates the traditional football matches of the 15th and 16th centuries - similar to rugby...but with less rules. Four teams (Azzuri, Bianchi, Rossi, and Verdi) that represent the four neighbourhoods of Florence fight for the prize. It's a tradition that you don't want to miss!
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