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Florence Revisited: Things to Do in Florence, Italy

Seeking out one-of-a-kind, only-in-Florence experiences, Indagare’s Creative Director Simone Girner navigates some of the city’s most extraordinary museums, restaurants and shops like a local to bring you the best things to do in Florence, Italy this season.

Indagare can plan your entire trip to Florence, including hotels, guided tours, flights, meals and on-the-ground transportation. Plus, when we handle your hotel booking, you get exclusive perks—think room upgrades, early check-in and spa and restaurant credits—without lifting a finger. Contact us to start planning an itinerary that includes our favorite things to do in Florence, Italy today.

Netflix’s sleeper hit, Medici: Masters of Florence, which recounts the political intrigue and power struggles of the (in)famous Florentine banking family that ruled the city from the 15th to the early 18th century, is a delightful guilty pleasure (Dustin Hoffman as a Cali-accented Giovanni de’ Medici, notwithstanding) for anyone who loves this corner of the world and its fascinating history. But what is even more striking than the Medicis’ ruthless political machinations (three family members maneuvered their way into the Vatican as pope) is how they defined the cityscapes we now take for granted. Looming over the first season—literally and figuratively—is the majestic Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, which in the mid 1400s had a gaping hole on top, Brunelleschi’s dome still decades from being finished. Today the vaulted cupola is as much an icon of Florence as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris, but completing it was an epic struggle during the Renaissance, and it would never have been finished without Cosimo de’ Medici’s unwavering support for his eccentric, brilliant architect, not to mention his generous cash flow.

Anyone with even a passing interest in this history should visit the revamped Opera del Duomo museum, which sits behind the cathedral and yet remains a hidden gem, according to my plugged-in Florentine guide, Alessandra, who explained that even in busy seasons, it is often sparsely attended. Here, visitors can see Brunelleschi’s models for the cupola and a life-size reconstruction of the cathedral’s first façade displayed in a soaring open space that also contains the original Gates of Paradise, the massive bronze doors Lorenzo Ghiberti created for the baptistery. The Opera del Duomo is a perfect example of a well-designed modern museum that provides the context for a specific topic and can easily be explored in a few hours.

Heavy-hitters like the Gallerie degli Uffizzi, the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Palazzo Vecchio should always be toured with an insider guide. But the city also has incredibly charming smaller museums, among them three newcomers: Collezione Roberto Casamonti, housed in the High Renaissance palazzo of its Florentine art-dealer eponym and displaying works from his personal collection by such names as Paul Klee, Yves Klein and Pablo Picasso; the museum of the Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli, dedicated to the director’s many contributions in film, opera and theater; and, the glitziest of the trio, the multi-use Gucci Garden, which occupies a sprawling palazzo in Piazza della Signoria and hosts exhibits about the fashion house’s history as well as contemporary-art installations. Fashion and style also take center-stage at the revamped Savoy hotel, which presides over Piazza della Repubblica with new-found panache. The spacious guest rooms and suites have been infused with contemporary whimsy by designer Olga Polizzi, whose signature style of combining a multitude of colors, textures and patterns is on vivid display here (as well as at such hotels as the Astoria, in St. Petersburg, and the Hotel de Rome, in Berlin). Touches like Illi coffee makers and organic bath products give everything a cossetting vibe. The new hotel lobby, meanwhile, was conceived in collaboration with Laudomia Pucci, the image director of the fabled fashion house, who also designed a signature scarf for the Savoy, as well as the buzzy terrace of Irene restaurant, the perfect spot for an aperitif, with a side of people-watching.

Of course, when it comes to dining, Florence has always been a tale of two river banks. The city’s historic center is where you will find the most upscale restaurants, including such favorites as the three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri and cozy La Buca dell’Orafo. Recently, these classics have been joined by a handful of stylish newcomers: Regina Bistecca, which serves beef-centric cuisine in a beautifully restored antique bookshop; Osteria, a trendy joint venture between Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele and lauded three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura that draws a chic crowd for lunch and dinner; and the cocktail bar Manifattura, which has a sleek 1950s décor and serves beverages made exclusively with Italian spirits, ideal for those seeking to broaden their knowledge of amari, from Campari and Aperol to Meletti and Ramazzotti.

Those with a taste for trendier eateries generally head across the Arno to the atmospheric Santo Spirito and San Frediano neighborhoods (both of which offer scenic walking streets lined with shops and bars). Before dinner, you can take an aperitivo or two with a local crowd in the garden of Santrosa Bistrot, snack on a salsiccia crostino at Le Volpi e l’Uva or sample a few vintages in the popular postage-stamp-sized wine bar Il Santino, sister of foodie darling Il Santo Bevitore. For the meal itself, you could revisit such oldies but goodies as Trattoria Cammillo and Quattro Leoni, for traditional Tuscan fare.

This side of the river is also home to one of the city’s smallest but most delectable newcomers: Sbrino, an artisanal gelateria whose flavors are arguably the best in the entire city. And that’s saying something, considering that gelato was supposedly perfected in 16th-century Florence for the wedding feast of—certo—Catherine de’ Medici.

Indagare Tip

Besides big-name Italian brands, Florence has a host of wonderful smaller boutiques. We love Nadine for vintage fashion; Marta Ray for buttery-soft leather flats; and Acquaflor, an Instagram-worthy perfumery with one-of-a-kind scents and small soaps that make great gifts.

Indagare can plan your entire trip to Florence, including hotels, guided tours, flights, meals and on-the-ground transportation. Plus, when we handle your hotel booking, you get exclusive perks—think room upgrades, early check-in and spa and restaurant credits—without lifting a finger. Contact us to start planning an itinerary that includes our favorite things to do in Florence, Italy today.

– Simone Girner on May 13, 2019

Quotable

Our trip was exceptional because of the intimate pieces that Indagare arranged for us, including an exceptional guide who shared insider secrets with us and recommended a terrific pizzeria, l’Pizzacchiere, which was life-altering!
~ S.V., Indagare Member since 2016

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