Spend a night in Firenze (Florence) and you could easily stay forever.
The whole city oozes history, art and romance – with the ravishing River Arno providing the ultimate seductive centrepiece. With only three short days to explore this mesmerizing city (not nearly enough!), we peeled ourselves away from our crisp white bed sheets as early as possible (no mean feat when staying at the Continentale) to take our curious feet along as many cobblestone streets as we could manage under the steamy Italian summer sun.
Cue morning strolls along the Ponte Vecchio, steep stair climbs to the top of the famous Duomo, long lingering stares at the Statue of David, and more than a few pit stops for the odd iced cappuccino & ricotta-filled cannoli. Come evening, and the magic continued. Sunset spritzes on our very own rooftop terrace, followed by some of the most gloriously, lie-on-your-tummy-kind-of decadent truffle fettuccine that food fantasies are made of… (among other taste sensations). It’s no wonder my gorgeous friend G had to push me on the train when it was finally time to leave. Firenze, I’ll be back! But in the meantime – I’ll remember you oh-so-fondly via my highlights (and simply musts) below:
MUST STAY: For an ultra-fashionable Florence experience, the Lungarno Collection of boutique design hotels are difficult to resist. Choose between the stunning Portrait Firenze, Gallery Hotel Art, Hotel Lungarno or our pick – the Continentale (located directly above the Ponte Vecchio) – for a sleeping experience that surpasses ALL expectations. Don’t even get me started on the buffet breakfast.
MUST SEE: Michelangelo’s Statue of David (located at the Galleria dell’ Accademia), Piazza del Duomo (including the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower & the Baptistry of San Giovanni) & Piazza della Signoria. Sadly, we didn’t get to the Uffizi Gallery on this trip – but if you are a renaissance art lover it should be on the top of the list.
MUST EAT: Book a table in advance to experience the best of traditional Tuscan cuisine at Trattoria L’Parione – located just a few steps away from the Ponte Vecchio. You can’t go wrong with any of the pasta dishes – but if you’re feeling a little indulgent – the black truffle fettuccine is lip-smackingly luscious. During the day, stop by Gelateria Carabe to sample the best freshly-made cannoli in Florence- just a moments walk from the Galleria dell’ Accademia.
MUST DRINK: Watch the passing parade over Iced Cappuccinos (& the best florentine biscuits) at the historic Café Gilli – a Florence institution since 1733. Then, try EVERY signature cocktail at La Terraza – the terrace bar located on the top floor of the Hotel Continentale. Get there early to secure the best possible seat, start at the top of the list & (responsibly) make your way to the bottom. I can assure you that the drinks, and the views, will not disappoint.
MUST DO: Purchase your ticket in advance or join a group tour on the spot to climb to the top of the Duomo cupola for uninterrupted views that will quite literally take your breath away. Walk along the Arno River at every time of day possible (it feels different every hour) and cross the famous Ponte Vecchio. If still in doubt, shop till you DROP on one of Florence’s 4 best shopping strips (Via Santo Spirito, San Lorenzo Market, Via del Corso & Via dei Calzaiuoli) – the leather goods and jewellery are particularly worth a gander.