City Guide: Florence

Florence’s famed Ponte Vecchio. 
Florence’s famed Ponte Vecchio. 
Art history and high style in Tuscany’s capital city.  

La dolce vita gets even sweeter in the fall, when summer’s heat – and crowds – begin to dissipate. Eminently walkable, the cradle of the Renaissance is an open-air gallery, with centuries-old architecture and a picturesque location along the Arno River. While wandering is part of its charm, “Florence is a city behind closed doors,” says David Lowy, a travel agency executive based in Vancouver, British Columbia. “You need someone to open the doors for you.” He turns to Virtuoso on-site tour partners such as Florencetown to arrange after-hours viewings of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery, private terrace tours at the Duomo, and, when it reopens next year, access to the Vasari Corridor, the Medici family’s secret passage above the Ponte Vecchio. 

Eat:

Nestled in a quiet piazza near the Ponte Vecchio, Trattoria 4 Leoni serves delicate pear pasta with asparagus; fried zucchini flowers; and beautiful salads. You can’t go wrong with the house Chianti Classico.
 
Sip a complimentary glass of prosecco during the inevitable wait at La Giostra, a lively spot where hundreds of white lights twinkle overhead and the eclectic owner works the room like a celebrity. Try the pappardelle with wild boar or the famed Florentine steak.
 
“No acqua, solo vino” reads the sign at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, a wine bar stocked with small-production gems. Directly across from the Pitti Palace, its patio makes a perfect people-watching spot.

Shop:

Founded by monks 800 years ago, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is thought to be the oldest pharmacy in the world. The palatial apothecary is full of pricey potions and perfumes based on ancient herbal recipes.

To dress like an Italian, start with the right tailor. Shirtmaker Simone Abbarchi crafts reasonably priced, made-to-measure (and discreetly monogrammed) men’s shirts. Stop by his tiny bottega for a fitting or two, and he’ll mail the finished pieces home for you. 
 
Florence-born Mario Luca Giusti designs housewares in vivid “synthetic crystal,” from festive wineglasses to faceted Champagne buckets. 

Find designer deals on Gucci, Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, and more at The Mall, a luxury outlet 30 minutes southeast of the city (you can take a shuttle). Virtuoso guests receive additional discounts on some purchases, a welcome gift, a beverage at Gucci Caffè, and priority access at the tax refund office.

Where to Stay: Four Florence hotels we love.

Working fireplaces and stacks of books lend a stylishly homey feel to 20-room J.K. Place Firenze, located on the same piazza as the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. The atrium courtyard’s family-style table beckons you to linger over a long lunch with friends. 

Owned by the Ferragamo family, the 63-room Hotel Lungarno recently reopened after an extensive refurbishment. It retains its chic nautical style, impressive art collection, and incredible location directly on the Arno River. Also owned by the Ferragamos, the 37-room Portrait Firenze possesses a contemporary, masculine decor that sets it apart in a city of old-world tradition. Spacious suites offer well-stocked kitchenettes; request one overlooking the Arno with views of the Ponte Vecchio. 

Set above the Boboli Gardens, minutes from the city, 44-room Villa Cora feels like the opulent residence it once was, brimming with frescoes, fine art and furnishings, and lots of formal swagger. Its heated outdoor pool is a welcome respite after a day of sightseeing, and the seasonal Sunday brunch is a must. 

Popular Articles